City Desk

Gear Prudence: Help! My Boyfriend Has Bike Rage.

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Gear Prudence: Whenever my boyfriend and I ride together, it doesn’t go well because of his crazy road rage. He’s constantly giving drivers the finger and cursing at them, and I’ve seen him get into more than one screaming match when someone has cut him off. When I asked him about his (over-?)reactions, he said, “That’s just the way it is between bikes and cars,” and that bicyclists need to stick up for themselves if they ever want respect on the road. He has a point, but it’s just so embarrassing to ride with such a hothead who makes such a big scene over every slight. He’s totally normal and non-ragey off the bike, so is there any way I can get him to mellow out so riding with him isn’t so awful? —Ride Angry, Girlfriend Embarrassed

Dear RAGE: This sounds familiar. Is your boyfriend Dr. Bruce Banner? When he rages at drivers, does he turn all muscular and green and occasionally cavort with a squad of other superheroes in an endless series of tortuous comic book blockbusters? Are there piles of shredded bike jerseys and ripped Lycra shorts strewn about his apartment? This could be a problem.

It’s good that he’s normal and non-ragey when he’s not riding his bike, meaning his condition is limited to transportation interactions. However, to avoid the mortification of being seen with him when he flips out, you might just need to stop riding with him altogether. Tell him that if he doesn’t get himself under control, you’d be happy to let him ride solo. This hopefully shouldn’t HULKSMASH your relationship, but it’s better to say something then to be forever forced to ride alongside a rageaholic.

GP notices a lot of rage riding out there and wishes it weren’t so prevalent. It’s not so much that these reactions are surprising—the power disparity between someone driving and someone on a bicycle creates a situation where fear is channeled into anger—but that they’re mostly ineffective. Screaming your head off at someone is unlikely to ameliorate anything and has the potential to escalate a bad situation into one much worse. If you’re in immediate danger, do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. But if trouble has passed, really consider whether it’s truly necessary to aggressively drop a few f-bombs about someone’s lack of turn signal a few blocks back.

It’s hard to expect comity on the roads to arrive from yet more confrontation. If bicyclists earned respect on the road through swears and flipping people off, they’d have well received it by now. Bicyclists don’t need to earn anything: They’re rightful road users just like anyone else. But just like everyone else, bicyclists can try to play a part in making the roads (marginally) less hostile. —GP

Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email gearprudence@washcp.com.

Blogger Sues to Get Her Muhammad Cartoon Ads on Metro

Self-proclaimed "anti-jihad" blogger Pamela Geller is taking Metro to court again. This time, she wants to force the transit agency to put drawings of Muhammad on the side of Metrobuses.

Geller's 2012 lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ended in victory for Geller. Since then, WMATA mostly accepted Geller's ads. But after an attack on her American Freedom Defense Initiative group's Muhammad drawing event in Texas, WMATA refused Geller's request to place an ad with the Muslim prophet on 20 buses and in 5 stations. Instead, WMATA pre-empted Geller by refusing all "issue-oriented advertising," a prohibition Geller says via email amounts to "capitulation to sharia law."

"It's an end run around the first amendment," Geller writes.

Now Geller and her organization are suing WMATA again on First Amendment grounds to get their ads into the system. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel declined to comment.

Read more Blogger Sues to Get Her Muhammad Cartoon Ads on Metro

District Line Daily: No Pepco Alternative

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

The D.C. Council voted to pull $250,000 the city was going to use to study the creation of a city-owned power company. Councilmember Mary Cheh criticized the move, saying, "This is plainly a Pepco amendment, lobbied by Pepco representatives."

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • D.C.'s in for another summer of fewer shows and smaller acts at Fort Dupont and Carter Barron. [Arts Desk]
  • Audit: School modernization agencies broke rules, didn't keep track of money. [Loose Lips]
  • Hill East has a new coffee hub. [Young & Hungry]
  • The Nationals are getting a new racing president: Calvin Coolidge. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Seniority Rule: Phil Mendelson fends off a freshmen revolt over tax cuts.

Unexcused Absences: D.C. Council questions progress on truancy reforms—featuring a cameo from "Bacrock Obama."

And In Health: Newly diagnosed cases of HIV in D.C. declined by 40 percent between 2009 and 2013.
Read more District Line Daily: No Pepco Alternative

Number of New HIV Diagnoses Continues to Drop in D.C.

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Newly diagnosed cases of HIV declined by 40 percent between 2009 and 2013, according to a new report, while no babies were born with the virus during the latter year.

It's the sixth year in a row HIV rates have decreased in D.C., a significant accomplishment for a city still facing an epidemic. More than 16,000 D.C. residents—or 2.5 percent of the population—were living with HIV as of 2013, according a D.C. Department of Health report released this morning.

"D.C. continues to make progress in the fight against HIV, and we have good news to share with you today," Mayor Muriel Bowser said today at Whitman-Walker Health's Eastern Market location.

Read more Number of New HIV Diagnoses Continues to Drop in D.C.

D.C. Council Questions Progress on Truancy Reforms

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Jason Crocker was the first to testify at Monday afternoon’s joint roundtable on truancy reform initiatives.

“Mr. Grosso, you’ve said before that these meetings can be boring. So I won’t be boring,” Crocker said before launching into a two-minute impersonation of President Obama.

He called that alter ego “Bacrock Obama,” and the embarrassment—which stunned viewers in the packed hearing room into total silence—was an apt symbol for the three-hour-long meeting.

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, who chairs the Council’s education committee, was frustrated with the lack of up-to-date analysis of existing truancy reform initiatives.

“How do we look at this and evaluate how all of these different programs are working, and how do we refine it if it’s not? Who do we give the money to and why?” Grosso asked. “I’m more and more convinced we can’t legislate our way to better attendance.”

Read more D.C. Council Questions Progress on Truancy Reforms

District Line Daily: Metro Proposes Service Cuts

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Metro is proposing to cut rush hour service on four lines in order to add capacity on the Blue Line. Headways on the Orange, Silver, Green, and Yellow lines would increase to eight minutes.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Map: At least 255 pedestrians and cyclists have been struck in D.C. this year. [City Desk]
  • Man sues D.C. for $30 million for wrongful murder conviction. [Post]
  • Bowser expands the youth summer jobs program. [City Desk]
  • D.C. Council will consider income tax cuts opposed by mayor. [ABC7]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

R.I.P.: Former D.C. Taxi Commission Chairman Ron Linton died at age 86.

High-Volume Restaurant: This new restaurant and bar in Adams Morgan aims to be for music lovers what a sports bar is for sports lovers.

Up in Vapor: Will a tax force vape shops out of business?
Read more District Line Daily: Metro Proposes Service Cuts

Bowser Kicks Off Expanded Summer Jobs Program

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Marion Barry would probably have been thrilled to hear how one D.C. resident has been helped by the summer jobs program he established.

Sheronda Adams has participated in Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, renamed this year in honor of the late mayor, since she was 14. Now a graduate student at Trinity College, she will work this summer right outside Muriel Bowser’s office with the mayor’s chief of staff.

Adams became eligible for the program this year after Bowser expanded the age range for SYEP participants to 24. The program is designed to help young people who are struggling to find full-time work, like Adams, as well as those who have never worked in an office environment.

“Just from personal experience, coming out of college after a long semester, things can be kind of stressful,” Adams said.

Adams is one of about 1,000 22- to 24-year-olds among this year’s 15,000 total SYEP participants. Bowser touted the expansion at a Monday morning roundtable to kick off this summer’s program.

“We got in our minds that being a young person ends at the age of 21, and in a lot of cases we should and must expect a lot of 21-year-olds. You’re adults,” Bowser said. “What I’ve also learned is that they want to work,” she added. They’re “not lazy, not uncreative... but really in need of some direction and a chance.”

The program pays participants between $5.25 and $9.25 an hour, depending on age, while D.C.’s minimum wage will increase to $10.50 an hour this July. The summer salary will not affect older participants’ benefits, like TANF, plus SYEP will help set up those in need with childcare.

This summer’s program will ultimately serve as a pilot for a permanent expansion to include participants between the ages of 22 and 24. The D.C. Council declined to provide funding for the expansion beyond this summer.

“We have a lot of folks that are interested, which tells us that the demand is there and that young people are looking to work,” said Gerren Price, deputy director of Youth Operations for the Department of Employment Services. The agency posted the hiring announcement on social media and through community listservs on April 6; by the end of the workday, there were already 1,000 applicants.

“What I often see is that less so than folks using it as a crutch, but more so as folks using it as a support system,” Price said. He said his team will individually interview all 1,000 participants to grasp how the program is working and how they can improve it after its first year. Councilmember Vincent Orange, who heads the Council's Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, wants the program to help at least 35 percent of this summer's older participants find a full-time job.

Robert Holm, director of the IT Academy at McKinley Technology Education Campus, says it can be difficult to convince parents to allow their kids to work for low pay. While working with SYEP through On-Ramps to Careers, a STEM-focused program that partners kids with private sector jobs, Holm recalls when one participant had to give up the opportunity to work at Microsoft to babysit at home. Still, for those who participate, he sees the program as successful.

“If you’re at 22 or 23 and you haven’t had a job, yes, you’re harder to employ and you might’ve developed some bad habits, but this is a good spot to fix it.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Struck in D.C.: An Interview With No. 249 (Map)

At least 255 pedestrians and cyclists have been struck, primarily by motorists, in D.C. so far this year. Fifty-two of the year’s total incidents took place this month, with cyclists comprising about a quarter of those hit.

Bannon Puckett, who has been biking in D.C. for two years, is one of those 52.

Read more Struck in D.C.: An Interview With No. 249 (Map)

District Line Daily: Up in Vapor

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

D.C. vape shops say an all-but-approved tax increase on their products will force them to shut down. "They're going to put us out of business," one shop owner says, "and they don't care."

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The DCPS food contractor at the center of a lawsuit is about to get new contract. [Post]
  • Strict pop-up and conversion limits are now in effect in many D.C. neighborhoods. [WBJ]
  • The D.C. summer jobs program begins. [ABC7]
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton scraps with the House Sergeant-at-Arms over gun laws. [Loose Lips]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Fortuitous: This year's Fort Reno shows will happen (and we've got the lineup), thanks to a late fundraising push.

District of Colombia: D.C. now has a place to get a stuffed arepa with fried egg in the morning.

A Safe Bet?: Our latest cover story examines whether the District's big investments in stadiums pay off.
Read more District Line Daily: Up in Vapor

Up in Vapor: D.C. Vape Shops Say Proposed Tax Will Shut Them Down

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A wall of cigarettes at District Vape owner Sean Robinson says customers have left behind.

When Sean Robinson talks about why he opened his vape shop on H Street NE last November, he doesn't cite the promised streetcar or the luxury buildings rising on both ends of the corridor.

“There’s one thing around H Street that you won’t find in a lot of other places in D.C., and it’s poor people,” he says. “Poor people deserve a chance not to smoke, too.”

Robinson’s shop, District Vape, sells vape devices and "e-juice," a flavored liquid used in vaporizers that can be produced with or without nicotine. The 48-year-old Arlington resident began vaping as a way to quit smoking, a cessation technique that he wants others to adopt.

“It’s important to me that they quit smoking. It’s the mission.”

But Robinson and other vape shop owners in D.C. say an all-but-approved tax increase on their products will force them out of business. Members of the D.C. Council, on the other hand, say the matter is a public health issue, plain and simple.

“They're going to put us out of business,” Robinson says, “and they don't care.”

The Vapor Product Amendment Act of 2015, a provision in the fiscal year 2016 budget support act, adds e-cigarettes and “similar vapor products containing nicotine” to the list of “other tobacco products.” Currently, vape products are subject to the 5.75 percent sales tax, while “the rate of tax applicable to wholesale sales of other tobacco products is 70 percent,” according to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. The wholesale tax would apply to both the liquid that becomes vapor and the vape devices themselves, according to John Paul Brandt, legislative counsel for the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services.

“There’s no way that we would be able to justify those prices for our customers,” says Erik Miller, who owns D.C. Vape Joint in Adams Morgan. “There’s no way they would buy the same bottle of juice that they get online or in Maryland or Virginia for a few bucks cheaper. We’re already a little bit more expensive, just doing business in D.C. It’s just more expensive. But to double our prices for the same exact product, no."

Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who heads the Committee on Health and Human Services, says she doesn’t know “why the term vaping is being used instead of smoking” in this debate. Studies in recent years have questioned the safety of e-cigarettes and vape devices, including one from the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year that said e-cigarettes produce formaldehyde when a device is turned to a high voltage. (Vaping proponents say the study was flawed.)

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to set regulations for vape products beyond those used for “therapeutic purposes.” While the FDA is considering a proposed rule that would put e-cigarette regulation under its purview, the advice currently offered on its site emphasizes how much is still unknown: “E-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”

Alexander also points to vape products’ lack of official designation as a smoking cessation product, a point of contention that was on display at May 8 Council hearing.

At that budget oversight hearing, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson asked Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, if vapor products are healthier than cigarettes.

“They are far healthier,” Conley began before Mendelson interjected, “No, no, no, that’s not what I’m asking. I don’t want a comparison.”

“Well sir,” Conley continued, “if you look at nicotine gum that people have been using for decades—President Obama, for example, used to chew it, and compared to the one- or two- pack a day habit he used to have, I would venture to say that long-term, yes, for a smoker that is unable or unwilling to quit, that is the healthy option.”

But for Alexander, without FDA regulations in place, treating vape products like cigarettes makes sense. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents H Street NE, agrees.

“I’m going to put the public health issue first,” he says. “It’s a reality that we are treating these products the same way we treat nicotine products. That’s where the tax is levied, and that’s where the approach comes from.”

Barring a major change in heart, the D.C. Council will approve the tax on June 30 when the members take a second vote on the budget; the change would go into effect in October.

Robinson says he’d be sad to close his business and lay off his four employees, but he’s not going to risk his life savings “because of the government.”

“The purpose of the rewriting of the words… is to generate revenue, but in essence it's going to put three stores out of business,” he says. According to a committee report, the amendment is expected to raise $380,000 in fiscal year 2016.

“Our mission is to get people off cigarettes, [and the Council is] not helping,” Robinson says. “Maybe they don't buy into that—and that's fair, they don't need to—but 70 percent is an outrageous amount.”

Photo by Sarah Anne Hughes

District Line Daily: Statehood Bill

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

The D.C. statehood bill was once again introduced in the Senate, where it will surely die.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • National Cathedral to remove stained glass featuring Confederate flag. [USA Today]
  • Marion C. Barry was sentenced to 15 days in jail, which he'll serve on weekends, for violating the terms of his probation. [Post]
  • Marion Barry confidante gets probation for stealing $52K. [Loose Lips]
  • A bouldering gym, beer garden, and in-house coffee roaster under one roof. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

A Safe Bet?: This week's cover story examines whether the District's big investments in stadiums are worthwhile.

The Last Supper: Horror stories of breakups in D.C. restaurants and bars

Seventh Heaven: Political intrigue in Ward 7 includes Kwame Brown potentially challenging Yvette Alexander.
Read more District Line Daily: Statehood Bill

Statehood Bill Once Again Introduced in the Senate

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Delaware Sen. Tom Carper has once again introduced a bill that would grant D.C. statehood, a companion to the House version offered earlier this year by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

In a press release, Norton says she’s grateful for the show of support from Carper, noting that “Once Senator Carper promised me he would introduce the D.C. Statehood bill in the Senate last Congress, I knew it would happen.” The bill has 17 co-sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Whip Richard Durbin.

Norton reintroduced the New Columbia Admission Act to the House in January with 93 co-sponsors. During the 113th Congress, the House statehood bill was ultimately co-sponsored by 112 members and the Senate companion by 21 senators.

In a major victory for statehood advocates, Carper held the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in September. But hopes were quickly brought back to Earth when Carper, the only Senator to attend the entire hearing, said he could not guarantee the bill would move out of committee. (It didn’t.)

Prospects for the bills’ advancement in a Congress controlled by the GOP, with majorities in both the Senate and the House, look even worse this year. But hey: At least Bernie Sanders is on board.

Photo by Mr. T in D.C. via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Buy D.C.: Picnic

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, curated by Kaarin Vembar, owner of personal shopping and wardrobe editing service Closet Caucus.

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Baguette on My Level

Instead of a PB&J, consider taking a bánh mì  sandwich. It’s easy to pack, but its distinct sweet and spicy flavors make it worthy of a gourmet meal.

Vietnamese baguette sandwich with chicken, $9. BONMi. 900 19th St. NW. (202) 785-0012.

Duffle

Go to the Mat(resses)

Level up from a ratty blanket to this Mega Mat. It’s padded, mold resistant, and has a handle so you can haul it from Metro to the perfect picnic spot.

Mega Mat, $50. Chocolate Moose. 1743 L St. NW. (202) 463-0992.

CheeseKnife
Mack the Knife

This little cheese knife is the perfect size to bring along in your picnic basket.

Mini cheese knife, $15.95. The Mediterranean Way Gourmet Market. 1717 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 560-5715.

FaceZinc
Face Off

Make sure your skin is protected while sitting in the sunshine. This clear zinc oxide is SPF 45, hypoallergenic, and won’t clog your pores.

Face Potion, $6.50. Tschiffely Pharmacy.1330 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 331-7176.

AntPics

Go Marching Two by Two, Hurrah

These food picks are picnic perfect. Bring them along as a fun way to display and eat fruit, cheese, and veggies.

Worker ant party picks, $6.99. Home Rule. 1807 14th St. NW. (202) 797-5544.

Chatter: Fuck Ya Fuckin’ Bike

cover-issue1855-lgWhat you said about what we said last week

“Pass the popcorn... This thread’s gonna be fun,” wrote Extra butter, please, correctly anticipating the nature of reader response to Will Sommer’s District Line column. “Riding a bike on the sidewalk makes sense. Why the hate?” was the basic premise. It wasn’t, as far as we could tell, an unhinged rant against reasonable sidewalk use or biking etiquette. It barely promoted any sectarian strife. Sure, “to sidewalk or not to sidewalk” was the question, but neither side was put on blast. And yet! Oh, the hate. The torrents of Biblical, blood-red, blinding hate spewed upon Sommer and all those who would dare suggest using a bicycle on the sidewalk.

Some readers swallowed their vitriol and offered some constructive commentary: “Solution: remove a lane from M Street to expand the sidewalk and add bike lanes,” suggested one anonymous commenter. Most let the vitriol spew, however. Perennial staff favorite and comments-section darling noodlez, practically an artist with the caps lock key, neatly summarized the stance of Sommer’s opposition: “HOW ABOUT GETTING YOUR ASS IN THE STREET AND RIDE LAWFULLY WITH THE TRAFFIC. SIDEWALKS ARE NOT BIKE EXPRESS LANES!” Translation: kindly cycle in the road, not the sidewalk, please and thank you. carlos the dwarf pointed out that drivers are likely to mow down bikers in the street. noodlez helpfully shouted a clarification of the rules. “IF YOU ARE RIDING LEGALLY IN STREET WITH AND WITH OUT DESIGNATED LANES THEN ITS INCUMBENT ON DRIVER TO GIVE YOU RIGHT OF WAY. IM ESPECIALLY POINTING AT THOSE VA DRIVERS WHO MAKES ME WANNA DEMO DERBY THEIR ASSES.” Inside voices, please.

We actually have a hard time believing suspicious_package has ever been on a District sidewalk, though. “How many times have you been ruun down on the sidewalk exactly? I walk on the sidewalks a lot and I’ve never had it happen to me. Nor do I know anyone who’s had it happen to them.” Is that because you don’t get out much or because cyclists have been shamed off the sidewalk and, uh, aren’t there to run you over? No one’s happy here, but we can look to Europe, contended big boy. “In the countries where they have the greatest numbers of cyclists and least accidents- countries such as Holland, Germany and Denmark, most of the bicycle tracks are on sidewalks or bumped out portions of the road- almost NEVER in the road or outside of parked cars as we do here. Basically as a society we have done ZERO to encourage cyclists- except for those foolhardy Lance Armstrong guys in lycra and spandex who are all into racing or looking sleek. These guys are often aggressive and seldom go slow or use warning signals for pedestrians. We need to change our entire outlook towards cycling in this country and make it more inclusive and less athletic oriented.” Gavel, gavel: City Paper endorses any policy that reduces the prevalence of spandex worn in public.

This Week’s Page Three Photo

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1800 Block of First Street NW, June 22

Page three photos are also in this gallery.

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