« Roll Call on DC Bike commuting | Main | Share the Road License Plates »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

They did the same thing when the Pope was here last April.

It never stops. Every tiny iota of public policy becomes the pretext for yet another cyclist grievance. Maybe with 4 million people expected on the mall, this is a reasonable policy. If Metro is packed to the gills, you're not going to be able to get your bike on or off the train, at Foggy bottom or anywhere else for that matter.

Every iota of BAD public policy is a real grievance. A 24 hour, 83 station ban is overkill. You can't tell me that every car on every line will be packed to the gills.

Im with guez
Because lots of people will drive to the nearest metro station (the end of the line) and take metro the rest of the way....so the cars will be packed leaving Glenmont, Vienna, etc...
They are on a weekday rush and this will be no better and probably a whole lot worse than that...

Why not just ride your bike to the inauguaration? It will likely be faster then the backed-up trains anyhow!

I would do that. Mrs. Washcycle will not, but she'd like to have her bike with her to get around. I believe this is lazy sledgehammer policy making. Why not allow bikes on before 6 am or after 4 pm? How about on non-crowded lines like the orange line coming in from New Carrolton, where it is not so easy to bike from?

Instead of asking where and when do we need to ban bikes and where don't we they just banned all bikes all day. Are they banning luggage?

Keep your eyes peeled for the WABA Inaugural Bike Valets!

They are banning luggage with any dimension over 18".

But I agree that there is a bigger problem of Metro seeing bicycles as a nuisance to be mitigated, rather than as a part of the tansit mix.

Damn Metro luggage-haters!

I agree with the assessment of a bigger problem with Metro not regarding bikes as part of a transit mix (and part of that is because the Metro system wasn't designed properly for that to begin with), but I would also say that there's some unusual circumstances here. This isn't just a typical inaguaral - they are expecting massive, record-breaking crowds, and there's a high level of unpredictability here as well. In this particular mix, it's not at all unreasonable to consider the notion that bikes might be a bit of a "nuisance to be mitigated."

I realize that the inauguration is different, I just want them to put some thought into it.

What is their threshold for banning bikes? Is there an expected number of riders per hour? There should be. They could easily come up with a reasonable one (10% of trains are SRO or something).

What is their estimate for ridership? They've done inaugurations and other special events on the mall before. They must have some idea what kind of patterns to expect. Scale that up with a large margin of error - I'm fine with that.

Then come out and say - here's our worst case estimate of ridership. Here are the times we expect to exceed the threshold, so for these hours the whole system will be closed to bikes. While I'd still like them to view it on a line by line basis and allow people to approach the Mall with their bikes, I wouldn't complain because I would feel like they'd put some thought into it.

The rule of 'No bikes on a crowded train' would still be in effect. And if their estimates are way off - station managers could still turn cyclists away. And Metro could have said "We plan to allow bikes on during these hours, but circumstances may change and so policy may change too. Be prepared."

But they didn't do that. They have no idea what the threshold is - they go with their gut and I hate a lack of scientific rigor. If you ask them why they're banning bikes, they'll give you a BS answer about safety - instead of the real reasons. They want to free up space for paying customers - which is absolutely reasonable, and they don't believe they're employees or customers are smart enough to handle a more complex system, which is insulting to all of us.

Metro is the one who has said they want to be more bike friendly. Part of that is talking to us like we're actual customers instead of people who get in the way of their actual customers.


Your argument about "scientific rigor" is beside the point. If WMATA were to come up with "scientific" thresholds, formulae, etc, the debate would not end; it would simply shift to the numbers. In this instance, it seems to me that they are simply applying common sense.

You are probably right about WMATA needing a more coherent approach to cycling, but I think you picked the wrong battle this time. And this was my initial point: this blog seems to insist on fighting every single battle, no matter how petty or counterproductive.

While I appreciate your effort to engage in reasonable discuss (with Chris Core, for instance), there's still a troubling narrow-mindedness to the whole project of this blog-a lack of openness toward other points of view. It's as if your willing to have a discussion-but only if you win every single point.


I don't want WMATA to apply common sense. The world is full of counterintuitive ideas that have turned out to be true. [Common sense was that the world is flat]. I want them to use uncommon, exemplary sense. They're experts. I expect them to make decisions like experts would.

I would love to be able to have a discussion about what numbers are appropriate for a bike-exclusion policy, and it is possible I'd disagree with them, and likely that at least someone would. But at least they'd have a transparent policy they could point to, instead of arbitrary rule-making.

In addition, that the Metro will be too crowded for bikes between 4am and 5am is not even the "common" sense of the situation.

No one said anything to Metro when Metro arbitrarily banned bikes all day for the Pope visit. So now they've arbitrarily banned bikes all day for the inauguration. And of course, if challenged, they'll point to the Pope visit as precedent. The next time they expect a busy day, they'll do it again and the next and the next. So it might seem petty, but it is important, in my opinion, to fight bad precedents. WMATA has no standard "expected high-ridership" policy, but they're creating one without asking for public input. And the one they're creating overly excludes bikes. I fail to see how pointing it out is "counter-productive". What is it producing that is counter to our goals?

As for your final point. I'm not sure exactly what you mean. I often let people state their opinion without commenting on it. I've changed my own opinions based on commenter input on issues on several instances. Sometimes I've gone into an issue without an opinion and had it shaped by the discussion that followed. So I guess I need to know which points of view am I not open to? Where, exactly, am I being narrow-minded?

For what it's worth, though I disagree with your perspective on this particular issue, I don't think you're being narrow-minded, Mr. Washcycle.

What is counterproductive, I believe, is the kind of advocacy that insists on fighting/winning a series of petty battles in the interests of "standing up for cyclists" (I'm not quoting anyone in particular). To my mind, two of these battles are:

1) The "myth of the scofflaw cyclist." Dismissing legitimate complaints about cyclist misbehavior turns off public officials and everyday folks. I understand your argument that the discussion of "scofflaw cyclists" detracts from the "real issues," but frankly your postings only serve as further detraction.

2) The current debate about bikes on Metro. I understand that you don't like the way that Metro treats cyclists, but arguing against what most people (including cyclists) perceive as a reasonable policy on the basis of "precedent" seems petty.

The problem with these battles is that they alienate large number of policy-makers and votes.

I acknowledge your willingness to entertain, even embrace, differing points of opinion. I have noted a shift in tone over time, however, reflected in an increasing impatience with any criticism of cyclists and increasingly knee-jerk reaction to relatively tame (and sometimes reasonable) public policy decisions.

Finally, wonkish, number-driven "expert" policy can be just misleading as "common sense," by the way. (Think of all of the economists who got it wrong recently, or the various ways the intelligence of different "races" has been "measured.")


You and I philosophically disagree on two key points:

1. You believe that "successful bike advocacy should start with an awareness that many people, including pedestrians, motorists, and hikers, find bikers to be a nuisance" and "that cyclists are more effective in achieving these aims when they make an effort to address the negative perceptions of cyclists." That it is wrong to "never [try] to address the concerns of millions of motorists, pedestrians, while campaigning that their tax dollars be spent on bike lanes/paths/parking."

I disagree with that as a starting point. The negative perception of cyclists derives from three things, in no particular order: cyclists get in the way, cyclists break the law, and cyclists are arrogant (a.k.a. morally superior/self-righteous). As we've seen recently with both Beltway Greg and Chris Core, the negative perception of cyclists is often based on the first issue.

When people have this complaint, they will invariably point out that cyclists are "horrible scofflaws," so that they can put the blame on cyclists; but their lack of understanding of the law and their willingness to abandon the "follow the law" argument when it no longer serves their needs of getting bikes out of their way betrays their true goal. There is no effective way to pursue bike advocacy that will address their concerns. Getting bikes on the road puts bikes in the way of cars.

As for the law-breaking, I really don't see getting cyclists to obey the law as the first step in bike advocacy. If I could snap my fingers and make every cyclist obey the law all the time, do I think any or all of our goals would quickly fall into place? No. Because we'd still be in the way of cars. And it isn't really fair for cyclists alone to have the scofflaw wrap, when we aren't alone in being scofflaws. So this seems to be somewhat irrational.
"Hey cyclists, why can't you follow the law like everyone else?" "We do, in that like everyone else we often don't." "Well then....why can't you behave better than everyone else. Oh, and get out of our way too."

This is not to say that cyclists aren't often served by following the law or that pedestrians don't have a legitimate complaint that cyclists ignore their safety needs. But, the claim that cyclists are greater scofflaws than drivers is both false and harmful to bike advocacy. I disagree that pointing out this fallacy is counterproductive. To believe otherwise is to believe that a lie serves our needs better than the truth. And often this blog, and local advocacy groups, have encouraged cyclists to obey the law and be considerate, so your sense that these issues are ignored is incorrect.

I've never much understood the ‘arrogant’ statement. I always interpret is as having to do with the previous two. "Cyclists have the audacity to get in my way, blocking the lane and going slow, and then they run stop lights." I find it odd to call someone morally superior, and then proclaim your moral superiority by then calling them a scofflaw. But I don't entirely know where this comes from, so I have no idea how to address it.

It is, as you point out, a difficult proposition to affect policy makers and voters when there is a negative perception of us held by many - but what do you do when it is based largely on a false premise and a selfish motive except keep trying to show how false and selfish it is?

While it is difficult to affect policy makers and voters with the negative perception, it is not mandatory that we reverse it first. This is because we're right. Not morally right, but technically right. Demonstrably right. And policy makers and voters see this. Urban leaders, at least, see that bikes are a key component of their future transportation system. Like us or hate us, they need us. Is that the arrogance drivers speak of? I doubt it, but it would be silly for me to advocate for something I wasn't confident in. I'm confident that bikes and cyclists are good for D.C. I do not apologize for that.

2. You are always quick to defend Metro's policies about banning bikes. You believe that their decisions to ban bikes, while inconvenient to cyclists, serve the larger goals of Metro and thus the region. I disagree. We agree that bikes should be banned at certain times, but disagree on the breadth. I think they're woefully imprecise, and that, as such, this does Metro, and the region, harm. I'm not sure if you think they're spot on or that it isn't important. But regardless, I disagree. Bikes and Metro are both about transportation (and bikes are about exercise and fun too) and I think it's important that Metro work to be as inclusive as possible. You think it's petty.

So, we also differ on which fights to take on. You feel that we should be selective, that some stupidity and injustice should be allowed so as not to squander goodwill for the fights that matter. I believe that being a vigorous advocate means that you fight for everything you think is reasonable. Richard Layman often points out that if you ask for a little, you'll get a little; but if you ask for a lot, you won't get everything, but you’ll get more than a little. I agree with that. It appears that you don't.

It is possibly that I'm wrong. It is possible that you're wrong. I would appreciate it if you would keep our discussion limited to this range and avoid calling my positions silly, petty, shrill or other such negative terms you've used in the past. Wrong will suffice.

Furthermore, you often take a very reasonable position that cyclists can not, on the one hand, demand that drivers obey the law, while on the other insisting that cyclists don't have to. But I think you often push this point too far, insisting that cyclists shouldn't ask if the laws make sense (as you've said about the Idaho stop) or if new laws (like the CCT speed limit) are a good idea. It seems that with both the law and Metro that you feel we should just succumb to the will of the law/rule makers lest we anger them or appear as hypocrites. Again, I disagree.

And your hostile, and often sarcastic comments, such as

'"Two-way courtesy"? How scandalous!"
"the shrillness of this blog drives me crazy."
"Why stop at environmentally irresponsible salt usage? If we really want to put trails on equal footing with roads in the DC area, we could add road rage, reckless driving in hazardous/crowded conditions, disregard for pedestrians... Wait: that's the Capital Crescent right now!"
"I'm posting this on my iPhone as I blow a red light without a helmet in the dark on my no-brake 1978 bianchi fixie conversion. Meanwhile, I'm using my other hand to flip off a fat police officer in the cruiser, a housewife in an SUV, blah blah blah blah blah..."
"You're kidding! Now I have to obey the law? Screw it. I'm buying a Hummer!"

is at least as impatient and knee-jerk as anything else on this blog.

I don't know who to vote for here - I agree with WashCycle on the "myth of the scofflaw cyclist" and with guez on Metro's bike policy - at least in terms of Inauguration Day.

It's simple. Ride within the law of the roads, stay to the right or left if you cannot keep pace with traffic and obey all traffic signals and signs. Is that so damn difficult? Bon Jovi wrote a song about you people. "You're cowboys and on steel horses you ride, your wanted dead or alive." Much ado about nothing. Don't worry when gas goes back to $1/gallon you'll find a great deal of space in the old bike lane.


I think that your analysis of our points of disagreement is fair. I would add that part of our difference lies in the question of *tone* (of cyclist advocates and/or bloggers), and will acknowledge that I myself have sometimes gone overboard in my reactions to other bloggers, as well. In my (partial) defense, my own shrillness was intended to provide a polemical counterbalance to the shrillness that I found on this blog (largely in the comments section). Perhaps that will serve as an explanation, if not an excuse.

Believe it or not, my criticisms were not intended to be personal, though I can certainly see how they might come off that way. Although I may not have always succeeded, I have sought to address my criticisms toward specific claims and stances rather than the people who made them. But I am willing to acknowledge that I may have crossed that line in attempting to respond to the tone of some of comments. We *do* disagree on which fights to take on and how to conduct those fights. I do not, as you point out, believe that robust bike advocacy means fighting for everything (and we disagree on what is reasonable). I believe that when we lose track of the war and become obsessed with every single battle, we come off as petty and, yes, shrill. This is what I mean about tone. This is not only about being "right" and "wrong" in the abstract, it's about working for real change outside of the echo chamber of the blogosphere. (And yes, I recognize that I have been shrill, too, and that many of the participants in this blog are engaged in "real-world" advocacy.) Picking one's battles doesn't mean that one fights any less forcefully. For me, the bottom line is that the perception that cycling advocates believe that bikes are the "center of the universe" doesn't help our cause. Although we can't do much about those critics who are overtly hostile, I believe that the a more nuanced approach to advocacy would be more effective.

I think that there is room to disagree reasonably, but I also think that cyclists need to think more carefully about issues of tone and perception, because these issues affect public opinion. Perhaps provocation isn't the best way to nurture self-awareness, but it's hard to find a middle ground between cyclists talking/bitching to each other in an echo chamber, on the one hand, and a flame war, on the other.

Guez, precisely. Bikes are not the center of the universe and neither are cars. The center? You're health and well-being. When people say that they "really, really," want to create an antagonistic atmosphere on the roads by emulating the Hells Angels it makes me laugh.

BG: So I'm not a sniveling, sophomoric idiot anymore?

Did I really use alliteration? It's such a hackneyed literary device. Correction, "Your health and well being," not you're, my bad. Jury is still out though. We'll see. Wear your helmet and ride to the left or right.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Banner design by creativecouchdesigns.com

City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


 Subscribe in a reader