Opinion Your Views — 21 August 2014
Motorists searching for parking are the real danger, not cyclists

By Chris Hubbard, Alexandria

To the editor:

I think the rational response to the August 7 letter (“We must stop the ‘cycling anarchy’”) regarding “cycling anarchy” is a question of priorities.

I have never heard of a pedestrian in Old Town getting hit by a bicycle, but I have heard of cyclists, joggers and pedestrians getting hit by cars, including my wife, who was walking in a crosswalk near City Hall. We also have experienced many close calls while walking our kids to school.

I have seen many cars fail to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Others go through them without slowing down at all.

There also is the distinction between rolling through stop signs when no cars or pedestrians are present or in the lane of travel versus when they are present or in the lane of travel. I don’t think I need to explain which of the two is more dangerous, the 2,000- to 4,000-pound motor vehicle or bicycle weighing a couple of hundred pounds (including the rider). And which can avoid pedestrians easier, the wide-bodied car or the narrow bicycle?

It seems to me that we should first deal with the more dangerous automobile anarchy. This anarchy is driven by the city’s poor planning for parking and will be exacerbated by a spike in motor vehicle traffic with the coming increased density along the waterfront.

The city is not up to the industry standard of best practices relative to parking planning and this endangers — bordering on negligence — pedestrians, joggers and drivers as well as cyclists while motorists are cruising for free parking rather than looking at the crosswalks or the road. The person that hit my wife admitted she was looking for parking.

The best practice, where there is a well-connected Metro station, is to provide metered parking near the commercial areas and price it above the garage rate (of course, residents would be exempt). That encourages drivers to go right to the garages rather than cruise for free parking.

This solves another problem, which is inadequate parking at busy times like Friday nights when residents can’t find any parking spots. Free parking attracts more cars than transit riders and when you charge for parking, you get more transit riders than cars.

And, of course, idling, stopping and starting and cruising around in cars increases air pollution, stress and poses serious health risks. In a pedestrian and bicycle oriented place like Old Town, I would encourage the author of that letter to stop cruising and — as first lady Michelle Obama says — get moving, either as a pedestrian or on a bike.

 

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(3) Readers Comments

  1. More delusions of moneyed transit users fully replacing car passengers if we would just hammer drivers financially. The driving experience can’t get worse in Old Town, yet cars still abound. That’s because transit is and always will be a very imperfect substitute.

  2. I agree cyclists aren’t the problem, but I don’t think parking is the issue at all. It may be an inconvenience to locals (seriously, you can afford OT in a part where parking is an issue then cry me a bleeping river), but it’s never going to be ideal with the courthouse, city hall, etc all located right there. It’s always going to be a highly visited town, especially by tourists.

    Encouraging visitors to use other methods of transportation is probably the easiest route. Eg, outward advertising pointing out that you can rent a CaBi and go from the DC monuments to ANC to OT for a few dollars (presuming they’re slow riders on a crowded MVT). Or that there is a free King St Shuttle from Metro (it would probably help if the shuttle went faster than a walking pace). Or that there is a water taxi.

    The last one I think will become particularly important once the casino opens across the river. People who don’t want to stay in National Harbor will naturally look either to the hotel/motel emporium on Rt 1 or to OT for those with more money in their pockets. Better be prepared to avoid them driving nonstop.

  3. San Francisco just implemented smart parking meters to adjust pricing based on demand. The goal is to have one open space per block to reduce the number of drivers circling for spots. It is widely popular and would be an ideal solution for a similarly compact grid such as Old Town or Del Ray.

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