Heads Up If You Use the 11th Street Bike Lane

bike lane
Photo by PoPville flickr user sssdc1

“Dear PoPville,

I/m writing to let you know about a current hazard to bicyclists heading northbound on 11th St NW.

Yesterday when heading home from work (around 6 PM), I noticed multiple large piles of shattered glass (approx 6-7 piles in total) in the northbound bicycle lane on 11th St NW, all between Irving and Monroe streets. The piles of glass were very large– they each appeared to be from multiple broken bottles (large shards of green, brown, and white glass – larger than what you typically see from a smashed car window). Also, every pile of glass was in the bike lane, none in the road or sidewalk on that stretch from what I was able to observe. In hindsight I wish I had stopped to take a picture of one or more of the piles, but at the time it was not my first thought.

When I got home I immediately called 311 to report the issue, and the operator confirmed that she would send someone out to check it out and clean up the glass. Sadly, when riding southbound on 11th this morning, I was able to observe that most (if not all) of the piles from the previous afternoon were still there. Any suggestions on how we can get this cleaned up?

I’m thankful that at the time I was riding northbound yesterday, there was not much car or bicycle traffic around me, so I was able to notice the glass coming up and move into the car lane to avoid it. Still, I worry that if someone is riding in the bike lane during heavy traffic or when it’s dark out, these piles of glass could be a very serious hazard.

Lastly, if any readers saw someone creating these piles of broken glass on the northbound stretch of 11th St NW between Irving and Monroe, I’d encourage them to report it if they haven’t already. If someone saw just one bottle being smashed on the street they might just shrug it off as someone being inconsiderate, whereas in the context of the bigger picture it certainly appears that this was done on purpose (rather than as an accident or a careless act).

(Note: The focus of this message is to hopefully warn about and remediate this bike hazard, not to spur a pro-bike vs anti-bike debate.)”

48 Comment

  • Any suggestions on how we can get this cleaned up?

    Dustpan and broom. I get that we have 311 and city services, but they probably don’t live in our neighborhood and don’t care as much as we should. If something is really a problem or concern and is in our power to take care of, we should. Want a nicer neighborhood, make it nicer.

    • +1. I’m out weekly sweeping the sidewalks and picking up the trash in my neighborhood. You should try it to.

    • I get where you’re coming from, but as someone who bike commutes through Columbia Heights but does not live in that neighborhood and does not own a car, it’s not really feasible for me to bring a broom and dustpan to clean it up myself. Certainly though, if others do want to take it upon themselves to clean up all these piles of glass, I’m sure many bicyclists (and residents of CoHi, for that matter) would be very appreciative.

      • Then you’ll have to wait for 311 to address it like everyone else has to. I realize your issue is the most important thing to you, but everyone else called and you get to wait in line. I’ve found 311 to be amazingly responsive – but they dont get to things within 12 hours. I bet its gone in 3-4 days, though.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Hell, even just your shoe. Push the glass to the side where it is safe until 311 can get there to pick it up. That is what should have been done last night when the OP first saw it (unless they were in some sort of sandals or whatever).

      • You’re right- I should have stopped in the middle of the bike lane during peak evening commute to kick a large pile of glass either into the road or into the parking lane, while other bicycles and cars going away have yet another thing to swerve around. And I should have done that 6 or 7 times. Thanks for the helpful commentary.

        • Honestly, it sounds slightly more reasonable than expecting someone from the government to take care of it for you.

          • If this city is allowed to ticket and tow for street sweeping, this seems like a reasonable request.

          • figby

            Or being sufficiently puzzled about a solution to write to a neighborhood blog wondering how on Earth to make piles of glass disappear.

          • Thanks OP for the heads up. Sorry that so many people are making cranky replies.

          • DC doesn’t have a glass pile response team on standby for your next 311 call. While it’s frustrating it can’t be cleaned up in less than 24 hours, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. The DC government is not known for efficiency in basically anything.

        • +1 glad to see you now agree with the obvious answer here. if you spot a hazard that’s easily fixed, fix it. pretty simple actually.

    • I mean…..this person sounds like they saw it after 6 pm and then expected it to be cleaned up by the next morning…no? No offense, but this is not an emergency situation that requires overnight attention. Just because they say they’re gonna send someone out doesn’t mean it’s that second.

  • I see piles like this in lots of different places on the day after recycling pickups. I think they spill from trucks that are too full.

    • Yes, this is true. I encountered several large piles of recycling debris in the 17h St. NW bike lane today.
      They are usually cleaned up in a few days, maybe by street sweeping, but are definitely a nuisance.

  • If you called after 6 the night before, i’d give the city a little more time.

  • Since it bothers you so much, take some time and clean it up yourself. It probably would have taken less time to clean it up than you calling 311. Also, just because you dialed 311 and complained, doesn’t mean that it is a priority. I bet they have far more pressing matters to deal with and figure someone might just pick it up or it will be brushed out of the way. Sometimes you have to do things yourself and move on, that way you won’t have to perpetually worry about everyone else.

    • it was up and down the block… I would have got off my bike but there was too much of it to pick up and I didn’t have to tools to move it.

      • In probably the same amount of time you took to call 311 and then whine about it on POPville, you could have cleaned it up. Seriously, it isn’t that hard to do something yourself instead of wasting time expecting others to do it for you.

        • Jeff is not the OP, for the record. Did you consider that this issue maybe affected more than one person? From his other comment it sounds like he got a flat tire… so go easy on the guy, would you?
          .
          I’m not going to bother trying to defend to you my actions of calling 311 or sending a message to PoPville. Ultimately we’re all in this together, and you’re wasting your time blaming me when I was just trying to help, even if it’s not the way you would have hypothetically handled it.

        • Jimmy, I pay a $#it load in taxes every time I get paid and do business in the city. As far as I’m concerned, DC needs to do the job I’m paying them for or they can give me my money back.

    • This isn’t a reasonable expectation. I clean up trash on my block from time to time and can do so with a grocery bag and a garbage pick. The recycling debris piles are large and will require full-sized brooms and dustpans plus a way to easily dispose. I did once sweep up glass left by auto break-ins on the 15th St. cycle track south of Rhode Island Ave. NW, but you have to remember to bring the tools and the mess needs to be small.

  • As others have said, these are bottles that fall from recycling and then get run over. Street sweeping takes care of this kind of mess, you can’t expect DDOT to send out a crew for every little piece of glass.
    .
    Best solution is to ride conti gatorskins and avoid them when you can.
    .
    Pro tip: practice looking over your shoulder while riding in a straight line. This is a key skill for any commuter to safely merge into travel lanes and avoid obstacles in the bike lane, and actually more difficult than it sounds.

    • Honestly I had not considered the possibility that the piles of glass were from a recycling truck.

      I wish I had taken a picture or two because the size, concentration, and sheer number of these piles over a short stretch was unlike anything I’ve seen in my 5+ years of bike commuting. It could very well be from a recycling truck and I hope that’s the case, but it wasn’t like the occasional stray broken bottle on the road. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to notice it, as many people use the 11th street bike lanes daily.

      At any rate, thanks for the input and also the tips about the tires and merging.

      • Obviously I didn’t see them, but I see piles fitting that description all the time. If an unbroken or partially broken bottle falls into the street, then gets run over by a large vehicle it leaves a concentrated pile of glass broken into small pieces precisely like what you’re describing. It likely happened more this weekend because there was a lot of recycling (drinking) following the holiday weekend.

        • Each pile looked like it consisted of multiple bottles– based on the amount of glass, and the fact that individual piles contained multiple colors of glass (green/brown/white). If it’s still there when I bike home tonight (hopefully it’s not), I’ll take a picture and submit it to PoP.

          Heck, maybe I’ll even kick a few shards aside per those friendly suggestions I got above. 😉

      • If the glass is from a recycling truck, then it would be good to contact DPW (in case it’s a city-operated recycling truck).

  • Ive had better luck with the 311 app than calling 311. Include a photo in your submission.

    Everything I’ve reported via the app has been cleared in a day or so.

    • Thanks b- that’s exactly the kind of helpful input I was hoping for. Will definitely try that next time.

      • OP, you can also tweet 311 @311DCGov

        • Great to know! I called in about a pedestrian traffic signal that no longer has the ‘walk’ signal on. That was a couple weeks ago and the signal still hasn’t been fixed. While I know the traffic pattern (walk across when light turns red) not everyone is familiar with it and there’s lots of elderly and very young people who depend on the traffic signal. Thought talking to a human would help but maybe I need to download the app..or join Twitter.

  • I had a flat tire from it this morning.

    Cant wait until Columbia Heights cleans up. We cant have nice things anymore.

  • I saw these piles too- they were pretty large and numerous and much more than someone could just sweep aside with their shoe.

    Do to the volume and placement, I don’t think they’re just stray bottles from a recycling truck.

  • Wow. I don’t get the hostility. I think the OP was trying to do a good thing. Was it really unreasonable to think 311 might resolve the problem? I happen to have had mixed luck with 311, but attempting to have the glass cleaned up via 311 isn’t deserving of being berated. A naive move, maybe, but I say thanks for caring.

    • Agreed. Thanks for trying to help, OP. It’s why 311 exists, right?

      • Thanks, Cam, flies, et al for the kind words – I was a bit shocked by the initial wave of judgmental/lecturing responses. Trolls gonna troll, I suppose.

        • Ha, I can only imagine a commenter writing in: “So, I saw someone standing in the bike lane flinging glass at parked cars Should I have called the police?” Seriously, it’s a safety hazard for that amount of glass to be in the street as well as for a person to be standing -in the street- to clean it up with their foot. I guess people who don’t ride often haven’t had the pleasure of road debris being flung up in the their face by cars or even your own front tire.

    • +1 commenters on this blog are so ridiculous sometimes. thank you for the heads up, OP.

      • I agree! I do not think it is unreasonable to think that city services will take care of a problem like this. It’s not reasonable to think they can turn on a dime, but it’s also not reasonable for them to take forever to come clean up a voluminous hazard in a thoroughfare.

        • FOREVER? It was overnight! I can tell you right now 311 isn’t placing some broken glass as an overnight priority. You’re being more ridiculous than anyone saying it’s “forever”…yeesh.

          • 311 isn’t a D.C. agency that triages service requests — it’s just a centralized portal for routing requests to the appropriate agencies.
            .
            If the OP explained that it was a large quantity of glass — enough to be a road hazard, and enough that someone would need a broom and dustpan to dispose of it — it might actually get triaged as an urgent need.

  • As someone who will be riding this route today, I appreciate the heads up. You might want to flag for WABA – they might have some advice also on how to get this cleaned up. Sounds like quite a hazard!

  • Yeah I think people are missing the point that the volume of broken glass was more than one person could kick aside with a shoe. You’d probably end up spreading the glass all over the lane instead of having it concentrated in a pile if you were to try that. Plus your foot is now covered in glass. And it would take quite a long time, maybe he didn’t want to spend an hour kicking glass.

    I guess any time a well meaning question is posed, there going to be trolls determined to ridicule you.

  • west_egg

    FWIW — I drove home via NB 11th Street this evening alongside a couple dozen bike commuters (that bike lane is SO POPULAR). I neither noticed piles of glass nor did the cyclists seem to be dodging random piles of crap, only the odd illegally-parked Uber.

  • When a large pile of broken window glass was in the street by the Safeway on Georgia Ave, police came relatively quickly, someone put up some emergency cones, and the city came and cleaned it up before the end of the day IIRC.

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