Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Biking and walking in the city

3 people riding Capital Bikeshare bikes on M Street NW, after shopping
3 people riding Capital Bikeshare bikes on M Street NW, after shopping

Cute bicycle on a Metrobus
Cute bicycle on a Metrobus
Many years ago, instead of doing the right thing and installing a traffic signal, instead the city provided orange flags to residents crossing Connecticut Avenue NW in the Chevy Chase neighborhood commercial district.  See "Battle Flag of the Pedestrians" from the Washington Post.
Pedestrians at risk
Washington Post image.
After an accident last fall, the city replaced the flags with a pedestrian-actuated traffic signal.  The Northwest Current reported this first, but the individual article is not available online, so see "Mayor Gray inaugurates new D.C. pedestrian crossing" from the Post. Note that the signal is "new" at that location, but a similar signal was installed at Georgia Avenue NW at Hemlock Street more than one year ago.

No actuation (and some of the notice signs are pretty obscured)
HAWK pedestrian signal at Connecticut Avenue and Northampton Street NW

Drivers are still figuring out how the signal works
HAWK pedestrian signal at Connecticut Avenue and Northampton Street NW

HAWK pedestrian signal at Connecticut Avenue and Northampton Street NW

Instructions are affixed to the signal poles
Instructions, HAWK pedestrian signal at Connecticut Avenue and Northampton Street NW

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At 6:03 PM, Anonymous charlie said...


(I give up).

I see it by the Exxon station we talked about. Maybe with the bikelane they will get it. I doubt it.

Ironically I was over in H st again last weekend.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I'm a homebody by comparison I think (Sunday was the Takoma house tour).

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have been meaning for a very long time to suggest that you not conflate pedestrians and walking with bikers and cycling when you write about mobility.

Bicycles are vehicles, and, while not as lethal heft-wise as automobiles, they bring their own particular dangers for pedestrians.

As I continue extensive walking in my 'hood of Foggy Bottom/West End (with a lot of meanderings into Dupont, Georgetown and downtown), it has become extremely hazardous to be a pedestrian here, particularly in the last 5-6 years as the DDOT/OP push for cycling has intensified.

The photo of "girls" (with no helmets) on the M Street sidewalk is now the rule rather than the exception. While I am very supportive of the bike share concept, there are problems with it that need to be addressed e.g., riding on sidewalks below M Street (used to be in the regs as illegal), racing to bike racks to get in under some time contraint, etc.

Additionally, when GWU is in session, there is an assault on street trees and public fixtures (I have many photos) since the university doesn't provide enough bike racks for its student population (too busy empire-building).

At 8:46 PM, Anonymous paggy said...

I had a similar problem this evening when one of those BicycleSPACE-style rides with the costumes and the thumping stereo decided to go from Dupont Circle onto northbound New Hampshire Avenue while ignoring the pedestrian signals. I waited dutifully while they had the green arrow, even smiling at the costumes, but when I got the walk signal and they didn't stop (except for two nice young women on CaBi bikes) I had to shove my way through, pausing to curse at a couple of the dudes who zipped right in front of me anyway. Granted, that felt kind of good, like my own little Critical Mass for pedestrians.

(I live in the neighborhood and don't own a car, so honoring pedestrian connectivity is of paramount importance to me.)

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


go to any north European city or town and EVERYONE rides their bicycles on the sidewalks because NOONE is a vehicular cyclist. We are terribly behind in the Anglo countries and we force cyclists into the roads with car traffic- so naturally- most SANE people do not bicycle here and who is to blame them?

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NONE not NOONE- I am not the world's best typist

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess it wasn't really clear, but the photo of the Cabi riders was an indirect criticism.

I don't believe bikes should mix with pedestrians on sidewalks.

Anon's comments on this issue don't adequately encompass his beliefs on the matter. Basically he is arguing for cycletracks placed between the sidewalk zone and the street, that cycletracks shouldn't be part of the street ROW (because cars are still very dangerous to bicyclists), which is the way it is done in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.

That distinction is very important -- not mixing.

Otherwise it is what I call "designing conflict in" which is what planning and engineering is supposed to avoid.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

THat being said I would be lying if I said that I never ride on sidewalks. When I do, I act as a guest of pedestrians (to use the line by one of my colleagues) and defer, riding slower than walking speed.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

when there are no bikeways and you wish to avoid dangerous contact with cars you HAVE to use the sidewalks- and we over emphasize speed with cycling here in the USA and Anglo nations which is silly and non- inclusive. Cycling should emphasize practicality - not speed- and we need to fit cycle paths away from roads. I also believe that bicycles and walkers can mix provided cyclists are slower and use warning bells. We do not encourage bells or warning devices because in the USA we push racing and "road cycling " so damned much. Sorry- I respectfully disagree. In the abscense of adequate facilites YOU HAVE TO CYCLE ON SIDEWALKS or you will be KILLED. Plain and simple as that. A woman with a sit- up posture bicycle full of groceries is NOT a 22 year old guy on a $3000 bike with a $1000 lycra costume

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Part of the issue is that M St is a direct, usually low traffic route from Georgetown (if you salmon). Then you hit 22nd and it a nightmare.

Likewise going up Pennslyvania is scary -- it is uphill, the ruts on the bridge are very dangerous, and it is high traffic. I can do it -- I time it well - but from the Gtown station just looking down both roads M is attractive.

(I see a lot of salmoning on M.)

And the sidewalks are very large there.

But yes, going around the WE can be a real menace right now. In terms of EE's point, I think the bike parking is less of an issue since bikeshare moved in.


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