City Desk

Chatter: Lane and the Gang

stencilcoverWhat you said about what we said last week

Is the artist spray-painting positive messages in D.C.’s bike lanes a guardian angel, a scofflaw, or, um, a danger to the very bicyclists she hopes to inspire? “‘I love bicyclists, I think I’ll spray paint tiny bon mots onto the pavement, for them to read as they speed past,’” is how Urban Scrawl’s Franklin Schneider summed up last week’s cover story by, um, me. He continued, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost ridden into the path of a garbage truck because I was craning my neck backwards to see who or what Jesus, in fact, loves. (Bikes. It said Jesus loves bikes. It’s irony.)”

Other readers were more straightforward in their enthusiasm for the stencils, which first appeared in August. “Awesome! Love it !!” wrote Monica. “A harmless bit of ‘nudging’ that manages to attract people’s attention and alter their behavior in a positive way, without actually requiring anyone to do anything at all.”

For every chipper endorsement, however, there was a reactionary spasm. “I HATE IT!!!!” wrote Buzy Bee. “Wish you could ride on the sidewalk instead of the streets. When a cyclist hits my car I’m still at fault? This is not San Fran or L.A. D.C. is too small as it is.”

And: “This makes me see how D.C. has changed and not for the best. Taggers painting messages of no importance on the streets and the babysitters (the police and [the Department of Public Works]) look the other way,” wrote Retiredcop70. “Bicyclists have no laws to follow in D.C. that’s why [the stencil artist] can do whatever she wants. All of this bike freedom is going to come back on DC officials one day when someone with sense realizes the revenue that is being lost by not enforcing the law on bicyclists."

Um, OK. Officer Sprinkle parried, kind of: “From my experience working as & with the police, I can confidently state that no modes have even a modest track record for adhering to traffic laws, and enforcement of any mode isn’t even enough to be given as quality a marker as ‘spotty.’ Bicyclists aren’t alone in that regard.”

Referendumb

When it comes to ballot initiatives, the D.C. Council isn’t always on board with the wishes of voters, a tension Will Sommer explored in last week’s Loose Lips column. But are readers? “Ballot questions are no way to run a democracy. Just ask Californians,” wrote JimA. “Ballot questions have two fundamental flaws. First, they assume that voters understand the issue presented. That assumes too much; [lots] of voters are, well, dumb. Second, ballot questions effectively present voters with a simplistic binary choice: yes or no. No nuance is permitted. We live in a representative democracy. We elected politicians to study complex policy issues and to make decisions in the public interest. (At least that’s the theory.) Ballot questions should exist only rarely.”

Reader jorge wasn’t feeling the California comparison: “In California, ballot initiative have been hijacked by corporations seeking to push their issues to voters who really don’t understand the policies in question, because they’re often arcane issues just related to a particular industry. That hasn’t happened yet in D.C., perhaps because of the limitations. The issues discussed here are pretty readily understandable to voters, and are really great topics for ballot initiatives.”

Department of Corrections

Due to a reporting error, a review of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum originally misidentified the actor who plays Philia. She is Lora Lee Gayer.

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