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Washington DC refuses to say bike lanes are child safe – as bike lobby claims “play space”




Some of the most progressive actions on installing arbitrary bike lanes amidst the opposition of property and store owners is happening in Washington, DC. An active and well connected bike lobby group and a well connected citizens advocacy group have routine encounters. As in most cases, it is not the issue of bike lanes, but the inappropriate placement of them in terms of safety and common sense.

The DC Safe Streets Coalition meets by ZOOM every Saturday morning to address the issue and to interact with other cities impacted by identical bike lobby efforts. They followed the Rhode Island case of the experiment to put bike lanes on East Side’s Hope Street where homeowners and store owners opposed. Their last effort was to present a Petition to Mayor Brett Smiley to assure that the bike lane project doesn’t return, but goes to a more suitable and common sense location. The Hope Street Merchants Association members are now advocating for sidewalk repairs and recently received funding to enhance various physical features.

The bike lobby as gone to the lengths of creating a sound-alike advocacy effort, called the DC Families for Safe Streets, complete with its own website.

DC officials continue to refuse to say Protected Bike Lanes are safe for children, while an aggressive bike lobby pushes parents to lay claim to the streets of the city as playgrounds for minors in their charge. 

Other authorities however are not so diffident when it comes to child safety on city streets. “Generally, children under the age of ten often haven’t developed enough spatial awareness to ride safely on the road with cars and other bikes,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Toddlers do not have the height, visual cues, attention span or response and risk assessment. . .

At a recent public meeting with residents on 5th St. NW, Director Everett Lott of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), refused to respond to the question, “Are the city’s Protected Bike lanes (PBLs) safe for children?” Urged on by a powerful bike lobby on social media, one parent showed up with his child’s bike asserting that he uses Protected Bike Lanes, or PBLs to “teach his children how to ride their bikes.”

According to the DC Safe Streets Coalition, “Last week, in a brazen display of entitlement, a city official lead her toddler son on a six-mile jaunt through the treacherous network of city bike lanes, including the one on Pennsylvania Ave, shown here. Documented on her Twitter account, she recklessly turned dangerous city streets into a playground, risking the safety of a minor and other users of city streets.”

The DC Safe Streets Coalition: a united effort across all DC neighborhoods to save our communities impacted by reckless and dangerous DDOT Bike Plans, particularly when unsupported by studies in the planning process.