Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Cycling in the law and the press


Photo by AlexChoi on Flickr.
Bike bills introduced in Richmond: It's the start of Virginia's breakneck legislative season. Bicycle-related bills include ones to allow the Idaho Stop cyclists to go through red lights that are activated by induction loops, add a "reckless cycling" violation, and to require leaving 3 feet to pass a cyclist. (FABB, Richmond Sunlight)

Bike baiting is really frio: TBD editor Erik Wemple engaged in some shameless bike-baiting on his Fuego/Frio segment last night in which he countered a Foggy Bottom Current article titled "Cyclists make a safety resolution" (PDF) with a highly edited clip of bike riders breaking traffic laws. (TBD)

Alternatives to extending Metro: BeyondDC says that for the price of extending Metro lines, as Connolly and Moran propose, Northern Virginia could build a lot of light rail lines and upgrade VRE so that it runs Metro-like frequencies. That could create networks like this and this.

East Falls Church planning enters final stages: Arlington has updated the East Falls Church plan and will have a forum in February. VDOT still opposes removing any parking spaces as the area becomes a more walkable neighborhood. (TBD)

DC makes inroads against chronic homelessness: The District's Housing First program has made a significant dent in chronic homelessness during the height of the recession. Virginia's chronic homeless rate dropped slightly, while Maryland's rose 30%. (WAMU)

Foggy Bottom station closed over MLK weekend: This weekend will see major trackwork, including closing Foggy Bottom station and single-tracking in DC on both ends of the Red Line. (Dr. Gridlock) ... You can always get all the info on service disruptions on our disruption calendar.

Nominate "most endangered" historic properties: The DC Preservation League has opened nominations for its 2011 Most Endangered Places List. Do you know of any historic properties that are facing "ill-advised alteration or demolition through neglect or abandonment?" (DCist)

Streetcars: a renaissance or transportation nostalgia?: Tom Vanderbilt examines the curious trend in urban transportation that has left futuristic monorails failing, while cities around the country and elsewhere scramble to build modern streetcars. (Slate)

Google Transit adds new features: You can now search for transit routes on Google based on which mode you prefer and how long you'd like to spend waiting for transfers, but you still can't do it for WMATA routes. (Übergizmo)

And...: CaBi has released its first Winter Weather Warrior contest update, with more than a few GGW readers and contributors in the fray. ... DC's snow law dates to 1922 (DCist) ... 13 people suffered minor injuries in a bus crash in Congress Heights ... The first priority in DDOT's solicitation (PDF) to optimize its traffic signal timing is to "make DC traffic signals safer and friendlier for the pedestrians." (DDOT)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
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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What's almost funny about that Fuego/Frio segment is that with one of the cyclists in the video, I couldn't find anything the cyclist was doing wrong.

That said, disappointed that only two of us spoke up on it...

by Froggie on Jan 13, 2011 9:52 am • linkreport

How about we all send some short clips of motorists breaking traffic laws to crazy guy/fuego/frio man. Won't have to look far...just stand on any corner, shouldn't take more than 5 minutes.

by thump on Jan 13, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

Am I the only one who thinks that Google Transit is over rated? I mean, it is fun to play with, but if I need to know when the next bus is coming I just go to the WMATA site.

Or maybe I am missing something.

by beatbox on Jan 13, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

One of the reasons Vanderbilt doesn't state is that Monorails use proprietary technologies that lock operators into a single company's resources. Rail vehicles might be saddled with lots of patents, but they can be separated from the right-of-way, because the catenary and rail tech is old and proven. This is another reason to avoid integrated proprietary power systems.

It's possible that the Monorail will be a train of the future - when the patents expire.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 13, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

Google Transit is mainly useful for trip planning, especially for tourists, who are unlikely to know about the Metro trip planner but frequently have a smartphone with Google Maps on it. I use Google Transit quite a bit when I visit NYC.

by Phil on Jan 13, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

@Erik Do you know of any historic properties that are facing ill-advised demolition?

While some of the entries here are facing real demolition threats such as the Third Church, most properties on the 'Most Endangered List' aren't being threatened by demolition - at least not demolition on the traditional sense. Some are facing 'demolition by neglect' or otherwise threatened with ill-advised alteration or abandonment.

by Lance on Jan 13, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

The Google Transit tweak is a good idea, but I wish you could choose from a series of checkboxes which modes you prefer, rather than picking one. In Baltimore we have light rail, subway, commuter rail, and bus service; it would be great to be able to pick "all rail modes" rather than have to focus on one. The fact that commuter rail is just identified as "train" doesn't help.

It sort of smacks of a clever idea thought up by someone who doesn't ride transit much, since I'm guessing the main thing people want out of such a choice would be to avoid the bus.

by jfruh on Jan 13, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

Re: Metro track work this weekend

Is there a track switch at Rosslyn that allows DC-bound Orange line trains to continue through Rosslyn and go outbound on the Blue line tracks towards Franconia? This way a DC-bound Orange line would stop at Court House, Rosslyn, then Arlington Cemetery on its way to Franconia (or, alternatively, Huntington). Likewise, could a DC-bound Blue line go from Arlington Cemetery to Rosslyn, to Court House and continue to Vienna?

It seems somewhat pointless to run trains so that both orange and blue terminate and turn back at Rosslyn this weekend. This just makes it a hassle for DC-bound Orange line riders to disembark at Rosslyn then board another train downstairs to take them to Pentagon, and get to DC via the 14th Street Yellow line bridge.

by DK on Jan 13, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

DK: There is not such a track connection. Various hypothetical expansion proposals have suggested the possibility of building one. But if it did exist, the trains couldn't stop at Rosslyn; they would have to jump from Court House to Arlington Cemetery unless there were some kind of loop track. Same for Pentagon.

by David Alpert on Jan 13, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

Wait, so I'm confused about the "Idaho Stop." I thought that was where you can roll through a stop sign? The Virginia legislation is about running red lights, and only allows a biker to do this if they have waited for a long time at the intersection (a full two minutes or "two complete cycles of the traffic light.") I guess the point of the legislation is that is allowing left on red if oncoming traffic otherwise wouldn't let you go left on the green?

by M on Jan 13, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

Re: the idaho stop law,

What does "two complete cycles" mean? I would have assumed it was a red to red covers a cycle but that can't be the case. I need some clarification.

by Canaan on Jan 13, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

That doesn't appear to be a real Idaho Stop.

The Idaho Stop lets people on bikes do 2 things:

1. It's okay to slow down to mostly a stop but then proceed through a stop sign if it's safe and doesn't interfere with any people driving or walking.

2. Someone biking has to come to a complete stop at a red light, but it's okay to then proceed if it's safe and doesn't interfere with any people driving or walking.

This only applies to people who've waited at the light for a long time, which is what happens when the light is on a detector but bikes or motorcycles won't trigger it.

by David Alpert on Jan 13, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

@Lance I appreciate the clarification, I've added it to the link.

by Erik Weber on Jan 13, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

Ah, I was correct. I don't know if I'd wait two cycles no matter what mode I was in.

by Canaan on Jan 13, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

Darnit I just lost a long post because of a Captcha flub.

Long story short, monorail doesn't usually make sense in the US because for it to be feasible you have to have super dense and expensive land. Except for tunnelled heavy rail, almost every other option is usually cheaper and more feasible. Monorail is feasible in parts of Asia, but honestly the US isn't really that dense, and surface ROW is more cost effective and not that difficult to obtain.

by spookiness on Jan 13, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

As for Streetcars: a renaissance or transportation nostalgia
Why is something with a prooven track record denigraded as nostalgic? A true modern person looks at any solution which works best, not one that looks futuristic for the sake of it. If one day the monorail works better, then great.

Reminds me of the womens movement that strove to give women the right to work on equal terms as men. Some women choose to be at home with their kids, they are simply excercising their right to choose, and not necessarily being reactionary.

by Thayer-D on Jan 13, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

I've never quite understood what advantages a monorail system offers that a standard grade-separated rail system doesn't. Why would you pick a monorail instead of, say, an intermediary-capacity system like Bombardier's ALRT?

by jfruh on Jan 13, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

I remember reading in Great Society Subway that monorail was briefly considered for Metro, but was dismissed because conventional heavy rail was more space efficient (and therefore tunneling would be cheaper). I've never thought it was a question between light rail and monorail as those serve two different purposes. I thought it was a question between monorail and heavy rail, and I can't think of any advantage that monorail would have aside from maybe aesthetics.

Re: CaBi leader board:
I'm at 16, I didn't recognize any of the names ahead of me (though I don't know most people's real world names here). I assume there is some number of readers here ahead of me, so who is our GreaterGreaterHope?

by Steven Yates on Jan 13, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@Steven Yates -- yeah, it strikes me that monorail should just be considered a subset of heavy rail, since it has that mode's essential quality -- namely, it has to be wholly grade separated. (Bombardier's ALRT, despite the name, is really a heavy rail tech in this sense.) I'm not really sure why it should be considered a separate mode; if you've decided to go w/a grade-separated system, then by all means throw specific monorail techs into the mix and see how they would play out. I suppose some monorail systems might occupy less space and thus be cheaper to build? But they have correspondingly lower capacity.

by jfruh on Jan 13, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

The District's Housing First program has made a significant dent in chronic homelessness during the height of the recession. Virginia's chronic homeless rate dropped slightly, while Maryland's rose 30%.

This is great news.

From the link:

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, which looked at homelessness in each state and the District, credits the city for embracing a number of innovative programs.

"There was a real effort on the part of the District government to identify chronically homeless people and get them into permanent supportive housing," says National Alliance CEO Nan Roman....During that same time period, the number of chronically homeless in Maryland jumped by more than 35 percent.

I hope that the District continues these innovative programs. Even more so, I hope MD and VA starts to pick up some of the burden of regional poverty and homelessness. From the NAEH, the comparative figures for "Homeless persons per 10,000 in 2009" are:

VA - 11.23
MD - 20.52
DC - 103.86

Just more evidence that the District continues to shoulder a massively disproportionate share of the problem of regional poverty. Whenever area activists say that it's *DC* that should be doing more, I'll send them these numbers.

MD and VA need to step it up.

by oboe on Jan 13, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

Re: CaBi leader board:
I'm at 16, I didn't recognize any of the names ahead of me (though I don't know most people's real world names here). I assume there is some number of readers here ahead of me, so who is our GreaterGreaterHope?

I didn't really bother competing as I assumed that the top ten competitors (at least) would be gaming the system. As expected, here's the current leader with 69 trips in 9 days. What's that? A bit more than 7.5 trips per day? Seriously? I know I'm a chronic slacker--as evinced by my posting rate at GGW--but even I don't have that kind of free time to fritter away.

Perhaps next year the rules should stipulate that each trip must be longer than 15 minutes, and you can't wear anything but bib shorts and sneakers.

by oboe on Jan 13, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

"This only applies to people who've waited at the light for a long time, which is what happens when the light is on a detector but bikes or motorcycles won't trigger it."

But if the light is on a detector are there still defined "cycles"? Would a biker need to wait 3-4 minutes to account for typical cycle lengths?

by Phil on Jan 13, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

About the proposed Virginia stoplight law revision: Part of it seems superfluous, as the very next clause says that a non-functioning stoplight is to be treated as a stop sign. As John Forrester has pointed out, a stoplight that does not respond to a vehicle (such as a bike) is by definition non-functioning for that vehicle even if it functions for some other vehicles (such as automobiles).

I can't figure out what situations the "two full cycles" thing is supposed to deal with. (Oncoming traffic that's preventing you from completing a left turn will eventually be stopped by a red light; simply wait in the middle of the intersection for that to happen, then head in the new direction.)

About monorail: The only thing monorail systems have over conventional two-rails-per-track setups is a mysterious power to cloud men's minds. (Women's too, I suppose, but it does seem to be mostly men.) Operations like Disneyland can make good use of this sole advantage, but two rails are superior to one for pretty much every other application.

by davidj on Jan 13, 2011 5:49 pm • linkreport

@davidj: Is it possible that you have to wait two cycles to know it is not working?

by JimT on Jan 13, 2011 6:08 pm • linkreport

Bicyclists breaking the law? If I see a bicyclist for more than 30 seconds, I would say there is a 95% chance that the cyclist breaks a law. However, I see hundreds of cars every day that obey traffic laws. huh. must be that cars are evil...

by BREAKING NEWS on Jan 13, 2011 6:37 pm • linkreport

If i see a motorist for more than 30 seconds, I would say there is a 99% chance that the motorist breaks at least one law.

by Fred on Jan 13, 2011 6:48 pm • linkreport

We both know how ridiculous that is - as a frequent pedestrian, I get frustrated with cars too but I know you're completely full of shit. But bicyclists are a nuisance when I'm walking and driving. Sadly, bicyclists think that the rules of the road dont apply to them.. its scary too, because they have a lot more to lose with their carelessness than anyone else on the road.

On an average trip around town, I'll see a handful of bikers - nearly all of them zip in around cars, turn in front of moving cars, run stop lights, run red lights, are on the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk, going from the sidewalk to the street, crossing in a crosswalk from the sidewalk, etc etc. On that same trip - sure I'll see a few cars doing something stupid/illegal or both...both as a percentage of the whole, the bikes are way worse.

by BREAKING NEWS on Jan 13, 2011 7:30 pm • linkreport

bicyclists think that the rules of the road dont apply to them. How do you know what bicyclists think?

Also, it's hard to see speeding, which is why it doesn't seem drivers are breaking the law all the time. Statistics show they are.

by David C on Jan 13, 2011 9:46 pm • linkreport

@JimT: The thing is, the stoplight not working presumably means you aren't going to get even one cycle, never mind two.

Though I suppose if it's a complicated intersection and _other_ lights are cycling but yours isn't....

by davidj on Jan 14, 2011 12:13 am • linkreport

In some intersections there is a red/green left turn arrow which can be stuck on red, while the other red/green cycles are working. Motorists stranded in the turn lane must either make an illegal or ill-advised lane change or run the red and make the turn. Also on star-type intersections there can be three or four different greens. When one fails to light it strands those motorists while the other cars happily move on through. For the other 'happy' motorists the light appear to be functioning properly and so the do not treat it as a stop.

by goldfish on Jan 14, 2011 3:30 am • linkreport

How many motorists actually regard a posted maximum speed limit as the maximum speed? 99% of motorists do not.

by Fred on Jan 14, 2011 7:57 am • linkreport

@David C & @Fred,

It's even better than that, though. Usually, when a cyclist or pedestrian breaks the law, it's a conscious decision. The light's red, but no cars are coming. To hell with this, I'm going...

When a driver breaks the law--as we hear whenever these discussions come up--their "scofflawism" doesn't even register to them. 99.99999% of drivers on the road right now are egregiously over the speed limit. They're rolling through stop signs (and cross-walks) or taking right turns on red without stopping, often without slowing down.

That's the problem.

Does anyone else remember the thread from a while back when we heard the same kinds of assertions (not to pick on Lance, but I believe it was him) that cyclists break the law with impunity, and if drivers ignored the laws to the same extent there'd be chaos. Then we pointed out that drivers *do* ignore the law, regularly, in all these ways, and more .

And what was the response? "No, no, no! Rolling through a stop sign (or breaking the speed limit) isn't really breaking the law!!"

The cognitive dissonance must be almost intolerable.

by oboe on Jan 14, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

We both know how ridiculous that is - as a frequent pedestrian, I get frustrated with cars too but I know you're completely full of shit. But bicyclists are a nuisance when I'm walking and driving. Sadly, bicyclists think that the rules of the road dont apply to them.. its scary too, because they have a lot more to lose with their carelessness than anyone else on the road.

I think part of this is the "fighting over scraps" problem. Pedestrians generally don't see cars as law-breakers, or as a "threat". That's because we've been trained since youth to realize that the danger from driver misbehavior is normative. It's not something to get outraged about; it's something that's just part of the landscape.

We've been told that--when you're not in a car--your responsibility as an adult is to a) stay the fuck out of the driver's way; and b) keep an watchful eye on your children so that they stay the fuck out of driver's way--and learn to grow up to find this subservience perfectly natural.

Add a cyclist riding the wrong way (or gasp, not wearing a helmet, and all this long-buried resentment erupts to the surface. "Oh! the arrogance!" you think, huddled on your tiny median strip, as 6,000 pound vehicles scream by on either side of you at 40 mph (in a 25 mph zone).

by oboe on Jan 14, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

Speed limit doesnt count because cars have the ability to break the speed limit and bikes do not.

by BREAKING NEWS on Jan 14, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

@BREAKING NEWS:
That's not true. I once did 32.6 miles per hour in a 25 zone. Granted, it was downhill, but it was still a speed violation.

And yes, I have a speedometer on my bike.

I guess that makes me a scofflaw. But I really just wanted to see what speed I could attain.

I did come to a full stop at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, if that makes things any better.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 14, 2011 11:53 am • linkreport

BREAKING NEWS, well then running red lights shouldn't count because cyclists have the ability to break the run lights and drivers do not.

Because when they can, drivers will break the law. If they don't run red lights, it's because they can't. Not because they respect the law. In a car, you're several feet farther back from the intersection and you're often a foot or two lower than on a bicycle, meaning you can't see as well. In a car, you're in a soundproof enclosure, so you have no stereoscopic hearing. And if you make a mistake you aren't as maneuverable as you would be on a bike or on your feet. You can't just ditch to the sidewalk. Most drivers stopped at a red light aren't at the intersection, but blocked in by cars in front of them. Drivers don't jaydrive because, in their own estimation, they can't. If they could, they would. But they don't because they can't.

by David C on Jan 14, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

Speed limit doesnt count because cars have the ability to break the speed limit and bikes do not.

Classic stuff here. I guess wrong-way riding "doesn't count" because there's not enough room to do so in a car. Also riding on the sidewalk "doesn't count."

You'd expect this kind of sophistry from a four-year-old... Drivers break the laws they feel they can get away with without injuring themselves. Cyclists do the same.

The only difference is that drivers can do a whole lot of injuring innocent bystanders at no risk to themselves. Cyclists have some skin in the game.

And David C: you should hang out on Capitol Hill some time. Drivers regularly ignore red lights they find inconvenient...
Now if cars were incapable of

by oboe on Jan 14, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

oboe, we only live about 6 blocks away from one another.

by David C on Jan 14, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

If I see a car, a bike, and a pedestrian on the road for more than 30 seconds, there is a 99% chance that they will walk into a bar with a priest, a minister, and a rabbi.

by Fritz on Jan 14, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

@David C:

You my brotha from anotha mutha.

by oboe on Jan 14, 2011 1:56 pm • linkreport

I don't know why you guys are so hung up on who is "breaking the law" and who isn't. Most of traffic laws that people are breaking regularly are arcane and have little to do with traffic safety. We're just too lazy to update them.

by movement on Jan 14, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

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