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View Full Version : Does riding on Jan 23rd make you a jackball?



Raymo853
01-23-2016, 04:23 PM
If you went out riding today on the roads, Sat Jan 23 2016, can it be argued you are acting a bit self centered? All the local authorities have asked cars not to travel. I also heard DC's mayor asked pedestrians to stay inside as snow plows commonly report having problems with people in the street. Are we wrong to do this? Most of us be consider bikes to be legal vehicles, and it seems we should not just get the privileges but the restrictions as well.

dkel
01-23-2016, 05:21 PM
The Falls Church City Po-po came by and told my kids to stop sledding on our street because the plows need to get through. I wondered if going for a ride was a bad idea, civically speaking, but I only saw plows in the distance while I was out, so I know I didn't hold them up. I was as vigilant as possible looking over my shoulder frequently and being prepared to hoist the bike off into a drift. There were several streets in my neighborhood that hadn't seen a plow when I was out, so I think the plows are spreading themselves pretty thin at the moment. Either that means I was less likely to see a plow on my route, or I was more likely to see a plow on my route because I was only on the few streets that they were plowing.

TL;DR—A vigilant rider wouldn't be a problem for the plows.

lordofthemark
01-23-2016, 05:27 PM
From my perch on the 12th floor, I can say that their have been quite a few people driving, and surely not all were essential employees going to work. Also loads of people walking their dogs and other walkers as well. As long as people know how to stay out of the way appopriately, I think it is fine. Getting exercise and avoiding cabin fever seem like benefits, to me.

When and if travel is banned (as NYC did) then of course that should apply to cycling as well.

I mean it is not like so many people are biking today that it is an issue. More of a novelty I think. Again, as long as you can do so safely, and not add to say, the demand for emergency services.

PotomacCyclist
01-23-2016, 05:45 PM
I wouldn't recommend it for the most part. Especially when the wind starts whipping up. There are 7-ft snow banks along some streets. With the poor visibility, odds are pretty good that a plow driver wouldn't see a cyclist.

Rod Smith
01-23-2016, 05:54 PM
Guilty as charged, but I didn't get stuck in the middle of the road, blocking the plows. The plows could pass me when we encountered each other going in opposite directions. I wasn't in the way like a car would have been.

vern
01-23-2016, 07:38 PM
If only a plow had come through my neighborhood.

DismalScientist
01-23-2016, 08:00 PM
How stupid does the government think we are? You can hear a plow a mile off. Then again, there were complaints in the city about pedestrians not getting out of the way of plows and slowing plowing efforts... Just use common sense.

PotomacCyclist
01-23-2016, 08:08 PM
Not always. I walked around (on the sidewalks) for a little bit. When that wind is howling, you're not going to hear the plows.

As for people not getting out of the way of plows, I can believe it. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists engage in this passive-aggressive behavior even on non-blizzard days (such as when pedestrians will jaywalk and step into oncoming 40 mph traffic and expect drivers to slam on the brakes, which I've actually seen happen several times). Was there an official ban on private traffic today in the DC area? If not, I'm not sure what the government has to do with it. I think it's smart to advise people to avoid non-emergency trips on days like today. I saw several people walking in the middle of streets and roads. When a lot of people do that, that will definitely slow down plowing operations by a significant amount.

dasgeh
01-23-2016, 08:25 PM
I think the big difference with driving is that cars are getting stuck and/or sliding into things and damaging the things. Either is bad. Neither applies to a bike.

KLizotte
01-23-2016, 08:38 PM
A friend of mine has been plowing for NPS nonstop the past couple of days and has said that drivers, cyclists, and peds have been getting in his way and occasionally acting stupid. Keep in mind that the folks driving the plows have been working virtually none stop for a couple of days now and are really, really tired. They don't want to have to deal with an accident or worse.

vvill
01-23-2016, 08:39 PM
The Falls Church City Po-po came by and told my kids to stop sledding on our street because the plows need to get through. I wondered if going for a ride was a bad idea, civically speaking, but I only saw plows in the distance while I was out, so I know I didn't hold them up. I was as vigilant as possible looking over my shoulder frequently and being prepared to hoist the bike off into a drift. There were several streets in my neighborhood that hadn't seen a plow when I was out, so I think the plows are spreading themselves pretty thin at the moment. Either that means I was less likely to see a plow on my route, or I was more likely to see a plow on my route because I was only on the few streets that they were plowing.

TL;DR—A vigilant rider wouldn't be a problem for the plows.

This. I pulled way over every time I saw/heard one. And I talked to one driver from my pulled over position as he pased, who was very friendly and laughed at my choice of... activity.

I did see one non-service motor vehicle out. An old Chevy truck I've seen before on my neighbourhood rides. I also pulled way off for it, and it sped by at about 10mph over a reasonable speed in the conditions, same as he always does.

I also saw two XC skiers, a bunch of dog walkers and a snow shoe guy. Most of them were also in the middle of the road - winter biking in these conditions is much more like this than vehicular transportation.

cvcalhoun
01-23-2016, 08:44 PM
On our street, it wouldn't have mattered. No snow plows have yet been by.

More generally, I think there are two differences between bikes and motor vehicles


Bicyclists can hear the snow plow coming, and get out of its way. It's just not that hard to drag a bike up onto the sidewalk (or over the curb, even if there is no sidewalk), and keep it there until the snow plow has finished.
If a bicycle goes out of control, only the bicyclist is likely to get hurt. It won't crash into parked cars or injure pedestrians.

If you're not willing or able to get the bike out of the way of snow plows, then you shouldn't be biking. But if you are, I can't see the harm.

Tania
01-23-2016, 09:01 PM
I'm with klizotte. Give the plow drivers a break. I was out this am after they came through my neighborhood and was able to get my mile in before they came back.

And with a hat and my ski helmet with ear flaps plus the wind, there's no way I'd hear them until they were close.

KWL
01-23-2016, 09:05 PM
A couple of photos from my ride. An entitled driver stopped sideways in the street while two guys cleared the snow off the car. A cyclist stopped off the road to allow a snow plow to go straight through rather than force the driver to go around.

PotomacCyclist
01-24-2016, 11:21 AM
On our street, it wouldn't have mattered. No snow plows have yet been by.

More generally, I think there are two differences between bikes and motor vehicles


Bicyclists can hear the snow plow coming, and get out of its way. It's just not that hard to drag a bike up onto the sidewalk (or over the curb, even if there is no sidewalk), and keep it there until the snow plow has finished.
If a bicycle goes out of control, only the bicyclist is likely to get hurt. It won't crash into parked cars or injure pedestrians.

If you're not willing or able to get the bike out of the way of snow plows, then you shouldn't be biking. But if you are, I can't see the harm.

It wouldn't have been possible to drag a bike onto the sidewalk yesterday, at least on the roads in Pentagon City and Crystal City. As I mentioned earlier, the initial snowplow runs pushed the early snow onto the sides of the streets, creating snowbanks from 2 to 7 feet high. Even where there weren't any artificial snowbanks, the rest of the curbs were buried under 10-20 inches of snow. There's no way any cyclist is going to be able to move onto the sidewalk quickly in those conditions.

In the mid-afternoon, when a new storm wave rolled in, the wind was whipping around the snow. Visibility was extremely poor. I was walking on the sidewalk for a couple brief periods. I don't think I would have heard a snowplow with all that wind hitting my face and creating a roar. All the sounds would have blended together. If I would have been riding, I would have been focused on maintaining my balance and I would have been distracted by the sound of the wind and all those ice pellets hitting my face.

These are a few photos of the conditions, taken while I was walking around on the nearby sidewalks (not in the street). I really don't think it would have been safe for anyone to have been biking or driving yesterday. When I was walking around, I only saw one driver (other than the snowplows) and one cyclist (who later returned down the street with his dog on a leash).

10604

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Rod Smith
01-24-2016, 03:11 PM
YAY! I won the jackball award! 34 miles!

I got in the way of plows many times. I don't think the drivers cared. It didn't stop them from keeping every street in Brentwood rideable all night and all day long. No one else was using the roads so I assumed they were doing it for me. Hey if the plow drivers got an extra 10 minutes of overtime pay because of me that's my way of rewarding them for the awesome job they did!

cvcalhoun
01-24-2016, 06:01 PM
It wouldn't have been possible to drag a bike onto the sidewalk yesterday, at least on the roads in Pentagon City and Crystal City. As I mentioned earlier, the initial snowplow runs pushed the early snow onto the sides of the streets, creating snowbanks from 2 to 7 feet high. Even where there weren't any artificial snowbanks, the rest of the curbs were buried under 10-20 inches of snow. There's no way any cyclist is going to be able to move onto the sidewalk quickly in those conditions.

In the mid-afternoon, when a new storm wave rolled in, the wind was whipping around the snow. Visibility was extremely poor. I was walking on the sidewalk for a couple brief periods. I don't think I would have heard a snowplow with all that wind hitting my face and creating a roar. All the sounds would have blended together. If I would have been riding, I would have been focused on maintaining my balance and I would have been distracted by the sound of the wind and all those ice pellets hitting my face.

These are a few photos of the conditions, taken while I was walking around on the nearby sidewalks (not in the street). I really don't think it would have been safe for anyone to have been biking or driving yesterday. When I was walking around, I only saw one driver (other than the snowplows) and one cyclist (who later returned down the street with his dog on a leash).

10604

10605

10606

Perhaps my view was skewed by the fact the plows never came at all yesterday. So if one had come, there wouldn't have been a lot of extra snow on the curb to prevent dragging a bicycle up there. (The snow that fell was soft and light enough that it have been possible to drag a bike through it.)

PotomacCyclist
01-25-2016, 11:54 AM
YAY! I won the jackball award! 34 miles!

I got in the way of plows many times. I don't think the drivers cared. It didn't stop them from keeping every street in Brentwood rideable all night and all day long. No one else was using the roads so I assumed they were doing it for me. Hey if the plow drivers got an extra 10 minutes of overtime pay because of me that's my way of rewarding them for the awesome job they did!

I think it would have been a different story if there were a lot of cyclists or car drivers out there though. If they had to slow down 10 minutes each time for dozens of drivers or riders, that would have been a problem. Fortunately there didn't seem to be too many on the roads during the worst of the storm.

I know this is probably not the most popular sentiment here, but there are still a lot of streets for the snowplow drivers to cover. If there had been a lot of minor delays, that could have combined into significant delays for the overall snow removal operation.

Rod Smith
01-25-2016, 12:16 PM
Brentwood is a special case. Blizzards are not emergencies here.

dkel
01-25-2016, 12:31 PM
Brentwood is a special case. Blizzards are not emergencies here.

Neither in Falls Church City, where our street (a small side street) was plowed many times during the storm. Some side streets and cross streets were left unplowed for longer periods, but generally speaking, the streets in the neighborhood were maintained well, and the many pedestrians out during the storm seemed not to impact the plowing effort at all. A blanket statement that venturing from one's house was an irresponsible thing to do is unwarranted.

PotomacCyclist
01-25-2016, 01:00 PM
If people in every neighborhood were walking in the street during the storm, then yes, that would have slowed down plowing operations significantly. Even if a blanket statement doesn't quite fit every particular situation, the general statement and recommendations from officials were the smart choice. (As for the anti-gov't folks, there were no official bans so the "nanny state" complaints are not relevant here.) A blanket statement that walking/driving/biking in the streets during the storm was not wise or helpful was warranted. People could decide if they felt the recommendation didn't apply to their particular neighborhood. But if that happened in most neighborhoods, then the plows would have been slowed down a lot.

Pentagon City has major commuter/arterial streets as well as a large residential population. If a lot of people were walking in the streets, that would have hampered the snowplow drivers. The high snowbanks would have also made intersections hazardous, especially during the many hours when the snow was blowing around at 20-25 mph. I didn't see the Orange Line corridor or Columbia Pike this weekend, but those are similar situations: arterial and important commuter roads and large numbers of residents nearby. Same thing in other areas in Arlington, DC and other suburbs. Perhaps not in every neighborhood of every suburb or in DC, but enough where a general recommendation to stay off the streets made a lot of sense. It still makes sense today when so many roads, bikeshare stations and parking lots are still covered in snow.

The situation has improved. Some of the road lanes and sidewalks here now appear to be completely clear of snow, although not all road lanes are cleared. But the bikeshare stations are still buried and unusable. I suspect that is the case for most of the bike stations in the region. It's sunny out but I see relatively few people walking or driving. (Maybe there are more on some other blocks.)

I might head out again today but I will stay on the sidewalks except when I'm crossing in crosswalks. I don't think I'll bike today because I don't want all that snow, slush and salt to cover up the bike, and CaBi is still out of service. Plus there are still snowplows passing by and there's no way to get out of their way, not with the 2 to 7-ft high snowbanks lining most of the roads here.

I'm not confident that CaBi will be available tomorrow either, because many of the stations will still be buried in snow. CaBi doesn't have that many employees. Unless they get help from local transportation and snow-clearing departments or volunteers, I don't see how they can get all of the stations clear by tomorrow. Maybe not even on Wednesday. I've thought about helping to clear a nearby station but that's not practical. I don't have a shovel. (I live in a building, so I'm not individually responsible for clearing the sidewalk. All of the nearby sidewalks already seem to be cleared down to the concrete anyway. They were running snowblowers throughout the weekend.) There's also a horizontal stretch of snow out to five feet away from the bike station. So I would have to shovel a 50 or 60 square foot area to make the station usable. And I would have to carry that snow about 20 feet if I don't want to dump all that snow onto the road lane. Plus that entire bank appears to be at least 2 feet high because of the snowplow runs. And I would have to dodge the passing snowplows to do any of this. As much as I'd like to help, it probably wouldn't be a good idea at this point. (But maybe if I work from the sidewalk side. I can't clear that entire area, but maybe I could clear a bit from the area immediately next to the station.)

NOTE - The word used in the thread title was not mine, nor would it be my choice. I don't think people who rode were "jackballs" or even "jerks." But I do think it was best to recommend that people not ride or drive or walk in the streets over the weekend. I think that recommendation still applies today.

DismalScientist
01-25-2016, 01:13 PM
I could lie down and take a nap in the middle of the street in fonnt of my house and can feel quite confident that I won't get run over until February.

mstone
01-25-2016, 01:20 PM
In my mind the question would be, "if I got into trouble, would I end up needing to call the overloaded emergency services for assistance?"

dkel
01-25-2016, 04:37 PM
People could decide if they felt the recommendation didn't apply to their particular neighborhood.

But not without lots of admonitions and finger-wagging from some. :rolleyes: