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Weekend links: Burn

Image from DC Fire and EMS via NBC.
Imhoff/Brizill house burns down: A fire destroyed the 1870 Columbia Heights house of longtime DC activists Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill. DC had taken enforcement action in 2002 and 2007 because the house was in run-down condition, though the fire does not appear related. (Post, DCist, City Paper)

Cabbies behaving badly: Passengers getting late-night cabs at Union Station complain that drivers choose destinations and share passengers despite laws and injunctions against the practice. In response, DC may improve enforcement, eventually. (Post)

Whose gax tax is it?: Gas taxes in Northern Virginia are not going to the jurisdictions they ought because the companies paying the tax don't know where the gas was sold. Governments have until January to find the lost money. (Examiner)

Preserve ze space: Z Burger wants to enclose a portion of Columbia Heights' plaza for seating, and the neighbors don't like it one bit. The plaza, they argue, is public space and should remain open to everyone. (City Paper)

Flip the switch, save a bird: Many office buildings leave their lights on all night. That not only wastes energy, it kills birds. A new campaign is trying to get offices to change their practices. (Huffington Post)

Why biking to school got rare: Far fewer kids bike to school now than they did 30 years ago, thanks to planning that relegates biking to recreation and a legal environment that holds schools accountable if kids get injured traveling to and from school. (NPR)

And...: Many Washingtonians know very little about bicycle laws. (TBD) ... Will $700,000 be enough to attract a restaurant to a Ward 7 shopping center? (City Paper) ... Dallas residents don't want a new freeway through downtown. (Streetsblog)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast working on his master's in city and regional planning at Cornell University. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin


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I perused the WABA pamphlet. They have a section on how to lock your bike but don't actually tell you how to actually lock your bike. Most people just lock their frame but you should actually lock your rear wheel as described below as it will keep both your frame and your rear wheel (second most expensive part of your bike) safe:

People tend to buy the big clunky U-locks because they don't know how to use them properly. A U-lock should go around the rear rim and tire, somewhere inside the rear triangle of the frame. There is no need to loop it around the seat tube as well, because the wheel cannot be pulled through the rear triangle.

by Falls Church on May 6, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

In 2008, the D.C. Gov't invested half a million dollars of taxpayers' money in a restaurant at the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues in Ward 4. The restaurant closed after a few months.

In early 2009, then-Mayor Fenty proposed to cut half a million dollars for FY2010 by eliminating the Rental Housing Commission.

Punishing tenants for taxpayer money wasted on corporate welfare does nothing to improve neighborhoods.

Improving the neighborhood by reducing crime and teen pregnancy and improving schools could do more to attract businesses to the shopping center than giving handouts would.

To demonstrate the viability of a restaurant at the Penn Branch Shopping Center, a huge BBQ or fish fry could be held on the parking lot some weekend afternoon, charging $10-12 per plate, as a restaurant would do. I wouldn't mind a having some taxpayer dollars appropriated for that.

by The Civic Center on May 6, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church: A U-lock should go around the rear rim and tire, somewhere inside the rear triangle of the frame.

Very practical, putting chain grease on your lock every single time you use it. NOT.

by Jasper on May 6, 2012 9:01 pm • linkreport

The condition of the house on Girard Street might not have caused the fire, but it certainly contributed to the severity of it.

Had the building been structurally sound or updated to modern codes, the fire likely wouldn't have spread as quickly or caused the entire structure to fail. It's not particularly common to see a fire reduce a brick building to a pile of rubble, and Fires spread a lot more quickly when there are holes in the walls and roof.

The neighbors are unbelievably lucky that the house wasn't attached to any neighboring structures, as the building's isolation seems to be the only thing that actually kept the fire contained. This could have been much, much worse.

by andrew on May 7, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

The taxi service remains sub-par in D.C. A couple of months ago, I caught a bus from NYC straight back to Silver Spring rather than Union Station. I was completely prepared to walk home, wheeling my luggage until a (Barwood, operates in Montgomery) cabbie asked me if I'd like a lift. I was reluctant, knowing all the drama that I've put up with in D.C. with cabbies. I told him that I didn't have much cash and he said no problem, that his cab has a meter and a credit card swiper.

After seeing the credit card swiper, I decided I'd be lazy and take the cab ride from the bus station to my condo. He helped me put my bags in the trunk and knew my condo building by name and how to get there. I think it ended up being a $5ish fare and I paid $10 happily since I was happy for decent service in contrast with all the shenanigans in D.C.

I've negotiated with D.C. cabbies flat rates in cash only to take me home to Silver Spring. It's always well above what the meter would charge. After experiencing normal cab service from Barwood in Montgomery as well as other cities like Baltimore, I've been done with D.C. cabs. I don't get how the horrible cab system isn't a larger election issue in D.C. It's a disgrace to the city and the region. We are better than that. I'm lucky that I live in a place with excellent bus and Metro service in walking distance. I just make sure to never be out past 3 on weekends so I don't have to deal with trying to get a ride home from a D.C. cabbie and paying $50-$70 cash for what the meter says is about a $30 fare. That is, if I can find one who's willing to even make the 20 minute trip up 16th street.

by Cavan on May 7, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

I got a taxi at Union Station on Saturday night back to Adams Morgan. The fare was $15. Here was the exchange at the end of our trip

Me: How much is that?
Driver: $15
Me: Here's $20.
Driver: How much change do you want?
Me: Um, five bucks.
Driver: Yes, but $15 + tip equals...
Me: Twenty dollars minus $15 means $5 change please.

Sorry, buster, but no DC taxi driver is getting a tip from me until things change significantly, and especially not if they try to award themselves a tip automatically.

by renegade09 on May 7, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

renegade09: Was the driver cheating you in some way or does the fare really come out to $15 to Adams Morgan at night?

Violating the rules is wrong, but if a driver is NOT violating the rules, then riders need to pay the driver and give a reasonable tip (I always give about 20%). It's important for drivers to make a decent living so they keep driving and so we get competent drivers sticking around.

If riders stiff drivers on tips on legal fares or because they think "things need to change," that just creates more of an incentive for drivers to try to cheat. They will start thinking all riders are going to stiff them, so they pull other shenanigans to get the money they are entitled to.

Please tip your cab drivers unless they themselves do something specifically to cheat you.

by David Alpert on May 7, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport


I think you've got it dead wrong there. Drivers are not entitled to a tip. They'll get a tip if I think they do something to deserve a tip. To get a tip they've got to do more than 'not cheat me'; in fact if they cheat me, not only will they not get a tip but I'll file a complaint on them. Even though I think you do a great job, I don't tip you for editing this blog, do I? It's exactly the same with cab drivers.

It's completely different to people waiting tables, who need tips to make up a living wage. If the fare doesn't allow cab drivers to make a decent living, then they can lobby the taxi commission for a raise- which they have done regularly and successfully. The assumption on the part of a driver that he can garnish my change for a tip is, for me, one more example of the disrespectful approach that DC taxicab drivers have to their customers.

Am I less inclined to tip cab drivers in DC than in other cities? Yes, very much so. Because in general they provide a crappier service than in other cities.

by renegade09 on May 7, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

+1 @David Alpert. Because its customary to tip cabbies, like other service people such as waiters, that 20% really is what they are ethically owed provided they haven't done something to merit one not paying it.

by Lance on May 7, 2012 3:54 pm • linkreport

@Jasper said:

Very practical, putting chain grease on your lock every single time you use it. NOT.

What? You don't have a chain guard? And I thought you were supposed to be Dutch.

Actually, the *REAL* *AMERICAN* way to lock it up is to do as Falls Church says, but remove your front wheel as well, and lock front, rear together through the rear triangle to the rack. (Sheldon, God rest him, suggested carrying a cable lock around too, but how many pounds of lock do you really want to be carrying?)

That way no one can steal your front wheel by flipping the quick-release.

by oboe on May 7, 2012 4:38 pm • linkreport

To avoid the frequent and sudden long lines at Union Station, I'll walk a block or two out to Mass Ave & N. Cap and hail a cab on the street. No muss, no fuss. The only drawback: if you're tired from a trip or it's raining, it can be a pain. But you skip the long line and the hassle.

And since when do you not tip a cabbie? Do you tip your hair cutter after they do what you've also paid $25 or more for them to do? Isn't that the same thing? (Note I won't compare this to waitstaff in restaurants---big difference because of their historically low base wages).

by DC Dave on May 7, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

Well, I guess based on the comments I can see why my cab driver felt he had a right to demand a tip! I didn't come on here to be all Mr Pink, but seriously- it might make you feel good for always giving a tip, but you are just acquiescing to your perception of normative behavior. If you automatically tip 20%, then you are validating the level of service you are getting. I expect good service before I tip. Is that so unreasonable? When enough people demand good service, maybe we will start getting good service from cabs in DC.

As for my hair cutter, yes I do tip him, because he gives me good service and because I want to keep both ears next time I visit. There are many reasons to tip; economists have written entire books about it. Wait staff are a special case, not analogous to cabbies at all. Beyond wait staff there is no 'ethical' obligation to tip anybody.

by renegade09 on May 7, 2012 7:08 pm • linkreport

The right way to lock your bike is frame and front wheel. Yes the rear wheel is more expensive, but it's also harder to steal. The front wheel can be popped off in a second. I've been locking my bike in the city for 20+ years and never had a rear wheel stolen. (this advice only applies to daytime locking, if you leave your bike out overnight it will eventually disappear no matter what you do).

As for the tipping debate -- cheapskates will always find ways to rationalize their non-tipping ways. Happens in restaurants as well as cabs.

by Kumquat on May 8, 2012 6:55 am • linkreport

A friendly reminder: :-)
Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponent in order to attack his claim or invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent's argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and negative facts about the opponent's personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent's arguments or assertions.

by renegade09 on May 8, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

> It's not particularly common to see a fire reduce
> a brick building to a pile of rubble

True - Eastern Market and Georgetown Library better exhibit what the fire department is capable of. The Cafritz house was a special case and need not be mentioned here.

Nonetheless, it is amusing to imagine the quandary the fire chief must have been in. There you are, a big fire is on your hands, and you do not know whether or not your boss ordered that it be set. In any case, you are sure that he would be angry with you if you put it out too swiftly. But on the other hand, you know that you can't put it out swiftly, because the place is a junk heap. So will you accept a wink and congratulations the morning after, or... not?

by Turnip on May 8, 2012 8:25 pm • linkreport

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