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Posted at 6:57 PM ET, 05/26/2010

Making Rock Creek Park safer for cyclists

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Bruce D. Levitt
Silver Spring

Regarding the May 20 Metro article “Cyclists, drivers struggle to chart road rules”:

If Rock Creek Park’s beautiful but winding and narrow Beach Drive were made HOV southbound-only during morning rush hours, and HOV northbound-only during evening rush hours, with bicyclists restricted to the right lane, traffic would flow more quickly, and the roadway would be much safer for both motorists and 8bicyclists.

Requiring motorists using Beach Drive in rush hours to share their vehicles with other commuters would diminish the volume of vehicles not just on Beach Drive but on nearby roads as well. Drivers and their HOV passengers would be rewarded for commuting on Beach Drive in an environmentally friendlier way, saving gas and lessening air pollution, as they travel through one of our nation’s most beautiful national parks.

Perhaps most important, not only would the risk to bicyclists of being hit by cars be greatly diminished but the risk to drivers of head-on collisions as they attempt to pass more slowly traveling bicyclists by crossing into oncoming traffic — and of current frustrations as they follow a slower bicyclist in the same lane — would also be eliminated, since it would be easier and much safer to merge with traffic traveling in the same direction in the left lane.

Beach Drive could either be closed mid-day to motor vehicles, as it is now on weekends and federal holidays, thereby reclaiming Rock Creek Park for recreational use by bicyclists, walkers and skaters, or else used for two-way traffic mid-day and after the evening rush hour.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | May 26, 2010; 6:57 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, traffic, transportation  
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Comments

Only some bonehead in Maryland would blog about DC Cyclists and try to restrict drivers rights in Rock Creek!

When I read this ludicrous story in the Post this morning, I ran for my computer.

I live at 27th and Military [Saint Johns College HS] it is the top entrance to the park within the District. I commute thru the park to downtown daily, Mon - Fri bikers are rude and inconsiderate to be on the roadway, and alot of us harried commuters let them know it! It is a WORK - COMMUTER route, we the taxpayers have spent millions on bike paths that run from Maryland all the way to East Potomac Park but the "purists" would rather clog up the roadway at 10mph, cyclists should realize that they too, are required to obey ALL traffic laws, impedeing traffic is a violation!

I personally cannot stand these arrogant people who think that because they ride bikes they are special, and above the law, well you are not!

Now that I have vented this out this morning, I must add, on weekends, and, holidays, I let the little egos ride the open road and feel like the big kids. Without a horn honk or a mean word.

Now for people that donot live in the District, do not commute Rock Creek, and donot have to go to work on time.

Mind your own business!

Posted by: rhedlund | May 27, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Bikers are trouble on Beach Drive and I ride a motorcycle.

Get on the bike path and out of our road.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | May 27, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

As the letter writer points out, Rock Creek Park is a National Park. Using it as an automotive commuting route has taken a severe toll on the ecosystem of the park and limited the park's use for recreation during commuting times.
I have ridden my bike that way off and on for many years. It's perfectly legal and safe for me to do so. There is no law on "impeding traffic" on this road, other than in the heads of drivers. I have always obeyed the traffic laws. In contrast, nearly every car on Beach Drive exceeds the speed limit. Many have tried to pass me on blind curves. Many "let me know" their anger through shouting at me, blowing their horns (a moving violation in the District) or cutting me off. And the paths are not as safe as the road for cyclists, even where they do exist (and they do not on upper Beach Drive).
Your post manages to get things completely backwards. It is cars that should take a back seat in a National Park, and egotistical drivers who are whiners with a misplaced sense of entitlement about their commuting convenience.

Posted by: krickey7 | May 27, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

My entitlement is the chunk of change [tax, tags, license and insurance] I pay yearly to federal, state and counties to use that road. You pay nothing, except to pay for a bike, some hideous clothes and an always to small looking useless helmet.

BTW DC Code for impeding traffic is D.C. Code '40-703(a) and CDCR 18-22-2200.10.

Posted by: rhedlund | May 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Hey neighbor,

I too live right by 27th and Military and commute via Rock Creek Park each day by bike. I take Ridge Road by the stables, which generally has far fewer cars than other parts of Rock Creek, down to the bike path. I even have to get to work on time.

A couple things...

1) Rock Creek Park was created as a park not a commuter route.

2) I also pay taxes and own 2 cars.

3) The bike path is in bad shape. Its full of potholes, roots, puddles, mud and overhanging branches. Even with the poor conditions the vast majority of cyclists ride on the path, so they don't get in your way. Tax payers have not spent millions on a path from MD to East Potomac Park. There are several places where there is no bike path and cyclists must ride on the road.

4) Several years ago, when the park was closed to cars after a hurricane, I learned the bike path adds about 10 minutes to my commute each way since I can't ride as fast, its hillier, detours around the tunnel and twists and turns very inefficiently. Most cyclists are staying out of your way at the expense of longer trips. Give us a little credit.

5) When a bike is in front of you usually you can pass the bike pretty quickly. Seriously, how many precious seconds do you lose? Seems to me the bigger problem is getting stuck behind a driver who is afraid to pass a bike. The real problem isn't cyclists, its the drivers who don't pass bikes when its appropriate. So direct at least some of your ire at bonehead drivers.

6) The city and region, even boneheads in MD, need to do more to encourage alternative forms of transport and commuting. Saving some oil, keeping the air clean, lessening congestion downtown and reducing competition for parking are all benefits to you from cyclists. Sure once in a while you are slowed, but how often does it happen? How late does it really make you on your way to work?


Finally, Great idea closing a lane of traffic that gets very little use and I'm all for making the park HOV. Its amazing how many people drive to work by themselves.

-Bonehead from DC

Posted by: mdurr | May 27, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Seriously—what kind of America-hating scum would feel entitled to drive an exhaust-spewing single passenger automobile through a national park? Send them all to Gitmo, or, better, to the Middle East to fight for their cheap oil. Life in a tent in Iraq ought to be more pleasant than commuting by car every day.

Posted by: SydneyP | May 27, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Courts have tossed out your argument about impeding traffic repeatedly. As long as it is legal for the vehicle to use the street, the standard is whether they are going a reasonable speed for that type of vehicle.

The fees you cite cover a tiny fraction of the costs of road maintenance. The rest is paid out of general funds, i.e. sales taxes, property taxes, etc. I've more than paid my share, considering the cost of operating a bicycle on the road is minimal compared to that of a car. Again, you have it backwards--I'm subsidizing you, and frankly I'm not happy about it. Get a bike.

And you're avoiding the inconvenient fact that studies of the impact of car traffic on Rock Creek Park have universally concluded that it results on thousands of animals killed each year, loss of virtually 100% of the aquatic life in the Creek, and degradation of the air quality IN A NATIONAL PARK.

Posted by: krickey7 | May 27, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I drive Beach Drive daily, and I have no problem with the cyclists. They generally follow the rules of the road, and I make a point of being courteous and careful as I pass them.

In general, most of the drivers I've observed have been equally generous; I've seen far fewer near-misses on Beach Drive than I have on the city streets, where cyclists regularly ignore stop signs, run red lights, and weave in and out of traffic.

To me, cyclists and drivers seem to coexist fairly well on Beach Drive, so I'm not sure why a change might be needed. Sure, it's frustrating to get stuck behind yet another bike on a beautiful spring day, but they'll stay to the right, I'll pass with caution when I can, and we can both enjoy the most beautiful commute in the Washington area.

Posted by: JCR7 | May 27, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Rock Creek Park is not a national park. It is administered by the National Park Service, but it is an unclassified area. There are no national parks in DC.

Making the roadway HOV only to benefit a few bikies strikes me as ridiculous. It is a major commuter route, like it or not. Nor is closing it at midday practical. Even in this economy, people work all day and then need to get home. Bikies and others get to use it much of the day on the weekend without cars there, surely that is sufficient.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | May 28, 2010 2:58 AM | Report abuse

And as for restricting bikies to the right lane, do you seriously think they would obey? They show little respect for the law as it is. License them and make them wear large number IDs on their backs, put in a system of points against both licenses, and we'll talk. Until then, they are unaccountable scofflaws.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | May 28, 2010 3:09 AM | Report abuse

You really shouldn't get your facts from Wikipedia. Rock Creek Park was established by the federal government in 1890 and was ‘dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States.” The park would "provide for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, animals, or curi­osities within said park, and their retention in their natural condition, as nearly as possible." Its use as a major commuting thoroughfare represents a breach of that public trust, putting aside whether cyclists are or are not bad people.

I know the fight to close the park to cars at commuting times was fought, and lost, 5 years ago. For the most part, I find the drivers in the Park to be polite. It seems to me that this suggestion was a reasonable compromise to what is a real problem. But it would appear that at 3 in the morning, reason was in short suppply on your part.

Posted by: krickey7 | May 28, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

@Nemo24601

Oh, oh: Rock Creek Park is not a national park, but it's a park administered by the National Park Service? Well okay then.

Yes, indeed, let's have some enforcement once in a while. Cyclists talking on cell phones, running red lights (and stop signs on Beach Drive), exceeding the speed limit, weaving from lane to lane without signalling, spewing excessive emissions, driving without correct lights, bald tires, etc. should be ticketed, fined, even jailed. Same goes for every single automobile. Deal? Oh no? Then let's get back to the discussion about wisely closing serene park roads to noisy, dirty, lawbreaking cars.

Posted by: SydneyP | May 28, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm okay with enforcement. I'm tired of seeing other cyclists break the law and me get blamed for it. There are a lot of us who have been biking for a long time and know the only way to get there is to be safe and obey the law.
The whole who-breaks-the-law-more argument is ultimately unwinnable and stupid. Let's just say both sides have lots of ammunition.
Read the dedication again. It charges us with keeping the park in its natural condition, as nearly as possible. Not, as you would have it, as nearly as practical. Seems to me the compromise the original letter writer suggested is a whole lot closer to that charge.

Posted by: krickey7 | May 28, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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