To: Mayor Vincent C. Gray
CC: All Mayoralty Candidates
From: A DC resident who grew up riding a Schwinn.
So most of you seem to be buying into the idea of turning D.C. into a European biking city.
You may be advised to take a short trip to Amsterdam, where two wheelers rule and it's survival of the most wary. Walk! Don’t ride around in cabs or government-provided limousines.
“Pedestrians are the lowest on the totem pole,” a guide warned a group of tourists. “You have to be extremely careful.”
She wasn’t blowing smoke. Bikers zip right by with abandon, often challenging those who want to cross the streets on foot and in accordance with walk signals. Traffic lights are ignored by many bikers.
Bikes, from high-end to beat-up, are chained everywhere. Some rusted relics must have been there for years.
There are an estimated 600,000 bikes in the city. The train station vicinity seems to be a popular bike dumping ground (for an hour, a day or a lifetime), but that’s only one area of Amsterdam where bikes are in piles of three or four – or even much deeper. A lot of them are locked together to make what seems to be permanent sculptures.
Amsterdam bikers make D.C. cyclists tame by comparison.
It is a beautiful city in many ways. But pedestrians are fodder. They can be hissed at for not yielding to bikers turning right on red. After a tour of the city, one recent visitor woke up yelling; “Watch out!” in her sleep.
There’s a much-used photograph of single bike learning against an iron railing banking on a canal. Ah, so cool. It’s also selective PR.
Imagine Georgetown with bikes tearing thru the intersection of M and Wisconsin. If so, walking Georgetowners could be marching on City Hall with lit torches.
Of course, private enterprise in D.C. has a rental bike system that works well, and is expanding to the nearby suburbs. However, too many D.C. bikers ignore stop signs, traffic lights and skim close to pedestrians. 16th Street is just one example of bikers riding on the sidewalk and getting too close to walkers. There is no bike lane on 16th.
Merely painting a new lane with bike symbols or putting up a handful of rubber pole dividers is not the way to go. (This comes from a person who has a son who regularly bikes to work from Petworth to Penn Quarter, and another son who was a bike courier in DC.)
Let’s be futuristic. Perhaps sidewalks could be widened on boulevards such as 16th, Massachusetts, Wisconsin or Connecticut and bordered off with small raised bricks to separate pedestrian from devil-may-care cyclists, and cyclists from cars. Costly, yes, but safer, certainly. Currently, bike lanes are not on these major streets.
In many places, but not all, that’s what they have in Amsterdam – bike lanes physically separated from car lanes, and distinguished from the pedestrian lanes. Works great, until you get to the intersections and crossovers, where the bikers’ me-first attitude prevails.
Copenhagen is another biking city. From a tourist’s point of view, Copenhagen’s biking world is calmer and takes pedestrians into consideration with clearly marked, wide bike lanes. Pedestrians here don’t seem to have targets painted on their backs at crossing intersections.
Which raises the point of what to do about biking scofflaws.
D.C. could add a dedicated bike cop patrol that writes stiff fines for ignoring traffic laws. If there is such a patrol, it would be news to a lot of pedestrians. Earmark that money for safer, more sensible bike lanes.
That’ll be a platform to park on.
Back in “This Town,” Georgetown Dish writers, editors and advertisers fresh from summer vacations and business trips to spots around the globe gathered at Cafe Milano Monday night to talk shop, exchange experiences, participate in gossip about local politics or just play catch-up.
Guests sipped on Cafe Milano owner Franco Nuschese’s exquisite wine and consumed trays of tasty hors d’oeuvres.
Jim Bell, CEO and founder of Beasley Real Estate, who travelled to London, said he plans to make a major announcement into a local market very shortly. (We were clued-in but we are holding back until his PR rep D’Ann K. Lanning officially breaks the news to all media outlets at once).
D’Ann took down time on her own, venturing near Los Angeles to The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa.
Back from Nantucket were Dr. Tina Alster and Paul Frazer.
It was the Mediterranean for Bonhams' Martin Gammon, who spent most of the month in the Greek Isles, while Washington Fine Properties' Kimberly Casey visited the beaches of Mallorca and Ibiza.
Just to mention a few other trips taken by contributors, advertisers and friends of the Dish: they included places such as Puerto Rico, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Estonia, Lake Tahoe (Nevada), and South Beach (Florida).
Staying close to home was on some agendas, too. Constance Chatfield-Taylor spent the summer fixing up her historic house in Upperville, Va.
Resident wine connoisseur, Gregoire Poirier tasted his way through Bordeaux (mais bien sûr) and New Mexico.
Social photographer Neshan Naltchayan ventured to the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., and plans to return in mid-September to cover the Miss America Pageant. After seven years in Las Vegas, the national pageant is finally returning home to Atlantic City where the pageantry began way back in 1921. Neshan, always one to know the inside story on so many things, regaled those details to party-goers who were not up to snuff on the pageant update.
After delectable desserts of chocolate truffles and lemon tiramisu, guests made their good-byes toting gifts of Dish water bottles.
There’s a hollow in a crooked old tree on the C&O Canal towpath off 31st Street in Georgetown that’s becoming a showcase for cute stuff purposely put there.
Just a few days ago, it was a hoot. A wide-eyed wooden owl peered out at passers-by.
The hollow has been the dwelling of tiny dolls, too.
Families, many of them tourists, stop to inspect the objects and take snaps.
Joggers swish past the hollow and miss the fun of it all.
Perhaps souvenir hunters eventually take the objects….Whooo knows?
But that’s okay, since it could be a fine Georgetown memory for a kid from another country.
On the other side of the canal languishes the pathetic wreck of a barge that once was pulled by mules. That historic tragedy seems to garner most of the attention from tourists. But the hollow is a much more cheerful amusement.
Whoever is tucking those little objects in the hollow, bravo.
Long-gone U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the once savior of the tow path, also a Pacific Northwest outdoorsman and rather an oddball himself, surely would have tipped his walk stick.
To look for the tree, from M Street, walk down the left side 31st Street toward the river; after you pass il Canale restaurant, it’s a handful of steps on the left.