If you are in the Washington, DC, area, or in tune with what is going on in the area, you are aware that our Metrorail system is in a sort of meltdown. Service and safety have steadily declined in the last few years, with fires, stalled trains, and smoke in the tunnels being almost daily occurrences. It makes it challenging to promote the use of transit options when people have become afraid to travel underground.

The new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, has grasped the bull by the horns, and launched “Safe Track,” the WMATA plan to cram three years’ worth of maintenance into a year. By breaking repairs into “surges” and halting any service at midnight, WMATA repair people can (hopefully) crank out the necessary repairs by the Spring of 2017. Surge #1 hit Arlington first, with single-tracking trains between two stops, and reducing the time between trains. Arlington County put together a very thorough and comprehensive plan to help people manage their commutes and give them other options if they didn’t want to struggle through the initial surge.

Folding e-bikes marketing for the Safe Track win!

Folding e-bikes marketing for the Safe Track win!

Regardless of all the plans in place, traffic this first week was visibly worse. The recent post from Bikeyface was timely – yes, it’s Drive Month in DC. Everyone resorted to their auto-pilot plan, and drove. I rarely see such backed up traffic through the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor! But on the flip side, there are suddenly waaaay more people biking into DC. Yay! BikeArlington created a system of bike trains to assist newer cyclists navigate the trails and roads between the East Falls Church Metro Station and Rosslyn, with a leader stopping at every Metro station to pick up people along the way. Apparently few if anyone took them up on this awesome plan, but maybe that’s because everyone was already biking on their own.

See one of these signs near a Metro station? It's part of the bike train plan!

See one of these signs near a Metro station? It’s part of the bike train plan!

However…. all of these additional people on bikes compels me to issue a gentle reminder about how to be courteous in the bike lanes and trails. I’ve seen some stupid, potentially dangerous actions out there, and heard stories, and want to make sure we all remember that being a PAL is applicable to everyone, regardless of how many wheels you are on. PAL-logo

Easy things:

  • Passing. Do not pass on the right. Pass on the left, and while you are at it, say something (especially if you are on a crowded trail). Do not pass into blind corners!
  • Bike in the correct direction in the bike lane. Having a person biking towards you in the bike lane in which you are correctly traveling is awkward, disconcerting and potentially dangerous for you and the drivers. If a bike lane is two-way, it will be marked as such.
  • Red lights. Legally you are supposed to stop for them. I think I’m the only one who consistently does. Virginia DOT law states “Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings.” I know there is much debate over this amongst seasoned cyclists, but until the law is changed, I would gently remind everyone to please consider this. Not stopping for red lights is the sort of thing that results in me hearing, over and over, “people who bike completely disregard the law and are a menace to us all.” I know that’s not true, of course, but it sticks in the minds of those who don’t bike, and makes us all look bad. (Honestly, I’m really only concerned about red *lights* here, not stop signs. Just be safe at stop signs.)

Beyond this, please, bicycle to your heart’s content (and health) and just be predictable, alert and lawful. Biking, even to work, really is fun!

Biking home from work doesn't always include balloons, but it should!

Biking home from work doesn’t always include balloons, but it should!

2 thoughts on “Gentle Reminder: Courteous Biking

  1. Thanks for this. The man who sits in the office next to mine is an occasional bike commuter from Falls Church. He told me that riding to work on the W&OD and Custis Trail was scary on Thursday. High volume with aggressive “experienced” riders cutting off the slower Safe Track folks, ruined his ride to work. If I learned one thing from Stockholm, if we ride sensibly and follow the rules, we all get a safe, enjoyable commute. If only a few of us ride like Tour de France wannabees, we get stress and accidents. Not to mention we turn off new and potential bike commuters.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your coworker was (understandably) turned off by aggressive riders. Too bad he didn’t meet up with the bike train folks. I don’t know if they are still doing it next week but might be an option for him.

      And yes, doesn’t experiencing biking in other countries completely change perspective?!

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