For D.C. based author and illustrator Juana Medina, learning English in her native Columbia was a requirement she resisted as a child, yet appreciated later as an adult.
The weather’s warming up, and there are more reasons than ever to get on a bike, whether it’s to get to work, for exercise or for fun. New, safer green bike lanes are popping up all over our region, online interactive trip planners are making it easy to plan the safest route and Bikeshare is expanding. We talk bike safety, rules of the road and the campaign to get more women on bikes.
- Shane Farthing Executive Director, Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA)
- Veronica Davis Founder, Black Women Bike
- Chris Eatough Program Manager for Bike Arlington
Capital BikeShare Data Visualization by Chris Whong
This animation shows the more than 32,000 trips taken on Capital Bikeshare from Oct. 4-8, 2012. Blue dots are trip starts, which fade away immediately after appearing. Yellow dots show the interpolated path between start station and end station over time. Visualization by Chris Whong, attribution “GeoTrails” by Dave Troy and music by dan-o.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The weather is warming up, and cyclists who chose not to brave the cold are coming out of winter hibernation. They're hitting the new green bike lanes all over our region and using interactive trip planners online that make it easy to plan a route.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut for many reasons, a lot of people, in particular women, still don't feel comfortable riding with traffic, and a persistent stereotype of the cyclist remains, one that's white and male. Some are hoping to change that. Joining us to discuss safety and the campaign to get more women on bikes is Shane Farthing. He is executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Shane Farthing, thank you for joining us.
MR. SHANE FARTHINGThank you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Veronica Davis. She founded Black Women Bike. It's an organization based here in Washington, and she's on the League of American Bicyclists Women Bike Advisory Board. Veronica Davis, thank you for joining us.
MS. VERONICA DAVISThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Chris Eatough is program manager for Bike Arlington. He's a former national and world cup champion mountain biker. Chris Eatough, good to have you here.
MR. CHRIS EATOUGHThank you.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation, give us a call, 800-433-8850 is the number. You can also send email to email@example.com. Why do you think fewer women cycle than men? You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Shane, I'll start with you with D.C. The District has been implementing a bicycle master plan, and we're seeing a lot of changes for bikes here. What's going on?
FARTHINGWell, there is a ton going on, and we're actually nearing the end of that bicycle master plan. We've gotten to the point where we have a number of bike lanes. We have some of these major protected cycle tracks. These are the bike lanes that have the bollards and the poles separating from traffic, and we're starting to get to the end of that master plan where we have the north-south cycle track on 15th Street.
FARTHINGWe have the L Street cycle track, and now, we're just waiting for the M Street component going at the direction. And that will essentially be the completion of the bicycle master plan, and then we wait for the We Move D.C. process to continue on and see where the next -- the future of bike planning and transportation planning in D.C. is going. So there's still a couple of major, major steps to go, M Street being the largest, but really a lot of progress made in recent years.
NNAMDIA lot of us have been noticing the new green bike lanes around town, particularly around intersections. Exactly what are those, and why are they considered safer?
FARTHINGWell, there's a couple of different types there. Some of them are existing bike lanes that have just now been painted green at the potential conflict zones so that cyclists and drivers both have that visual cue that there's a place that perhaps a driver might be turning across the bike lane. And in the other ones are the ones like L Street where there actually is a physical separation, and the green paint is used for the same reason but also shows that the path that the person on a bike would take to continue through a major intersection.
NNAMDIPotential conflict zone, I like that.
NNAMDIChris, how about in Arlington? There are new bike lanes there as well. Can you talk about that?
EATOUGHYes. Arlington is very committed to making the streets accessible to people that are on bikes and on foot. It's all part of kind of a very broad transportation plan to accommodate not just people driving but people that are taking transit, people that are walking around, people that are biking. We have a very supportive county board, and the chairman, who is Walter Tejada, is very committed to helping people get around, do it safely.
EATOUGHAnd, you know, a lot of the same things that D.C. is doing with green lanes, a big part of the Capital Bikeshare program is on Arlington County, a lot of classes that we run in Arlington County to help people learn how to bike safer. And, you know, again, similar activities in Arlington as they have in D.C.
NNAMDIShane, there are also new fines to prevent U-turns. Why are they a particular hazard for cyclists, especially it would appear on Pennsylvania Avenue?
FARTHINGWell, Pennsylvania Avenue is very unique as far as its bicycle infrastructure because the bike lanes are in the center in what used to be the median. So normally, when bike lanes are on the side of the road, the U-turn isn't such a problem because the car making the U-turn would be going to the middle. When you put the bike lanes in the middle, you create this issue where a U-turning car can hit a cyclist if they're not very careful about it and for various...
NNAMDIAnd that's happened.
FARTHINGIt has happened. It happened about a dozen times last year. So what we really like to see is some form of physical separation like bollards or curbs or something of that sort all the way down, but there are some federal objections to making those sort of changes on Pennsylvania Avenue. But in the absence of the ability to put the bike lanes on the sides, putting them in the center was the next best thing. And so now, we need roadblocks enforcement to protect folks who are using those center bike lanes, and it was necessary to get the legal authority and the fines in place.
NNAMDIWell, you mentioned protected bike lanes early. Can you tell us a little about how they work and why we can't have them on Pennsylvania Avenue?
FARTHINGWell, Pennsylvania Avenue is a little bit of a unique situation because the Commission on Fine Arts and several federal entities because it is sort of America's main street have additional say there. The District originally wanted to do something a little more robust on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it didn't manage to come...
NNAMDIBut there are several layers of bureaucracy that have to be penetrated, yes
FARTHINGThere are several layers, several layers, and we would love to reopen that topic now that we see what the absence of this sort of separation gives. It does create this lack of safety that now people are dealing with. So we'd like to reopen that conversation with the federal entities if possible to see if we can make those structural improvements.
NNAMDIHow do the protected bike lanes work? I know -- I've seen them on -- what -- 15th Street, and where else?
FARTHINGFifteenth Street, L Street, those are the two main ones right now, and they work very, very simply, actually. The point of them is that if you go out there and you're in the protected bike lane, you are protected by either park cars or by bollards or something else so that you have the safer trail-like experience, and it takes away some of the challenges that folks who don't want to mix with traffic or don't want to think about some of the more complex types of infrastructure. It really is as if you're riding on a trail protected from moving cars.
NNAMDIWhich, Veronica Davis, brings me to this, there's a difference between men's and women's comfort level in riding on the roads with traffic. Can you talk about that, why that is?
DAVISWell, I think that, you know, people talk about bike lanes being the reason why women don't cycle, and I think that may be true. But I think bike lanes are not the end-all be-all to get women cycling. I think that there are other things that factor in, you know, specifically, you know, navigating across the city. You know, it's very different to get across the city by car, and once you're on a bike, it's -- because even for me, it's challenging.
DAVISI'm a very confident cyclist, but when I'm going to a new part of the city, I'm always concerned because I don't know the topography. I don't know -- I'm concerned about my personal safety because I don't know what the neighborhood is like. And so I think that those are other things that factor into why women don't cycle.
NNAMDIWe're having a conversation about our region's growing bike culture. We invite you to join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Why do you think fewer women cycle than men? Do you think cyclists should be required to wear helmets? Why, or why not? 800-433-8850 or you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Veronica, you founded the organization Black Women Bike. What led you to do that?
DAVISIt actually started by accident. I was biking through a public housing, Potomac Gardens and...
NNAMDITell that story, please.
DAVISAnd a little black girl, she started screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, there's a black lady on a bike." And at first, I was like, well, there's, you know, there's Capital Bikeshare here. There are bike lanes in this area. I know she's seen cyclists before. But what I really realized -- I was the first one that looked like her.
DAVISAnd I was relaying the story to my two friends Nse Ufot and Najeema Washington. And we were talking about it, and we started using the #blackwomenbike. And then the three of us started the Facebook group, and we've grown from the three founders to almost 800 women in less than two years.
NNAMDIBlack Women Bike is the name of the organization. We're talking with Veronica Davis. She founded that organization. It's based here in D.C. She's on the League of American Bicyclists Women Bike Advisory Board. Also joining us in studio is Chris Eatough. He's program manager for Bike Arlington and former national and world cup champion mountain biker. Shane Farthing is executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Let's go to the phones. We will start with John in Washington, D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNThank you. I had four letters published in The Washington Post about the need for dedicated protected bike lanes. Yesterday, I was driving my car along the Potomac. I just passed under Kennedy Center and Memorial Drive, and a cyclist ran into an elderly man. And they both fell directly in front of my car. If they had -- if they happened a third of a second later, they -- I would have killed them both.
NNAMDIYou're saying that if there was a protected bike lane, this would not have happened?
JOHNWell, this was a -- it was -- they were on, you know, the sidewalk is along in the grass. There's another on the pavement.
JOHNWhen the cyclist ran into him, they both fell into the -- I mean, it was just a miracle I was able to stop. And if I had passed them, the next car would have killed them, but I stopped. And I was able to block traffic off and call 911. And the man had terrible amount of blood.
NNAMDIWhat do you think was responsible for that collision?
JOHNWell, I don't want to make guesses. Obviously, a cyclist who's riding on a bike lane sharing it with pedestrians, but pedestrians also -- they -- for their own reasons, they know it's there, and they...
NNAMDIThey veer off in different directions. I think Shane Farthing wants to comment on this.
FARTHINGWell, it makes for an interesting point because there's always this issue of mode separation and how much is appropriate and how much is necessary. And it most often comes up with sidewalk riding for bicyclists where for the most part cyclists are safer on the roadway but some who feel less confident or if you're going up a hill and going slowly or for whatever reason, folks will move on to the sidewalk for some period. And you have drivers on the roadway saying, get off the road, and you have pedestrians on the sidewalk saying, get off the sidewalk.
FARTHINGSo it highlights the need where there are these conflicts both with slower cyclists or novice cyclists in the roadway and with faster cyclists on the sidewalks. So there needs to be infrastructure that provides a safe dedicated space for bikes. We have enough folks in this region that are getting around by bike now that we really need to retrofit our infrastructure to create that safe and understandable space.
NNAMDII know on days when I'm coming to work up Nebraska Avenue where there are no bike lanes, you see cyclists sometimes on the sidewalk. What is the law in Washington, D.C. regarding sidewalks? It's my understanding that you can ride on sidewalks in all but one small area of downtown.
FARTHINGEverywhere, except for the central business district, which is essentially -- the northern boundary is Massachusetts Avenue down to roughly the National Mall and about 23rd Street, Northwest, to Second Street, Northeast.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you for your call, John. Here now is Melina in Reston, Va. Melina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MELINAHi, Kojo. Good afternoon. Thanks for having me. I just have a quick comment to the show. It might cause some controversy, so I'm putting it out there. But I think it's more of vain thing why women don't ride the bicycles to work, myself included, although I'm trying to change that. But, you know, you might feel if you want to look nice the same place you want to have your hair done, a helmet doesn't help there at all. So I think that's really the reason why women don't ride the bicycles as much to commute, so...
NNAMDIAllow me to have Veronica Davis respond.
DAVISMelina, I completely agree. You know, for one, I do bike. I do not wear spandex. I don't really think I even own any spandex. So I bike in heels. I bike in dresses. I actually have a skirt garter that I put on my leg so that my dresses don't fly. You know, I don't flash while I'm biking. But that is a challenge that we do face, particularly hair. With Black Women Bike, that's been kind of the number one issues that we found why women don't bike. It's hair because people want to look professional, you know, when they go to work.
DAVISBut, you know, we try to provide solutions around that in terms of giving tips and tricks and all of that. And we do have some women -- one of our members of our leadership team, Nichole Noel, she's an administrative judge, and she does cycle to work every day from home. And she wears her gear, and she just takes the time to get dressed at work. And I think this is where employers can play an important role in getting women biking in terms of providing facilities for people to shower or for people to change and all of that at the office.
NNAMDIMelina, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Monica, who said, "There is no amount of money you could pay me to ride my bike on the road, period. Unless until there is a bike lane that is completely separated preferably by parked cars from the road, it is unsafe. Drivers refuse to pay attention closely enough such that they are able to stay in their lane. How many parked cars get hit every day by drivers?" Shane, there's a lot happening legislatively right now related to biking. Tell us what's going on in Maryland.
FARTHINGWell, there are a few things going on Maryland, a few things going on D.C. -- in Maryland right now. The biggest thing is the transportation funding bill because a number of biking projects are, you know, tied up in that 'cause it's part of the overall transit biking transportation fund. So sort of much of the future of how this region is going to develop bike infrastructure depends on coming to some sort of a strong funding solution in the Maryland House.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line, we will get to your call. But the lines look like they're filled up. So if you'd like to join the conversation, send us an email to email@example.com, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about the growing bike culture in this region with Chris Eatough. He is program manager for Bike Arlington. Shane Farthing is executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. And Veronica Davis founded Black Women Bike, an organization based here in Washington, D.C. Shane, your organization, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, is against mandatory helmets. Why?
FARTHINGWell, we're very much for the use of helmets among bicyclists. But what we found is that across the board, mandatory helmet laws for adults have not had the positive safety impact that their proponents have expected. What we find is that it doesn't have a huge impact in getting people who bike without helmets to adopt them and keep biking. But it does a significant impact on a number of people who bike.
FARTHINGSo when you pass a mandatory helmet law, the number of people riding a bike goes down. And there's this -- corollary to biking and walking, it's a safety in numbers idea where it's been proven pretty much across the board, the more people are on bikes or pedestrians on the sidewalk, the safer each cyclist or pedestrian is.
FARTHINGSo if you input a law that is going to have very little effect on helmet usage but is going to decrease the number of people choosing to bike greatly, you could actually make every cyclist less safe rather than more safe. So for those who are biking, we certainly encourage them to wear a helmet. It obviously has some protective impact. But the step of going from using a helmet to passing a mandatory helmet law can sometimes be counterproductive.
NNAMDIThe reason that it's safer if there are more bicyclists and more pedestrians is because of the numbers they are more conscious of each other?
FARTHINGThere is some debate about why it is. The numbers show that it is. But I think partly it's been attributed to the idea that the more cyclists there are on the road, the more drivers have to be on the lookout for them. Also, the more likely that the people who are driving also bike on occasion and understand why a bicyclist might do certain things. So there's a little bit of disentangling to do on the correlations of why this is. But it's been proven in numerous jurisdictions that it is.
DAVISYeah. Just a follow up, I think, for two things from the women aspect, the idea of the helmet. Then you have the hair issue, and there a lot of women that don't wear helmets for that reason. Obviously for our rides, we -- it's mandatory to have a helmet. And then the other thing I wanted to bring up, you know, one of the concerns that we have, it's -- by having a mandatory helmet law, we do know that youth, particularly black and Latino youth, don't wear helmets.
DAVISAnd so it really kind of opens the door for racial profiling of them because they aren't having a helmet, and it gives police a reason to stop them. And then -- and that's just always a concern.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding, however, Shane, that Maryland is considering a mandatory bike helmet law?
FARTHINGSuch a law was introduced in the House. It's currently within the Environmental Matters Committee. And we're hoping to not see it move forward from there.
NNAMDIChris Eatough, how do you feel about the mandatory helmet?
EATOUGHVery similar to what Shane just outlined. I mean, one analogy is with sunblock. It's a good idea to wear sunblock when you go outside, and it's sunny. Obviously, that's good for everyone's health. But do we really need a law to mandate sunblock? Probably not. So it's one of the things that's a good idea to do it. But a law can be unnecessary and actually counterproductive, as Shane explained.
NNAMDIPeople often ask this about bike sharing: Can helmets be provided?
EATOUGHIt's very difficult to provide helmets with bike sharing. I mean, there's a couple problems with doing that. One is there's the hygiene factor. Nobody wants to wear a helmet that's been worn by hundreds of people before them. And then there's the kind of the authenticity of the helmets, if it's been used previously and then returned, and then you're the second or third user.
EATOUGHWe don't actually know if it's been dropped or, you know, been implicated or anything like that. So kind of sharing helmets, like you share bikes, is very difficult to do. So, you know, the only real solution there is to carry the helmet with you if you feel like you must wear a helmet when you ride a bike, share a bike. You just need to take it with you. Have your own helmet with you.
NNAMDIOn to Stuart in Fairfax, Va. Stuart, you're turn.
STUARTDefinitely, first of all, I want to say I'm a big supporter of WABA and the efforts that they do, bike to work day and so forth and getting people out there in the District on bikes and traveling by bike. Helmets, I don't think, certainly, should be regulated because of the reasons that they said. Certainly, hygiene is one, and as well as that, maybe the integrity of the helmet can be compromised.
STUARTYou know, I always try to wear a helmet whenever I'm out there, and there's times when I may be without my helmet perhaps on my skateboard and so forth. And I don't necessarily think that regulation is the way to go with that.
STUARTBut definitely -- getting women on bikes is definitely going to give more people on bikes. Obviously, if we've got fewer on people on -- fewer women on bikes, you target the women, then we're going to have more bicyclists. And we're definitely going to have strength in numbers that way.
NNAMDIWhy, pray tell, if we get more women on bikes, are we going to get more men on bikes, Veronica?
DAVISWell, number one, where the women go, the men shall go too. So I think that if you get women biking, the men will follow. And a lot of times, you know, women are the transportation decision makers for their household in terms of how kids get to school or how kids get to their activities. So if you can get women cycling, especially with their kids, the husbands will follow.
NNAMDIStuart, thank you very much for your call. Here's Jason in Washington, D.C., on this issue. Jason, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JASONHi. Yeah. I wanted to talk about helmets. The -- first of all, the amount of protection that a helmet can actually give is far overstated. There's a lot of situations in which a helmet can't help you at all. So I think that the argument that the pro-helmet people make is kind of that the helmet is like a safety panacea, and it's just not. And the prospective that a lot of the people who push for helmet laws are people who are occasional riders or people who just don't even ride at all.
JASONIt's coming from sort of the outside experience makes you a better rider. Riding regularly on a daily basis or a weekly basis makes you a better rider. And being a better rider makes you far safer being aware and alert makes you far safer than any safety apparatus can possibly make you.
NNAMDIYou know, I grew up in a country in which riding bikes was the major mode of transportation for us going to school and any place else we have to go and never owned a helmet. But, you know, if you're everyday of your life for 15 years, then you get to be a pretty decent rider. But Shane.
FARTHINGThat's right. Experience does help with keep you out of situations that might lead to a crash. And that's obviously the ideal. You would rather find ways to avoid getting into a crash in the first place. So I'll mention that both Chris' organization, Bike Arlington, and WABA offer biking safety classes to anybody out there who wants to learn to be a better city cyclist, to learn some avoidance maneuvers and safety maneuvers and some things that'll tell you how to use the infrastructure, also, how to ride most safely when there's no bike infrastructure.
FARTHINGAnd really being an educated cyclist is the way to avoid getting yourself into the situation where you might need a helmet in the first place. Obviously, some things are unavoidable but be as educated as you can as a cyclist.
NNAMDIJason, thank you very much for your call. Chris, a few rules -- a few new rules applying to biking failed in the Virginia legislature. Can you talk about what's going on there?
EATOUGHYes. The reason Virginia legislative session was -- a few bike laws were shot down. One of them was a dooring law to basically make it illegal to open the door into oncoming traffic, including a bike being oncoming traffic. Currently, that is the law for car drivers.
NNAMDIIt's one of the biggest hazards for bicycles, isn't it?
EATOUGHIt is. Opening car doors into the flow of traffic is a big hazard 'cause that's where the cyclist often find themselves. It's where bike lanes are often painted right next to parked vehicles. So that is a danger zone. So that one got turned down. And also kind of repeatedly, over the last few years, Virginia has been trying to pass a three-foot passing law which is the law in many states, including D.C., and that one got shot down, too.
NNAMDIShane, it's my understanding that this might have to do, the dooring law anyway, with liability, who's responsible if the cyclist or anyone else is hurt, right?
FARTHINGI'm not entirely clear what the rationale was for not passing that one. I know, as someone who's been doored in Virginia, I had a special connection to that one and wanted to see that well passed. But there were numerous sort of rules put up, but it is something that is the law in so many jurisdictions. Whatever liability concerns may be have been resolved elsewhere. So it's a little hard to see why that one couldn't pass in Virginia.
NNAMDIVeronica, you mentioned that you don't wear spandex. There is a persisting stereotype of the cyclist. What's a MAMIL?
DAVISMiddle Aged Men In Lycra. But you know, I think that -- me -- for me, like I said, I don't wear spandex. I ride in jeans because I'm a commuter. I'm a utilitarian cyclist. I'm trying to get from point A to point B on zero dollars. And there's a lot of people out there like me. And one of the things we do in Black Women Bike is we really try to appeal to all types of cyclists. So whether you're going to ride to the -- into your block or you're going to do a sentry, it doesn't matter. Just get on a bike and wear whatever you want to wear. Just go to wherever you want to go.
NNAMDIWell, is it statistically evident that the majority of cyclists in this area are the aforementioned MAMILs?
DAVISSo I'm always skeptical when it comes to statistics. And part of my concern, and I know Shane has heard this, ad nauseam, you know, really, what my biggest concern with the statistics on who cycles in D.C. is that the counts are done during rush hour in a weekday where you have a lot of -- particularly African-American, Latino men that cycle.
DAVISBut typically, they're shift workers. So they're not being counted during that weekday rush hour. You know, they're going to work at five o'clock in the morning, or they're getting off at 11 o'clock at night. And so that group is not being counted. So I'm always very concerned about the true statistics of who's cycling in D.C.
NNAMDIIn Europe, around half of all cyclists are women but not here. Talk about some of the other reasons fewer women than men bike. I'd like to quote an email that -- a tweet that we got from Tatum, who says, "I am a woman and I sometimes don't ride my bike even though it would be faster because I can't do the maintenance on my bike." Talk about that.
DAVISYeah, I mean, that's a big challenge. With Black Women Bike, we have done several seminars on how to fix a flat tire. I mean, that's probably the most common, you know, issue that you're going to have while you're out on the road is, you know, getting a flat. So we make sure to empower women that they know have to fix a flat tire, and if not, at least how to get a bike on the front of a bus. Because, you know, what we find in a lot of the challenges and a lot of obstacles is that people just don't know how to do it.
DAVISAnd if a woman doesn't know how to do it, she's just not going to do it. And so it's showing people how to put a bike on the front of a bus, how to fix a flat tire, how to do some basic maintenance in terms of, you know, maintaining your chains. And so I think it's all about -- and there's a lot of resources out there. There's Bike House that provides those trainings for free. You know, Washington Area Bicyclist Association does it as well. A lot of the local bike shops around here will show people how to maintain a bike. And so I think that those are very keepings in terms of getting women in cycling.
NNAMDIWell, interestingly, even bike shops, apparently, can be a part of the problem -- a barrier to some women in particular. Why?
DAVISWell, some bike shops tend to focus on the -- if you're doing the sentry and you're going to buy a road bike and -- they can be a little bit condescending to women. And I think that what's really important is for bike shops to have a certain understanding of how the, you know, the woman demographic, how we shop and making sure that you are accommodating us without being patronizing.
DAVISYou know, really understanding what our needs are, understanding that not everybody needs a, you know, 2,000, $5,000 road bikes. Some people just want a cruiser because they're just trying to get to the grocery store. And so bike shops are really a lot of people's first introduction into cycling. And if that is a bad experience at the cycle shop, then, you know, people aren't going to cycle.
DAVISAnd another thing, you know, the big thing that we tell women, don't go buying a bike with your boyfriend or your husband because men sometimes think, you know, especially the boyfriend, the spouse, you know, they try to dominate the conversation. And so the woman doesn't get a chance to get a bike that she's going to feel comfortable with 'cause if you love your bike, you will bike.
NNAMDIChris Eatough, I guess sometimes having too great an expertise on bikes can be a set back if you don't understand the needs of other people, correct?
EATOUGHYes. But I think, as Veronica mentioned, most of the bike shops and especially in urban areas these days are really coming around. They realize the great growth potential for them in their business is to sell bikes to normal people that are using them for every day kind of trips and just getting around by bike. So, you know, you don't have to be a professional cyclist. You don't have to be a super experienced cyclist to walk into a bike shop and spend money these days. So, you know, it's in the bike shop's best interest, and they're definitely coming around to that.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here's Kara in Fort Washington, Md. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KARAHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
KARAMy question has to do with the road at the top of the hill at National Harbor, Oxon Hill. I'm wondering if -- you know, it's under a lot of heavy construction right now, and I don't know, I've never seen -- I haven't seen any plans on whether or not they're going to actually continue that beautiful bike lane that goes up the hill across the Wilson Bridge. Is it going to actually connect to anything? Is Oxon Hill Road going to have a bike lane finally?
NNAMDII do not know, and I'll ask Shane Farthing if he does.
FARTHINGI haven't looked at the plans. For sure, I know that's one of the key areas that we've been advocating to get bike facilities on. I'm a little weary of saying anything because I haven't actually seen plans for that project, but there is the really wonderful bike trail that goes across the Wilson Bridge, and it really does need to connect to something over there to make a full sort of regional trail connection. Unfortunately, while I hope there will be bike lanes there, I haven't seen the plans, so I can't answer with certainty.
NNAMDIKara, good luck to you and thank you for your call. We move on now to James in Mt. Pleasant in D.C. James, your turn.
JAMESYeah. Hi, Kojo. My question sis about whether or not there are some roads where bikes should be banned. And the -- my example is 16th Street Northwest as it comes down through Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights and down into Dupont Circle in downtown. I've been driving rush hour mornings, and if you know that road, it's three lanes, it's very tight. There is no bike lane, lots of buses and lots of people who've gone a long way to get where they are, and they're not always the most congenial bunch.
JAMESAnd then a bike -- if there's a bike, and this happened this morning, that bike keeps the traffic backed up usually on the curb lane. And people get angry and aggressive, and it gets dangerous not just for the cyclist but for other cars and, you know. And I'm just thinking, why do you have to bike on 16th when there is a beautiful double bike lane on 15th and even 17th below Florida has got great bike lanes.
JAMESAnd someday somebody's going to get badly hurt because of some of these tight stretches, and I'm just wondering, is there a way to encourage or bar people from biking where they really shouldn't?
NNAMDIFirst you , Shane.
FARTHINGWell, my answer is a clear and resounding no. There should not be the banning of bicyclists from roadways, particularly 16th. I'm someone who bikes on 16th fairly regularly because the cycle track on 15th only goes a certain extent north. 14th right now has, I think, 12 different construction projects blocking the bike lane that gets you through there. Coming from Silver Spring, you have Walter Reed in the way of most of the roads that have connections there.
FARTHINGSo 16th really is -- 16th or Georgia, and I wouldn't think that caller would propose Georgia as a better option, are the ways for cyclists through the area. And I think that that sort of aggression for motorists is the problem. But the reality is that bicyclists, you have a right to use the road. It's a roadway connection that's needed, and those motorists might need to get management of their aggression rather than banning bicyclists.
NNAMDIWell, Chris, in Arlington, you have focused on safety with the Share the Road Campaign. What's the basic message of that?
EATOUGHThe basic message is that everyone's got a roll to play out there, and we call the campaign the PAL campaign, P-A-L. And the PAL stands for being predictable, alert and lawful. And these are -- this is the code that I live by when I'm getting around, whether I'm biking or whether I'm walking, whether I'm driving, and the more people that can do that, it's going to create a lot more harmonious interactions. That's for sure.
EATOUGHYou know, I'd also like to say you shouldn't knock it until you try it. I mean, -- and people haven't tried biking, then probably the best way to understand these situations is to get on a bike sometime and see it from the other side. Many people that do bike drive as well. So, for example, when I drive, I believe I'm a better driver because of the biking that I do because it helps me -- my experience and knowledge, seeing both sides and seeing the whole experience.
EATOUGHSo the PAL campaign is really based around that, that everyone has the same goals and responsibilities. Everyone needs to look out for each other, and, you know, it doesn't matter whether you're on two feet or on a bicycle or in a car. It's the same for everybody.
NNAMDIVeronica, what are some of the practical things you implement in your organization to encourage more black women to ride?
DAVISWell, in preparation for Bike to Work Day in May -- and I'm sure Shane will talk about that a little bit more later -- we've having a seminar on April 20 on how to ride on the road safely. And so it'll be a combination of a workshop with the PowerPoint and all that good stuff, and then also a road ride because a lot of our members, you know, they can do 100 miles easily, but they don't feel comfortable riding on the roads of D.C.
DAVISAnd so our goal is to get them used to riding on the roads of D.C., which is a little bit easier for your first time in a bigger group just because motorists tend to be aware of more cyclists, is -- which is what Shane pointed out earlier. The more cyclists on the road, the more motorists are alert. So we do do that. In addition, too, we have workshops on how to maintain your bike, how to do -- how to change a flat tire, how to lock your bike up to a bike rack.
DAVISAnd I know, again, that sounds kind of silly, but people don't know how to do that. And when you invest in a bike, whether it's, you know, $50 or $5,000, you don't want your bike stolen. Not to say that, you know, a bike lock will 100 percent guarantee your bike doesn't get stolen, but at least if you know the best way to lock your bike, it makes it a little bit more protected. So those are some of the practical things that we're doing.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls. If the lines are busy, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you a cyclist who uses the roads and bike lanes in our region? Do you follow the law? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Veronica Davis. She founded Black Women Bike, an organization based here in Washington. Also with us is Chris Eatough, program manager for Bike Arlington, and Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. We're talking about our region's growing bike culture. If you'd like to join the conversation, send us an email to email@example.com. Well, let me go to Lionel in Arlington, Va. Lionel, your turn. Lionel, are you there?
NNAMDIYou're on the air, Lionel. Go ahead, please.
LIONELHi. Yes. This is for the guy that works for Arlington. I was recently hit on a bike -- I mean, on -- by a car on Glebe Road. And as you know, if you drive on Glebe Road, it's very hectic, and there's no way for bike paths -- there's no way for bicyclists to get on the road. So you often -- you're often -- you have the choice to get on the sidewalk. And I was on the sidewalk, and I was -- this car just came out of nowhere, and I went over his hood.
LIONELI landed on my helmet, and luckily the helmet saved my life. And I wanted to know if there's any new plans on Glebe Road or any -- if there's any laws about riding on sidewalks because the police officer told me that I wasn't allowed to ride on the sidewalk. And...
NNAMDIBut the car was allowed to drive on the sidewalk?
LIONELNo, no. Bicyclists. Bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk.
NNAMDIWho hit you? I thought you said a car hit you.
LIONELOh, I got hit by a car. What's that?
NNAMDII thought you said a car hit you while you were riding on the sidewalk.
LIONELNo. I mean, I was riding on my bicycle, and a guy pulled out of a shopping center, and he just, like -- he wasn't looking where he was going, and I just -- I couldn't stop anymore. But he just, like -- he got on the street, and then I just went over his car. And then the final thing was the cop told me that it was sort of my fault because I wasn't supposed to be on the sidewalk, riding on my sidewalk.
EATOUGHWell, legally, in Arlington, there is no law against riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. So, legally, it doesn't sound like you're doing anything wrong. Sidewalks do have their dangers, though. To a novice cyclist, they can seem like a safe place to ride, but, you know, sidewalks do cross driveways and side streets, which it sounds like that might have been the circumstance that you are in. Of course pedestrians are on sidewalks, and pedestrians are kind of the, you know, the kings of the sidewalks there.
EATOUGHYou definitely need to look out for pedestrians that were -- on bicycles on a sidewalk. And also just other sidewalk hazards. You know, there's tree boxes. There's fire hydrants. I mean, there's all kind of stuff that's not very accommodating to a bike. So, you know, if we are taking to the sidewalks, we definitely need to be riding slow and be very cautious and very careful. And, again, that PAL message that I was mentioning before -- be predictable, lawful -- is really important at all times.
EATOUGHIn terms of alternatives to Glebe Road, Glebe Road is not Arlington's best road for biking on. There are some parallel alternatives. So I would encourage you to check out the bike map and look for some parallel neighborhood streets that is an alternative to Glebe Road.
NNAMDIThere's a trip planner that is accessible online in Arlington that can tell you what the safest route is if you want to get someplace without running into trouble, right?
EATOUGHThere are some great trip planners out there. The one you might be talking about is called Bike Planner, and the URL is bikeplanner.org. And it covers more than Arlington. It actually covers the whole Washington region. So, yes, that's a great tool. You just plug in your start and finish points, and it'll give you a good route to get from A to B by bike.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Lionel. We got an email from Don in D.C. "I'm so glad your guest brought up the subject of bicyclists riding on sidewalks. I walk to work from my home on one of the busiest stretches of road in D.C., along 16th Street Northwest, and have had a few incidents of almost being hit because cyclists fail to make pedestrians aware they are approaching from behind." Be predictable, alert and lawful, Shane Farthing.
FARTHINGEverything that Chris just said about biking on a sidewalk is right, and it applies doubly so in a place like 16th Street where you have so many people trying to use the roadway. But I think it's important to recognize that whenever you have a high volume of cyclists on a sidewalk, you have some sort of other failure going on there. You either have a failure of education or you have a failure of infrastructure.
FARTHINGAnd I would say that, like I mentioned earlier, 16th Street is a real challenge because you don't have the means of getting the distance from Silver Spring to D.C. or even downtown D.C. or even a smaller portion of that. And where you're seeing cyclists trying to mix with pedestrians on the sidewalk frequently, there needs to be a space there for the bicyclists. So D.C. is doing a good job of trying to add those spaces in.
FARTHINGBut now that we've had two callers in 10 minutes say that 16th Street is a problem, maybe that's an indication that we do need some dedicated space for bicycles on 16th Street.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Alex: "I regularly see cyclists run red lights and weave between cars. Is this legal? What's the ticket fine for a cyclist to run a red light? Is it legal to weave between cars? If not, what is the traffic ticket fine for this infraction? Individual cyclists seem to behave as though they own the roadway and thus put themselves at great physical harm at the expense of drivers." Actually, I was expecting this email.
NNAMDI"Clearly, this is not 100 percent across-the-board problem. However, in two years, I can count on one hand how many cyclists I see wait for the red light to turn green before they move through the intersection." We're talking safety today. And so I guess we have to address this percept of the biker as someone who runs red lights and blows through stop signs. First, Veronica, is that stereotype, in your view, warranted?
DAVISI mean, I think that there are cyclists who do run lights, and I'm one of those...
NNAMDIBefore there were a lot of cyclists, that was the claim against all bicycle messengers, you should know.
NNAMDIYes, but go ahead.
DAVISYeah. And Shane, you know, Shane knows me. I'm there. I'm originally from Jersey, so I'm pretty tough. So I've flushed out a bunch of cyclists who do unlawful things in front of me because we are, you know, we're marketing. We're public relations, if you will, we're, you know, every time we do do the right thing. For me, I ran the light one time, and I almost got hit. And every since then, I was like, it's just not worth it.
DAVISIt's not worth trying to get somewhere 30 seconds faster and then risk getting hit. So I stop at all stop signs, all lights. That's the thing that we preach with Black Women Bike is follow the law. And what I find is that when you follow the law and you make eye contact with the motorists, they are more aware of you, and they're more accommodating. In one specific example, I was biking next to a car, and I had stopped at the light.
DAVISSo then when we got to the next intersection, it was a stop sign. But he was alert to me, and he knew I was following the rules. And he wanted to make a right turn. So he actually stopped until I passed him to make the right turn. So when you as a cyclist do the right thing, I find that motorists will also show you that same respect back. That's just been my experience.
NNAMDIChris, in Arlington, you also offer classes. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
EATOUGHYes. We'll have 32 classes for bikers this year in Arlington. And all kind of level of classes, everything from total beginner classes for people that do not know how to ride a bike. A lot of adults don't learn how to ride a bike when they're children. Now, they need to go to a class and to learn from somebody on physically how to ride a bike. So we have classes on that. We partner with Shane's group with WABA on some of these classes to make sure we've got the qualified instructors to do these.
EATOUGHAnd then some of them are just more -- we call them Two Wheel Tuesdays, and they're more social, interactive, informal classes where people get together and talk about this kind of stuff. Talk about safe behaviors, where to go biking, what to look out for, what kind of clothing to wear, how to fix a flat tire, all those kind of things that are really helpful. So we have those classes every Tuesday night in Arlington County for free. All these classes are free. And we run the Two Wheel Tuesdays every Tuesday from -- in the spring, summer and fall.
NNAMDIShane, will WABA do anything similar?
FARTHINGWe participate in Chris' classes. We do a full slate of classes in just about every jurisdiction that we serve. And I think it's important to realize that on this red light running scofflaw cyclist perception, WABA's ultimate goal is to make sure that we get to a situation where we have, you know, the ability for everyone to get around by bike. And that means a mode share of 15 and 20 percent.
FARTHINGAnd we're hoping that we get those numbers to the point where there are enough people on the bikes. Just as a factor of the amount of traffic that bicyclists bring to the streets, cyclists will need to follow laws just for mere predictability and for the system to function. If you look at things like the 15th Street cycle track now, you're seeing more and more people following the rules on the 15th Street cycle track because there are so many cyclists that the system doesn't work if you don't.
FARTHINGSo right now, some folks feel that they're able to sort of, you know, skirt the rules and squeezing between cars and that kind of thing. But that's not what we're pushing for the overall growth of bicycling in D.C. We want to see those big numbers where cyclists actually become part of traffic and follow the rules just so the system doesn't break down.
NNAMDIHere is Pat in Frederick, Md. Pat, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
PATHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I have a bicycle touring company for seniors. And one of your guests commented on the way women were treated -- basically patronized a lot when they went to bicycle stores. And I want to tell you the exact same thing happens to seniors. They go in and in there -- they're maybe in their late 60s, and they want to buy a new bike. And the clerks are young, and they say, oh, this old person.
PATWe'll give him this big, heavy mountain bike. It's so secure. It's this. It's that. They end up with a bike that's so heavy, they can't even put it on a rack. They're not mountain biking. They don't get -- they really don't get any respect at all. And I just wanted to make that comment to second what one of your guests have said.
NNAMDIThank you very much for waiting. We haven't talked about seniors in this discussion so far. Anyone care to comment on that?
DAVISI can actually take that. So with Black Women Bike, we are -- we range from mid-20s all the way up to early 70s, so kind of the younger seniors. And we actually had a woman who bought a bike that was big and clunky because that's what someone told her to buy because she was a senior. You should get this cruiser. Well, we live in Hillcrest, and so she has to go up several hills.
DAVISAnd she actually went back to a bike shop, and she got a bike that suits her needs. And she enjoys it, and she now rides more. And I think it is in very important -- and like Chris said, the bike shops are getting it now. But it's very important for bike shops to just have the patience to treat each customer with respect because, you know, if we really want to get people cycling, you know, bike shops are first, you know, mode of introducing people into the cycling community.
NNAMDIThank you very much for you call, Pat. Here is Constance in Arlington, Va. Constance, your turn. Go ahead, please.
CONSTANCEThank you, Kojo. Great show. Hey to Chris and Shane. I am one of the founders of Phoenix Bikes, which is an after-school program for kids in Arlington, Va. And one of the things I've learned over time to kind of tag on to what Veronica has been saying is that the mothers of a lot of these kids come from many countries. And what they -- they'll pull me aside and say, you know, I don't know how to ride a bike, and I really like to know -- I'd like to do this with my family.
CONSTANCEI think that it's true that not only would -- I mean, the kids are there, but I think it'll get the dads involved. And I also think that we need more localized -- Chris and Shane do fabulous jobs with their classes. But I can't emphasize the need enough for more beginner classes for people who are more in neighbors and kind of getting you all out a little bit more to get women on bikes. 'Cause I think they want to do it if they don't know how to -- and it's almost like they're embarrassed to admit that they never learned how to ride.
NNAMDIThis can be true, Veronica.
DAVISYeah. We have five women in Black Women Bike who are licensed to teach classes. Leslie Jones, she is absolutely fabulous. Allyson Criner Brown, Anica Allen. And so what we are planning to do in this upcoming year, Tour de Fat, which is going to be -- which is a big opportunity, a big bike carnival that's coming June 1 to D.C., put on by New Belgian Brewing Company. It's an opportunity for a lot of the local bike organizations to fundraise.
DAVISAnd Black Women Bike is glad to be a partner again this year. And so the funds that we are using from that is to teach women's specific cycling classes at that neighborhood level. And we're going to focus on particularly lower income neighborhoods that have a bike share station nearby to get women 'cause access also becomes an issue when you're dealing with lower income women, access to a bike.
DAVISBut you have the bike share program. So we're going to be working with communities that are near the bike share program, getting them comfortable with riding if it's just learning to ride for the first time or just getting more comfortable because we really want to see women cycling with their families. I think that's very important.
NNAMDIOK, Constance, thank you very much for your call. We're running out of time very quickly. But there are some basic questions that people tend to have. We got a tweet from Dawn, "How about a law for bells on bikes?" Shane, is a bike bell required on bikes in the District of Columbia?
FARTHINGIt is. There's a bill that's in D.C. Council right now that might potentially remove that. I think it's a good thing to be able to make an audible sound, but the reality on a bike is oftentimes, when you're in a situation where you had most want to ring the bell, it's also the time that you most need your hands on the handlebars. So the ability to shout can be as good as having a bell.
NNAMDIAre you required to have lights on your bike at night, Chris?
EATOUGHYes, you are. In Virginia, you have to have a front light and at least a rear reflector. Although a rear flashing red light is a good idea and required on higher speed roads and pretty similar law in D.C. So lights are super important.
NNAMDIVeronica, are bikes required to follow traffic laws when riding on the road, like stop signs, traffic signals?
DAVISAbsolutely. We definitely preach stopping and really following the rules of the road, being a good partner by sharing the road.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Veronica Davis founded Black Women Bike, an organization based here in D.C. Chris Eatough is program manager for Bike Arlington, and Shane Farthing is executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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