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Let's Choose delves into driver-cyclist conflict

Are bike lanes destroying DC by making it impossible for "real people" to move about? Are cars evil monsters that should be banished? If you ask the candidates for DC Council at-large on April 23, the answer is no to both.

Photo by tvol on Flickr.

Despite what you might assume if you listen to AAA's Lon Anderson, Gary Imhoff's introductions in themail, or certain Adam Tuss NBC broadcast segments, DC leaders of many ages and backgrounds just aren't interested in more conflict concerning our roadways.

We asked the candidates,

Residents who walk and bicycle often feel our streets are not sufficiently safe for them. Others feel that projects to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians have impeded quality of life for those who must drive. Is there a way forward that can bring peace among all road users? What would you say to each of these groups?

This week, we had responses from Anita Bonds, Michael Brown, Matt Frumin, Perry Redd, John Settles, and Elissa Silverman. Patrick Mara and Paul Zukerberg did not participate.

You can vote on the candidates' responses to this question until midnight Monday, February 18. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the results of last week's question, on how to spend the surplus, later this week.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Oh this should be fun.

by Alan B. on Feb 12, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.

I'll make the popcorn.

by Adam L on Feb 12, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

I have to say, I'm rather puzzled as to why you've chosen to make Prince of Petworth a partner in this process, when it's widely known that any and all dissenting views posted in the comments on that site are very quickly deleted. The support of a blogger who chooses to portray the city in which we live with such profound naïveté, and who refuses to allow opinions that differ from his own to be presented on that site, does not bode well for this process.

by Ron Smith on Feb 12, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

You know I thought the same thing--break out the popcorn-- but surprisingly they all pretty much acknowledged the need for everyone to share the road.

by I. Rex on Feb 12, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

I'd just like to point out there is also the "subscribe without commenting" option below the comment area... but this is more fun. Subscribed.

by selxic on Feb 12, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

Wow, fireworks are early this year.

by SJE on Feb 12, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

I think almost everyone except a few nutjobs on either side think sharing the road for all is what works best.

Except for Segway riders.

Can we all agree it's ok to hate them?

Ok actually I really like them. But they never got below thousands of dollars per Segway, which makes it not really practical.

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

It is hard to believe that Michael Brown was a sitting Councilmember. It is also hard to believe that Bonds is a sitting Councilmember. talk about unnuanced answers with little or no policy direction.

by William on Feb 12, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

William, how do you think people become successful politicians in the first place? Certainly not by telling the unvarnished truth.

by Alan B. on Feb 12, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

Why would anyone think this would be a "popcorn ready" topic? Could it be because we bring our own prejudices to the issue and assume no one could realistically discuss the issue w/o turning it into a war?

This post is another one where I'm conflicted about my own rating. WRT transportation, most of the answers were good. However, the best "bullet point" answers (like Silverman) never addressed in full the actual questions. So how do I rate it? If I liked the answer but didn't think it answered the questions, should I rate them high?

It is also hard to believe that Bonds is a sitting Councilmember. talk about unnuanced answers with little or no policy direction

The questions didn't ask about specific policy proposals. They asked how would the candidate propose we deal w/the acrimony and what would they say to each group.

BTW, how does work as a "budget analyst" relate to knowledge about divisive issues. I'm trying here...

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

Michael Brown: "Our streets are now not just for cars". I think he really wanted to draw a sad face after that. They weren't ever just for cars.

by thump on Feb 12, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

So how do I rate it? If I liked the answer but didn't think it answered the questions, should I rate them high?
That's the purpose of the 2 parts of the rating. You can rate the answer as "persuasive" or "very persuasive" if you liked the answer, but "neutral" or "no" on the responsiveness scale if you thought they didn't really answer the question.

by David Alpert on Feb 12, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

These were pleasantly humane answers all around.

by Gavin on Feb 12, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

"whether u take metro/ride a bike/drive a car/moped/scooter/motorcycle/walk etc"

I'm glad Brown is participating, but would he legislate in twitter-speak, too?

by Ronald on Feb 12, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

@ HobWash ("The questions didn't ask about specific policy proposals.")

The question didn't specifically require policy proposals, but they're a reasonable way to answer. A valid answer to "Is there a way forward that can bring peace among all road users?" could definitely be (for example) the construction of more dedicated rights of way for cyclists so that drivers and cyclists come into conflict less often. Certainly, I think that kind of answer is much more useful than "council them all about being nice," which is what some of the other responses boiled down to, and I found substantive responses to be more persuasive overall.

by Andrew Pendleton on Feb 12, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

Could it be because we bring our own prejudices to the issue

Is that why you think it's a popcorn ready topic?

I'd answer your earlier question with experience not prejudice. Usually this subject results in a long protracted fight. So it's reasonable to expect it to happen again, wouldn't you agree?

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Question: What if you botched and mis voted on a candiadtes answer. can you go back and re-do?

by John on Feb 12, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

@DAl, I think I've done that but may have been reading too much into the question by considering whether their answer to the question was persuasive vs. whether it was persuasive...generally.

@Andrew, I get that. I'm just not sure how making things better for cyclists answers how to bring peace.

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

You can always count on politicians to pay lip service in pleasing generalities when it doesn't cost them anything to do so.

by Kolohe on Feb 12, 2013 6:51 pm • linkreport

Actually, Andrew, a SPECIFIC proposal to improve education/training would be welcomed, at least by me. First-time drivers are generally woefully under-prepared to hit the roads, and it seems that most people don't FULLY understand the laws OR best practices to avoid conflict and accidents. Sure, some of this is selfishness, being hurried, and otherwise not caring, but some of it is a lack of education. We see it all the time here. "Why are cyclists outside of the bike lane?" "Why are divers IN the bike lane (at intersections)?" "Why should that cyclist who is otherwise being law-abiding and careful allowed to ride without a helmet?" "Why is that pedestrian forcing their way across the street at an unsignaled/signed intersection?"

Part of why DC's traffic congestion is so bad is that drivers here SUCK. Forcing your way ahead, around, and through, only to slam on the brakes repeatedly as you encounter obstacles, actually makes congestion WORSE than if people just calmed down and went with the flow. And some drivers panic at unfamiliar situations. I know it took me a while to figure out exactly how to best deal with a bike lane on a street when I was driving, because it wasn't something I had been trained for or experienced before moving to the big city. It also makes people scared to use alternative transit options, which results in a vicious cycle of ever-increasing vehicular traffic. If we indoctrinated people early to driving responsibly and accountably (to ALL road users) and refreshed the training of experienced drivers (even a quick test here and there), I think things would be better.

I've said it here before and it's still true, I've encountered very few conflicts as a driver, pedestrian, and cyclist. MOST people are pretty respectful, but a little more education could help. Training drivers to assess whether they're going fast enough vis a vis me on a bike to go ahead and pull across the bike lane to make their turn or slow down a smidge and get in behind me, or cyclists on how much space they need to head on over to a turn lane, or pedestrians on how to effectively cross an unsignaled intersection, or drivers to look out for pedestrians at unsignaled intersections, on and on, would go a long way. That plus some enforcement of "aggressive" behavior (other states have fines for this, and DC could sorely use an "aggressive driving" statute, or the enforcement of one if we happen to already have it...and, since bikes are vehicles, it could be applied to them as well) would go a long way to fixing what problems we have. High aggressive driving fines with strong enforcement would fix MOST of the few problems I've had.

by Ms. D on Feb 12, 2013 8:14 pm • linkreport

I don't care what the ultimate resolution is so long as cyclists STAY OFF THE GOD DAMNED SIDEWALK.

by JWM on Feb 12, 2013 9:19 pm • linkreport

I don't believe for a minute that God has damned the sidewalks of DC. In fact, I think she is pro-sidewalk.

Also, sidewalk cycling is legal in most of DC.

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 9:38 pm • linkreport

The biggest sidewalk cycling problems I've had have been where it's illegal, and sometimes where it might be legal but rude and/or not a good idea. When my mom last visited, we almost got taken out by a cyclist on a narrow sidewalk (so narrow that there were points - near tree boxes - that we had to walk single-file) on a quiet side street. Sure, the cyclist was behaving LEGALLY, but recklessly and rudely. He didn't ring a bell or give a shout out until he was on top of us, even, to the point that I dove out of the way and hoped he wouldn't clip my mom, who has a bum hip and is old enough that getting hit by a bike could seriously injure her. Traffic was almost non-existent and the sidewalk was inadequate to share. He should have ridden in the street. There are points where we should expect to share the path/sidewalk with bikes - trails, the Mall, busy streets outside of downtown, places with wide sidewalks outside of downtown - but, where possible, cyclists should ride in the street, particularly where sidewalks are BARELY adequate for pedestrians. I'd like to see DC change the law to AT LEAST prohibit cycling on the sidewalk where there's a bike lane outside of the CBD. Even better would be a law that, when riding on the sidewalk (not multi-use trails), cyclists must not go faster than 10 MPH and yield to ALL pedestrians.

by Ms. D on Feb 13, 2013 9:27 pm • linkreport

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