New Blog on DC Bike Culture – District Citizen Cycling

‘Eric Hilton, citizen cyclist – perhaps better known as half of DC’s famed electronica duo Thievery Corporation.’ Photo by Bill Crandall

My friend, neighbor and former editor of Petworth News, Bill Crandall, has started a new blog on Citizen Cycling! He explains:

“Citizen Cycling (quickly becoming a global movement) is everyday biking for the rest of us. Bike-as-you-are, hop-on-and-go, in normal clothes (chic if that’s you), totally inclusive, no need for special gear or an alternative lifestyle.

It can mean radically re-thinking how we ride here, figuring out where we’ve gone wrong. In DC, biking tends to be speed and fear over style and joy. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re determined to ride in the midst of traffic, you’re setting yourself up for grief. Why not slow down, stay out of the scrum, take your time, stop for coffee. You’ll show up looking and feeling good, at the price of a few minutes.

Time for Citizen Cycling. A better biking city makes a better city.”

Be sure to check out the blog, District Citizen Cycling.

64 Comment

  • These people are all riding without helmets!!

    Is style really worth your life (or at least the quality of your life after an accident)?

    • Agreed, and this is the biggest reason I don’t bike. I can’t show up at work with helmet hair, nor do I want to risk having my brains splattered onto the street.

      • And here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the reason that the Helmet Nazis like please are killing Americans. Cycling without a helmet is as safe or safer than driving a car with a seat-belt and airbags on the highway, but folks like “please” get such a thrill out of playing the scold, they’ve convinced folks like “curly haired girl” that her very *life* is at stake!!!

        Ridiculous. CHG, please ignore douchebags like the above, go ride your bike, and enjoy life.

        • Since you are throwing out insults, I can confidently say you are an idiot. I know 3 people who would be dead or at the very least vegetables had they not been wearing helmets – helmets that were destroyed after their accidents but which saved their brains from becoming mashed potatoes.

          • Me too.

            And my route would not be very bike-friendly, and I’m not an expert biker, so I think there’s a very very good chance I’d get into an accident at some point.

        • Dr. Pangloss, one of the sickest sounds you’ll ever here is a head smacking asphalt. If you want to be an organ donor all the better!


          Cyclists: please slow down/stop at crosswalks like the cars should (sometimes do). Don’t slalom through kids and old folks.

        • Maybe a head injury resulting from a bicycle accident while not wearing a helmet can explain the incoherent and illogical ramblings of Dr Pangloss.

        • I’m not sure I agree with your logic.

          While driving a car without a seatbelt is perfectly safe, crashing a car without a seatbelt can end in a fatality or serious injury. This is part of risk management – the risk/consequence matrix. While the risk of you crashing your car is fairly low, the consequence is high.

          Numbers cited by this law firm go as follows:

          6M car crashes a year
          40k deaths
          55% of deaths resulted from no seat belt

          With respect to bicycle crashes:

          -Unreported number of accidents a year
          -714 deaths
          -91% of deaths were not wearing helmets

          While you may not be as likely to crash your bike/get hit by a car as you are to get in a traffic accident, the consequence of not wearing a helmet with respect to fatalities is substantial. Anyone who has taken a good enough fall to crack a helmet knows why you should never go without.

    • Please, calm down. It’s not vanity, that’s the knee-jerk response. Some people assess the risk for a slower mode of riding and decide a helmet is not necessary.

      • Bill: That’s like saying you don’t need a seatbelt because you’re just driving a few blocks. It’s a proven fallacy. Unless you are riding your bike exclusively off city streets then riding without a helmet is idiotic, and unless you are fully and completely insured, a drain on the rest of us.

        Pangloss: The sizable amount of douchbagery on display in this city is often riding a bicycle with a trendy messenger bag. HTH.

    • Helmets do not really make things all that much safer. Remember, many more lives would be saved each year if every car driver wore a helmet while driving than if every cyclist riding a bike work a helmet.

  • You do know that he is also Paris Hilton’s cousin, right?

  • For a website that’s interested in broadening the view of cycling, the author spends a lot of words putting down the stereotypical riders – who are, more or less, everyone who doesn’t fit his model of bikes.

    The people I know who just get out and ride, rather than spend time pontificating about how one should ride, seem to be a great deal more tolerant. Most of them fit into several of those categories, and happily so.

    What’s wrong with riding to a meeting in a suit one day, putting on spandex for a triathlon the next, and then just tooling around in the park wearing sandals that evening? Why bring in the nasty identity politics?

    • For the record, everyone should bike the way they want. Just bike. I’m simply trying to promote a kind of riding that doesn’t exist much here, but might get a lot more people on bikes than there are now. Which would make things safer and more fun for everyone.

      • Bill C–I think the hole in your argument is that the US greatly lags behind Europe in creating safe bicycling paths/lanes. Way back in 1995 the CDC noted that head injuries accounted for 62% of bicycle-related deaths and 33% of bicycle-related ER visits. Helmets were found to reduce the risk of bike-related head injuries by 74%-85%. Until I don’t have to share the bike lane with buses and all manner of parked vehicles, I’ll be wearing a helmet.

        • flieswithhoney, good points, yes, of course you are right about the state of affairs here. But it’s getting better, and a way to keep pushing things in the right direction is to get a lot more people on bikes. I think the model I describe has the potential to do that. The model is not about helmet or no helmet, it’s about a way of riding. Yes, we need more separated bike lanes etc (which won’t happen quickly without more bikers to justify it). In the meantime, riding differently is the best way to be safer.

          Not to dismiss your stats, but people seem to have convincing stats on both sides of the argument… So I just try to allow for two sides of the argument :). You’ve made your risk assessment, and I respect that.

        • Helmets were found to reduce the risk of bike-related head injuries by 74%-85%.

          The deadly ones, or just head injuries in general? Or do you know? I’d also point out that folks who ride without helmets tend to be the least skilled, and oftentimes are the drunk cyclists, the ones who ride against traffic, and at night without lights.

          If you don’t want to get injured, don’t get in a collision.

          • Cyclists can’t control vehicles. How should we prevent cars from colliding into us? No matter how slow and safe I ride, a car going 35mph is going to do damage when hits me and I believe I am at less risk for a head injury with if I wear a bike helmet.

          • In 2008, 91% of all bicycle fatalities involved people who did not wear helmets.


          • In 2008, 91% of all bicycle fatalities involved people who did not wear helmets.

            Drunk people, homeless people, immigrants who are riding home from their dishwashing jobs without lights, at 3am are less likely to wear helmets. All you’ve done is prove that folks who don’t wear helmets engage in the type of behavior that will get you killed.

          • Cyclists can’t control vehicles. How should we prevent cars from colliding into us?

            I knew a 70 year old man from Germany who rode his motorcycle in Chicago for 40 years, and had never had an accident. I knew guys in their 20s who got in an accident every other month.

            The things that cars can do to injure you are predictable. Almost all bike-car collisions (not involving children) are the result of a car failing to yield at a stop sign, a right-hook, a left-hook, or being doored. All of these are avoidable with defensive riding techniques.

            Taking a motorcycle riding course, or a vehicular cycling course will do more to keep you safe than wearing a helmet ever will. Having said that, I usually wear a helmet. But I certainly don’t get up in the faces of non-helmet wearers as some seem to really, really enjoy doing. I think it’s a pathology of modern living–everyone just seems to jump at the chance to tell a perfect stranger off.

          • Do you have any data on drunk riders or immigrants who work late? Are they even a significantly large subset of bikers? How high would that number have to be before you felt we could infer some causality? 95%? 98%? In some years, it has been 98%.

            Take it as food for thought.

            You’re an adult and can do whatever you want with your delicious brain. Just don’t discourage others from mitigating their own risk. Smug opining has never prevented a bicycle injury. Helmets have.

  • For bike blogs in DC, there’s always this guy:

  • The best bike blog for DC is definitely

    Tons of information and no fluff…

  • Yeah, I noticed a lot of put downs regarding people who bike in ‘gear,’ and I’m not a fan. You know what? For my 5-mile, uphill trek to work, I’d rather not wear my business suit, thank you.

    I’m all for changing bike culture, but encouraging people to not wear helmets (which he is on the brink of doing) is downright irresponsible. If you want leisurely biking, move to Amsterdam. Or a country lane where no one else cares about your ‘leisurely pace’

    • Kate, I don’t mean to put down or lecture anyone. Just describing the range of stereotypes, and pointing out that the perceived need for special gear – or to be a certain kind of person – can make biking seem alien to non-bikers. To increase the number of people on bikes, it needs to seem less scary and less alien. I’m trying to paint a vision of a model that works quite well elsewhere and could here too.

      Of course, it’s a model that works best for relatively short, central trips.

      I’d like leisurely biking here, please. You seem to be insisting it be a grim, dangerous experience. I’d say your tone is somewhat intolerant.

      I’m not encouraging people not to wear helmets per se. Just that not wearing one is not always irrational, standard hysteria notwithstanding. Millions of non-North American, helmet-less bike riders can’t be totally crazy. And before you say, ‘well, they don’t deal with North American conditions’, that’s only partly true. They also don’t ride like North Americans. There are crazy drivers everywhere, and even Amsterdam doesn’t offer protective bubbles to bikers.

      • I’m having a hard time believing that more than a small minority of people find riding a bike to be alien or frightening. Most people I know learned to ride as children. Honestly, how many people can you think of who can’t ride? I also think you are way off on how people ride. I don’t see this epidemic of crazy, high-speed and/or spandex wielding andrettis out there. The majority of cyclists I see are slow moving, leisurely cyclists – many of them latinos from my hood, who, I can assure you, ride neither quickly nor wearing anything other than their street clothes.

        I would be interested to know the roots of your perceptions.

        • My wife doesn’t know how to ride. But it’s not so much those who can’t ride, as much as those who don’t, and why they don’t. Is it surprising that biking seems scary or just not a good option, considering the helmet hysteria that seems to take over every discussion of biking in the US?

          I don’t think I ever implied there was an ‘epidemic of crazy, high-speed and/or spandex wielding andrettis’. But I see bikers flying down 16th Street between lanes, or splitting an impossibly narrow gap between buses and trucks on Columbia Road, or riding in circles at stoplights because of their toe-clips (I assume), or blazing through the middle of the intersection at 16th and U instead of trying to patiently use the infrastructure there that we say we crave.

          • Don’t assume. You’ve got a cycling weblog. Ask and share with us what you find.

          • I see those things as well, but I guess I am inured to the scariness to which you allude because I just don’t see how the helmet issue or the recklessness of other riders would deter someone. I support your overall premise that riding should be fun, however one chooses to ride, but I see many people in Europe on bikes that ride with equal abandon.

          • I find it more annoying than scary. I love a good bike ride down a scenic trail, but breathing in exhaust fumes and competing with motor vehicles for the road just does not appeal to me.

          • I certainly don’t crave things like the Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes. It was a lot safer and faster back when you could just ride in the right-hand lane, and merge left when you wanted to turn. Now it takes 10 min longer just to get from one end of the street to the other.

          • Many of us don’t ride because it is almost always a less efficent way to travel in a dense urban environment replete with other, better modes of transport.

            Just so you know.

          • Anonymous 9:32, in many cities far more dense than DC, with as good or better public transit, people still choose bikes at higher levels than in DC.

      • My point is that you are going about this all wrong. I would actually support your cause, except for the fact that instead of embracing people who are serious about their bikes,it sounds like you’re just judging them, by questioning their choice in clothing and helmets (and might I say, my ‘special clothes’ are yoga pants and a t-shirt–I am no serious biker).

        Also, I take issue with your hyperbolic word choice– pushing back against your particular conceptions of biking does not make me “intolerant.”

        And I do think that helmets are important. ABSOLUTELY. Won’t reiterate the statistics already posted here, but I think people are crazy not to wear them. DC has a poor enough driving record to support this. No matter how ‘leisurely’ and slow you are–this doesn’t protect you from a car.

        But refusing a helmet is like smoking, if you (or anyone) wants to do it, then that is your choice, go nuts. But the people advocating for helmets (like myself) are probably only doing it because they (and I) don’t want to see you hurt. It’s almost funny to me that you are arguing against safety.

        • Kate, I assure you I’m not judging anyone, and have tried to make that clear, though I’ll watch my words even more carefully. Just trying to promote a model that, with a little nurturing, could improve the overall bike landscape for everyone.

    • Totally agree!

      Also, irresponsible running magazines that ignore the widespread epidemic of joggers not wearing helmets, and the greatest outrage: parent magazines that completely ignore the lack of helmets for toddlers. Think of all the head injuries that could be prevented!

      Time for the conspiracy of silence to end!!!

  • I interpreted it more as just get on a bike and go. You don’t have to be a “biker” to do it.

  • A blog about the lifestyle of riding your bike in the city? Seriously?

  • Why are people ALWAYS so concerned whether bikers wear helmets? Do you all go around yelling at non-seatbelted drivers to buckle up? Telling smokers they should quit? Who cares? Whatever happened to personal responsibility and autonomy?

  • A neighbor of mine in Adams Morgan was found after a bike accident – they think he hit a pothole…he was alone and there were no witnesses. He died of a massive head injury.

    A friend at work got a serious concussion after getting hit by a car biking home after bar-hopping (his own fault, sure). He couldn’t hear out of one ear for several weeks afterwards and also had vision problems.

    Anyway, take home message is that I’ll keep wearing my helmet.

  • I certainly see that there are distinct movements in the DC bike culture – the fixed gear, messenger crew; the hardcore dc velo types; the weekend warriors; the casual bike around town crew. I fail to see this as any kind of entrenched DC “old guard”, and neither do I think the casual bike around town crowd is in any marginalized. I see plenty upon plenty of casual cyclists – in suits, jeans and t-shirt, dresses, boots, sneakers, sandals and otherwise. And this group is growing as are others as the city becomes a more bike-friendly place. Perhaps the blog author is trying to create a place for the casual crowd to share ideas, but the implication that this is anything new is in my opinion specious at best and just blatantly without any corroborative evidence whatsoever.

    • One of the things that gets on my nerves is that these categories of cyclists are fluid. I fit into several, myself, depending on what I’m up to. The same is true of most of my bike-riding friends: for them, the bike is a machine for movement. They do many things, and the bike lets them do many things.

      People are a lot more complicated if you talk to them, instead of judge them by their clothing/bike choices.

      There’s a wonderful bike website – I forget who, exactly – that let people choose an avatar on the basis of what kind of bike they rode (and, by implication, what kind of cyclist they were). You could choose from a road bike, mountain bike, cruiser, fixie, track bike, commuter, recumbent, vintage road bike, and even a pennyfarthing. There was also an image for a generic “just a bike.” Many different categories, one site.

  • MJ, it’s not new, and yes the numbers of people in normal clothes is growing. I hope it will keep growing, and I’d like to help.

    • Anyway, I like what you are trying to do, I think promoting safe, responsible and enjoyable riding is good for everyone. But this is PoP, so we wouldn’t be happy without first engaging in a lot of debate and name-calling.

      • Oh! And don’t forget, we are all educated in statistics just enough to make ourselves look REALLY stupid. Any time someone throws out a number I run for cover. The monkey crap is gonna fly.

  • In 2008, 91% of all bicycle fatalities involved people who did not wear helmets.

    Just one final observation: I’m sure 100% of all jogging-related fatalities involved people who did not wear helmets. Probably some inordinately low number of fatal game-day football injuries involved people wearing helmets.

  • good news for a change! and a great idea.

  • me

    What about urging riders to bike lawfully in order to bike safely?

    They had their “Share The Road” campaign and I agree with it, but there are a lot of people (some in biking gear as well, so it’s not like they don’t ride that often) that just ignore traffic laws. They bike through red lights. They bike the wrong way down one-way streets. My favorite, they bike down the sidewalk REALLY fast, while there is a bike lane right next to them, and either run into people or almost run into people. They weave in and out of traffic like they’re playing a real-life Frogger.

    I think that just saying “Wear your helmet” isn’t stressing riding safely enough. Because when bikers don’t ride safely, they also endanger those of us who aren’t on bikes.

    • In fact, this morning I took a pic for the blog of a bicyclist waiting patiently for the light to change. Well, first I was attracted to his Dutch-style bike and normal clothes, but the fact that he was trying to make the system work better put a bow on it :).

  • I agree with this wholeheartedly. I think too many riders ride really unsafely, sometimes with complete disregard for traffic laws. The helmet debate can obscure this broader issue. I do ride on sidewalks when it seems appropriate, and always try to go super slow and give total deference to pedestrians.

    I wonder if Share the Road came out of the so-called Vehicular Cycling movement, which for decades has been fairly zealous about a bike’s equal right to a given lane of traffic. I would hope that’s a discredited notion by now. Certainly hasn’t done the job of getting the masses on bikes.

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