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I don't know if there's a war on drivers specifically, but a lot of the project and traffic planning strikes me as callous toward the human factor. There doesn't appear to be any strategic thought going into the planning, and to the extent there is, it's callous toward the people who have to live with the decision, regardless of what they ride.

It would be awful nice, for instance, to be able to commute in from East of the D.C. line without having to brave shoulderless roads with 50 MPH traffic, and seeing as we're forced to ride in those conditions, it would be great if States' attorneys considered the possibility that maybe when a cyclist is run down, charges could be considered.

We cyclists aren't alone in the Getting Treated Badly Sweepstakes, either. It would be tremendous if taking the Mayor's advice to just take Metro, didn't turn the day's commuting from a 90 minute proposition via car, or two hours via car + bike, into a three hour round trip. Having to shove my way onto a ridiculously crowded Metro Car, for the privilege of standing up and getting rubbed on by everybody else for 45 minutes, seems like a sub-optimum way to start and end my day.

And and the way in which the H Street construction has been managed, along with the gumming up of traffic flow over Capitol Hill, makes a driver feel like somebody has it in for them.

I usually do a mixed car+bike commute, drive in 1x-2x per week, and take Metro when forced to. No, I don't see a war on drivers. I do see hostility, or callousness bordering on hostility, to the individuals who drive, take Metro, or bike, and I totally get how AAA can feel like it's a war on them. I strongly believe that a big uncaring government presence or an ill-thought out government presence can be just as oppressive feeling to the individual, as an actual malicious presence - and that AAA Mid-Atlantic would do well to reach out to cyclists and metro advocates to make common cause on this and force local government to work smarter to accomodate all of us.

You go boy. You hit all the points.

Spare a prayer for poor "Kati", struggling on the virtual stage to reconcile her alleged values and her employer's astroturfery.

Great post. Heep up the good work.

@ darren Hey! That "alleged value" comment hurts!

As mentioned in the article, I did reach out to our Public & Government affairs department for answers and then posted the info that I received on bike forums since that is where I am most comfortable. Frankly, I would rather be the one talking to cyclists since I'm one myself and it's easier for me to translate the concerns on both ends (if that makes sense).

As for the accusation that AAA is making things worse, I would have to differ. AAA saw that their statements appeared anti-bike when they are more, as you pointed out, anti-congestion and anti-due-process (to be fair, I note your disagreement on those points). Ultimately, AAA went out to correct this and start a conversation on the matter. Would it have been better for AAA to have left things as they were (as many companies do) and ignore the concerns of the community?

Frankly, isn't the crux of this issue whether or not AAA hates bikes? That's what it seems with the "empire" references and final paragraph. It's unfair to say AAA hates cyclists - that's simply untrue. They have safety and advocacy programs for cyclists in place. I do think it's fair to say they are not in support of the bike lanes in DC. That was my takeaway and the reason I responded to the community - to correct that perception.

I would also like to add that I welcome a response to me, personally. I don't work in AAA's PR department and I'm responding not just as an employee but as someone who also believes in the right to ride.

But Kati, they did leave things as they were. That press release is still on their site without any corrections. If it was truly so badly written, why not add an update? Why hasn't AAA apologized for their earlier statements that "appeared" anti-bike? Why hasn't AAA contacted all of the media sources that ran the "Bike lanes will cause gridlock" stories and ask them to run a follow up. AAA has done the equivalent of announcing on a bullhorn that these bike lanes are awful and will cause congestion, but then - in private - have whispered to us that they don't mean it and they're only concerned about process.

I don't think AAA hates bikes, and I never say that. AAA hates bike lanes that take away space from drivers. Even one lane on a four lane road - in which the 4th lane might be used 10% of the time at tops - is cause for "war on drivers" speech. AAA is fine with sharing the road as long as they still get 100% access to it.

Many cyclists would like some space of their own, and that space will have to come from drivers. So while AAA may not hate cyclists, they are in direct opposition to cyclist's goals. Which is fine. But I'm going to call them out on it whenever they fear-monger or lie in order to achieve theirs (which is to keep all the space they have and add more where they can).

Hey washcycle. That is an awesome point (re: press release). I will see what we can do to remove/update/correct it. I also (personally) agree with all of the outlined steps you've listed as things that should be done. Our thinking, in speaking to bloggers directly, was to work with them to share our POV (disjointed as it has been). Not to treat them as our little secrets. You make an excellent point that, in doing so, we have made it appear as though we are not truly considering the issue at hand.

As for bikehate, I wasn't trying to insinuate that you said that. I do feel that is the general impression out there.

I agree that cyclist space does have to come from drivers. Cyclists are tax payers, too! It is true that AAA can never be truly pro-bike and they may take positions that do not benefit the community, but that does not make them the enemy of all cyclists. AAA has done some good work in that department.

In any event, I really do appreciate your comments. You made excellent points. I will pass along your suggestions to Public and Government Affairs. If you want to keep in touch or follow up with me, I believe your system has my email logged!

It's unfair to say AAA hates cyclists - that's simply untrue. They have safety and advocacy programs for cyclists in place.

Advocacy? AAA advocates for cyclists?

And it's really stretching it to call what they have "safety programs." Telling cyclists to dress brightly, wear helmets and use bike paths is not a safety program.

Hi Contrarian. We meet again!

Yes, The Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety has programs for cycling safety. Some of which you found and posted on another blog. I know you mentioned you felt that it wasn't enough and I am curious to know how you feel AAA could improve. you can respond to me there or here or via email (below).

AAA works for driver awareness programs noting that distracted driving, driving on cell phones, etc. is a danger to everyone on the roads. As a cyclist, I find that these driver habits put me most at risk.

From the comments I have seen here, there and everywhere, I am really interested to know what kind of a resolution you expect or are looking for? I've also responded to your comments on the AAA community, which you also posted on, and welcome you to email me personally at kdriscoll@aaamidatlantic if you'd like.

bravo washcycle! -- again a delightful and important piece of commentary that really exposes either: the utter vacuity of the oppositions factual claims -- or the utter distortion, misunderstandings and falsehoods they are deliberately and constantly parade around as incontestable "truths."

Go Washcycle!

In my advocacy work over the years I've worked with a number of small organizations. My experience is that corporate cultures are sort of like living beings, with personalities that emerge from the dynamic among the actual people.

Sadly, it seems, the corporate culture of AAA Mid-Atlantic has gone insane.

@Jonathan

I wouldn't say the culture has gone insane. As you pointed out, corporate cultures are dynamic and no corporation is perfect. AAA Mid-Atlantic is working to open the conversation. That's not easy for most companies to do.

Sorry that you are no longer a Member, but I do thank you for your comments.

I haven't been able to follow the ongoing story over the last week but I'll just say that I find it surprising that anyone would cite the Chinese as an example of urban transportation policy and improved urban living.

As anyone who followed the Beijing Olympics and the build-up to those Games, the pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities is a significant problem. Some top athletes even skipped the Olympics because of concern about the air quality. Beijing and China would actually be an example of what not to do in terms of increasing automobile traffic into and around a major city.

@Kati
While I tend to disagree with AAA's position on the bike lane issue, I do appreciate the fact that you are trying to help AAA see another side to the issue. Even if you are not acting as a true advocate for cycling inside AAA, I do think it is good to have some cycling enthusiasts represented in that organization.

AAA offers safety courses for cyclists, and encorages them to wear bright clothes. That is great. At the same time, AAA opposes any pro-bike safety measures such as dedicated lanes, enforcement of speed limits, red-lights etc as a "war on drivers"

Thus, from the view of AAA, bike safety is about behavior modification by cyclists, but not by motorists. Is the implication that cyclists are to blame?

Beijing has gone from bikes to cars because (a) people are wealthier and (b) the government no longer bans private cars and (c) they are a status symbol. i.e. after being FORCED to ride cars are seen as an expression of freedom. Of course, in countries that have had cars for years, many people have CHOSEN to ride a bike or forgo cars. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to fully exercise this freedom of choice in much of the USA because of the legal, attitudinal and infrastructure favoritism towards cars.

Kati, I do want to say that I appreciate the fact that you're engaging us in conversation, and trying to make your side heard in a polite and respectful manner.

Woah! Hey everyone. I'm sorry I am behind on comments. I got stuck over on another blog.

@Michael H. - definitely an unfortunate choice in words. Thanks for the recognition. It has not been easy for me as a cyclist that works for AAA, but it has been great in terms of fostering dialog.

@SJE the implication is not that cyclists are to blame. Both motorists and cyclists play a large part in bicycle safety. I have already started a conversation about making changes to the safety section of the site, which is owned by the non-profit Foundation for Safety and Education. Thanks for your point.

@Washcycle Any time. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share pass back and forth all the info I am getting (both from internal sources and comments here).

@Kati
What can AAA do in the cyclist safety area? I think if you look at the literature of what cyclists do to avoid collisions with cars it provides a mirror for what cars could also do to avoid collisions with bikes. It is really all about defensive driving/riding. Some references are listed below.

There is a booklet published by MD SHA available at http://onelesscar.org/files/public/documents/Bicycle_Booklet_v3.pdf. It covers guidelines for cars and cyclist. It starts off with "expect bikes on the road".

There are cycling safety videos at http://www.onelesscar.org/page.php?id=182.

And then there is http://www.waba.org/areabiking/safecycling/. From here you can download WABA's "Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area".

Perhaps if there was a safety campaign that could be endorsed by both AAA and cycling advocates (ie. WABA, LAB, etc). It would lend some credibility. Drivers and cyclist both would see that AAA and cycling community are sending the same message and working together. Less us vs. them.

Kati: If cyclists are not to blame, how come the behavioral changes must come from cyclists, and none from cars?

I appreciate that you have engaged in conversation and are seeking to change educational materials at AAA. Until I see concrete changes in the way AAA conducts its public discourse, I remain sceptical.

@twk Thank you for the additional information. As I mentioned earlier, I have passed these resources (WABA, specifically) on to the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety & Education.

I think you make an excellent point that partnering with an organization would be a nice step. I can't make any promises, but I can tell you that I will definitely make the suggestion.

@SJE At no point did I say that cyclists should be the one to be on the defense. I believe I specifically mentioned that both motorists and cyclists play a large part in bicycle safety.

Thanks for the appreciative comment. We are listening and have made some changes. One of which is a new press release that can be found here: http://www.aaamidatlantic.com/PGA/NewsReleases

Thanks again for the comments and suggestions, everyone.

So isn't it kind of revisionist history to still have it dated as 5/3 and not to note that it has been revised?

Kati: its not what YOU say, but what AAA says.

I stand corrected, it is not revisionist history (at least not yet) as it hasn't been changed or a new release added to their site.

Am I missing something Kati? Is the new press release you are referring to the 5/5 Sharing the Road one?

With regards to this comment:

"If cyclists are not to blame, how come the behavioral changes must come from cyclists, and none from cars?"

I would say this: Because cars are bigger, and can cause you great harm. It matters little who's to blame when you're injured or killed, and regardless of whether you're in a bike lane or on the open road, the safety of the cyclist is still at risk and there will always be some amount of conflict between motorists and cyclists.

@Don S. The new release is 5/5.

@SJE I understand where you are coming from; however, the AAA website also doesn't state that safety starts with the cyclist. Perhaps it is in the way in which the data is presented. As I have said before, many commenters have suggested a bevy of improvements which are being discussed.

@SJE here are some safety tips which were included in the most recent release. While they are not comprehensive, I think you will see that the emphasis is not on what cyclists need to do, but what drivers must to do keep cyclists safe (sorry for the loooong copy/paste).

"To equip area motorists to share the road cautiously and courteously with cyclists, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips:

* Allow three feet of passing space between your car and the cyclist. Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.
* Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can’t be expected to go the same speed as cars.
* Pay special attention to blind spots. Due to their size and the location of bike lanes, bikes can often get lost in a car’s blind spot, so double check before changing lanes, making right-hand turns or before opening your car door on the traffic side when parked.
* Be attentive on side streets and neighborhoods. Children are especially at risk in residential areas. Follow the speed limit, avoid driver distraction and always be aware of your surroundings. It is particularly important to be cautious when backing out of a driveway and onto the street.
* Use good common sense. For example, in inclement weather, give cyclists extra room. "

I give the new press release a B+. The good:

Allow three feet of passing space between your car and the cyclist. Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.
Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can’t be expected to go the same speed as cars.
Pay special attention to blind spots. Due to their size and the location of bike lanes, bikes can often get lost in a car’s blind spot, so double check before changing lanes, making right-hand turns or before opening your car door on the traffic side when parked.
Be attentive on side streets and neighborhoods. Children are especially at risk in residential areas. Follow the speed limit, avoid driver distraction and always be aware of your surroundings. It is particularly important to be cautious when backing out of a driveway and onto the street.
Use good common sense. For example, in inclement weather, give cyclists extra room.


The bad:

Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.

What's a "driving lane?"

“Therefore, it behooves roadway users to remember that cyclists are granted the same rights and are expected to obey the same laws as motorists.”
Actually not. If you look at the DC bike regulations there are about a dozen pages of regulations specific to bicycles. There are many things that are legal on a bicycle that are not in a car -- driving on the sidewalk, passing on the right, using the shoulder. The slow-moving vehicle law and the hands-free cellphone law don't apply to cyclists. Plus, vehicle laws only apply to cyclists operating on the roadway. Cyclists operating on a sidewalk or crosswalk have the rights and duties of pedestrians.

This may sound like nit-picking, but a recurring complaint among motorists is that cyclists don't belong on the roads because they don't follow the law. Misinforming motorists about what the law is doesn't help.

Chris: I agree that cyclists need to be more careful of cars, than vice-versa. A simple matter of survival. At the same time, focusing on cyclist behavior has the perverse result of minimizing the responsibilities of other road users.

Kati: people in Washington DC, of all places, know how the PR game works. My point is not based on isolated statements by the AAA, but a consistent history of advocacy that minimizes the ability of cyclists to access resources and minimizes enforcement of traffic laws against motorists.

I think you guys are being a little hard - and yes, even nitpicking - with the AAA folks here. I mean, it's the American AUTOMOBILE Association - of course they're going to focus their advocacy on motorists. It's nice they're trying to spread awareness on safety around cyclists, and I think there's been a lot of really productive suggestions here, but we're now moving into a realm that communicates to me "you can't really deal with those bike advocacy people because they're never satisfied."

Chris,
Let's not lose focus on the issue; AAA does not want the proposed bike lanes built.

Actually, since we're being nitpicky, that's not exactly AAA's stand.

However, even if it were, I don't actually have a problem with that position - I'm a cyclist who doesn't think the PA Ave bicycle lanes have much use either.

There are other lanes that they don't want built. Besides, you might want to consider benefits to other cyclists; just because you don't use them doesn't mean they won't get used.
Besides, they don't want them built as they are planned - no nitpicking about it.

@Chris - I think the issue was more the tactics they used to voice their opposition, namely inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric in OP-EDs and press releases which unfortunately the media takes at face value (which they are well aware of). I think it is quite fair to question their approach even if you aren’t for the Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes. Also, remember it wasn’t just those lanes they were opposing it was the other pilots as well. They advocate for motorists so to be honest their view doesn’t surprise me and it is their right, the methods they employ do however and I feel are quite damaging over the long term.

For AAA MA to be criticized and then to come back to the various blogs and attempt to placate that criticism by saying that isn’t what they really meant and the way it was presented was a mistake is a start. The fact they are becoming more sensitive to the reactions of other user groups and that certain elements of their organization seem willing to listen and act I hope will lead to more collaboration in the future. But the fact of the matter remains they still haven’t rescinded their initial statements and one must question what their leadership truly feels and how they will act in the future. Will it be a civil and fair discourse and discussion or more rhetoric and grandstanding for the media? Time will tell…

And to be honest I am proud people stood up to AAA MA’s tactics. If that means being labeled as “never satisfied” I can live with that.

Don: I'm fine with standing up to AAA's negative tactics (though I'm not surprised by those tactics); but I also think when they seek out some dialogue, it's a positive development that should be welcomed. For the most part, it looks like that's happened on this blog, so that's great.

Stan: With regards to considering the "benefits" of bike lanes to other cyclists, please don't assume that I haven't already done so. I have a different perspective about bike lanes, and I realize on this blog it's a minority point of view, but that doesn't mean (just like yourself) I don't have the best interests of other cyclists in mind.

Contrarian, I think I might give it an A-. In their defense, even WABA used the "same rules" wording in their press release. "On the road, you are subject to the same rights, responsibilities and rules as motor vehicles."

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