Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Wide shoulders


Photo by iandoh on Flickr.
I-66 shoulders could become lanes: VDOT is considering opening the shoulders of I-66 to traffic during the entire day and night. (WTOP, Joshua D.)

Connecticut Ave bad for pedestrians: TBD On Foot follows up on Sharon C's diary of a Cleveland Park pedestrian battling the traffic along Connecticut on foot. It turns out Sharon's observations are far from just anecdotal. (TBD)

Is IZ too complicated?: Responding to Cheryl Cort's post here on Inclusionary Zoning, Matt Yglesias wonders if it's all too complicated and cities should instead use progressive income taxes to help poor people. Lydia DePillis defends complexity as sometimes necessary, and Manna addresses Cheryl's original point in the comments.

GSA getting creative: GSA is teaming up with Metropolis Magazine to host a design competition to retrofit an old federal building in L.A. If it's successful, we hope they do the same in Washington. (Metropolis Magazine via The Dirt, Eric Fidler)

From ballpark to snowball park: Instead of leaving their stadium dormant all winter, the Indians are turning it into a "Winter Wonderland." Could the Nats do something like this to help keep people coming to Near Southeast in the off-season? (ESPN)

Planning for homeless in winter: After disastrous overcrowding last year, DC officials are starting early with preparations for sheltering the District's homeless during the winter. (Post)

VRE will leave you behind: In a move that will help it meet on-time goals, VRE conductors have been instructed to leave the station at the scheduled time, even if they see passengers running to catch the train. (Post)

DC behind in energy efficiency: All states created rebate programs for energy-efficient appliances, as part of the federal stimulus. While 23 states have already successfully finished their programs, only DC and Guam haven't started their program, and Guam's is still slated to begin before DC's. (US DOE, Jad D.)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 

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Good for VRE with their new policy. Waiting for stragglers is annoyig.

by Transport. on Sep 24, 2010 8:44 am • linkreport

Re:Nats and snow.

Doubt that it will work all that well this far south. Cleveland is cold enough to keep snow on the ground, but DC is rarely below freezing for long periods of time. ClevelandÂ’s ave temp from December to March ranges from a high of 37.4 to low of 18.8. D.C.Â’s ave temp from December to February (March highs reaches into the 50's) ranges from a high of 46.5 to low of 27.3. If you timed it right you could hit that week, or two, when we get into the deep freeze.

by RJ on Sep 24, 2010 9:02 am • linkreport

Why stop at the I66 shoulders? Those SUVs were MADE to drive on grassy medians, culverts, and over damn near anything. VDOT should also strategically distribute hay bales and ramps by the side of the road so drivers can jump over broken down cars, a la those Duke boys in the General Lee. YeeeeeeHAW!

by monkeyrotica on Sep 24, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

@monkeyrotica -

by I95-HOV on Sep 24, 2010 9:12 am • linkreport

RE: snowball park

How exactly would this work? DC isn't even cold enough to keep snow on the ground!

by MLD on Sep 24, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

@monkeyrotica ... And your idea could successfully be applied to DC's urban conditions as well! Stuck in traffic? Is there a sidewalk near you? Anybody parked on it? No. Some folks are on it though ... Oh well, they'll move when they see the SUV coming ...

LOL

by Lance on Sep 24, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

Boston area did that...opening up the shoulders to general use. As I recall, the result was the accident severity rate shot up.

I disagree with it. It's a safety hazard, and causes WORSE congestion during incidents.

by Froggie on Sep 24, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

Personally I think opening the shoulders to traffic on I66 is a no-brainer. It seems to work fine on the GW Parkway and in the event that a car breaks down or there is an accident, you are no worse off than you were before. I don't have the stats to support this, but I suspect that rubbernecking is every bit a big a factor in delays as the bottleneck itself.

by movement on Sep 24, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

Good for VRE to keep to their schedule, but if they ran trains more frequently, then people would be less concerned about missing one.

by tom veil on Sep 24, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

movement and Froggie

The shoulders are open now to traffic durring rush hour in both directions and when someone doesn't pay attention to the arrow.

by RJ on Sep 24, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

ON the GW parkway, you have the option of pushing the car into the grass or median. That isn't there on 66. Given the volume of traffic, would be terrible to have a break-down there.

by charlie on Sep 24, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

@charlie

First of all, for that stretch of road, the shoulders are very wide. If a car were to be stuck there, other vehicles could squeeze by. Second, there are a number of emergency cutouts designed for cars to be moved off of the road.

by movement on Sep 24, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

If a train runs on time but nobody's on it, does it make a sound?

by Gavin on Sep 24, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

The CAPA effort is impressive in identifying problem intersections. I agree that Connecticut Avenue has some major issues, particularly crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections.

There are difficult challenges here. If one car stops and a pedestrian starts crossing, a car in the next lane may not be able to see them. It's not good enough to expect that all drivers will learn to stop whenever a car is stopped in the next lane. In Chevy Chase DC, where this is a big problem, the rightmost lane is almost always blocked with cars parking, turning, loading, or unloading. It's not realistic to expect everyone else to stop every time there's a car stopped in the right lane. Better solutions are needed.

Ironically, while I think this effort is very valuable, at the same time as it calls for better solutions and traffic controls, it ignores pedestrian behavior as part of the problem. The very first image shows a pedestrian crossing against a "don't walk" signal where traffic has a green arrow (near the Woodley Park Metro) while a bike-cop sits there doing nothing.

I think we need better constructs on many of the places they've identified, but at the same time, we need to teach people that these constructs are there for their safety and they should pay attention to them on busy streets.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

I think the Boston experience occurred Mass. did the same thing that's currently in place--rush hour shoulder use. I agree it's terrible, but we already have it for 8 hours/day.

That may be the worst combo--part time use with rampant violations of the red arrows at other times. That makes travel unpredictable. Why not just use the lanes at all times, which is probably safer than partial use with people driving in the shoulder.

by ah on Sep 24, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

I see 3 solutions for that part of Conn. Ave:

1) As much as I hate them, I think well marked -- i.e. visible -- speed cameras would slow traffic down. A lot. I think you need to have at least 35 MPH in that area, and speed cameras can being almost all cars to that speed.

2) YOu need to block off pedestrian access on one or two blocks (cleveland park in particular) and force them to use crosswalks.

3) Having a seperate signal for crosswalks and cars would also be helpful.

by charlie on Sep 24, 2010 11:59 am • linkreport

Instead of speed cameras, how about one of those "YOUR SPEED IS ___" signs, with a small sign under it that reads "By the way, Speed camera Ahead"

IMO, that's a lot fairer to drivers, given that the speed limits on some of our roads are much lower than they would appear to be. Even though I've never done it, I have plenty of sympathy for anybody who blows by the Florida Ave & 8th NE camera at 40mph (Limit 25), or drives 60 through the camera near the 295 onramp from NY Ave (limit 35).

Yes, drivers should drive carefully. However, we also shouldn't be forcing them to peer onto the shoulders every block for new Speed Limit signs, given that the limits often have no obvious rhyme or reason.

by andrew on Sep 24, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Jamie I would suggest that seeing a car in an adjacent lane stop at a non light signal- associated crosswalk might at the very least trigger caution, reduced speed, and a general sense that someone walking in the crosswalk just might be possible. Although loading/unloading turning are certainly viable options, there is also the matter of the crosswalk painted on the road as a factor in the driver's calculus.

I do realize that all cars stopping for pedestrians is not realistic, as cars simply do not want to stop for pedestrians (period).

As a pedestrian, I expect and accept this, and I slow down when reaching the next lane as I get through the crosswalk, and make eye contact and see that the driver is, in fact, slowing down. If not, I simply hesitate and continue passing in the crosswalk AFTER the car in the second lane speeds up to squeeze past the crosswalk/ not stop. Furthermore, although I safely, but assertively make my way through these crosswalks after making myself fully visible, I do my best to thank those that do stop for me with a slight gesture of a smile and/or a wave. In short, I expect the worst, and am grateful for cars that stop.

I do agree with you, Jamie, that crossing against 'don't walk signs at signaled crosswalks is wrong, but I am speaking to crosswalks that are non-light/ painted crosswalks. I think that more of those "crosswalk/ stop for pedestrians" signs (along with the sort of safe/defensive crosswalk use) might help.

Perhaps, also, ticketing for both jaywalking and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks might improve behavior on both sides??..

by ed on Sep 24, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

@ andrew; I think speed cameras can be fair as well, if they are well marked and have big flashing signs (you speed is being monitored). I don't think the "your speed is." signs would work well on Conn Ave, it is a major thruway and not a side street.

I've always wondered why they don't have "push to walks" signs on crosswalks that then trigger some street lamps and other warnings. SOmething less than a traffic signal, and gives cars a better warning from a distance that someone is crossing.

by charlie on Sep 24, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Ed I agree, ideally, it should work that way. But the practical reality is that the reason these places are a problem in the first place is because they are busy, there's a lot of traffic, and a lot of pedestrians. If everyone just acted with extreme caution all the time, which would be wonderful, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We have to deal with what we have.

Uncontrolled crosswalks on 6-lane roads are just a problem. It is easy to blame bad driving, but where does that get you? You can't make every person behind the wheel of a car a perfect driver, and the way we set up our traffic constructs should not depend on everyone being a perfect driver. People are just not perfect.

There's just not much you can do when traffic is heavy. A driver might not even be able to see that there was a crosswalk there because of a car in front of him. It's rare that the right lane doesn't have a stopped car for one reason or another, and it's unrealistic to expect every single car to take every needed precaution to ensure pedestrians will always be safe in this situation.

I think that mid-block traffic lights of the sort that are common in Silver Spring could be a good solution. This doesn't affect traffic flow in any substantive way, either, since they can just be timed with the next light.

There aren't a ton of places where this is a huge problem - and Chevy Chase is obviously among the worst.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

At Connecticut/Northampton: I rather enjoy those whacking sticks with the decorative orange drapes attached. They're good for exacting vengeance upon the unyielding assault of the relentless mechanised beasts.

...I think I've still got Don Quixote on my mind.

by Bossi on Sep 24, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

We need to decide what Connecticut Avenue is supposed to be-a speedway for drivers to get from Maryland to DC, or a main street for a number of villages within the city. Right now, it's a difficult road to drive on, and completely unsafe for other road users.

I'd personally slow it to 25mph by narrowing the road, adding bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and increasing parking in the communities at the same time. That might even revitalize Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park, and turn van Ness and that weird non-village around Politics and Prose into proper neighbourhoods.

Nobody needs to be using Connecticut Avenue as a freeway. There's another freeway running parallel for commuters (Beach Drive) and a red line with extensive parking facilities.

by renegade09 on Sep 24, 2010 1:00 pm • linkreport


"Nobody needs to be using Connecticut Avenue as a freeway"

I don't think that speeding is a major factor in some of the situations. I can't speak for some of the other places noted, but I would be hard pressed to say that traffic has ever moved anything other than "incredibly slowly" through Chevy Chase DC.

The problem is congestion and poor visibility as a result of it.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 1:07 pm • linkreport

@charlie

You're kind of making my point, the road is no good for drivers or other road users. I've commuted on Connecticut and it is a nightmare. Depending on where you are, you have to crawl or floor it to keep with the flow of traffic. Let's not kid ourselves about speeding either, everyone speeds along certain stretches. It's almost mandatory just to keep with the flow. You also have to regularly switch lanes at high speeds to avoid turning cars. That's why nobody wants to see speed cameras, because it's hard enough to drive along Connecticut without one more thing to pay attention to.

That's why I think the status quo is no good. We could fence off entire sections of the roadway with metal railings to funnel pedestrians into crossings signaled with lights. That would make life easier for drivers. Or we could make it nice for peds and cyclists. What would you prefer?

ah. Let's face it, everybody is speeding on Connecticut. It's like a dragster race between red lights. It's insane.

by renegade09 on Sep 24, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

sorry, that last one was actually @Jamie

by renegade09 on Sep 24, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

"Let's not kid ourselves about speeding either, everyone speeds along certain stretches"

Absolutely, I just don't think that these stretches are by and large the places where the biggest pedestrian traffic is found.

The pedestrian concentrations are Chevy Chase, Van Ness, and to a lesser degree Nebraska. The first two are always congested, it would be a miracle to exceed 25 MPH. I used to live at Conn & Nebraska. While crossing the street was time consuming and sucked, there aren't any mid-block crosswalks, and few people would dare to dart across six lanes there. There was an accident there not long ago in which a pedestrian was struck, but it was at the intersection.

Conn & Nebraska needs a pedestrian cycle so you can cross both streets without waiting forever twice, it always took five minutes to go from corner to corner.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 2:07 pm • linkreport

"Let's not kid ourselves about speeding either, everyone speeds along certain stretches"

You here this a lot, and I'm not sure what it says about the psychology of drivers and driving. When I'm in a car, I notice that everyone speeds, everywhere.

I don't say that as a curmudgeon, but as a simple statement of fact. If the speed limit is 15 mph, the slowest cars are traveling at 17-20 mph. If it's 25 mph, the slowest cars are traveling at 27-30 mph. The only exception to this rule is the ancient, and those who are actively texting or applying makeup.

And yet, whenever these discussions come up, there's this assertion that "of, course, sometimes drivers exceed the speed limit."

The only way I can comprehend it is that drivers don't actually believe the posted speed limit is the speed limit. Some enterprising graduate student could do worse than to take it up for further study. It's incredible.

by oboe on Sep 24, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, do you have a car with one of these on it?

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

Drivers speed because they weigh up the benefits of getting to their destination faster vs the risk of getting busted. By that analysis, it's almost always a good idea to speed.

In certain roads (e.g. Connecticut), you more or less have to speed because the rest of the traffic is speeding and you want to stay in the flow.

So what do we do about it? I would suggest remodeling Connecticut Avenue along the lines of 14th St around Columbia Heights metro. Include bike lanes. Include extra parking to help local businesses.

by renegade09 on Sep 24, 2010 2:38 pm • linkreport

@Jamie,

When I'm behind the wheel, I actually speed like every other driver on the road--but only when I'm on separated highways. The rest of the time, I actually enjoy driving a bit *under* the speed limit. Or setting the cruise control to whatever the posted limit. You do this in Rock Creek Park, and get to watch folks go nuts, passing over a double-yellow line, honking, etc...

It's safer for cyclists and pedestrians *and* entertaining. Although, I think it was GGW's Lance who once admonished me for using the cruise control while traveling under 40 mph. Apparently it's *extremely* dangerous. Whether more so than passing on a blind curve in a blind rage while driving in a national park is an open question.

In any case, I believe there's a District program called "Pace Car" which, in exchange for agreeing to drive the speed limit, DC issues you with a colorful bumper sticker so you may be more easily identified for retaliation angry would-be speeders.

by oboe on Sep 24, 2010 3:34 pm • linkreport

" get to watch folks go nuts, passing over a double-yellow line, honking, etc..."

Wow, so you derive entertainment from doing something that you know will result in people getting angry at you, and doing something unsafe in response? How is driving in a way that you know will cause people to pass you unsafely good for all the cyclists coming the other way on Beach Drive?

I bet if someone passed you while you were driving 20 MPH on Beach Drive and struck a cyclist coming the other way, the victim would at least feel better knowing that you had a good laugh doing something designed to enrage other drivers.

Anyway, it's pretty clear that you value principle more than practices that actually result in the safest overall conditions for all road users. Your desire to be a vigilante speed-limit enforcer doesn't seem likely to have a net benefit, based on what you say happens when you do this.

And I really don't believe you use your cruise control driving around town. Beach Drive is probably the only place in the entire city that you could drive for more than 15 seconds without hitting your brake.

I suspect you are strongly exaggerating both your driving habits, and the response of others.

I used to drive to work on Beach Drive every single day, and I can assure you that most days, someone was driving 25 MPH, or there were cyclists who wouldn't let people pass them.

Not once did I ever see someone pass them angrily, unsafely, honking their horns. Sure, there was some too-close tailgating, but that's it.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

doing something that you know will result in people getting angry at you, and doing something unsafe in response? Each person is responsible for his or her own anger and decision on how to respond to that anger. We can not blame our behavior and decisions on someone else.

I have been on Beach drive slowing down to go around a blind corner with the creek on one side and a cliff on the other only to have someone pass me from behind going over the double yellow just as oboe describes.

I wasn't purposefully trying to piss anyone off. I was just driving what for me was comfortable in the circumstances (15-20 around the curve). This has happened to me several times. There is no way I am responsible for the idiotic unsafe behavior other people choose. It wouldn't matter if i slowed down "just to piss them off", which I didn't/don't. I am not responsible for what they do.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I wasn't justifying the jerk who passes unsafely. I was criticizing behaviour designed to elicit such a response: driving below the speed limit on a long stretch.

I don't know how long you've lived in DC, but I find it extremely hard to believe that you've been passed like that on Beach Drive (around a blind curve??) not just once, but several times. In my entire 20 years, including about 6 of them with a daily commute on Beach Drive, I have never seen anything like that.

Beach Drive actually has a lower accident rate than the rest of the city, and indeed the nation as whole. (See this report - yeah it's from 1995, but road rage isn't new.)

If people were behaving that insanely on a regular basis that is not what you'd expect.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Jamie -about 20 years. I'm not making this up for effect. I have no reason to do that. It's happened to me. Of course you can choose to decide I'm lying. I am not responsible for that decicion on your part nor do I have any control over it.

I don't drive on Beach Dr often. When I do I tend to go slower then the everyday commuter crowd b/c I'm not as comfortable goin that fast on the narrow curvy sections as someone who drives it everyday apparently is. I'm sure (I know) it angers other drivers but I'm not going to be intimidating into driving faster then I'm confortable just because someone is tailgating. The response from the other drivers who are angry at me is the same as if I was doing it on purpose. It doesn't matter. They are responsible for handling themselves in the situation. I am not responsible for making them do something stupid.

There is a curve just south of Park Rd/Tilden St on which I have been passed twice, going north approaching the light, which you can't see until you come around the curve. It has happened on other parts of the road too.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2010 4:25 pm • linkreport

^"intimidated"

by Tina on Sep 24, 2010 4:31 pm • linkreport

@Jamie -- I don't think it's clear from the picture of the peds in Woodley Park (in the CAPA report) whether they began walking with a "walk" signal, and that's the key to whether they were "jaywalking" -- a ped who begins walking with a walk signal has the right of way until they get across the street under DC law (or to a "safety" island but, after the crash in Adams Morgan I would maintain there is no such thing in DC). So if the signal switched after they started, they still have the right of way and right to continue crossing the street. Also, there's no way to tell what the police officer on the bike did once they got across the street; maybe he did ticket them. Having said all that, it is kind of a weird picture to choose for a first slide on pedestrian safety, I think -- they should have either explained it or chosen a different picture.

by Eileen on Sep 24, 2010 4:36 pm • linkreport

@Jamie,

I used to drive to work on Beach Drive every single day, and I can assure you that most days, someone was driving 25 MPH...

There's no need for pointless blog speculation. Anyone reading these comments can replicate the experiment for themselves. And I'm not talking about driving 20 mph. I'm talking about actually obeying the speed limit of 25 mph.

Your push-back on this just shows you're more interested in scoring points than discussing the actual world as it exists. Get in your car. Drive, say, from East-West Highway to the Calvert Street bridge. Obey the speed limit. More often than not someone will pass you.

You're obviously incapable of breaking out of this mindset as well, given that you find "driving under the speed limit" some sort of intolerable provocation--as though the speed limit were a lower, rather than an upper bound.

But just to clarify, when driving on RCP, I drive the speed limit or a mile or two an hour faster. Even when I'm driving faster than the limit, I still get passed by other drivers over a double-yellow.

by oboe on Sep 24, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Tina, if you say so, but passing around a blind corner is about the craziest thing you can do in a car. If this was at all common I'd think there would be a lot more accidents than there are. Maybe you've just been unlucky.

@Eileen, look at page 12, too. Same shot, same people, except the two people crossing. It seems likely the 2nd shot came first, since otherwise you would see the people from the first one walking away.

Anyway, whatever, no point in over analyzing it (except that it's kind of fun in a CSI-like way). But like you say I just bizarre that the people writing a report about pedestrian safety would use a shot that clearly shows pedestrians doing something illegal as their opener -- when that intersection is, actually, one of only a handful in the city that has a signal specifically designed to improve pedestrian safety and it's not being used properly by the people it's supposed to protect.

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

@oboe i've not once argued that people do not speed. I don't believe, on the other hand, that people very often pass cars going the speed limit on one-lane roads in much of the city. I have seen it happen on Beach Drive, though I doubt it happens as often as you claim. But never on a blind curve. I don't ever recall seeing it on city steets.

At the end of the day, it's irrelevant whose perception of the driving habits is correct. Does it translate to more accidents? It certainly doesn't in Rock Creek Park.

In this country, 300 million miles per year are logged and 70,000 pedestrians are struck and injured/killed each year. That's about one for every 40 million miles. How does a populate that is driving so recklessly manage to only, on average, hit a pedestrian once every 40 million miles driven?

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

sorry 300 TRILLION miles

by Jamie on Sep 24, 2010 4:55 pm • linkreport

Come on, guys, show some nerve. Passing on the double-yellow is not that dangerous -- just honk the horn, like they do on the Amalfi Coast Drive. BTW, the traffic is worse there.

by goldfish on Sep 24, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport

blind corner is about the craziest thing you can do in a car.
No doubt!
If this was at all common I'd think there would be a lot more accidents than there are.
No not commom. Uncommon but very memorable
Maybe you've just been unlucky.
Or lucky - since these crazies haven't crashed into me.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

as oboe says its much more common to be passed from behind on a flat straight area that's not blinded (though not as memorable) but still has a double yellow and no shoulders, like in the northern part. I've had this too doing what I thought was a reasonable speed, probably the speed limit (25? 30?).

by Tina on Sep 24, 2010 5:18 pm • linkreport

@oboe i've not once argued that people do not speed. I don't believe, on the other hand, that people very often pass cars going the speed limit on one-lane roads in much of the city.

I live on Capitol Hill, one of the great commuter routes into and through the city from PG County, so I admit my experiences may be more...exciting...than some.

Bottom line, though, is that "number of accidents" is not the final indicator of whether behavior is toxic or not. How many folks decide not to walk or ride in the park because of high vehicle speeds? It's actually a common refrain from drivers: You start by making the argument you have here, that excessive speeds harm no one; then when someone talks about actually *using* the park as a "park", or using local surface streets to cycle on, instead of the sidewalk, everyone thinks it's nuts because you'll slow down the auto traffic, and besides, the speed differential is too great. And around and around we go.

The bottom line is, these excessive speeds are "perfectly safe" only when cars are the sole road users. Slow things down, and the streets become more inviting for alternate uses. Which, I suspect, is why calls for enforcing the speed limit is such a frightening prospect for most drivers.

by oboe on Sep 24, 2010 5:50 pm • linkreport

@oboe Great comment.

by ed on Sep 25, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

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