« Enforcement can begin of DC Bike Parking Law | Main | Enter the Crosswalk »


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

Even if WABA believes that it is desirable for cyclists to always come to a full stop at a quiet stop sign or never carefully go through a red light when there is no oncoming traffic, I cannot imagine how WABA thinks it is going to change cyclist behavior on these points. This will probably happen about the same time that motorists never exceed the speed limit by a single mile per hour or always signal when they are changing lanes.

The whole thing includes the statement: "If you have no need for improvement, don't sign the pledge."

Again, this takes an obnoxious tone and puts those of us non-signers in the same bucket as scofflaws. I understand what Shane is trying to do here, but it is ham handed at best. I am starting to regret my CFC donation for 2011. In the meantime, my WABA membership expires on Friday. I am seriously considering not renewing.

Fred, I don't think WABA "believes that it is desirable for cyclists to always come to a full stop at a quiet stop sign or never carefully go through a red light when there is no oncoming traffic." I read the resolution as being careful not to say that. Read the resolution. It does not say that "I resolve to always follow all laws."

John, but some people made exactly the case that they don't need the pledge because they don't need to improve. As someone asked 'If one is already riding responsibly, why does one need to sign a petition pledging to ride "more responsibly"' So this is an answer to that. It does not group non-signers. It gives one reason for not signing. Other reasons are given for not signing as well.

It strikes me as a bit like being asked to sign a pledge that I will stop beating my wife.

Well John, it would probably improve your relationship with her if you were to stop :)

The commantary today says "We hear time and time again the perception that WABA should be doing more to ensure that cyclists follow laws and ride safely." I think virtually everyone agrees that WABA should promote safe cyclist behavior; the more controversial part is "cyclists follow[ing] laws". When WABA says there is a perception that cyclists are "scofflaws" what is this based on and what should the cycling community's response be?

Mr WABA pledge writer seems to be missing the point. Everyone could do any activity they engage in better. But a pledge should be to do good and not better. To use the popular example, it's just pledging to beat one's wife less (and at the same time admitting you beat her).

good try, waba.

but not good enough.

i signed the pledge. and i'll be a member of waba even if they start wife beating. we have NO OTHER choice -- waba is it in dc!

and since all pledges (including the one to the flag) are all exercises in social psychology to control the masses or appease the powerful (see M. Foucault, *Discipline and Punish*) i understand why we need the pledge from waba....this culture is pathetic and the leaders absolute cowards. the only force worse is the arrogance and documented stupidity of the larger population. the pledge is pathetic but maybe necessary (Obama had to make sure to keep telling dumb ass americans he was a christian...sarah palin is a best selling auhtor...).

so, even as a signer, i'll will be laughing as i ride through stop signs where there are no cars, and ride through red lights when it's clear, or do *whatever* it takes to stay alive on the car roads...and cry when a car driver throws a bottle at me, or deliberately side swipes me...and the police dont do a damn thing unless im dead.

I am a WABA member and am still on the fence about this pledge.

What I fail to see is why I can't pledge to CONTINUE to be a careful and (mostly) law abiding cyclist? Why must I begin with the presumption that I am bad, and therefore I must do BETTER? Why can't I pledge to recognize the rights of ALL ROAD USERS to the road and behave appropriately and respectfully to all users - whether I am on my bike or in my truck or walking?

And IMHO, running a red light when the road is clear is NOT something you do for your safety (unless you are being followed by a bunch of hoodlums, perhaps?). What is the safety risk of sitting at a light, waiting? I do it frequently and haven't gotten hit by an errant meteorite yet. You run red lights when it is clear because (1) you CAN (although you technically MAY not), and (2) the chance of the light actually "seeing" you and turning green for you are remote so it is more convenient to go. I don't necessarily think red light running as wholly a safety measure.

FWIW, I signed the pledge because a) I can always do better and b) because I think something needs to change to improve both expectations and safety at stop signs.

What I mean by the latter is that, typically, if a car and a bicycle encounter each other at a stop sign in a situation where the car has the right of way, the driver will hesitate to assert her right of way in case the cyclist decides to go first. Cyclists know this and take advantage of it. I've seen them. IMO, it takes self-discipline to _not_ take advantage of this situation. I sometimes do so myself, but only when I've been biking with my head in the clouds.

I want to see this improve and am willing to make more of an effort. And I'm willing to speak up about why I signed the pledge. So I signed.

I certainly agree that WABA does bone-headed stuff (like blathering on about "safety"--a subject than scares people away from riding), but I don't think this pledge is boneheaded at all.

"The scofflaw perception is getting in the way of needed changes, and we need some mechanism to combat it."

Thi is an empirical claim. I think it is false. What is the evidence for this claim? Who's done the studies?

I am aware of the studies in this area...and not aware of any that could defend this cl,aim. So the force of this claim, its generation and sustenance, must be *ideological.* So long as we recognize that it is, and that we still live in social world regulated largely by mysticism, where rarely is it a good reason that changes behavior...Im all for the appeasement and acquiescence WABA pledge represents.

The claim above is kin to: "I follow road rules and wear a helmet, therefore this might effect better treatment of all cyclists by cars, through some sort of generalized reciprocal mechanism of good will and mutual respect."

Wel...yeah, i've heard variants on this, too...and am still waiting for evidence...

Some of you may recall that one of the most robust findings on bicycle safety is that is you want to be better noticed and respected on the car roads, either be a shapely blonde female...or ride with a long blonde wig blowing in the wind...

Another dimension to this question concerns the particular community in which WABA is operating.

The approach that some of WABA's harshest critics (e.g. Richard Layman and Oboe) seem to be advocating may have some merit for Arlington and parts of the DC. But it would be quite counterproductive in Prince Georges County.

On a typical ride through my area on streets, the total number of bicycles I see will generally be less than the number of drivers who indicate some displeasure with my riding (usually my position in the center of the road), though I stop at all red lights. I conclude that the number of people hostile to cyclists on the road is greater than the number of cyclists.

People who attend citizen association meetings are supportive of better bike infrastructure, but they also tweak me each time about cyclists failing to obey traffic laws. Most often, I hear complaints about cyclists running red lights and passing cars with little clearance only to take the lane, which strikes these drivers as queue jumping.

Driver annoyance clearly leads to driving that places a cyclist more at risk. Scofflaw cycling is but one of many factors that contribute to this situation, the lack of driver education and unsupportive government agencies being more significant. But these drivers are far more aware of scofflaw cycling than of their own lack of comprehension or roadway deficiencies. (No one seems to care about stop signs.)

Scofflaw cycling in combination with lack of education has left us with a situation in which people just assume that when something goes wrong, it is the cyclists fault, which further reinforces the assumptions of scofflaw cycling.

Something has to change in this equation--at least for PG. Maybe in DC cyclists are on the cusp of being a large enough voting block that political success can come from strength. And most traffic in DC is below 35 mph anyway. But out in PG, we need the drivers to like us--both so that they will drive more safely around us, and so that there will be political support for further improvements--including allowing their children to bike to school and the creation of safe roads for doing so.

If you think that this perception is a problem, it seems to me that the choices are either for a straightforward advocacy for increased law enforcement (for both scofflaw cycling and scofflaw motoring) or a call for volunatary forbearance. WABA picked the more moderate of the two options--I'm unclear whether calls for more enforcement would have annoyed people more or less.

So I think we have here
1. Some people who doubt either the premise that the perception of scofflaw impedes progress.

2. Some people who concede that point but think there is a better approach than the pledge.

3. Some people who think the pledge idea is ok but would have drafted it differently.

Balancing all these views to move forward has to be a challenge for WABA. I am sure that they will do their best to factor all of your concerns into their thinking.

The biggest problem in PG County is the distance scale you have to deal with. A lot of the activity centers are more than a 3 mile distance from where people live.

Are there enough "town centers" -- areas of 3 mile diameter -- where you can work to capture a significant number of bicyclists.

I don't know the county well enough other than the Rte. 1 corridor, which I figure has the best opportunity for bike trip capture anyway.

I'd say Langley Park/U Blvd. would too, but there are grade and distance issues there that are quite significant.

I'd focus there. I can't say, even though I lived in Mt. Rainier for about 18 months or so, that I have enough experience in the rest of the county.

People might complain in PG about scofflaw bicyclists but it's hardly a problem compared to motor vehicle lawbreaking, topography, and distance.

WRT to being a harsh critic, in "DC", that's my self-appointed role. I am a critic, not a cheerleader. I'd argue that there aren't enough good critics, so my role is an important one, even if it is misunderstood and underappreciated.

wrt to 1 and 3 mile zones, maybe you can get the PG-MNCPPC to do some mapping like I had done for Baltimore County

- 1 mile -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/4378811289/ and this covers most of the defined urban part of the county
- 3 mile -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/4378811287/in/photostream/

and what MC-MNCPPC did for me and Casey Anderson, for a presentation we did in Montgomery County.

- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/5298453668/

These maps show how to map comparable areas in PG County with the opportunity for bike trip capture.

Note I'd be happy to do a modified version of my best practice suburban bike planning presentation in PG County anytime... (Maybe Casey Anderson would be willing to do his bike commuting opportunity presentation as well.)

oboe and richard layman are right on.

as for the car traffic laws -- that made me laugh!!! are car traffic laws not being enforced now acceptable? is the usa such a piece of shit culture that laws are only hoped for rules? (in PG county I see signs that read "Please Obey the Speed Limit" -- since when is obedience to LAW a matter of choice?..ha ha ha -- pathetic!!!)

do we ALL turn a blind eye toward enforcement of car laws because they CANT be enforced?...because we've so disinvested in this culture across the board?...why have laws at all?... this whole line of thinking and practice is so stupid is doesn't bear critical comment. this is what happens in a monoculture!!: gridlock, paralysis, stupidity...less fun, less creation, less civil behavior, less community.

as for PG county: if you like having a high quality of life -- MOVE. the stupidity of the "development" there is truly astounding. simply ASTOUNDINGLY STUPID. it will be decades, maybe a century, before it becomes civilized. been to Bowie lately?...wow -- wealthy, highly credentialized "sucessful" black people, having learned nothing from their white counterparts in Loudon or Prince William Counties in VA, driving german cars to gated "communities"...along race track roads...usually sitting in traffic...to shop at big box stores and park in MASSIVE asphalt lots, where they can buy products from China. Pathetic.

I cannot say that I am surprised at the negative reaction that the WABA pledge has provoked among some of the commenters here, but I do think it mainly misses the point. When WABA goes to a hostile DOT or police commander and says, "Hey, when are you going to start doing something about the drivers who are putting the lives of bicyclists at risk?," we often get a response like, "When are you guys going to do something about all of the bicyclists who are riding around like maniacs?" It goes only so far to point out that (1) very few cyclists are riding in manner that poses any significant danger and (2) to the extent that they are, they are generally a hazard only to themselves. All the resolution does from an advocacy perspective is to allow WABA to say, "We have done everything we can reasonably be expected to do to encourage bicyclists to ride safely and with consideration for others. Now when are you going to do everything you can reasonably be expected to do to stop drivers from killing us?" Does this guarantee that people in a position of authority will respond by cracking down on drivers who run cyclists off the road, build safer roads and bicycling facilities, etc.? No, but it removes one excuse that our interlocutors use to avoid engaging us on the real issues that make bicycling more dangerous than it ought to be. And what does it cost us? Nothing -- and it certainly does not imply any moral equivalence between the transgressions of motorists (which can and do kill pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists on a daily basis) and cyclists who roll through stop signs.

Even after a month of more abuse than normal from drivers and peds while obeying traffic laws, I have to agree with Casey, we have seen much improvement with relationship between Park staff and Park Police in Mo.Co. as we have been working the past few years to not only curb the scofflaw drivers and peds but also the scofflaw cyclists. The difficulty with WABA’s statement is to insure that this is NOT taken as an admission that only cyclists are at fault. The truth of the matter is that drivers, peds and cyclists are all scofflaws. Sadly the concept of only cyclists being scofflaws is being used to bully us off the roads and trails.

Again this is after sitting in meeting listing to people complain about bicycles, ignoring their groups own errors, being yelled at to slow down on a clear trail after announcing the pass, honked at by driver while doing the post speed limit, out of the blue discussions with people on “why do you cyclist ride on x, y and z trails/roads when there are better roads/trails.” Then there was even the car honking for me to get out of the way as I was slowing to signal and then come to a complete stop at a stop sign. The difficulty is cyclists are harassed whether we obey the laws or not. Their goal is to force cyclist to stop riding on roads and trails.

But, due to the involvement of cyclists working to deal with all types of scofflaw road and trail users I have seen Police dealing evenly with trail and road users and not just focusing on the cyclists. While there is a strong push to remove all but beginner cyclists from the Capital Crescent trail, Park Police have been dealing with issues on the trail in a much more objective method the past few years. At the same time when they were warning cyclists who ran stop lights on Beach drive, around the corner was a speed trap. There is no doubt that cyclists have benefited from being the first to take a more objective view of dealing with the problems on the roads and the trails.

And with that said, it time for me to go ride :)

@Richard: I sent an email to the address on your web site about your offer to engage in PG. No offense intended by referring to you as a "critic" of the WABA initiative, that was just mena as a shorthand reference to the ideas put forth by people on the blog who have been critical of the initiative.

@Mike. The high fraction of black folks in the county has resulted largely from white flight and the corollary reluctance of whites to move into neighborhoods with a large fraction of blacks, not the stupidity of blacks being unable to learn the lessons already taught.
While the cul-de-sac collector sort of road design is problematic, the new developments have through connections--or at least leave room for a through connection to a planned trail. Much of the connectivity problems in the outer developed areas result from preservation of stream valleys and lack of funding for completing trails. But in the denser areas the large problem is not with the largely irreversible subdivision decisions, but with the mentality of the State High Administration and county Department of Public Works and Transportation. SHA supports cycling, but does not want to correct the effects of eliminating shoulders for third travel lanes. DPWT manages roads that are not bad for cycling, but generally opposes bikes being on the road.

Changing the culture of the highway departments requires political support. That support is undermined when cyclists annoy a significant fraction of the public, whether by scofflaw cycling or legal cycling that drivers wrongly assume to be illegal. There are many ways to improve that perception, and alternative approaches for doing so are much more interesting than explanations for why someone else's approach will not work.

WRT this point:

SHA supports cycling, but does not want to correct the effects of eliminating shoulders for third travel lanes.

It's not that they don't want to necessarily, it's just that in order to do so, they have to buy land (right of way) and "widen the road." It's very expensive.

That was the biggest lesson I learned maybe, working in Baltimore County, about the difficulties having to buy ROW poses for bike infrastructure.

I kept promoting doing a program comparable to Seattle's Bridging the Gap initiative...

I once suggested to Washcycle to do a happy hour/meet and greet with the SHA district representatives who cover Montgomery and PG Counties. I still think it would be a good idea.

Actually I agree with both Casey and Jim that bicyclists shouldn't be scofflaws.

The problem I have is with the Idaho Stop (which, when I was a bike planner, I never mentioned because of the political environment there).

And with the failure of the roads/transpo/elected officials to acknowledge the rampant lawbreaking by motor vehicle drivers.

And with the failure to acknowledge that motor vehicles, because they are heavier and faster, are much more dangerous and should be required to take more responsibility vis-a-vis road safety and care.

So this pledge seems one way to me, even though it's necessary, I suppose.

That's why I wrote a blog post of my own, laying out a much more complete road safety agenda. I would be much more comfortable signing a bicyclists pledge in that context, especially one that laid out the facts on vehicular violations of traffic safety laws.

Bicycling is not a crime.


you write: “@Mike. The high fraction of black folks in the county has resulted largely from white flight and the corollary reluctance of whites to move into neighborhoods with a large fraction of blacks, not the stupidity of blacks being unable to learn the lessons already taught.”

So, we have a dominant african american population regardless of how they got there...and SHA that needs a “culture change,”...and a built environment that is a transportation disaster, an ecological disaster, is UGLY, and contributes to things getting worse, not better. But the folks that live in this area are not to blame? ThenWHO the hell is to blame?...

Liberals – you just cant seem to call a spade a spade. The population is too STUPID in PG; just as it is in Herndon or Springfield or Fairfax or. Leesburg...

You write:

“Changing the culture of the highway departments requires political support. That support is undermined when cyclists annoy a significant fraction of the public, whether by scofflaw cycling or legal cycling that drivers wrongly assume to be illegal.”

Interesting: Do you have anything more than a common sense exhortation to back this claim up? Im not aware of any evidence....

“There are many ways to improve that perception, and alternative approaches for doing so are much more interesting than explanations for why someone else's approach will not work.”

Did you learn this is third grade?: that you cant press a criticism unless you have a solution?

Of course youre right...but trivially so...and in the end, we’re all dead, too. HOW LONG and HOW MANY resources are worth wasting in areas that are simply too far gone to be worth rehabilitating? I grew up in Miami, Florida, and just got back from a week there, with my bike, as always. It could have been a tropical paradise. As it stands now, it’s a shit hole across the board. It cannot be saved. Walk away. Let them have their cars and their malls and their ugly, worthless TV lives... Jim, come to DC and help advocacy efforts here. And walk away from PG county...

Mike -- read _The Future Once Happened Here_. The book is about the decline of cities, focused on DC, NYC, and LA. It was published in the late 1990s. The problems in PG now are true, related to the change in the political leadership. But the antecedents are the same as those in places like DC. Also see for insight, although again it's about DC, _Between Justice and Beauty_.

PG's political leadership issues lag DC's. There's a reason it's called Ward 9. Note that Leslie Johnson was an administrative judge in DC Government for 20+ years.

I pledge to write short comments.

These logical (mostly) comments have no place in a PR discussion. The pledge is a PR tactic. It might work, it might not. I don't think it will because average drivers don't know the law, so to them all cyclists look scofflaw no matter what we do or say. Hopefully WABA has a Plan B.

Good for WABA.

It is really an amazing symptom of the state of affairs that a pledge to "do better" would irritate so many people so much. Whether you are doing well or poorly, you should *want* to do better... unless you believe that there is nothing you can or should do to change for the better, in which case I would suggest that you take a good, long hard look at yourself.

I understand that there are many other issues facing cyclists, and I agree that many of them are equally, if not more, urgent. But clearly the strategy of refusing to address *this* issue and refusing to examine our behavior in an honest way is failing.

@Richard Laymen

"SHA supports cycling, but does not want to correct the effects of eliminating shoulders for third travel lanes."

It's not that they don't want to necessarily, it's just that in order to do so, they have to buy land (right of way) and "widen the road." It's very expensive.

I agree that not owning a large enough right of way can be a barrier to making the road wider. The alternative is to convert the third lane back to the shoulder that it once was. SHA's failure to do that unless it is a Pareto improvement is the source of my original comment.

Consider MD-450 inside the beltway. M-NCPPC has requested road diet here. Here the locality wants fewer travel lanes on a roadway used almost exclusively by its own residents, to bring back the shoulders and put in a sidewalk.

SHA ofen makes cycling worse to accommodate motor vehicles, but not the reverse. That bias has its basis in politics, not engineering.

@Mike. Thank you for your kind invitation. As you might imagine, Prince Georges is my home, and while I can respect those who vote with their feet, I am more inclined to stay and push for improvements.

Hopefully, this nagging has slowed the deterioration, and may one day improve, the state highways that Mr. Washcycle uses in his reverse commute.

Regarding the evidence of scofflaw cycling adversely affecting advocacy:

1. People like Shane, Casey, and others at WABA are in a position to know when perceptions are impairing their success. These are smart people who also know how to listen. So if they say it's a limitation, then that--by itself--would be good enough for me.
2. My own direct experience, as I mentioned, is similar. At civic meetings where various causes are taken up, people are not saying "thank you for taking one car off the road" but instead always want to insert an anecdote about an inconsiderate cyclist.
3. During the 2010 session of the General Assembly, the House Environmental Matters Committee had the 3-foot bill, which was clean. The subcommittee Chairman inserted a provision that would negate the requirement if the cyclist road in an unpredictable fashion. Where did that come from? Wreckless driving would negate it without that provision. Why would the Chairman insert superfluous language about irresponsible cycling? Then, as the bill went to the floor, there was a final amendment creating a narrow highway exception. A delegate explained that this was added out of the concern that cyclists would inconsiderately become moving roadblocks. So the entire 3-foot protection is possibly negated for the the narrow roads where it is needed the most, because a few legislators assumed that otherwise cyclists would be rude. Unlike the first exception, that exception is substantive.

I guessed where you were seeking answers and where you were just being funny, if I failed to answer something you wanted answered, please advise. We could also have a conversation on the origins of PG land use but that seems more like a topic for GGW.

I was going to write a detailed post about why WABA should not be the one in charge of doing something about all of the bicyclists who are riding around like "maniacs". I was also going to compose a long winded response to the fact I've been told five times in the past month to get into the bike lane. I was looking for fuel for the fire at WABA's website and I came across the about section of the website.

"WABA's Mission

The mission of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is to create a healthy, more livable region by promoting bicycling for fun, fitness, and affordable transportation; advocating for better bicycling conditions and transportation choices for a healthier environment, and educating children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling."

It does not say that bikes are always right. It does not say that cars suck. It stresses safety. While safety means different things to different people WABA has tried to cultivate their own meaning that translates to a very broad audience. I personally know people that work at WABA that don't agree with everything WABA does but WABA could not get any credibility by encouraging us to do what we will all do anyway. No one is perfect. If they need an olive branch to show that they are not connected to the people who don't come to a complete stop and "scare" drivers then let them do what they need to so they can present themselves as champions of bicycles as safe transportation. If you don't like it then resign your membership or even better become an active voice inside WABA for the change you feel is a better direction.

I have issue with some of what WABA has done and is about. I disagree with bike lanes, I think that it creates an us and them mentality. I have been treated much worse being on a bike since the bike lanes have come to fruition. The police have even told me to move to the bike lane so I won't block traffic. It's like WABA has adopted a separate but equal stance to many things they have rallied for. I feel like I belong on the road as much as a car does and WABA has shown cars that we don't belong with them we belong next to them. I will say bike lanes are perceived as safer to many bikers who would not ride in the street and that has brought many more people to the two wheel fold who would still be taking the metro. I still think it was a short sighted fix to a much bigger problem.

As much as I hate to say it WABA does way more good then bad. There are some things I agree with and some I don't. I joined WABA because I felt that they were doing good things and they still are but somethings I strongly disagree with them. I have come to the thought that I did not really read the fine print when I signed up and for now I will still be a member because it's better to have a large voice that yells when bikes are oppressed. I disagree with what that voice says sometimes but until I'm ready to start my own organisation or takeover WABA then they are doing better then I can do by myself. If you don't like the pledge, don't sign it, but it is in line with what WABA is about.

Hmm, as a somewhat objective planner, it'd be hard to justify taking a lane of roadway likely serving upwards of 1,000 vehicles/hour for bike lanes serving under 100 bicyclists/hour.

I'd focus in the areas where people are likely to bike. Rt. 450 in Bladensburg does make sense, for bike lanes or a cycletrack ideally, from the junction with Landover Road, to Bladensburg Road to the DC line...

P.S. Scott, with regard to vehicular bicycling, the reality is despite 30+ years of John Forrester's railing about it, bicycling takeup hasn't increased significantly. "Separate but equal" makes sense when you compare the weight and speed differences between cars and bicyclists.

I don't think that bike lanes make vehicular drivers treat bikers worse. At least that hasn't been my sense and experience. It's all about privilege and entitlement of the driver, bike lanes and markings notwithstanding.

SHA's priority is moving traffic even if it indangers peds and cyclists. I ask an SHA PR person why there is not a crosswalk on the West side of the 97, 28 where people cross on a regular basis and was told that it would slow down traffic to much if the crosswalks were put in.

Brendan writes:

"These logical (mostly) comments have no place in a PR discussion. The pledge is a PR tactic. It might work, it might not."

Interestingly, there is some scientific evidence that one way to get people to *do* something is to encourage them to *advocate* it. This creates cognitive dissonance. See for instance:


I agree with Brendan that the pledge is a PR tactic, and indeed, I have no problem with PR tactics. My problem is with poorly-handled PR tactic, and that's the problem here - the pledge, and the statements accompanying the pledge, concede a point (that there are cyclists who behave badly -duh!) without using the pledge as an opportunity for educationing non-cyclists (for instance, what you sometimes see as illegal is, in fact, not just legal but a safety tactic on the part of the cyclist).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Banner design by creativecouchdesigns.com

City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


 Subscribe in a reader