Snow Cycling

You might have noticed recently that we have had some snow. I know. Shocking, right? Let me refresh: You were stuck in the house for days with nothing to do but look out the window and procrastinate the inevitable shoveling. I am from Philadelphia—snow doesn’t bother me. I know how to drive in it. I don’t immediately run to the nearest grocery store to buy toilet paper, milk and eggs like the apocalypse is at hand —one that will render all of us toilet paperless and without nutritional necessities. And PS? I also clean the snow from the roof of my car so it doesn’t fly off into the one behind me when I finally do dig out and get on the road. This is simple frost-etiquette, people. Embrace it. I could go on and on about all that…but that can wait for the next white-out. The issue I wish to bring to the fore was an observation by both myself and a colleague who happens to live in my neighborhood. Let’s talk joggers and bikers. Don’t get me wrong—I like to see people running and peddling. I do it myself. I highly recommend and support exercise. You go people. But here’s where you don’t go…in the middle of the street, when there is snow and ice, with earphones blaring music, AGAINST traffic, on one of the most traffic-heavily trafficked areas—a circle, no less, during rush hour. And worse? You have the unmitigated gall to flip the bird to those drivers who come, inadvertently, perilously close to your sneakers. No. I love you, intrepid exercisers. I’m impressed that you have the wherewithal to get on out there in freezing temperatures and do your thing. Truly, I salute you! I’ll bet you guys don’t even eat bacon. But here’s the thing. The street—it was put there for cars too. Yes…cars...trucks, motorcycles, Vespas, etc. I know there are bike lanes, and I think that’s great, but when they are ecluded because of some…say…two FEET worth of flakes piled on high, could you perhaps consider the weather conditions and have a little pity on the drivers out there? We do not want to hit you—I promise. Like you, we barely have gotten out of the house all weekend. It took us about 3 hours to unearth our car from the pillar of snow it had become—kind of like a frosty version of Sodom. Our backs are killing us. We’re now not only exhausted but hopped up on Motrin. Please…have pity on us…and more important, what you’re doing is dangerous. Save yourselves!! Live to put on those ridiculous biking outfits (which kind of make you look like some sort of Marvel Comic character, by the way...and I do say that with endearment) another day. And so, my colleagues in cycling, I ask you, as two-wheeled travelers on a four-wheeled street, to consider the weather conditions and the safety of all. And oh, that smell you smell? It’s me…cooking bacon. Trust me, it’s delicious. Have some.

0 Comments For This Article

Stoney

First of all, what kind of idiots need to jog on the ice when it's snowing? This is obsessive compulsive behavior that puts them and us at risk. Everyone needs to learn how to relax - including the super wound Mayor Fenty and Tiger Woods. (but don't work off your stress that way, Mr Mayor!)

DAR

They are idiots!
In the snow? Are you kidding me?
What morons.
Ever notice how cyclists never stop for stop lights or stop signs. They are above the law. They are the epitome of arrogance, and in this city, that's saying something.

Anonymous

They are idiots!
Driving their cars in the snow? Are you kidding me?
What morons.
Ever notice how drivers never come to a complete stop at stop signs nor drive the speed limit? They are above the law. They are the epitome of arrogance, and in this city, that's saying something.

Anonymous

We're not all out there for recreation, Wendy. Some of us get to places like grocery stores and drugstores and our jobs without cars. Yes, the roads were built primarily for the comfort of 4-wheeled vehicles. Normally, that's a manageable (though dangerous) difficulty for cycliest. But after a snow, when the city clears your lane by plowing the snow into ours, how about a bit of consideration. My taxes helped pay for the construction and plowing of your 4-wheel road. You may not ban me from it.

But if you offered a lift on the coldest days, I'd probably take it.

Anonymous

We're not all out there for recreation, Wendy. Some of us get to places like grocery stores and drugstores and our jobs without cars. Yes, the roads were built primarily for the comfort of 4-wheeled vehicles. Normally, that's a manageable (though dangerous) difficulty for cycliest. But after a snow, when the city clears your lane by plowing the snow into ours, how about a bit of consideration. My taxes helped pay for the construction and plowing of your 4-wheel road. You may not ban me from it.

But if you offered a lift on the coldest days, I'd probably take it.

Laura

I think perhaps some of the cyclists were not exercisers, but simply bike commuters; they, like drivers, were merely using their preferred mode of transportation to get around after the storm. Additionally, in DC, cyclists have the right to take up a full lane due to hazardous road conditions or other impediments (see number 8 here: http://ddot.dc.gov/ddot/frames.asp?doc=/ddot/lib/ddot/information/bicycl...) so I don't believe they were really engaging in "dangerous" behavior... Or at least no more dangerous than usual, since it seems that many motorists are unaware of cyclists' rights.

During and just after the storm, it seems to me that cyclists and pedestrians were moving around much more safely than drivers, who got stuck mid-intersection quite a bit and often had to exit the car (or enlist the assistance of those walking by) to get un-stuck. I certainly helped multiple cars find their way out of the snow; I "[had] a little pity on the drivers out there."
Perhaps if the city gave the same consideration to its sidewalks and bike lanes as it did to its streets, you wouldn't have had to deal with all those pesky cyclists and pedestrians — who were probably just trying to get to work/the grocery store/the pharmacy like you were.

Tom Flat

You have this job because you're hot. Nobody this stupid should get a column. even an online column for a local paper.

Tom Veil

You're the one operating the heavy machinery, not the person who's walking on their own two feet. If you hit someone with your car, you're the one who's assaulting a defenseless person. Be an adult and deal with that fact, or don't drive.

Anonymous

Wow! Until I read this I thought the stereotype of people like you living in Georgetown was just hype. Sorry to hear you're making it a reality...No wonder why I avoid Georgetown like the plague. The roads are designed for buses, bikes, pedestrians and cars. Sorry to brake the news to you, but the world doesn't revolve around you...

Ken Archer

It's a common assumption of drivers that bikers must be getting exercise. I live in Georgetown with my wife and son, and we own no car. In fact, 20% of Georgetowners own no car and 45% of Georgetowners commute to work by means other than driving.

That's why, Wendy, the CAG listserv was lit up with Georgetowners complaining about residents and business owners not shoveling their sidewalks, forcing them to stay inside or walk/bike in the street.

SDJ

I totally get how that might lead to traffic(king) problems, but is selling stuff on the street corner really considered cardio...?

Wendy

Great. This is great! I mean that. The whole point here is to get some inoput--to engender discussion. It is also not to ban bike riding--as I said, I do it as well. And it is as much transportation for me as exercise...point taken.
Keep in mind there is humor here--but the real point to be made is that we all need to exist on the streets together, and to bring the severl-fold issues that need to be dealt with in these situations to the fore....which you all have...and I thank you for that. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem(s).
1) Bike riders, like car drivers need to co-exist. NEITHER should be practicing careless behavior and NEITHER has the right to be rude to one another.
2) There are bike lanes--the city needs to be aware of them as well as the car lanes so all can BE safe and coexist--there is room on the road for all, and should be.
3) In weather like this, of course the streets and sidewalks need to be cleared, but it's not always possible immediately. But yes, business owners, city, etc., should of course make an effort as is possible as quickly as possible
4) and this is for you, my friend, Tom Flat...if that is indeed your real name... Thank you very much for the (back-handed) compliment. I hadn't realized that becasue someone doesn't necessarily share your opinion, they are 'stupid.' The good thing is as 'stupid' as I apparently am, at least I'm neither judgemental nor narrow minded....you might want to add those to your pile of adjectives--you can use them on the next writer that disagrees with your opinion. I have plenty more I can share. Call me.

jbl

I do have the right to be a little frightened, angry, and yes, rude when your lack of attention in your big, 4-wheeled weapon, er - vehicle directly threatens my LIFE on my bike.

And yes, like the other responders, I use my bike for commuting, errands, and exercise. Frankly, it shouldn't matter why I'm on my bike.

SJE

Wendy, I can accept that you might be trying to be humorous and reasonable, although that did not come through in your article (but did in your comment). I drive, walk, ride and take transit in Georgetown, so I can see different perspectives.

The reason many non-drivers are a little tetchy is that they are not given many options other than the road, and they are regularly hassled, abused, or worse, by drivers for using the road. Cyclists and pedestrians are regularly killed by drivers without any repercussions. Just yesterday I learned that a young woman who drove with a fogged up windshield and was looking for her cigarette lighter, instead of the road, killed a family man riding his bike, in broad daylight. Her punishment was a $313 fine. If you were treated as just a notch above road-kill, you too might be a little jumpy about cars.

Wendy

OK--you indeed have a right to be rude when some careless driver almost takes you out. Absolutely. You do NOY have a right to be rude when you are not following the bike related traffic 'laws' and you cut someone off because it's you, the biker, who is careless. This goes both ways. Did anyone say it mattered why you're on your bike? i don't think so.
And I also recently witnessed a horrendous accident where a biker's life was taken. If the driver is being careless, irresponsible, etc. there is no excuse for allowing that person to get of with a small fine--this is vehicular homocide, is it not? One must be safe and alert and courteous regardless of mode of transportation. A car is huge and heavy--it can be as much a weapon as a loaded gun.
I am speaking of those who are irresponsible an BOTH sides. As stated above...next snow storm, if it makes you feel any better, I plan to go over the littany of auto-problems out there. As I said, it cuts both ways. And certainly, I have been on both sides, and certainly there are two sides to every story.
If this, however, makes one driver, jogger or biker aware of the pitfalls and dangers out there, if this makes any of us think twice next time? Then it's a good conversation, isn't it?

Actual Georgetowner

Wendy the next time you write another article making Georgetowners look this self-centered, can you please make it clear that you don't actually live in Georgetown? We have enough problems dealing with actual residents making us all look bad, we don't need more of it from non-residents like you.

Wendy

I did not say I was talking about Georgetown. This is a general article about a general subject in the city. Note there is no specific locale mentioned. I mention a circle, in fact, that is the only reference even close to mentioning an area at all. My subject matter is general.

SJE

Wendy: "If the driver is being careless, irresponsible, etc. there is no excuse for allowing that person to get of with a small fine--this is vehicular homocide, is it not? One must be safe and alert and courteous regardless of mode of transportation. "

I agree with your fine sentiments, but the unfortunate reality is that failing to be safe and courteous in a car may lead to the death of others. Rarely is the reverse true.

Moreso, even though cars kill thousands of pedestrians and cyclists, punishments are rare or insufficient. Most galling, and a problem in enforcementm is the belief that cyclists do not belong on the road and therefore, somehow deserved being killed by a car. This belief is common, and leads to numerous cases in which "I didnt see him" is grounds to get off killing someone. In this context, it hits a raw nerve to hear your plea that cyclists get off the road so that you drivers can get around.

SJE

Since we are on the issue of who has rights to roads, I note that current gas tax and other car related taxes have not paid for road building and maintainance for the past several decades, and are presently at 50c on the dollar. The rest comes out of general revenue. This means that every time I bike, my not insignificant income taxes are subsidizing drivers, yet my attempts to use the roads generates hostility and exposes me to death and injury.

Wendy

No--my plea is for cyclists to be safe. AND for drivers to be wary. As noted above, a car can be like a loaded gun. It can be a weapon. We should ALL be aware. Keep in mind, I bike as well. A lot. I am advocating safty, responsibility and caution on all sides. And once again, the main point is that we are now all talking about it. We are now, if even for a moment, a little more aware. I would hope that both two and four wheel modes of transport watch for and respect each other and proceed with caution..and WITHOUT hostility. And just a note to all: At this point in time my car has been in the shop for a month and counting. I have had no alternative but to jog, walk or bike. While I ma no better than any cyclist on the streets, I would hope that I don't flip off a driver; and as a driver, vice versa to those on bikes, for no apparent reason. My entire point IS that the roads are for all. And the larger picture, that perhaps we should all consider, regardless of number of wheels, that we should respect each other on the streets or in any other situation.
Be safe out there.

James

Wendy, while you have explained yourself in the comments section, you must admit the the initial column comes off as if you're saying that biking is only done for recreation and thus that no biking should be done in adverse weather. Your closing comment, "as two-wheeled travelers on a four-wheeled street" further extends the idea that you feel that roads are ONLY for cars.

I don't own a car. If there's a blizzard, but I'm still required at work, then I have no choice but to walk or bike to the metro. In DC, this means I most likely will be walking in the street, because the sidewalks aren't plowed. Makes you wonder what the poor folks in wheelchairs have to do! Further, if I am walking in the street, the federal government advises that it is safer to walk AGAINST traffic, so that the walker is aware if the driver has seen him and is reacting. Cycling on the other hand should always be done with the flow of traffic. Further, it is much easier for a driver, in an enclosed climate controlled environment to detour or to slow down than a pedestrian or cyclists who wants to get to work as quickly as possible while exposed to the elements. I will not detour to a secondary street because you think that's where I belong.

Again, you've explained yourself in the comments section, but the initial article leaves a bad taste.

Former DC Resident

Wendy,
If you're wondering where this spate of angry commenters came from, it's because Greater Greater Washington linked to your blog yesterday morning.

Just so you know, some people do agree with the point of your original post, which (to remind the angry commenters) is: "But here’s where you don’t go...in the middle of the street, when there is snow and ice, with earphones blaring music, AGAINST traffic, on one of the most traffic-heavily trafficked areas—a circle, no less, during rush hour."

Drivers, cyclists, and joggers are ALL responsible for their own safety and for the safety of others. Riding a bike in the middle of a street is not safe, even if snow on the sidewalk, bike lane, and the side of the road forces you to ride in the middle of the road.

Georgetown lawyer

"Drivers, cyclists, and joggers are ALL responsible for their own safety and for the safety of others. Riding a bike in the middle of a street is not safe, even if snow on the sidewalk, bike lane, and the side of the road forces you to ride in the middle of the road."

I agree that it might be unsafe to ride a bike in the middle of the road. Why is that? Whose responsibility it is to fix this danger?

Laura

Not to be redundant, but I'd like to once again direct attention to number 8 in this DDOT document: http://ddot.dc.gov/ddot/frames.asp?doc=/ddot/lib/ddot/information/bicycl...

Bacon Lover

Your comments about people that ride bikes not enjoying bacon offended me. How dare you make that statement! I get up in the morning and eat six to ten slices of bacon. Then I ride my bike to the city and deliver all kinds of stuff that makes the world go round. I deliver everything from supreme court filings to passports. I deliver medicine to the world bank on a daily basis so little kids in some far away county don't die. I am a spoke in a wheel. If I don't do it someone else would. When I'm not clogging up the streets I also work as a marketing manager for a retail location that has been in Georgetown for a very long time. We advertise in the Georgetowner, On tap, and many others. I must confess that the real reason I am sounding off is that you are smoking hot and if Tom Flat gets to call you maybe I can too? I make some kick ass bacon.

Chris M

You must be talking about that OTHER group of cyclists - the ones who like to suck exhaust fumes and pick fights with cars...

http://the-skinny-on-mbm.blogspot.com/2009/09/resized-bacon-another-atte...

http://the-skinny-on-mbm.blogspot.com/2009/10/more-bacon.html

rachel

Hey Wendy, thanks again for coming to Tom's class to talk to us Thursday! You had really great advice for talking to people. Great article. I don't get the big comment response...it seems like a normal response to ignorant bikers and it seemed clear to me...lol. wierd. Funny that people like lawyers are responding so opinionated.
Seems pretty simple. If there's snow in the way, take public transportaiton...haha

thanks again for coming!

-rachel