A Bicycle Friendly City?

The League of American Bicyclists of which I am a member has named Alexandria Virginia a sliver level bicycle friendly city. About once a week, I see an example of how far Alexandria has to go to move up to gold status. I occasionally see evidence that they should be considered for demotion to bronze level status.

This week, Alexandria police have beefed up their enforcement of stop signs and red lights for bicyclists. This happens once or twice a year. One might think that this is intended to bring an end to the bicycle related carnage on the streets of the Port City. One would be wrong. So far as I know there hasn’t been an increase in bicycle crashes in Alexandria. A few years ago I had an email exchange with an Alexandria cop who is also a cyclist. He explained that non-cycling residents of Old Town crab about cyclists all the time so the city throws them a bone once in a while by harassing cyclists. (One year they called it an educational campaign.)

Of course, cars that run red lights and stop signs actually DO cause harm but you won’t see the Porsches and BMW’s of Old Town pulled over in a targeted enforcement campaign. In all my time cycling through Old Town I have seen one car pulled over for a traffic infraction. Jack Webb, phone home.

I am not naive. I see traffic violations every day by both cyclists and cars. They piss me off equally. The traffic laws should be enforced equally.

The crabby residents of Old Town bitch about plane noise (the airport’s been there for over 60 years, get over it) and the tourists (they missed the memo about the Lees and Washingtons and such). On North Union Street they complain that outsiders park across their driveways. Their solution is to park their cars perpendicular to the curb and jutting out into the bike lane. Why they can’t park their cars parallel to the curb in front of their garages is beyond me. If they did, they could still show their disrespect for cyclists by standing in front of their homes and flipping us the bird. 

For the record the BMW is parked like this several nights per week. It’s at 420 North Union. The Porsche is at 406 North Union. When I told Alexandria police about this a few weeks ago, they said they were not aware of it. “I know nothing! Nothing!”

A note to the reader who searched tax records and sent me a comment with the homeowners’s names. I did not approve your comment because I do not know who owns the cars. I did send this blog to Alexandria’s finest via Twitter. I’ll let them sort out the particulars (I will be stunned if they lift a finger.)

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6 thoughts on “A Bicycle Friendly City?

  1. Rootchopper, I too am not a fan of ticketing cyclists for rolling stop signs and red lights when there are far more motor vehicle scofflaws than cyclist scofflaws. But I do believe that to move cycling forward as a culture, we as a “cycling society” must begin to follow the rules. I have run my share of stop signs and rolled a few red lights in Alexandria, but I am doing it less, much less. Stop signs now get a respectable 1-2 mph deference but are unworthy of clipping out unless traffic requires it. Red lights at least provide a 50-50 chance of not needing a stop. And red lights at T-intersections, well, I’m working on those.

    If we all show some effort to follow the law perhaps law enforcement everywhere will do more educating and less ticketing of the remaining cyclist scofflaws.

  2. The deference you refer to is informal at best. I have been stopped for rolling through King and Union in Old Town at a speed so slow I was barely upright. The only person or vehicle near the intersection was the Alexandria cop. I didn’t get a ticket but his five minute lecture was old after 10 seconds. I don’t object to enforcement but it should not be targeted at cyclists. It should be targeted at people who endanger others.
    I agree that cyclists who blow through stop signs do cyclists like you and me no favors but motorists who do the same could kill me.
    There is a big difference between enforcement and harassment. Alexandria routinely crosses the line.

  3. I would laugh and ask for the ticket if I ever get pulled over in OT, particularly in the morning. I regularly ride down Royal St. and in the morning, there is rarely anyone there except when school is in session (they have a cop doing traffic anyway). I will always stop or slow significantly if a vehicle is approaching the stop and yield the correct right of way. And the one spot that’s tough to see around, I will slow down to the point I’m almost falling over.

    The number of cars that routinely break traffic laws in OT would be too numerous to record. Every day I see people rolling through stop signs. But, honestly, I don’t complain if their collective rolling through makes it easier for me to do the same. I’m routinely passed by way less than 2′, let alone the new 3′ law, including once by a cop. I watch people fail to yield to pedestrians all the time at King when it’s busy in the evenings and once had a guy curse me out when I wasn’t on a bike for daring to cross Union in front of him. The HOV is rarely enforced on Abingdon in the right lane and people fly by me simply to be stopped as soon as they cross Slaters because the timing of those lights ALWAYS makes that ramp enter GWMP red.

    But you have given me a mission on my way home tonight. I will go look to see if this cop is doing this and then proceed to point out vehicles violating the law for kicks.

    PS- that BMWer and porsche are obnoxious. I’ve often thought of leaving a note on their cars. Perhaps I’ll type one out tonight pointing out those of nice cyclists don’t hit their cars, but one day someone will be less experienced and they will probably receive a dent that’s no one’s fault but their own for parking in the right of way.

    1. I watched as a cyclists slowed to a crawl and unclipped at each stop sign on Union this morning. It’s idiotic. There’s no traffic except for the Highlander who passed me too closely, exceeded the speed limit, and rolled through the stop signs. It’s not like 3,000 pounds of steel can do anybody on a bike or on foot any harm or anything.
      There was another SUV parked in the bike lane at 408 N. Union this morning. I have sympathy for these people. They probably stress out about getting blocked in their garages by tourists who park across their driveway. Why they don’t just park across their driveways is a mystery.

      1. Exactly, especially in the summer mornings there is like no one on Union. I came across three cars passing me from St. Mary’s all the way clear over to the auto garage by the power plant.

        I suppose it makes sense they’re worried about being parked in, but then I would suggest they put out a cone. I’ll just type a nice note today that says, “Please don’t park in the bicycle lane. We do our best to avoid you, but other motorists don’t anticipate us jutting into what they see as “their lane.” We appreciate your understanding.” Or something along those lines.

      2. Wouldn’t you know that I ride home last night down Union and not a single offender was blocking the bike lane AND no cops checking stop signs.

        This morning I rode up Union. No cops, but the silver Nissan Z was almost halfway into the bike lane. I left a note on the windshield. We’ll see if s/he notices. You’re right that they could easily move up 2 more feet and still block tourists parking in front of them. They just choose to leave a ton of space in front of their collective garages for some reason.

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