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Bike registration, Metro permits, and blaming cyclists for most collisions were all featured in a 1982 city brochure about cycling. By Benjamin Freed
Via District Department of Transportation.

Think that DC’s roadways today are ruled by an epic clash between cyclists and drivers? It was way worse for two-wheeled riders in 1982.

The District Department of Transportation just dug up a 32-year-old manual it used to distribute to the District’s cyclists back when bikes were scarce on city streets and more likely to be scolded than encouraged by the authorities.

The manual includes dozens of pages describing “D.C. Bikeways,” including most of the bridges that cross the Potomac and Anacostia river, but don’t mistake them for actual cycling paths—they’re just arbitrarily assigned corridors where street signs were affixed with “Bike Route” signs, markers that most urban cyclists interpret as not really carving out a safe co-existence with cars.

As for actual bike infrastructure, the District circa 1982 had just two marked bike lanes: 11th Street, Southeast, from East Capitol Street to the 11th Street Bridge, and East Capitol Street between the Capitol Building and Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Throughout the rest of the city, the manual just lists the “Bike Route” signs and for much of the District, encourages riding on the sidewalk. (Although, the Washington Post’s John Kelly will be relieved to know that biking on sidewalks downtown has always been prohibited.)

Bike ownership was also a tightly controlled activity when this manual was written. The District required all bike owners to register their rides within two weeks of purchasing them. While registration was cheap—$1 for five years—it was enforced randomly, and sometimes led to complaints of police confiscating bikes from owners who simply didn’t follow the low-compliance statute. (Bike registration didn’t come off the books until 2008, and the Metropolitan Police Department now recommends that cyclists join the National Bike Registry instead.)

And what about taking a bike on Metro? These days, it’s only verboten to bring one on a train during rush hour. In 1982, bikes were only permitted on Metro on the weekends, and only then with a special permit.

Perhaps the most antiquated item in this manual—Courtland Milloy might disagree—is an institutional statement from DDOT saying that “the majority of bicycle/motor vehicle accidents in the District are caused by bicyclists.” A quick glance at the five most common types of bike-car collisions, according to Bicycling magazine, including blind left turns and dooring, show that in most cases, it’s actually the car’s fault. Fortunately, DDOT’s current guidelines are more balanced.

Read the full document below.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Getting Around Washington by Bicycle

Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 08/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A monthly roundup of people we’d like to have over for drinks, food, and conversation.
Photo-illustration by John Ueland. Photographs of Connolly and Ribeiro by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Washington Times/Landov. Photograph of Dingell by Ann Savage.

1. Gerry Connolly
Since his days as a Fairfax County supervisor, he’s dreamed of bringing transit and development to the car-oriented county. With the Silver Line finally open, Connolly—now a congressman—won’t even need a ride to dinner.

2. Michele Roberts
The Skadden Arps litigator, whom we once called “one of the city’s most feared trial lawyers,” becomes the first woman to lead the NBA players’ association—or any major sports union. Notice served.

3. Debbie Dingell
A shoo-in for husband John’s seat in Congress, she’ll go from being one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists to being a backbench member of the minority party. Invite her while she can still dish on the influential.

4. Wayne Frederick
Howard University’s new president, hired to lead the financially troubled, vision-challenged school, knows what he’s getting into. A cancer surgeon, the Trinidad native has a long history with life-or-death battles.

5. Aba Kwawu
The founder of the publicity agency TAA PR recently added Daniel Boulud’s forthcoming DC restaurant to a client list that includes a José Andrés eatery and Fabio Trabocchi. She’ll owe us a meal!

6. Pedro Ribeiro
As Vince Gray’s flack, he delighted in punching back against the DC mayor’s critics during an ongoing federal ethics probe. Now doing PR at Homeland Security, Ribeiro goes from bemoaning aggressive feds to working on their behalf.

Photograph of Johnson by Tony Powell/Washington Life.

Disinvited: Benny Johnson
Everyone disapproves of plagiarism, but when a “viral politics” writer gets canned for lifting political information from Wikipedia, it brings a special scorn. Johnson lost his BuzzFeed job, became the butt of jokes, and won a spot on our disinvited list.


This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian. In our print issue, photos of Michele Roberts and Aba Kwawu were misidentified. We have corrected the error in this version.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 08/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The movement to change "Redskins" is gaining a lot of gridiron legitimacy. By Benjamin Freed
Flag on the name. Photograph by Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

For all the headlines that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, half the US Senate, and various journalists garner when they announce their desire to see Washington’s NFL team change its name, they all have something in common: They’re not exactly football experts with years of experience in the NFL, a $9 billion business whose executives vigorously defend the team’s name.

But it appears opposition to the Washington team’s name, which most dictionaries define as a racial slur against Native Americans, runs far deeper in the league than the management might care to admit. The Washington Post’s Mike Wise has a column today about Mike Carey, a referee who refused to officiate a Washington game for the last eight seasons of his 19-year career. Carey, Wise writes, asked the league beginning in 2006 to not schedule him for any Washington games, and the NFL granted his request:

“It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,” Carey said.

Told how uncommon his social stance was for a referee, whose primary professional goal is to be unbiased, Carey shook his head.

“Human beings take social stances,” he said. “And if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”

Wise’s full column is worth the read, especially because Carey's story eats away at the argument that opposition to the Washington team’s name is very recent and driven only by—in the words of, oh, say, Mike Ditka—“politically correct idiots.” More of Ditka’s former colleagues are siding against the name.

Carey, who put away his zebra suit after the 2013 season, is now a commentator for CBS Sports, where on Monday, former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms announced he’ll only refer to the Washington team as “Washington” when he calls its September 25 game against the Giants. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an anyalyst for NBC Sports, says he’ll do the same this season.

Rumblings about the Washington team’s name have even come from members of the current roster, if short-lived. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall said in January that “they probably should” change it, though he quickly walked back those comments before signing a four-year, $20 million contract.

The NFL’s top brass might be able to keep a lid on their current employees. But with respected veteran players, coaches, and referees refusing to engage the Washington team’s name, the push to change it suddenly has a lot more gridiron legitimacy.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 08/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Supreme Court is reviewing whether to take up the case to overturn the state's 2006 ban. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

UPDATE, 3:19 PM: The Supreme Court issued a stay in the Virginia same-sex marriage case, meaning gay couples who might have lined up to get married starting Thursday morning will have to wait while the court decides whether to take up the case in its next term. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the order in response to requests to delay a lower court ruling from county clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who opposes the state's 2006 ban but has said he wants the case settled by the high court.

Roberts also referred the case to his fellow justices, who could soon review writs by parties in the case for the Supreme Court to take up the matter. The stay issued in Virginia is consistent with other recent cases in which lower courts have overturned state bans on same-sex marriage, like Utah's. If the justices decide not hear Bostic v. Rainey, as the Virginia case is known, the decision last month by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold an earlier verdict striking down the marriage ban will take effect.

Courts in suburban Washington had been preparing to receive gay couples Thursday morning. Unlike many cases that are stayed pending an appeal by the losing party, Fourth Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd only ordered that there be a three-week gap between when he issued his decision in Bostic v. Rainey and when it would take effect.

Posted at 09:51 AM/ET, 08/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
In the wake of Ferguson, a cop argues in the Post that it's up to the people, not the police, to prevent police brutality. By Benjamin Freed
Image via Shutterstock.

“Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.”

Ferguson, Missouri? 

Try the Washington Post.

The advice comes from a veteran police officer, writing on the Post’s PostEverything site, which since its launch been a reliable bucket of patently offensive takes on issues that are consuming the rest of the internet (recently, two university professors wrote on PostEverything that marriage is the best antidote to domestic violence). Los Angeles Police Department officer Sunil Dutta takes up the question of how to avoid running afoul of the police,  Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot at least six times and killed August 8 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson

“Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names,” Dutta writes. “Don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge.”

In other words, shut up and take it, because even the slightest bit of intransigence is grounds for the cops to unleash a world of hurt. If you've got complaints, shelve them for later, Dutta says.

"Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you," he writes. "We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated." Or, wait for your complaint to get buried under mountains of paperwork and or dismissed outright. In DC, for instance, only 66 of the 358 complaints filed last year against Metropolitan Police Department officers were sustained, according to figures released this week.

Dutta admits that he, like nearly every other observer in this case, doesn’t know exactly what transpired before Wilson fired his gun, but Dutta’s take on the Ferguson situation is dosed with enough experience—in addition to spending 17 years with the LAPD, he also moonlights as a college instructor in Colorado—to make his points at least appear logical. But to say that putting up a verbal argument warrants bringing out the billy clubs, stun guns, or actual guns only stokes what’s been seen coming out of Ferguson in the past week—images of peaceful demonstrators being met with a lines of officers rigged with military-grade equipment, marchers being fogged with canisters of tear gas, and people being slugged with rubber bullets after not moving quickly enough.

Dutta tries to generate some sympathy for the cops, writing, “An average person cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job.” Neither does Dutta, however, if he thinks encounters with police officers can only end with immediate submission or the deployment of overwhelming force. 

That’s the argument by New York Police Department Sergeant Jon Murad, another scholar-cop who wrote on his blog over the weekend that even if Brown did physically engage the officer who shot him, if he signaled his surrender, Wilson’s gun should have remained holstered.

“Shooting someone trying to take your gun is lawful, especially if he’s a significant physical threat; shooting someone surrendering with their hands up is not, even when it’s the same guy and mere seconds separate the events,” Murad writes.

Murad assessment is more sober, though far less click-baiting than something that screams “I’m the police! Do as I say or else!”

Posted at 04:17 PM/ET, 08/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The company is using DC to test out a competitor to delivery apps like Postmates. By Benjamin Freed
Uber's new competition. Photograph by Flickr user NCinDC.

Having already upended markets for taxis, ice cream, and long-stem roses, Uber is now attempting to disrupt the sundry market. The app-based transportation company is launching a new experiment called Uber Corner Store, in which its affiliated drivers will deliver items one usually picks up at convenience stores and pharmacies.

Too busy to walk to the nearest CVS? No problem, says Uber. Customers for whom the Corner Store upgrade appears can order off a menu that spans from allergy pills to chewing gum to heartburn medicine to condoms and lube. The items will be picked up by an Uber driver and delivered to the user, whose account will be charged just like an ordinary UberX ride. There’s no set delivery fee, but the company is setting its own prices. (A tin of Altoids, for instance, is $3, while a stick of Degree deodorant will set you back $11.)

For now, Uber says the Corner Store program will only run in DC for a few weeks and only for selected users on weekdays between 9 AM and 9 PM. An Uber spokesman did not say if it will expand outside a few small delivery areas (Most of Northwest, Capitol Hill, H Street, and Navy Yard).

While the company adds on its website that this is still a test, Uber’s aim seems apparent: It wants to compete with companies such as Postmates, whose app will take same-day delivery orders for goods from just about any store or restaurant a user desires. Postmates entered the Washington market in December and quickly took off with the same crowd that made Uber popular. Corner Store isn’t Uber’s first foray into deliveries, either. It’s been testing out a courier service in New York since April. Don’t be surprised if this new experiement turns permanent.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:47 PM/ET, 08/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The museum's collection will go to the National Gallery of Art, while the college will become part of George Washington University, effectively ending the 145-year-old Washington institution. By Benjamin Freed
The Corcoran Gallery. Photograph by Flicker user SBC9.

It’s official: The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design will be dissolved in October after a District judge upheld the financially failed institution’s plan to be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

In the ruling issued Monday afternoon, Judge Robert Okun of DC Superior Court rejected a last-minute case by Save the Corcoran, a group of Corcoran students, staff, and benefactors seeking to block the 145-year-old institution’s bureacratic death. Okun’s ruling allows the Corcoran’s cy-prés petition to move forward, meaning its 17,000-item collection will fall under the auspices of the NGA, while the art school is absorbed into GWU. The university will also take over the Corcoran’s building, an iconic Beaux Arts landmark from 1897 that needs as much as $130 million in repairs.

Because the Corcoran is a nonprofit organization, changes to its charter need to be approved by a judge. In his opinion, Okun seems sensitive to founder William Corcoran’s desire that the museum bearing his name remain “an institution in Washington City,” as Corcoran wrote in the original 1869 charter.

“[T]he Court is aware that the GW/NGA proposal is inconsistent with Mr. Corcoran’s intent in one important respect—unlike the UMD proposal from February 2014, the GW/NGA proposal effectively eliminates the Corcoran as an independent institution, leaving behind only an untethered Board of Trustees to advise GW and NGA on future plans for the College and Gallery,” Okun writes. “Undoubtedly, Mr. Corcoran would not be pleased by this turn of events. It seems likely, however, that he would be pleased to see that the College will be preserved through its partnership with the very university to which he donated both property and his company’s archives, and where he served as Chairman of the Board for several years, and that the Gallery will be preserved through its partnership with one of the country’s pre-eminent art institutions.”

The Corcoran has been struggling for years under its current management. Save the Corcoran argued in court that the museum’s board, led by Harry Hopper, raised just $4 million in 2012 and spent $3.7 million of it. The Corcoran also attempted to raise money by selling off some of its most prized items, such as the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet, a Persian rug that went for $33.8 million in a 2013 auction.

Under terms of the arrangements with the NGA and GWU announced in February, the museum will close around October 1. Students, now enrolled in GWU’s Columbian College, will continue to attend classes at the Corcoran building, though current students’ tuition will remain the same. While most of the current galleries will be closed to the public, parts of the building will eventually reopen with exhibits presented by the NGA under the banner “Corcoran Contemporary, National Gallery of Art” featuring small selections from the Corcoran’s vault.

Save the Corcoran, led by former instructor Jayme McLellan, has been brief so far in its obviously disappointment.

“The Corcoran as we know it is gone,” the group says on its Facebook page. “We fought the good fight.”

Closing out his ruling, Okun writes that his decision, while “painful” to issue, likely staved off complete disaster given the Corcoran’s unsteady leadership.

“[T]his Court would find it even more painful to deny the relief requested and allow the Corcoran to face its likely demise—the likely dissolution of the College, the closing of the Gallery, and the dispersal of the Gallery’s entire collection,” he writes. “Fortunately, two internationally recognized institutions, with strong and enduring commitments to education and the arts, have agreed to sustain the College under the Corcoran name, and to provide the same educational and employment opportunities to its students, faculty, and staff; to maintain the Gallery and much of the collection under the Corcoran name, and to keep it open to the public; and to renovate the iconic building which houses both the College and the Gallery.”

Read the full opinion below.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

237147270 Corcoran Ruling

Posted at 05:56 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
After a series of slip-ups, airport security workers across the US will learn what a District ID looks like. By Benjamin Freed
Image via DC Department of Motor Vehicles.

In the wake of numerous instances of DC residents not being able to fly home because airport security personnel did not understand that a driver’s license issued by the District counts as valid identification, the Transportation Security Agency will start training its employees to recognize that, in fact, a DC license is as good as any state’s. Licenses issued by the city will be part of TSA agents’ daily shift briefings, according to a press release from Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office, which is taking credit for the change.

Norton met again with top TSA officials last week, as she had done several times already in 2014 following reports of District residents getting held up at airports around the country, but it appears the most recent sit-down finally produced results.

Beside the daily briefings, TSA employees who check travel documents—the blue-shirted ranks who sift you through security gates—will also go through a four-hour training session in September that will feature a special emphasis on driver's licenses, especially those issued by DC’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Residents are sensitive about invidious treatment, considering what Congress throws at them,” Norton says in the press release. “I appreciate the remedial actions led by top officials at the TSA.”

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 04:55 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
An annual report shows that homicides and sexual assaults were up in 2013. Plus, a look at the demographics of DC's police force in the wake of Ferguson. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Matt Johnson.

One of the many issues at play in the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager is that the police department in the St. Louis suburb is 94 percent white in a town where two-thirds of the population is black. The disparity has exposed deep faults that can arise when a police force is not representative of the community it serves.  

For all of the Metropolitan Police Department’s faults, though, that doesn't appear to be one of them, according to an annual report made public Monday. Fifty-seven percent of the department’s nearly 4,000 sworn officers are black, 33 percent are white, and seven percent are Hispanic. Two of the department’s six assistant chiefs are black, as are six of the seven district commanders.

The Metropolitan Police Department investigated 35,499 crimes in 2013, about the same number as in 2012, according to an annual report made public Monday. Beneath that generally stable number, though, were sharp increases in homicides, sexual assaults, and rapes.

One hundred four people were murdered in DC last year, an 18 percent jump over the 88 who lost their lives in 2012. While the 104 slain last year includes the 12 victims of the September 16 massacre at Washington Navy Yard, it picks at a general uptick in the city’s homicide rate after several years of decline. The District has recorded 73 murders so far in 2014, up from 57 at this point a year ago, or a jump of 28 percent.

Via Metropolitan Police Department

For yet another year, an overwhelming majority—78 percent—of DC’s homicide victims were black men.

Police also report a 15 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported citywide, from 259 to 298. Meanwhile, the number of reported rapes leaped from 236 in 2012 to 393 last year. But MPP spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump tells Washingtonian via e-mail that those figures cannot be accurately compared because last year’s figure reflects a long overdue update in how the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system, which police departments use to record crime data, defines “forcible rape.” The new definition covers any penetration, no matter how slight, without consent of the victim; the previous terminology, defining rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will,” hadn’t been changed since 1927. Crump says 27 percent of rapes reported last year fell under the new definition.

The 41,747 arrests MPD made last year is a slight drop from the 42,471 in 2012. Of the total arrests, 3,177 were of juveniles. What were the most common causes of arrest?

  • Simple assault: 6,720
  • Narcotics: 5,866
  • Traffic violations: 4,656
  • Warrant charges: 4,624
  • Other: 2,210
  • Disorderly conduct: 2,194

Arrest data is not broken down by race, but external reports in years past show deep racial divides among who gets arrested. More than eight out of ten people arrested in DC between 2009 and 2011 were black, according to a report issued last year by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The division is even more extreme for drug arrests, with blacks accounting for nearly 90 percent of marijuana-related arrests, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union. With a decriminalization law now in effect for possession of one ounce or less, the number of drug-related arrests could fall greatly in next year’s MPD report.

The annual report also contains a few other fascinating statistics about the city’s crime rate and the police department that patrols it.

Traffic fatalities:

Via Metropolitan Police Department

There were 10 more deaths caused by motor vehicles in 2013 than the year before, including 12 pedestrians and two cyclists.

Use of force:

Via Metropolitan Police Department

District police officers shot and killed five suspects last year, including Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis, who was taken down by Officer Dorian DeSantis. DeSantis and 55 other officers who responded to the massacre were given MPD’s Medal of Valor in February.

Complaints:

There were 358 complaints lodged against police officers in 2013, but of those, only 66 were sustained upon review, while another 75 remain under investigation. Of the total number of complaints filed, 50 were for abuse of authority, 34 were for excessive use of force, and 53 were for rude and unprofessional behavior. There were also eight complaints of illegal searches. The report does not break down which complaints were dismissed and which were verified according to category.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 03:06 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The seven-year-old female was euthanized this weekend. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of Shama (pictured here in 2009) courtesy of National Zoo's Flickr feed.

Brace yourselves for sadness, animal lovers: Shama, the National Zoo’s seven-year-old female red panda, was euthanized on Saturday at the zoo’s facility in Front Royal, Virginia. According to a press release, a necropsy turned up evidence of severe cerebral edema caused by “encephalitis associated with a microscopic parasite.” Zookeepers noticed something was amiss with Shama the Wednesday before, and her condition worsened rapidly. “Shama was euthanized due to her worsening clinical condition and poor neurological function, which was likely attributed to accumulation of fluid in the brain,” says the zoo. 

Shama and Rusty, her male companion, gave birth to their first litter of cubs together earlier this summer. The three cubs are now being hand-reared by staffers, and appear to be developing normally, though one is being treated for pneumonia. Escape artist Rusty also appears to be healthy. 

“Shama’s death is a big loss for all of us and for those who study and care for red pandas everywhere,” says National Zoo director Dennis Kelly in the release. “I have a lot of confidence in the team caring for the surviving cubs and hope this creates an opportunity for scientists to research infectious diseases that affect red pandas.”

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 02:10 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()