Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Pennsylvania Avenue


New murals sprout across DC

DC is awash in murals. Four new murals recently went up as part of an arts festival sponsored by Heineken. Ward 7 residents banded together to give a beloved restaurant a mural. And a filmmaker's making a documentary about what murals mean to DC's culture.

Design for a mural at Thai Orchid in Ward 7. Image from MuralsDC.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue SE just east of the Anacostia River, Thai Orchid is the sole sit-down restaurant on a block with a beauty supply store, liquor store, and empty storefronts. Opened in 2010, the locally-owned spot quickly became a local gathering spot. On her blog Life in the Village, Veronica Davis raved about the food, while commenters expressed excitement that they could eat out without crossing the river.

To say "thank you," neighbors want to beautify Thai Orchid and its block with a mural.

It's a testament to a business that took a chance on Ward 7 and represents a continuing commitment to local businesses. Supporters applied for funding from MuralsDC, a partnership between the DC Department of Public Works, the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, and nonprofit group Words Beats & Life that uses street art to enliven neighborhoods and combat graffiti.

They had commissioned an artist to create the mural, but a small group of residents put a halt to the project, arguing that District funds should be used for more worthy causes. Now, the community is raising money to move forward with the mural without public help.

But murals are still going up elsewhere in DC. Working with MuralsDC, Dutch brewing company Heineken sponsored four murals in Shaw and NoMa and installed them last month. It's part of a larger series of murals Heineken commissioned in Atlanta and Miami. The DC installation coincided with the G40 Art Summit, a street art festival sponsored by the Art Whino gallery in National Harbor.

One of the Heineken murals. Photo by Lewis Francis used with permission.

It makes sense that Heineken chose DC as a location, with its long history of murals celebrating its African American and Latino communities. Filmmaker Caitlin Carroll was so inspired by the city's mural culture that she started working on a documentary about it called Painted City.

The film features art historian Perry Frank, who documents murals both past and present, and includes stories about murals that have been lost, highlighting the art's fleeting nature. Community pride and beautification is a recurring theme in the documentary, and Carroll also highlights the work of local artists who work with residents and kids to beautify their neighborhoods.

Murals, along with public art in general, can let communities show neighborhood pride, inspire others, and provide hope. In an area struggling with unemployment, poverty, and crime, residents see art as a way to uplift and inspire.

As Carroll notes, "Every mural has a story." The stories often have an end as murals disappear due to new development or get damaged in building repairs. But even in their temporary nature, they still serve as a form of community expression.


I will continue to ride, bent frame and all

I started biking in DC to become a moving, breathing part of the city. But Monday morning, while in the center bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th streets, a driver made an illegal U-turn straight into my bike.

A driver makes an illegal U-turn on Penn. Photo by jwetz on Twitter.

I feel compelled to say I was obeying all laws and going the speed limit when I was hit. I catapulted into the side of her car, was jostled off my bike and caught myself with one foot on the ground, which she then ran over with her back tire.

She pulled over to the shoulder and leaned out her window, "Oh my God! I did not SEE you!" At this point, I yelled across all three lanes of traffic, "I WAS IN A BIKE LANE!" I walked my bike up to the crosswalk and onto the sidewalk to meet her on the shoulder of the road. She burst out of the car, apologizing profusely. A police officer who had witnessed the scene from nearby came over.

First, he asked if I was okay. I told him that I thought so, but wasn't quite sure. He said he could call an EMT if I thought I needed one. I said I wasn't sure, so he didn't.

He asked us what happened at which point the woman frantically and apologetically explained she was looking for an address and did not see me when she tried to cross to the other side of the street between intersections. I reminded her again that I was, in fact, in a bike lane. The officer gently informed her that making a U-turn in the middle of the street was illegal.

Why I started bicycling

I picked up a bike to heal heartbreak. I was living in Minneapolis in May of last year when I dusted off my old hybrid bike from middle school, pumped up the tires, bought a helmet, and started to move around the newly thawed city.

My heart mended on a bike and in turn, I fell madly in love with the city around me. Minneapolis is a great city to bike in. There are bike lanes and lakefront trails and drivers who, characteristic of "Minnesota Nice," use archaic lights called turn signals when moving about the streets.

I moved to DC this September and left my bike behind. The first week I took the Metro. Before long, my commute began to wear on my soul and empty my pockets. I realized buying a bike would both allow me to be a moving, breathing part of the city and save me money. I scoured Craigslist until I found the perfect, girly, single speed with turquoise wheels, a bright pink chain and little yellow stars on the spokes.

I now commute ten miles to work each morning and the same distance home. I ride Georgia Ave from Silver Spring where passing drivers tell me to get off the road. I turn off at Aspen Street then follow the sleepy hills of 14th Street south to the bustling obstacle course of Columbia Heights.

Here, I pop over to 11th and ride south in a sea of bikers to Pennsylvania Avenue, the home stretch. I love Penn. The buildings part and the morning sun shines as I head straight towards the Capitol.

The officer shrugged

I could feel and identify the adrenaline pulsing through me. My chest felt light and my hands were shaking. I had a hard time concentrating on what was happening around me. I had never been in an accident with a car and was unsure of the procedure.

I kept looking at the police officer, waiting for him to take action or at least give me options. He nervously stood there, afraid to make eye contact and unsure of what to do next. I didn't know if I should take down her car insurance and license plate information. I didn't know if I should file an accident report or what that meant. I didn't know why he wasn't ticketing her for hazardous driving.

Based on his actions, it didn't seem he knew the answer to these questions either.

Finally, I asked for her information. I took down her name, address, and phone number, then looked at the officer and asked if there was any other information I needed. He shrugged.

Eventually the woman drove off and he waited until I calmed down. I got back on my bike and slowly and cautiously rode down Penn the rest of the way to work.

Biking shouldn't be a risk

When I arrived, I was still shaken. I am a member of WABA's Women & Bicycles community and follow the group on Facebook. I posted about the incident under another post about the poor installation of the Zebras intended to stop illegal U-turns through the bike lane.

The comment thread exploded with outraged lady cyclists who showed me where law enforcement failed to follow through on enforcing laws put in place to protect me. By failing to cite the driver and not follow procedure to report cycling accidents, the officer stripped me of any recourse in case my bike or body ended up more injured than I originally thought.

While I am okay, my bike frame is bent and my front wheel wobbles. As a result of the officer's inaction, the burden of these necessary bicycle repairs now falls on my shoulders.

Biking through the city alongside this cycling community is the best part of living in DC. This accident is bigger than this one incident. It is about all of us, and the risk we take each day. It is about the fear of knowing it could have been so much worse.

I will continue to ride my pretty little single speed through this city, with her bent frame and all.

I demand to do so without the fear that I am risking my life.


Will cycletrack barriers on Pennsylvania Avenue work?

In response to drivers making U-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, DDOT has completed the first stage of installing a special kind of barrier called a Zebra. Now that the Zebras are out in the wild, will they work?

An SUV makes a U-turn on Penn in between the new Zebras. Photo by jwetz on Twitter.

Last summer, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would work with stakeholders to address an increasingly dangerous problem with illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue. DDOT's solution was to install Zebras, a bicycle lane separator from the Spanish company Zicla.

The low-profile barriers can separate bike lanes from vehicle traffic without being visually obtrusive. DDOT chose the Zebras because their low profile does not interrupt the viewshed to the US Capitol, a serious issue for the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA). They're also bolted to the pavement, meaning they can be removed for the presidential inauguration parade every 4 years.

In September, the CFA approved a pilot project to install the Zebras on two blocks of Penn. Yesterday, DDOT installed Zebras on the south side of Pennsylvania between 12th and 13th streets NW. According to Mike Goodno, DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist, DDOT installed the Zebras on only one block for the time being in order to assess their effectiveness.

How effective will they be?

DDOT's construction plans call for spacing the Zebras at 10-foot intervals on each edge of the bike lane. However, the manufacturer's specifications recommended placing them no more than 2.5 meters, or 8.2 feet apart. Subsequent measurements on installed Zebras show the actual separation to be approximately 15 feet center-to-center in violation of DDOT's construction plans for this project.

This may or may not be narrow enough to prevent drivers from entering the bike lane. However, Zebras also have no sharp edges, which are not only safer for cyclists, but allow emergency vehicles to drive over them when necessary.

How Zebras are supposed to be installed. Photo from Zicla.

Why did DDOT exceed the minimum recommended separation? One possible answer is that the Zebras will be located on each side of the bike lanes in a staggered arrangement. This creates a combined separation of approximately 5 feet. However, the rows of Zebras on either side of the bike lanes are 15 feet apart, meaning drivers can still cut across them.

In order to determine the Zebras' effectiveness, DDOT took counts of illegal U-turns prior to installation and will take additional counts now, in addition to doing a review of crash data. The agency will also look at public feedback about the Zebras to gauge the pilot program's success. The test results will determine if DDOT will install Zebras along the entire length of the cycle track.

First stage of Zebra installation on Pennsylvania Avenue, other side to follow soon. Photo from the author.

The Zebras' spacing may lower their effectiveness, reducing the chance of a successful test and making cyclists less safe. Hopefully, DDOT's test will encourage transportation officials to install them not only throughout the corridor, but in the manner that the Zebras' manufacturer recommends.


CFA doesn't have a say over Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes

Pennsylvania Avenue is a nationally and historically significant street, and the Commission on Fine Arts works to preserve it. But their input has become an obstacle to bicyclists who want to use the street safely. Does CFA legally have as much authority as they say they do?

Photo by philliefan99 on Flickr.

DC officials repeatedly say that they don't have jurisdiction to do what they want on Pennsylvania Avenue because of the CFA. When the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes were first proposed in 2010, the Commission on Fine Arts weighed in on every detail, from striping to paint colors and flexposts, all in the name of preserving the street's aesthetic integrity.

This assertion has been repeated so much that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a result, the District Department of Transportation's proposal to install small bike lane separation devices called Zebras along the corridor is already in danger, even before it goes to the CFA September 19th. But CFA's legal mandate shows what their jurisdiction and scope really is, and it doesn't include bike lanes.

The creation of the CFA

An act of Congress established the CFA in 1910. It operates under the legal justification of the Shipstead-Luce Act of 1930, which designates certain areas of the District where they have jurisdiction, including Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, the Capitol and White House grounds, Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo, the National Mall, the Southwest Waterfront, and Fort McNair.

Two pieces of regulation, 45 CFR 2101.1 and 2101.2, define the CFA's relationship with other levels of government and what they have authority to review. The CFA's role is to advise and comment on a wide variety of projects, including proposed public, semi-public and private buildings, signage, monuments, statues, parks, medals, insignia, coins, commemorative works, and questions of art that concern the federal government.

The president appoints each CFA member for a 4-year term without compensation. Members typically come from a design-related background, like architecture, landscape architecture, and the fine arts.

It has no regulatory authority, enforcement mechanism or penalty for not implementing their recommendations. Their influence derives from the political process and their collective expertise in their respective fields. Recently, the CFA has gained attention for their review of a controversial memorial for President Eisenhower, designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Does the CFA really have authority over Pennsylvania Avenue?

DDOT first went to the CFA with a design for the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes in 2010, but before the paint was even dry, DDOT removed the bike lanes and redesigned them in response to driver complaints. CFA never reviewed the new design. And DDOT did not submit a proposal to the CFA for the portion of the 15th Street cycletrack south of the White House, which is also within the CFA's jurisdiction.

The agency also maintains miles of streets within the CFA's jurisdiction, but transportation planners don't go to the CFA to review intersection improvements, street lighting, or pedestrian crossings. Why should DDOT hold bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue to a higher level of scrutiny? After all, this is a transportation and public safety issue, not an architectural issue.

In June, Mayor Gray's office announced that DDOT would work with the CFA to solve the illegal U-turn problem on Pennsylvania Avenue, after a video of a cab making an illegal U-turn and nearly hitting a cyclist appeared on YouTube.

ABC7 reporter Mike Conneen asked Pedro Ribeiro, Gray's spokesperson, if DC should just ignore the CFA and solve the problem themselves. "We don't have the jurisdiction, we can't do that," Ribeiro replied. "You can't break the law. While it may feel good to say 'sure, just put them in,' what would happen is we'd have to tear them back out again."

But according to the Shipstead-Luce Act, DC doesn't have to consult the CFA. It specifies that "a reasonable degree of control should be exercised over the architecture of private or semipublic buildings adjacent to public buildings and grounds of major importance," but only gives the CFA jurisdiction over "any building . . . which is to front or abut" Pennsylvania Avenue. This language clearly excludes the curb-to-curb section of the street itself.

And obviously, the bike lanes are not a building, park, monument, or coin of any kind. Under the CFA's legal mandate, bike lanes along Pennsylvania Avenue are not subject to any CFA review.

There are number of agencies with some authority over Pennsylvania Avenue, but they all oversee separate parts. For instance, the National Park Service has authority over the sidewalk areas. The National Capital Planning Commission has some standing as well, but during a meeting on the future of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, officials admitted DDOT is the sole authority on the avenue itself.

So DDOT isn't submitting their proposal to install Zebras along the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes and improve public safety because it has to, but because it's done so before. Some DDOT staff members know CFA has no control over the bike lanes, but DC leaders seem to like using them as an excuse for inaction.

With strong leadership and political will, DDOT would simply follow good bike lane engineering practices and install the Zebras. After all, they are well within their legal right to do so.

Public Spaces

Can Eastern Market park become a gathering place?

Barracks Row Main Street is studying ways to redesign the public space around the Eastern Market Metro station. While many neighbors see the potential to make a great gathering place, others don't want anything to change at all.

Councilmember Wells leads a meeting about the park. Photo from Tommy Wells on Flickr.

Architect Amy Weinstein of Esocoff & Associates is leading the Congressionally-funded Eastern Market Metro Park study, which will explore ways "to renew and upgrade" the two trapezoid-shaped public plazas, medians and two smaller triangular plazas on Pennsylvania Avenue SE between 7th and 9th streets. Despite their location between busy Barracks Row and Eastern Market, the spaces are underused and poorly maintained.

Weinstein led another study in 2010 that explored ways to reroute Pennsylvania Avenue around the public space, making it a complete square. But that effort ran into stiff opposition from neighbors and those concerned about the plan's traffic impacts.

The new study will look at function, aesthetics, and the best way to accommodate all modes of transportation, including better pedestrian pathways, the location of the Capitol Bikeshare station and the Metrobus stops in the south plaza, and managing pedestrian/vehicular conflicts. It will also produce detailed designs for a children's play area in the north plaza, and look at an innovative storm water retention system as part of the effort to reduce combined sewer overflows into the Anacostia River.

Planners say that "nothing is off the table," except for consolidating the square by rerouting streets around it.

Will more activity mean more noise, or a better public space?

In July, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells hosted a pair of public meetings to hear about the types of changes residents would like to see around the Metro station. After a brief presentation, we broke into small groups where we discussed our thoughts on the current square and what we would and would not like to see in it in the future.

Aerial photo of the parks today from Google Maps.

My group seemed opposed to any changes at all. They questioned why money was being spent on this, whether it was legal and who this was to help. Some people seemed mainly concerned about stoplight timing, which did not seem to allow for the speedy movement of cars and pedestrians through the area.

They scoffed at the idea that the project had the word "park" in it. "Who said they wanted a park here?" one person asked.

One major concern they voiced focused on the lack of maintenance within the existing plaza. Trees went unwatered, rats were allowed to nest and several items like benches and lights had fallen into disrepair. "Why not fix what we have first?" some asked. For the same reason, group members also opposed any kind of water feature, along with music, food trucks or eating areas, which would produce noise and trash.

Group members seemed resigned to the idea of a children's play area as long as it wouldn't kill any trees, but their primary point was that it should be "a park, not an amusement park." But we did find universal support of better storm water management, lots of trees, more benches and non-polluting lights.

How to embrace space's potential

While many residents place an emphasis on creating a quiet place that is easy to traverse, what the neighborhood really needs is to activate the Eastern Market Metro Park with an emphasis on creating a place for people to play, work, shop, eat, and rest. By making it into a great place, the kind that people wanted to stay in instead of pass through, it would have a greater constituency that could push for better maintenance.

The space today. Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

It seems my group was the outlier, because when other groups reported what they had discussed, they strongly supported the idea of an interactive water feature like those at Yards Park or Canal Park. Several suggested adding a stage for live performances and various gatherings. Others mentioned food trucks and more dining tables. One group focused on tying the public space in with the library at 7th and Pennsylvania.

The meeting's organizers are collecting additional comments about what should happen here. In my comments, I suggested that an interactive water feature and playground area in the north plaza was a natural way to attract kids and families. It's also a perfect area for a statue of a local person. In the eastern median, I recommended installing a dog run.

The south plaza should become a space where people will linger. Furniture, like movable chairs, benches, and permanent fixtures like tables with chess boards on top, will help draw people. A low stage for music and events could support programming while doubling as a seating area the rest of the time. The city should allow food trucks to use the parking spaces along D Street.

We should also use the western median to connect Barracks Row and Eastern Market with a brick walkway down the middle and to add spaces for vendor booths on the weekends, creating a stronger connection between the two commercial areas. The smaller triangles could become larger by removing the sections of D Street that separate them and then improved by adding benches, more permeable surface, and rain gardens.

Finally, a mid-block crosswalk across Pennsylvania Avenue with an advanced stop line and even a traffic light will help people cross. People want to walk here, and we should let them do it safely.

Future meetings, design work planned

The meeting's organizers will put a recap of the meeting on their website, but it's not up as of yet. There are also several ways to offer comments, including an interactive map and a suggestion box at Eastern Market, though the deadline is today.

However, there are more public meetings planned for later this summer. Planners hope to complete two alternate master plan concepts for the Eastern Market Metro Park within 6 months.


What would fix Pennsylvania and Potomac?

It's confusing and inconvenient to cross the intersection of Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues on foot, to get to and from the Potomac Avenue Metro station. Could a different intersection design work better?

Two early concept designs for the intersection.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) kicked off an environmental study of the intersection with a public meeting Thursday night. This was the first of 3 meetings they will hold this year. They've also posted their presentation online.

Last week's was a "scoping meeting," the required first meeting of a NEPA process. Next, the team will develop alternatives, present them to the public, review their impacts, have public agencies review the draft document, and present a third time.

The intersection today, with sidewalks in red and parkland in green.

Redesign would accommodate crossing straight through

According to the study team, many people end up crossing straight through the intersection, and have worn a "desire line" in the median. They are crossing between signals, however, which may not be very safe. The team plans to design the intersection to help people cross safely in the direction they want to.

A prior study proposed rebuilding the intersection as a square, which would include crosswalks directly through the center from the Metro. However, that concept design hadn't gone through engineering review, and included turns too sharp for buses, Geoff Hatchard reported from the meeting.

2006 concept for a square.

The presentation has two concept sketches for the intersection. One would make Potomac Avenue end on each side at a T-intersection with Pennsylvania, and another would build an oval, though smaller and rounder than the one in the 2006 concept.

These sketches don't show crosswalks across Pennsylvania Avenue except in the center, but the planners explained in person that they will indeed include marked crosswalks at every intersection. That's important, especially since by DC law, every place a street meets another is a legal crosswalk, whether or not there are stripes.

Factors to consider in the design

The team stressed that these are not the final options, just early concepts, and they will refine and develop them more throughout the next phase of the process. As they do, here are some concepts they should keep in mind:

Traffic calming: One of the ways to make this intersection safer for pedestrians is to slow down the vehicles. DC recently installed a speed camera Pennsylvania Ave between 12th and 13th, which is a little over one block to the west. However, cars still speed through this stretch of road. The alternatives should include engineering solutions that will calm the traffic.

Seamless transit connections: This intersection has a Metro station and is a major bus transfer hub. Many of the pedestrians in this area are trying to transfer between buses or bus and Metro. The current configuration usually leads pedestrians to dash across Pennsylvania Ave to catch a bus. The proposed alternatives should consider bus stop locations.

Location of the CaBi station: When DDOT designed the original "square" concept, the Capital Bikeshare program didn't exist. The station is currently located on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and Potomac Ave.

One of the residents at the meeting pointed out that the current location is awkward if a rider wants to go westbound on Pennsylvania Ave. Also, people taking CaBi to or from the Metro have to cross Pennsylvania to reach the station. DDOT should consider where to locate the bikeshare station to make it as easy as possible to access the bikes and to help riders enter the flow of traffic safely.

Cyclist safety: One of the proposed concepts is a traffic oval. The engineers on this project explained that the traffic ovals are a method to calm traffic. While that may be the case from a technical perspective, traffic circles and ovals can be a cyclist's worst nightmare, especially when there aren't any identified bike lanes. In trying to address pedestrian safety, DDOT should not create unsafe conditions for cyclists.

Connect projects on both sides of the river: Another NEPA process is underway for reconfiguring the Minnesota Avenue-Pennyslvania Avenue intersection, immediately east of the Anacostia River. A NEPA process for Barney Circle, on the immediate west side of the Anacostia River, will start later this month. DDOT needs to make sure as these projects progress, the designs connect communities on both side of the river.

Rethink the Kiss-and-Ride: The Potomac Avenue Metro Station has a Kiss-and-Ride area that adds to the pedestrian-vehicle conflicts in this intersection. Stations in urban neighborhoods generally don't have Kiss-and-Rides, and this might be the time to remove it.

What will happen with green space? The National Park Service controls the current median of Pennsylvania Avenue, and would likely control the larger green space if DDOT chooses an oval-type design, Brian McEntee reported from the meeting. However, NPS does not have the resources to maintain its small parks around DC very well, and regulations often inhibit actively programming the space for the neighborhood.

This was a primary concern of many people at the meeting, McEntee said. Many worried this would create a dead space without any activity. Some suggested a playground; NPS rules have interfered with efforts to build a playground downtown as well.

DDOT will present its alternatives at the second public meeting sometime this spring.


Everyone mixed on Pennsylvania Ave. a century ago

Before cities engineered their roads and traffic patterns for the cars, many modes mixed together.

Ghosts of DC got a hold of a video of Pennsylvania Avenue in 1909, showing horses, bikes, pedestrians, automobiles, and streetcars all chaotically, but successfully, interacting.


DMV believes U-turns on Penn are legal

WABA is reporting that the Department of Motor Vehicles isn't upholding tickets for U-turns across Pennsylvania Avenue.

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
When an MPD officer writes a ticket, the person ticketed has the opportunity to challenge that ticket through adjudication. This process is handled by the DMV, not the police. And on this issue, the DMV adjudicator has interpreted the laws in a way that does not prohibit mid-block U-turns across the cycletrack. Thus, MPD is reluctant to ticket motorists when the agency adjudicating the tickets has deemed such a ticket invalid.
Rob Pitingolo asked on Twitter, "If [DDOT] designs a street and decides certain turns are unsafe, why does [the DMV] get to decide whether said unsafe turns are punishable? The whole thing calls into question whether any traffic sign in DC is actually legally binding or just a suggestion."

In the camera debate, MPD has been saying that they enforce the speed limits that are posted. Anyone want to look through the DC code to figure out if posted signs like "no U turn" actually have the force of law?

Perhaps Mary Cheh could introduce some emergency legislation to fix this problem, but Rob's point is a good onewe shouldn't have to rely on legislation to clarify every element. Unless the law really has a big hole that makes it impossible to enforce, a "no U turn" sign should be enough to make U turns illegal.

WABA's Shane Farthing added,

We do not know DMV's detailed legal reasoning, but it is possible that the same interpretation that would find U-turns across Pennsylvania Avenue to be legal might also find left turns by motorists who skip the "mixing zones" and cut across the cycletrack through the intersection on L to be legal. (That is speculation, but it sufficiently concerning speculation that we need to move quickly to find a solution so that MPD can enforce the rules of the cycletracks in a way that is consistent with their design.)
So far, we know that many drivers are not obeying the rules in the cycletrack, though DDOT's Mike Goodno has been urging people to be patient as DDOT finishes up paint, signs. and bollards. The Express' Vicky Hallett interviewed some truck drivers who are, so far, just refusing to pull a little farther to an actual loading zone, and Nicholas Donohue sent over some pictures of trucks parked in the cycletrack.

Photo by Nicholas Donohue.

Cycle tracks, separated bike lanes, or whatever you call them can work wonders for bicycling, but only if drivers respect them and District officials can properly enforce rules against unsafe driving and parking.


Pre-Sandy video: Why the Netherlands went bicycle

Speaking of another part of the world even more prone to coastal flooding, someone recently shared a link to this video about why a top-notch network of bike paths came to the Netherlands. I often hear the question, why do other parts of the world do bicycling so much better than we do?

The video argues that the country was on the path of wider and wider roads and more driving following World War II, but after the pedestrian death toll started to mount, especially among children, residents demanded another transportation approach.

Why didn't the same happen here? The US is much larger, and during the interstate highway building boom, most of the roads were going in areas with few or no pedestrians. That would have meant a very different political dynamic around a national policy of road-building.

However, even in the cities there wasn't this push for bicycle infrastructure until fairly recently. Why not? Perhaps that is because the politically powerful classes at the time were moving to suburbs and not caring about the cities? What do you think?

Americans might not have made a fuss about the hazards of poor road design or reckless driving 50 years ago, but some are today. Cyclists rallied on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue. Local bike shop BicycleSpace organized the event, and officers from the Metropolitan Police Department attended to speak with cyclists about how they can enforce the law.

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