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Posted at 9:14 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Bike lanes or homeless shelters?

By John Glad, Washington

Regarding the Jan. 3 front-page story “Tax hike possible, Gray says”:

The authors wrote that “demographics regularly pit issues such as adding bike lanes and dog parks against providing day care, homeless shelters and job training for the needy.” This is a false opposition: Bike lanes involve a relatively small expense. We cyclists are waiting eagerly to see whether Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will provide safe, dedicated bike lanes, and we firmly intend to vote accordingly.

The key word here is “dedicated”; painted strips on the pavement are pitiful, even dangerous, tokenism. To be effective, bike lanes have to be placed between the curb and parked cars, not between the parked cars and traffic, and they have to be physically staked off to prevent them from being ignored by drivers and regarded even by the city’s small army of parking enforcers as short-term parking.

Protected bike lanes are taken for granted in such European cities as Amsterdam and Munich. The dedicated bike lanes on 15th Street are the right approach, but what good are just a few blocks? Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), a cyclist himself, talked a good game, but he never attempted to deliver what drivers take for granted — an all-encompassing network.

As for the suburban commuters who in their road rage deafen us with their horns and shrieking brakes, clog our streets, pollute our air and regularly kill us, they vote elsewhere.

We cyclists represent a significant, activist constituency, so ignore us at your own peril.

By John Glad, Washington  | January 5, 2011; 9:14 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, traffic, transportation  
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Next: What's our bicycle 'social contract'?


I'll Agree to Bike lanes if they agree to pay for them through buying Bicycle License Plates.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | January 6, 2011 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Before cyclists get their own lane, they should learn how to work with traffic and that being pedestrians and cars. I cant tell you how many times I have seen a cyclist blow through a red light as if the traffic light doesnt pertain to them. I think its great to get a bike lane, but where the heck are you going to put it in a city that it hundreds of years old where many streets are already not wide enough? Buses have to have a lane to pick up pedestrians-most cities have a bus lane so how are the cyclist and bus folks going to work? It is easy to say that the bus must give way, but its a big boy and has a lot to manuever and worry about like pedestrians, now it will have to be bikers. I see an accident waiting to happen regardless. Bikes should all have headlights so people can see them. They should abide by all traffic lights and stop signs-something that lacks in the biking community at large. Live prosperous and green-and whatever you do, please stop and realize that you are not above all traffic signs.

Posted by: IGotLotsToSay | January 6, 2011 4:22 AM | Report abuse

I live out of state, and when I visit D.C. I drive through parts of Kensington and Bethesda, in areas with numerous bike lanes. The bikers never use them. They are out in the middle of the road, blocking traffic and they never follow the rules of the road. They run stop signs, traffic lights to get ahead of the cars and block them again and again. The bike lanes remain empty and unused.

Posted by: meadowrock | January 6, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Cyclists always argue that bike lanes are a "small expense." But add up all these "small expenses" and you've got money that could go to much worthier causes. How can anybody justify spending half a million dollars for a top of the line dog park while the Green Door, which helps the mentally handicapped, has to close its facilities due to a lack of funding? And why cyclists oppose any efforts to have them pay a small fee to register their bikes, to have them put license plates on their bikes (so that they can be subject to red light camera enforcement just like drivers) and to carry adequate liability insurance for when they hit and injure pedestrians? Are bicycles as dangerous as cars? No. Are they not dangerous AT ALL to pedestrians? No. So, let's stop giving them a free ride and impose low fees on them to ensure that organizations like the Green Door and others aren't short-changed in favor of bike lanes and dog parks. And don't even get me started on the expense involved with streetcars.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 6, 2011 8:05 AM | Report abuse

"We cyclists represent a significant, activist constituency, so ignore us at your own peril."


Given that Fenty, the hero of the Spandexed cycling crowd, just went down to defeat, those are some pretty ridiculous words and a pretty weak threat. All the votes of the cycling crowd did NOT save Fenty, so maybe it's the drivers IN THE DISTRICT who Gray should worry about ignoring.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 6, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I like the idea of bike lanes, but I wonder what will stop delivery truck drivers or other motorists from using them as temporary parking?

Posted by: CAmira5 | January 6, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Affordable housing, daycare and shelters are far more important than bike lanes. I'd rather my taxes be spent there. Still, if there's one thing I've learned in 25+ years of DC living (in all four quadrants), fighting the entitled privileged is a losing battle. Money is the only thing that counts, so it is a given that bike lanes will happen before housing, daycare or shelters, whether we like it or not. That being said, maybe the cyclists could obey a few simple rules like the rest of us (pedestrians and drivers alike).

1. Obey the traffic laws. If it's red... STOP!

2. Get off the sidewalks. You can't have it both ways.

3. Be required to feature a license plate so that the red-light cameras can ticket cyclists for infractions.

4. Stop riding down the middle of the street when there is no dedicated bike lane.

5. Be courteous and kind. A $1000 bike doesn't make you greener than my walking.

PS Pssst... that aerodynamic paraphernalia you sport? It won't get you to work any faster.

Posted by: kirsten2 | January 6, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Insisting that cyclists' rights be respected once they obey the trraffic laws is fine with me. Just as soon as the same standard applies to drivers. For every cyclist you see breaking the law--and I do not defend them--you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of cars breaking the law as well. And the risk of death and injury from bikes versus cars is so disproportionate as to be laughable. A single speeding driver in 2008 killed 8 people in an instant. I don't think cyclists in the DC area have killed 8 in total since the bike was invested.

As to expense, cyclists subsidize cars. That applies manyfold to the majority of drivers in DC who do not live here. Bike lanes are absolutely a responsible use of limited transportation dollars for the District in satisfying the needs of its residents.

Posted by: krickey7 | January 6, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I especially liked the part about putting bike lanes in cities "hundreds of years old."

The bicycle is older than the car. Its mobility was a powerful driving force behind the expansion of women's rights, since women could now get around towns and cities easily and cheaply.

Posted by: krickey7 | January 6, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

This letter is typical of the arrogant Type A biker types. You know, the well-to-do lawyer assclowns in those silly spandex outfits you encounter on bike trails who think they own the roads and push pedestrians and other bikers to the side of the road.
I got news for them - the pols know there are only a few hundred of them despite their loud mouths and hollow bullying threats. Why waste millions on the handful who commute by bike?

Posted by: jos587 | January 6, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Seems unanimous! We all hate "Team Spandex"!

Posted by: madmike272 | January 6, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Pure and simple. You can have your bike lanes if you agree to licensing and accountability. That could mean photo ticketing at red lights, for example.

And btw, the reason Munich has dedicated bike lanes is that it was virtually destroyed in WWII, and they could build as they wanted. Few people had cars, many people had bikes. You do the math. DC has not been destroyed much since 1814.

But if you are not willing to accept licensing, including wearing your license number (I think a five-character alphanumeric would do, about a million or so possible license "numbers") , then please do not expect exclusive use of part of the public street.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 6, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"Cyclists always argue that bike lanes are a "small expense." But add up all these "small expenses" and you've got money that could go to much worthier causes."

The bike-haters have spoken, the same tired lines, and decided that cyclists having safe riding spaces is unworthy (cause, you know, they DRIVE, so... yeah).

1. License plates on cars are impratical, as any jacket will cover the plate.
2. Registering bikes has been tried and stopped, as the cost-benefits were negligible to expense.
3. Cyclists break as many driving laws as drivers AND pedestrians do. If no bike lanes til all cyclists follow 100% laws - then make it even:
do away with All roads and sidewalks, until drivers and peds follow 100% of the laws..

Let's take this tack to other DC ideas:
DayCare: You have 'em, - YOU PAY FOR 'EM. End daycare now.

Summer Jobs (welfare) program:
- a REAL waste of taxpayer expense. No person is eligible for a summer job program until and unless:
1) they have a GPA above 3.0
2) they have no criminal record
3) they actually attend a DC school
4) they can test at proficiency levels in reading and mathmatics at their grade level.

1. Welfare is permanently cut-off if the recepient has another child while on welfare, until that child is placed for adoption.
2. Mandatory twice weekly job training. No attendance = permanent welfare denial.
3. Welfare benefits cease after 36 months.
4. If recipient does not accept position offered after job training: benefits permanently removed.

I pay taxes to educate children I do not have. That is no dang "small expense", but when looking at the products it produces... sure is a waste of my money.

I pay taxes so useless council members can give their girlfriends jobs that don't exist, then the useless council member gets to keep his job, where in the private sector, he'd a been fired for theft. And yet, "Crooked Cronyist Fenty" was supposedly tossed out of office for the same offenses. Shocking I tell you!

But you know what: I do not begrudge taxes, assisting the less fortunate, or educating our citizens. So I pay my taxes, because I believe in the social compact. So all of the above is NOT what I want to implement.

But I have a dog, and we use the dog parks in DC everyday. And I bike, so I am happy that I can do so safely (for the most part).

So finally, after 18 years of living here, I FINALLY get something I use for my tax money. But according to peeps... that is just too much for my kind. We should pay for everything, and get nothing but a good ole Barry response: "DEAL WITH IT".

Posted by: Greent | January 6, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Edited above:

1. License plates on BIKES are impractical


other errors - ignored as I am too tired. Going to bike home now and walk my dog.

Posted by: Greent | January 6, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree, there is no point in putting license plates on bikes. The license needs to be on the bikie. I envision a cloth patch, front and back, perhaps eight high by ten wide, like the numbers on marathoners. You either have it on, or you get ticketed. If you are wearing someone else's, you get ticketed. Sorry to spoil the look of the spandex, but actually most of you really shouldn't be wearing it at all, it does nothing for you.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 6, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

As indicated before, DC has tried registering bikes before. They abandoned it after years of being on the books because it achieved no discernible benefit and was a headache for the police. We didn't even ask for it to be abandoned. Moreover, it's pretty obvious it would only work if every jurisdiction in the US had it, too. People ride into DC by bike for all kinds of reasons, you know, from all over.

Actually, I don't care whether we get bike lanes or not. I always have a bike lane--the one I'm in. It's mine, and mine alone, until I'm gone.

Posted by: krickey7 | January 6, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Remember everybody, poor people don't ride bikes. The only people you see riding are Lance Armstrong wannabes on a 6000$ Carbon bike. Those minorities riding a beat up mtn. bike in a work uniform are merely illusions meant to prop up the insidious bikers arguments against cars which we all know has never caused damage to someone on a bike through recklessness or innattention.

Posted by: cmerchan | January 6, 2011 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Glad's strident opinion is why WABA has a public relations problem. The answer is NOT, "it's mine -- not yours" The answer is that the public right-of-way is ours -- all of ours by any mode of transportation: walking, biking, transit, cars, goods delivery. It is a balance and until we can jointly agree on that premise, the rest of this conversation is moot.

Posted by: shepDC | January 7, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"We cyclists represent a significant, activist constituency, so ignore us at your own peril."

What are you going to do, run over pedestrians? not give a signal when you're turning?

take your tax dollars to the suburbs? Oops - that would make for a longer commute - with no bike lanes until you got into the city.

Posted by: efavorite | January 7, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Washington Dame, your hatred of bicycles is powerful enough to power Utah.

Bike lanes are a worthy cause on their own. Transportation is an important government function and biking is a legitimate form of transportation constituting 2-4% of all trips. Certainly cyclists are entitled to 2-4% of the money as well.

Cyclists already pay for their share of the transportation system and then some (through general tax revenue). Why do you insist we need to pay still more?

There is not one city or state that requires license plates on bikes. In the 70's some places tried it but abandoned them because they don't work. No one can see them and all they do is discourage biking which I suspect is your goal because you hate awesomeness.

If cyclists need liability insurance than so do pedestrians - as they too can crash into someone, knock them to the ground and hurt them. In fact, in some bike-ped crashes it has been the cyclist who died. So we probably need pedestrians to but plates on their tushes. Are pedestrians as dangerous as bicycles? No. Are they not dangerous AT ALL to pedestrians? No. --- Are you willing to push it that far?

So, let's stop giving pedestrians a free ride and impose low fees on them to ensure that organizations like the Green Door and others aren't short-changed in favor of sidewalks and dog parks.

Posted by: cranor | January 9, 2011 10:41 PM | Report abuse

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