Bicycles are Not Cars: Girl on a Bike on #BikeDC Speaks

We’re back for the final installment of the #BikeDC Speaks series.

If you ride in the D.C. area and do any blog reading or tweeting, you have probably heard of Girl on a Bike, aka Kate. A regular commuter and excellent blogger, Kate regularly participates in a lot of local #BikeDC events. I’m thrilled that she agreed to guest post for #BikeDC Speaks. Thank you, Girl on a Bike!

I’d also like to thank everyone who participated in this series of posts. #BikeDC Speaks featured 8 local cyclists, six women and two men. Some contributors began commuting regularly within the last year or two and others have commuted for several years.

I hope to do a little aggregation of the themes discussed by each contributor and share these in later posts down the road. In the meantime, please enjoy Kate’s post. I know that I did!

Girl on a Bike and friends

1. How long have you been riding in the D.C. area?

I have been riding regularly now for about 5 or 6 years. I first got the idea that I needed a bicycle on September 11, 2001. I distinctly remember how screwed people were that were on foot, on metro or in cars. Bikes are definitely the way to go in a major disaster/zombie attack.

It took me another few years before I got brave enough to ride my bike “in traffic” (and I remember how chuffed I was for riding an entire 5 blocks IN THE STREET OMG). Haven’t looked back since.

2. What sorts of things do you do by bike?

Anything and everything! Shopping, commuting, visiting friends, exploring new places.

3. What do you like about bicycling in D.C.?

D.C. is such an amazing city and traveling through and around it by bicycle gives me a completely different perspective, whether it’s a slow tootle along the Mall watching the tourists and monuments or riding along D.C.’s many trails. I’ve discovered so many new things (canal lock houses!) and places (the Capital Crescent Trail) that I never knew about before I started riding a bike.

4. What are the challenges of bicycling here?

DC is an urban area, and that means getting along with people from all different backgrounds and experiences, many of whom have different ideas about cycling and what is “correct” and “safe.” We all need to share the same spaces together and that can get difficult with so many people.

5. What parts of the city do you consider bike-friendly and why?

That’s a difficult question for me to answer because the majority of my biking has been in the Northwest quadrant, and very little in the others. There are many bike lanes and shops and bike share stations. I would consider Northwest fairly friendly.

6. What could the District do to make it an even better city for cyclists?

Stop trying to force cyclists to be cars. Seriously, stop it. This “cyclists share the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles” is ridiculous.

My bicycle is not a car. Cars are not bicycles. To lump them together and hold them to the same standard is unfair and ineffective. Cyclists need their own sets of public safety laws and expectations-and not just as an after-thought to the D.C. Municipal Regulations for motor vehicles. Revamp the existing codes and give cyclists their own road rules.

7. Any thoughts about Capital BikeShare?

I love Capital Bikeshare! I have five of my own bikes, but CaBi has come in handy plenty of times- specifically when I’ve just dropped off a bike at the shop and I need a ride home.

I love convincing my skeptical out-of-town guests to just try it, and then seeing the look of joy on their faces when they realize how much more fun it is to bike around DC.

8. What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?

Everyone is out to kill you, but don’t take it personally. Just kidding!

Cycling is a very safe activity and we all have the same goal: to get from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible, whether on foot, bike, or car (or those awful rollerblades and segways).

9. What advice do you have about cycling in the city?

It’s fun and safer than you might think.

10. What is a word or phrase that summarizes your D.C. bicycling experience?

Freedom.

11. What did I not ask about #BikeDC that you want to add?

Cycling can open so many doors. I didn’t even consider going to a Nats game until I realized they had a bike valet at the stadium. Now I’m a huge fan.

I’ve discovered so many things about this city that I never knew about by riding my bike (I got a pretty thorough D.C. history lesson one year from a fellow rider at BikeDC.) I got engaged at a canal lock house because of a bike trip my fiancé and I took along the towpath. Biking is awesome!

Such a rich post, Kate. I love what you have to say about bicycles needing their own set of rules on the road as well as how bicycling can help a person discover the city.

Have a question for Kate? Note it in the comments!

12 thoughts on “Bicycles are Not Cars: Girl on a Bike on #BikeDC Speaks”

  1. Thanks for a fun series highlighting different perspectives. I enjoyed Kate’s view but disagree about having a different set of rules for bicycles. The great advantage of stating that bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles is that it allows me to ride on (virtually) any road in the country. Once we have a different set of rules it’s very easy to say: “bicyclists must only on roads with bike lanes” or something similar.

    I believe that if you build the right infrastructure then people will naturally gravitate to the better routes. Treating bikes and cares differently, even if well intentioned, will eventually leave riders with the short end of the stick.

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  2. bikes are not cars! yes! thank you! if i wanted to act like a car on my bike and follow all the car rules, i would be in a car. but i’m not, so i need rules for me. this is why i sometimes jump red lights and don’t make a complete stop for stop signs.

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  3. I also disagree with a ‘whole new set of laws/rules’ for bikes; but, there should be a few more exceptions…. Mainly, what’s needed is MORE EMPHASIS on what’s already in place; before licenses are just doled out, as it seems they often are, PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW AND RESPECT THE LAWS AND RULES OF THE ROAD. They are NOT open to situational parsing or opinion, and what a person BELIEVES is right and proper on the road is meaningless. (I personally tire of the drivers who insist I’m supposed to ride ‘on the right edge of the road’, or get out of their way like it’s THEIR road…. Today, my hopes that things were settling was dashed, as — during the return trip from escorting my daughter to school — I was close-passed by two female drivers who couldn’t have cared less about my safety OR my life. This, in a town with a pro-cycling mayor….)

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  4. Would love to explore this “bikes are not cars” theme more. What sorts of changes should we propose? How do we document it and sell it our policy makers? I agree, but I’m not sure where to start.

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  5. I’ve still got my questions in the “Starred” folder of my gmail account, so if it’s not too late to be the final installment, I’ll hustle on getting them to you!

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  6. It is remarkable that Girl on a Bike is so positive about cycling in the city. Not too long ago she was intentionally hit by a car. She pressed charges and saw the case through to the end. Maybe she’d like to forget it but by going through the legal process she stood up for all of us who ride in the city.

    I agree that the vehicle code needs to be tweaked. If all cars moved at the speed of bicycles, we could get rid of most of the stop lights and stop signs in the city. That means that these traffic control devices are there primarily to control cars. The Idaho stop makes a tremendous amount of sense, in this context.

    Driver training is pretty awful (I live in Northern Virginia and have just been through the process with two teenagers). I attended classes and the licensing ceremony in court. Bicycles and pedestrians were never mentioned. It is as if they don’t exist. And new, teenage drivers view them as inferior. That has to change.

    Great post. Thanks, M.G. and K.C.

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  7. Beautiful commentary, Kate! To echo the many comments above, I thoroughly agree with you re: #6. It occurred to me when I first started biking that cyclists are kind of stuck in the “betweens” of the road…riding between the speed of pedestrians and cars, often riding between lanes, being governed by laws between pedestrians and cars (we can follow the pedestrian signal on bike lanes, but the car signal in car lanes?)….it’s very frustrating. No wonder there’s so much ambiguity and confusion…

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