After shooting interviews (and getting kicked out by the NPS) at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, I biked back up towards the office, finding a bit of a traffic flow situation near the White House. With the west side sidewalk closed, pedestrians were routinely deciding to walk up and down 15th St NW in the bike lanes, rather than walk across the street to walk more safely on the sidewalk. This should surprise no one, since (1) most folks don’t care about bikes, bikers, and bike lanes, and (2) last summer’s closed sidewalks on Madison in front of the American History Museum demonstrated the same behavior, bike lanes or no.
A few of the highlights from the video are a biker telling people they’re in the way, another biker opting to pedal up 15th in traffic, moving to re-enter the bike lane, and then deciding against it (right around the :50 mark), a pedicabber looking to enter the bike lane coming down and then seeing that’s not going to happen, a girl taking a photo standing in the middle of the bike lane and not paying attention, two bikeshare riders weaving around pedestrians, segways blocking half the lane, and a father and son biking up the street and getting separated with the father drops an envelope (I left that in because I thought it was funny for some reason).
The most striking thing about this happened just after my camera battery died. I had planned to ride up and down the lane while filming, asking folks to move and see if they responded. Instead, I started to head up the street and was passed by a DC Police on a bike who weaved around folks going down the street and then stopped to converse with Secret Service policeman with the name badge “Brutus E. M.”. First, I said “don’t you think you should do something about all these folks walking in the bike lane?” and his response was a laugh. One of my biggest pet peeves, besides the term “pet peeve”, is when people either laugh or give the huff at a question they obviously don’t want to answer. So, I asked him again.
BRUTUS: Be logical. What can we do to stop them?
ME: Shouldn’t you post something that the sidewalk is closed and folks should cross the street?
BRUTUS: We’ve done that, but people are going to do whatever.
ME: You haven’t posted anything, it’s just police taped off. There’s no explanation.
BRUTUS: Be logical. That’s not going to work.
ME: Isn’t this an unsafe situation? Isn’t this lane for bikes?
BRUTUS: You enter at your own risk.
ME: I don’t understand. I enter the bike lane at my own risk? Isn’t it supposed to be for bikes?
BRUTUS: It’s for anyone.
ME: I could drive a car through here, then?
BRUTUS: No, of course not. But you have to be reasonable.
ME: It’s an unsafe situation to have all these people in the street blocking these lanes.
BRUTUS: They’re not breaking the law, they can do that if they like.
So, why have bike lanes in the first place? No one’s asking for these folks to be arrested, only for there to be a little smarter monitoring of a situation where someone could cause a traffic accident.