Getting motorists to slow down is a challenge that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has willingly accepted as a legacy without much nudging from the bicycle lobby.
In fact, generally speaking, the bike lobby has its way because former Mayor Adrian Fenty, a cyclist and triathlete, opened the door wide.
He and Miss Bowser wink when the directors of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and Environment, and the Department of Motor Vehicles practically do as they please in order to please those who support alternatives to driving.
Miss Bowser punched the bike lobby’s card on June 1, 2020, announcing her administration’s intention to lower the default city’s speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph.
The city also created the “Slow Streets” initiative on behalf of cyclists who advocated for additional and broader bikeways for social distancing protocols.
The Bowser administration is at it again. This time the mayor rightly flanks her new anti-motorist initiative with public safety programs, but still leaves the bike lobby in a position to give her two thumbs-up for cycling reprieves.
As the mayor explained Tuesday in her anti-motorist announcement: “The work to make our roads and sidewalks safer is urgent. In addition to accelerating safety improvement projects citywide, residents deserve a faster process for having dangerous conditions on our roads and sidewalks addressed. We can and will move faster, and implementing a streamlined, less bureaucratic process is the first step in making that happen.”
The mayor plans to target 100 intersections that are part of the city’s “high-crash, high-injury corridors,” which means these “corridors” are hardly bike-free, bus-free, scooter-free zones.
The drive-slower tactics, including the lower speed limits, includes installing speed bumps, stops signs, right-turn restrictions and lengthier pedestrian intervals.
Interestingly, Transportation Director Everett Lott swatted motorists, saying: “We’re increasing workloads and streamlining processes to finish our safety improvement projects quicker, and we’re also doing what we can to deter the reckless driver behavior that causes these senseless tragedies to begin with.”
Hmm. Mr. Lott knows better. He knows not all vehicular accidents are caused by reckless or even deliberate driver behavior. Some motorists lose control of their vehicles because of illness.
And not to fault cyclists, but do they ever cause any public safety problems or break the law?
Do cyclists, for example, bike while on their cellphones?
Bike through a red light? On the sidewalk? Obstructing pedestrian traffic?
This might sound minuscule, too, but just think about this for a moment: D.C. vehicle owners directly contribute hundreds of dollars a year to the city’s economy just to own their car, park their car and buy gasoline. The city doesn’t legislate bikes along similar lines.
The bike lobby has developed a large boot print in the nation’s capital, and it’s showing no signs of shrinking. But public policy needs to buckle up and stop bending over backward for grown folk who ride bicycles just because they, well, ride bicycles.
If City Hall isn’t careful, the bike lobby will be cutting you out of teaching your kid or grandkid how to ride a bike.
Oh, right. The D.C. bike lobby already does that.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]