Snow Route

Photo by Jeanne Welsh

As a recent transplant from the Midwest, I’m used to worse road conditions than we’ve seen today; I’ve driven myself through inches of snow as it falls, melts, and refreezes.  So I was surprised when I learned after I moved here that “the whole city practically shuts down when it snows”.

Even spurious rumors are founded in some truth; I do remember newsmedia portraying DC as slowed to a halt in previous years snowfall.  And although I have yet to confirm what the roads are like for drivers, those of us who rely on public transportation appear to be mostly unaffected by the snowfall, save for a minute or two delays on some bus routes.

This may owe in fact to some of the preparations on the part of WMATA, which include:

  • 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat Metro roadways
  • 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer
  • 71 tractors, 70 pick up trucks, 18 larger trucks, five dump trucks with plows, 96 snow brooms, and 122 snow blowers to remove snow

Not to mention the de-icing equipment employed by MetroRail, which appears to have no delays expected for the remainder of the evening rush hour.  And given that there appear to be no service alerts for metro riders, its fair to call today a success for WMATA.

As for getting to those Metro stops on foot, pedestrians are advised as always to watch your step.  Or at least have fun seeing your footprint in the snow on the sidewalk for once.

Transfers

Once again DC has survived the human onslaught, here to celebrate democracy’s richest tradition of the peaceful transfer of power. Yes Inauguration Day has passed, providing a thorough test of both public transit and the patience of drivers stranded to pedestrian traffic downtown.

All the more remarkable given the fact that last week’s record setting Metro ridership was only a 25% increase over the average daily ridership, meaning many fellow residents (or at least the ones I have talked to) stayed home for Inauguration.  Meanwhile another transfer, in public transportation, has been taking place; since January 4th paper transfers have been eliminated.

Those of you using SmartTrip cards by default may not have noticed the transition at all, since rail and bus to bus transfers were already being discounted.  But metro riders who pay cash need yet more exact change without these paper slips for discounted fares.  So far the changes in the transfer system seem to have generated little debate online, but for those living on the other side of the digital divide who are more likely to be reliant on public transportation this has surely been a significant change.

Feel free to share your stories of paper transfers and bus fares since the switch in the comments.

Are the streets ready?

A.) For those looking to get into cycling accross town, here is a good summary of DC bike rides:

B.) For those who are already seasoned veterans of biking in DC metro, or for those training for it on the weekends, this service might help.  By comparing routes you might find a safer route, or if you use the new iPhone app to record your trip’s route and pace, you will be healthier for it. 

Or at least you’ll have something to brag about in a Twitter message for us lollygagging pedastrians waiting for for bus in the cold.  MapMyRide is available for FREE.

Sleep in, and Stand up Saturday

It was only 10 days ago we were dancing in the streets in DC, and so it’s understandable you might still be sleeping in on the weekend in recovery from this little thing called the ELECTION.  But if we knew then what we know now, that several states passed laws restricting the rights of homosexuals, we might be willing to wake up early and keep working for change.

This weekend you can still sleep in, then stand up in support of your neighbors.  We’ll be joining cities accross the nation in our protest, which will take place at 1:30 pm on the National Mall.  

It’s literally the least you can do – wake up late and have some fun while making a difference.

Google Street View in DC!

street viewAfter a long wait, Google’s Street View feature in Google Maps is finally available in DC.  As of last Tuesday (election day!), area residents are now able to view DC at eye-level.  Just like they would see things at eye-level, whether you’re a pedestrian, on bikes, or in vehicles.

What does Google Street View mean?  If you’ve ever looked for an address that doesn’t match your directions, or if you feel lost in a city because the address doesn’t match the crowded mess on a block, this tool will help you visualize that business or residence in a more natural way.  And with 360 degree views, and a panorama every 25 feet, plus the ability to zoom in, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding turn by turn directions.  Combine this with Google’s Transit finder or Walking directions, and the urban nomad finally has the means to find their way around DC.

Better yet, street view has been released for many cellphones: Blackberry, Google phone, and iPhone (coming soon) users will be able to find whatever they’re looking for in the newest version of Google’s map apps.  Download the latest version, and find that storefront from your own perspective (instead of merely top down).

Night Rider

Last week I wrote about the dangers at every intersection.  Cyclists can tell you that they’re most vulnerable when making turns and crossing intersections.  Following basic traffic rules can help, but that isn’t always enough to keep you safe.  This is even more true at night – you can wear bright clothes and use lights to increase visibility.

Down Low Glow is one more way to increase visibility.  Good cyclists wear blinkies on the front and back of their bikes to help drivers see them, but these do not provide visibility where it can count the most – through intersections.  And while they might look like you are trying to Trick your Trike, you’ll have the last laugh if it helps you stay alive.

Of Ghost Bikes and Blind Spots

On the morning of July 8th 2008, cyclist Alice Swanson was fatally struck by a truck on her commute to work.  A memorial in the form of a Ghost Bike was recently erected on the westbound corner of R Street and 20th Street, where the truck made a right turn in front of the cyclist riding in their bike lane.  On a weekend you can see the monument for yourself on foot, or you might pass it by on your bike in Monday morning like so many others who commute on R street everyday.

Like so many others in DC, I have already had my fair share of close calls with car drivers.  I have also had close calls with cyclists in the crosswalk and on the sidewalk.  In DC you cannot wait on a corner, but at least a few feet back for the wide turns of a bus.  Drivers will not necessarily yield in the crosswalk even when they have a red light at a right turn.

Everyone – drivers, cyclists, workers – is a pedestrian once they exit their vehicle.  Since wearing a helmet would not suffice for Alice Swanson, you’re on your own across town.  Perhaps the best protection is knowledge – please take a short refresher course on the rules that keep us all safe.