Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Woman and dog hit on W&OD Trail

According to the article Woman, Dog Hit by Car While Walking on W&OD Trail:
A 25-year-old Fairfax County woman suffered minor injuries Monday night after she was hit by a car while crossing West Street, police say.

The woman, whose name wasn't released, was walking along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at about 6:15 p.m. when she attempted to cross West with two dogs in tow. She was hit by a northbound vehicle. One of her dogs also was hit, and was limping after the incident, the police report said. The driver of the car, Amada Ydania Castro, 26 years old, of Fairfax, was charged with reckless driving.
The West St. crossing is the site of many close encounters between trail users and motorists. Sight distances are not good and in my experience motorists are especially aggressive at this location. Something needs to be done to make it safer for everyone.

The article goes on to discuss cyclist and pedestrian rights and responsibilities at trail/road intersections. There's a reference to a video report from last October entitled Police Enforce Stop Signs on Bike Trail: "Falls Church Police have begun stopping bicyclists who choose not to stop at the stop signs on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail." Sounds like the enforcement was conducted at Grove Ave., the street just west of West St.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Meeting with City of Fairfax Police

Members of FABB recently met with Fairfax City Police Chief Rick Rappoport and Sargent Pam Nevlud to discuss bicycling issues in the city. The City is developing a new web page, Cycling in the City, and we requested an opportunity to provide input. Rather than focusing on the dangers of cycling, we wanted more of an emphasis on education.

While many people think that bicycling is a very dangerous activity, when compared to other activities, it is relatively safe. It's safer than boating, swimming, and driving, and more dangerous than baseball and soccer. Most people receive almost no bicycle education, which would help reduce the number of crashes that do occur.

We hope to work with the City of Fairfax to possibly sponsor a bike rodeo for kids. Teaching kids how to drive their bikes at an early age will help everyone in the long run. Why wait until they are rebellious 15 and 16 year olds before teaching them basic traffic law and how to operate a vehicle in traffic. As John Allen notes in his article Bicyclist Education in Perspective:
By failing to teach our children at an early age, we give them the ten years between the ages of five and fifteen to develop bad habits which a few weeks of driver training at age 15 can not overturn, and which many carry with them for the rest of their lives. These bad attitudes apply between motorists, and they apply to the way motorists treat bicyclists and pedestrians. It is hard to regard bicyclists and pedestrians as equally important and legitimate participants in traffic if you have yourself never been taught any self-respecting or legitimate way to be a bicyclist or pedestrian.
As you can see from the photo above, the city still has a bike patrol and a fleet of police bicycles. That's Douglas Stewart of FABB and Sargent Nevlud in the photo.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meeting with Vienna Police

This morning FABB members met with Vienna Police Chief Carlisle, Officer Bill Murray and others to discuss bicycle safety in the Town. The meeting was a follow-up to concerns expressed by FABB members about the recent proposal to modify the Town Bikeway Plan to require bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk to stop at all intersections and road crossings.

We agreed that it's very dangerous to ride on the sidewalk, noting that it is much safer to ride with traffic, on the road. One way to get cyclists off of sidewalks is to publicize the Vienna Bikeway Map so that cyclists know about on-road alternatives to riding on Maple Ave and Nutley St. Signed bike routes would also be helpful. While previous attempts to create a signed bike route from the W&OD Trail to the Vienna Metro station were fought by some residents, we think that attitude may be changing and many more people would support a non-polluting, healthy commuting option.

Any education or enforcement efforts should be directed at both motorists and cyclists, including the new Vienna Eye-to-Eye campaign. We support better enforcement of "right turn on red" violations and other blatant violations, including those by cyclists, as long as cyclists and pedestrians are not targeted exclusively, and we were assured that would not be the case.

The recently proposed Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee will be established in the near future and they will provide a good sounding board for creative engineering, education, and enforcement ideas.

Thanks to Chief Carlisle and his staff for holding the meeting and hearing our perspective. We look forward to working together in the future.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cyclists riding MS 150 ticketed for running stop signs

According to the Post article A Safety Issue to Officers, Poor Form to Cyclists, eight cyclists were ticketed for not coming to a complete stop at stop signs in the Purcellville/Lovettsville area:
To several who took part in the annual event - which is estimated to have raised more than $700,000 for research and assistance for those with the incurable illness - the tickets were poor form, even if cyclists had rolled through the signs. To authorities, who said they received numerous complaints from motorists about cyclists crowding the roads and running stop signs, the citations were necessary to ensure safety on the roads.

"After I picked my jaw up off the ground, my feeling was, 'You've got nothing better to do at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning than sit there and wait for people to run a stop sign?'" said David Jennings, 47, of Vienna, a cyclist who did not ride for charity but was ticketed in Lovettsville while out with his biking club.

Jennings said he and another cyclist, a charity participant, slowed to about 1 mph before proceeding through a stop sign in Lovettsville, only to find a sheriff's deputy nearby, who flagged them down.

"What was amazing to me was it seemed to me they were there because of the MS ride," Jennings said. "They've donated their time and all their money, and they've donated to a charity, and you've got the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office just sitting there waiting to hand them a ticket. It didn't seem right."
The comments on the article contain most of the stereotypes about renegade cyclists who don't obey the law; motorists who do the same; cyclists who shouldn't be riding in the road, etc.

Capt. Thom Shaw of the Loudoun County Sheriff's office was online Friday "to discuss the incident and to answer questions about safety and rules of the road when bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians meet."

One question regarded the street corssings on the W&OD Trail and how few motorists stop for cyclists in the crosswalks. Capt. Shaw doesn't see a problem, completely ignoring the fact that motorists are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists in a crosswalk:
Mclean, Va.: I bicycle regularly on the W&OD trail (and obey the law). I have witnessed far more cars who fail to yield to stopped cyclists at a crosswalk (or moving cyclists in a crosswalk) than bicyclists who blow through stop signs without regard to traffic. Aren't drivers required to yield at a crosswalk in Virginia (assuming, of course, that the bicycle has stopped at the crosswalk)?

Capt. Thom Shaw: All intersections with state roadways are governed by a stop sign for the cyclists. If the rider stops and yields correctly this should not be an issue.
In two subsequent comments, Capt. Shaw states that cyclists on the W&OD Trail stop signs must wait until all traffic clears before cyclists proceed:
Cyclists must stop and yield at these intersections, whether or not they have dismounted. A rider should allow themselves enough time and space to cross the roadway safely, as they would if they were driving a vehicle.

Yes, in cases where the trail crosses the roadway and a stop sign is only present for the cyclist, the motorist has the right-of-way.
This interpretation completely ignores the presence of the crosswalk and explains why police often accuse cyclists of not yield to motorists, which is contrary to state law, which states that "46.2-92, A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway: 1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;"

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