Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Had a Blast at J.O. Wilson Elementary

My colleagues at WTOP held a book drive and this morning, we took our books and a team of staffers to read to the kids and distribute books.

The kids were great, and my reading partner and WTOP staffer Nathan Hager ( you hear him anchor, report, and field your Talk Back calls) knocked it outta the park with his fabulous rendition of the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

And afterwards, the kids rewarded us with lovely thank-you cards. I read over them back at the station. Thanks kids! I think we had twice as much fun as they did!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parking Space: What's it Worth to You?

Montgomery County's considering boosting the price of a parking space: from .50 to .60 cents in Silver Spring, from .65 to .75 cents an hour in Bethesda. Monthly passes would cost more, and Saturday night dinners in Bethesda would cost a bit more too, because you'd pay to park from 7pm to 10pm, whereas right now the parking's free after 7pm.

Listen to WTOP Wed morning to get a feel for where Council members Marc Elrich and Craig Rice are on the's the segment from Council member Craig Rice:

Your thoughts? How does the price of parking affect your decisions about where to go, when to go, and how long to spend in an area? Is Council member Rice correct? Would you say "heck with that parking fee, I'm taking Metro!" or does it make a Ride On bus look more attractive? Or are you the type to say, "They can take my car away when they pry the steering wheel from.." well, you know.

I know as a kid living in the NY suburbs, there was no question: you didn't drive into NYC  if you didn't have to; finding a parking space was impossible, finding a space where your car wouldn't get jacked up was impossible, and who wanted to drive home after a night out? Trains made it easier, no question about it.

I don't own a car now, so getting around on my bike poses a different set of questions: where am I going, am I going shopping and do I expect to carry home more than what I can fit in my panniers? Instead of quarters, I pack bike locks, etc.

But when heading out on assignments in the WTOP news vehicle, you bet I think about parking. I need to get in and out fast, I need to allow for news conferences that could go long, or breaking news that might pull me from my original assignment. And my bosses are not about to foot the bill for a reporter who ditches a vehicle in a no-parking zone, or racks up tickets for exceeding the time limits in a spot, so yes, parking fees and regulations influence how I move about during the day. So what about you?

"It's cosmically absurd!"

...that's how Maryland Delegate Luiz Simmons has described Maryland's current vehicular manslaughter laws that allow drivers to "just stroke a check" after causing a fatal wreck. The "cosmically absurd" phrase is Simmons', the "stroke a check" quote is one that comes from AAA MidAtlantic's Lon Anderson, who, last year in Annapolis gave an impassioned, emotional account of a number of fatal crashes.

And this year, AAA MidAtlantic and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association teamed up to go before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to push for passage of House Bill 363, a bill that would toughen the laws against vehicular manslaughter. The law would make it possible for judges to impose jail time and a fine.

Lon Anderson and WABA's Shane Farthing joined members of families who've lost loved ones to fatal wrecks to offer testimony to members of the Senate Committee. The bill made it out of the House Judiciary Committee, a major milestone according to proponents who point out the bill has stalled there year after year.

You can see the Maryland General Assembly's summary of the bill here:

The offense would still be: a misdemeanor.

MIA: Yes, That Was Me, Missing In Action..

So I owe everyone who's taken a look at this blog and here is my way of trying to atone for my foray into slackerdom: With one last, long final salute to the Winter Weather Warriors--those hardy souls who showed the rest of us that yes, Virginia (and DC!) you CAN bike through the winter, and survive! Not only survive, but thrive!*

First, overall Winter Weather Warrior Contest winner Robert Solorzano rocked it with his come-from-behind win to overtake Mystery Man Michael Hurley who was cruising all over DC in the first month of the contest, stunning us all with his number of trips-taken. Solorzano, with Vida Senior Centers, is a 50-something cyclist who simply loves getting around by bike. (He's also a veteran of a cross-country bike ride who is very matter-of-fact about his accomplishments.)

He gives us some insight into his Winter Weather Warrior-Worthiness here:

and here:

But I also emailed some of the contestants, and here's what they shared:

This from contestant Scott Maberry:

Why did you do it?
       It appealed to me on several levels: One, the contest aspect of
it appealed to my competitive nature. Two, the chance to be part of
the bike sharing revolution is appealing. I sense that bike sharing is
the future of urban transportation in this country, and it's a
privilege to be involved in an event that I hope will spread the word.

What was the best thing about it? Personally, the best thing about the
contest was getting to know DC and Arlington from a new angle.
Everything looks different from street level. We live in a
breathtakingly beautiful city, even in Winter. It is also way more
geographically diverse than I would have known from traveling mostly
by car, bus, and subway.

What was your best ride? For the contest, the best ride is between two
stations roughly 5 minutes apart, with little traffic and good views.
For that, my throwdown winner is the ride from Station 14 (19th &
Pennsylvania Avenue NW) to Station 83 (New York Avenue and 15th Street
NW), and back, right across the front of the White House.  I recommend
this ride for anyone. You'll see many interesting sights and overhear
many hilarious conversations among the tourists, wonks, protesters,
bureaucrats, lawyers, students, homeless, Secret Service, Park Police,
jugglers, gigglers, groupies, rabble, and hangers-on. It is just a
great ride 24 hours a day. I must have ridden it about 60 times since
January 1. If I get my way, there will be a mini-contest in next
year's WWW for most rides along this route. You could call the contest
"Obamaphile," or "Secret Service Person of Interest."

For sheer fun-house terror (and, it must be said, abusiveness to the
very sturdy CaBi bike) my favorite was the ride from Georgetown
University to the C&O Canal station using the steep cobbled portion of
35th Street from Prospect down to M Street NW. This is not far from
the steps where they filmed the death of the priest in The Exorcist.
By the time you get to the bottom of the hill, you're ready to repent.

Worst Ride? They were all good.  The worse the weather, the better for
WWW, since most other riders would be deterred and the hard-core
competitors would get double credit.

The hardest climb for me is from Station 67 (Pennsylvania Avenue and
Minnesota Avenue SE) to Station 34 (Naylor Road and Good Hope Road
SE). I'd like to see a contest for this segment also (call it the
"Tour de Anacostia, Col Naylor stage:" Prize to the fastest time up
the hill). You would also give a little prize for completing the
entire Tour de Anacostia: all 11 stations East of the Anacostia.

Another very hard climb is from the station at Harvard Street and
Adams Mill Rd. NW to 16th and Harvard NW.

(As an aside, I proposed to godcgo that a special prize be given to
anyone who rode all 114 stations in the system. I thought I'd be a
lock for that award, thinking that I'd be the only one goofy enough to
try it. I've since met or heard about several riders who were doing
it, and I heard a rumor that one competitor did it twice.).

Are the bikes a good investment? Well, my annual membership cost $50
(I think they're $75 now) and I estimate it has saved me $200 in taxi
fares since October. So I think they're a spectacular investment. But
if you're a bike enthusiast, you're going to have to get used to the
styling, the weight, and the fact that the bikes are somewhat
under-geared. It would be nice if the bikes were all Stump-Jumpers,
Kleins, and Treks. But they've gotta be built for endurance and abuse.
And we're lucky most of our streets are flat, so these bikes are just

Would you ride them year round? You mean even without the staggering
prize money and endorsement checks that I'm now drowning in? Yes!

What's the car/bike interaction been like and what do you suggest to
improve it? Generally the interaction with drivers has been very good.
DC drivers have become more alert over the last couple years. This is
partly due to the Fenty administration's obsessive attention to
painting bike lanes. Also, I am very convinced that Capital Bikeshare
has contributed to a dramatic increase in ridership by regular bike
owners -- while riding for WWW I met lots of riders who said "wow, I
should ride my bike more." And you see it: The 15th street bike lanes
are packed during rush hours. It's beautiful. So this also contributes
to fewer cars on the street and more awareness by the drivers out

One complaint I've heard a few times is that some folks have decided
the nicely segregated bike lanes make really good car parking spaces.
In fact, I had a little collision with a sideview mirror trying to
dodge a delivery van parked in the 15th street bike lane a few weeks
ago. I think the Washington Area Bicyclists Association is onto this
issue -- I saw some of them out last weekend raising awareness of the

Anything else you want to throw at me.

I'd like to mention that the Capital Bikeshare technicians are
amazing. These men and women are out there repairing, wrangling, and
rearranging these bikes at all times in all weather. On the WWW rides
I met them dozens of times, and every single one of them was polite,
kind, and a pleasure to talk to. They do a great job. Not a single
bike I rode (and I rode nearly 1000 rides in WWW) was poorly
maintained. And the only station malfunction I encountered was
actually repaired the day after I reported it.

Here's what WWW Meghan Gordon shared:

Why the contest: I signed up last fall and started using it about once a week to get to work. The winter contest motivated me to get out there every day, despite the sometimes-brutal windchill.

Best thing: I treated it like a winter gym membership. I hate working out inside, but I also didn't want to ride my road bike through the salty, slushy streets. The Bikeshare contest motivated me to ride an hour some nights after work and several hours on the weekends.

Best ride: I spent a lot of sunny (but cold) weekend mornings riding all over the city. It gave me an excuse to explore neighborhoods and try new coffee shops and brunch spots.

Worst ride: Without a doubt, one uberly slushy morning. Snow was expected later in the day, so I wanted to get in a ride before work. Sleet drenched me from above, and road goo somehow managed to escape the fenders and spray in every direction from below.

Good investment: Yep. I signed up for a $50 membership last fall. It paid for itself within a few weeks, when compared with the Metro fares I saved. After that, it's all lagniappe.

Ride all year? Yes, other than during the dead of summer. If I'm going to have to bring a change of clothes and shower when I get to work, I'd rather just ride my road bike.

Car/bike interaction: I think the system's biggest potential is its power to improve car/bike relations. 1) The heavy bikes force me to slow down. You can't bike aggressively on those things. Surely that will diffuse situations. (Then again, there's little a biker can do to win over rude drivers who, for instance, try to sideswipe you to make the point that you should ride on the sidewalk.) 2) The big, goofy cruisers hopefully make urban biking appear more accessible for some drivers -- especially when they see me pass them in the bike lane while they sit in a long line of traffic. Same goes for the platform pedals, fenders and chain guard making it possible to wear work clothes when commuting -- skirts and heels, instead of Spandex and bike shoes.

From GirlOnABike DC

-Why did I do it? I needed a challenge. I'm always looking for new ways to push myself and incorporate cycling in my life. Also, I wanted to get my money's worth with my CaBi membership. I have my own bikes to use, so I wasn't using CaBi that often. During the WWW contest, I used it every day.

-The best thing about it was that it forced me to head out and ride everyday. There were plenty of times when I wanted nothing more than to stay warm & glued to my couch. However, once I hopped on that CaBi bike and got some fresh, cold air into my lungs I was happy that I was on the bike. I wouldn't have had that feeling otherwise. Plus, I had to get creative with how to incorporate CaBi into my life besides just commuting to/from work. For instance, I rode CaBi from my residence in Columbia Heights to the DC Armory for a couple of DC Rollergirl bouts. Totally worth it, and I probably wouldn't have done that otherwise.

-I think my best ride was the first time I took CaBi to the Rollergirl bout at the Armory. I was in a bad mood when I started out, but by the time I arrived I was feeling so much better and had an awesome time.

-My worst ride was when there was a bad storm in DC. I was just leaving from an appointment at DC Superior Court and it had been raining outside. The weather forecast said it was going to turn to snow later that evening, so I figured I could get a ride in before that. After all, what's a little rain, right? I'm not made of sugar. Well, a few minutes after I got on the CaBi, the rain turned into hail. Big chunks of hurty hail. Did I mention I was not dressed for the weather at all? I was wearing dressy clothes because of my appointment. By the time I reached U street, my face felt like it had been scratched off by the hail, my hair was frozen and I just wanted to get someplace warm & dry that did not have chunks of ice falling on me. I dropped the CaBi off at the U Street station at 10th St and walked over to my pal's Irish pub and called for a ride home :-/

-I think they are an excellent investment and I would ride them year long. Even though I have a couple of bikes of my own, there have been times that CaBi has come in handy. For example, yesterday I had to drop one of my bikes off at the shop for an annual tune-up. I was able to use CaBi to get back home. Also, when the weather is really crappy and I don't feel like getting my bike all muddy, I just use CaBi. I find its quicker/more fun that a cab, metro or the bus.

-Overall, I have a positive experience when it comes to car/bike interaction. Yes, I've met my share of impatient, rude drivers. But I also meet impatient/rude cyclists everyday too. I've also met many kind & courteous people that took their time passing me or let me have the right of way.

First, don't you love your bike-riding buddies? Read over those emails and see if you don't see both a sense of fun, a spirit of adventure, and what geezers like me often worry is missing these days, a sense of civic engagement? And no hateration either; no "Cars stink! We hate them!" Just a 'Hey, I'm out here enjoying my city up close and personal, and isn't that great" theme, which I think goes a long way towards making our roads and sidewalks better, safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

Let's keep the momentum on this in terms of boosting the bike presence on the roads--in a positive way--and seeing if we can't help drivers see cyclists as fellow travelers and not impediments to their travels.  I have to say, as I was riding my bike to the Tidal Basin to take in the beauty that is the Cherry Blossom Festival, I was made happy to note folks on a tour bus waving to cyclists--seemed they felt that along with cherry blossoms, cyclists on these beautiful DC avenues are part of the scenery.

*OK, and I suppose I get to claim Winter Weather Warrior status: I managed to get perfect attendance, even though on Jan 26th, by the time I got to the bike share station near my home, it had shut down due to that horrific weather. The hard-core me says, "Hey, if you'd gotten out of bed early to get that ride in that morning, you would have achieved truly perfect attendance" but the nice folks at Capital Bike share forgive me my tendency to get a workout in after-hours...and granted me Perfect Attendance status because with the exception of that glitch, I made it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Big Non-Bike News Week...

 ...For me, but a big Bike News Week ahead for well, for bikes and people who love them.

Check out the agenda for the National Bike Summit this coming week here in DC. 

Heck, it's even going to be a big news week for people who hate people who love bikes. That's because the policies and brainstorming and networking that happens at conferences like will no doubt have some impact on what happens in communities working on the bike-pedestrian-transit-auto balance.

Sunday I'll post audio from the week so you can see what I've been up to on the clock at WTOP. I don't know that I'll get a chance to cover the Bike Summit, it would be fun to check it out, but some of the same big issues that kept us busy at WTOP will likely continue to be, well, big issues next week too.

I'm trying to get my bike mileage up, and Sunday's going to be my best bet. To ride, and to get soaking wet. Any favorite tips for riding in rain? I've got the GoreTex ready to rock and roll, but I'm curious...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Winter Weather Warrior...A Look Back

It's over. The Winter Weather Warrior Contest has officially closed. And I'm dying to talk to Michael Hurley. He's the guy who, as of February 20th, had logged 782--count 'em--782 trips on a Capital Bikeshare Bike. My question to Mr. Hurley: do you have a job? If so, how did you manage to log all those trips? 

There's plenty of speculation out there that somehow you gamed the system. I'm not that cynical...really. And I'm not bitter. Honest. 

I knew that my only chance of making any mark at all in this contest would be in the 'Perfect Attendance' Category. Even that achievement on my part is debatable. Those who followed me on this adventure will note I missed out on the snowstorm of January 26th. By the time I got back to my neighborhood, the bikes had been taken out of commission. While technically the terms of the contest allow me to claim Perfect Attendance, that little glitch does leave me feeling like I was close, but not really perfect in my attendance. 

Still, what I liked best about this contest is how it pushed me to ride no matter what.  I found no matter the time pressures, I could always squeeze in one teeny ride, just enough to keep me in the running for perfect attendance. 

And I found that although I have bikes of my own, these come in handy. A trip to NYC for example is made easier (and more affordable) when I find I can simply hop a bike to Union Station, and make my out of town train. No need to wait for Metro, no need to pay for a cab. And it allows me to get some fresh air before being in a hermetically sealed rail car for hours. 

So will I keep riding each day no matter what? It's become a bit of a habit, but I feel like my own bikes are feeling neglected and unloved. So I'll be mixing it up a bit more, but it has helped me get up and out even on those days when it would have been easy to skip the saddle time. 

But seriously, Michael Hurley, get in touch with me, and tell me; how did you pull that off?