Do you know how to safely open a car door?

So, you’ve parked your car. You’ve unbuckled your seatbelt. You’ve taken the key out of the ignition (or pushed the button, or waved a magic wand, or whatever). Now, which hand do you use to open your car door? Odds are good that here in the United States, you have always used your left hand. Of course you do, you probably have never even thought about it until right now. And you’re not alone. But, changing your habit and opening the door with your right hand–increasingly known as the “dutch reach”–could save a life. One of the most serious hazards bicyclists encounter is an unexpected, flung-open car door. When drivers throw open their doors without thinking, bicyclists can be caught unawares and crash into the doors. Or worse, a bicyclist may swerve into traffic unexpectedly, putting themselves at even greater risk. These “dooring” crashes account for 13% of all crashes reported in WABA’s Crash Tracker and are a very real, and increasing, danger for bicyclists as more cars and bicyclists are sharing the road. Thanks to the dutch reach, you can help! The dutch reach began in the Netherlands (hence the name), where people understand the risk of an opening car door to cyclists and the intrinsic benefits of opening the door with the “inside hand.” In fact, they recognize that this technique is so useful that students in primary school are taught this method. Outside Magazine recently made a fun video about the dutch reach and posted it here on You Tube. In the United States the Dutch Reach Project is working tirelessly to increase awareness of the dutch reach, along with coming up with some very clever haikus. Locally, the District of Columbia is working to increase the fine on motorists found responsible for dooring someone. In the proposed revisions, vehicle operators would be fined $50 for, “opening door or permitting a door to open on either side that poses danger to a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motor vehicle.” It should be noted that there already is a law in place in DC that prohibits dooring. Rule 18-2214.4 states, “No person shall open any door of a vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with moving traffic, bicyclists, or pedestrians and with safety to such person and passengers.” This rule makes it clear that the responsibility to verify that it’s safe for a car door to be opened by any passenger is the operators. It seems so simple – but practicing the dutch reach regularly could have exponential ramifications as your friends, family, coworkers, Uber/Lyft passengers, and random passers-by witness your technique. The next time you’re getting out of the car, give it a try!

How it works:

Reach to the door handle with the hand closest to the center of the car, notice how your body is already rotated so you can look over your outside shoulder and see if anyone is passing close to your door. Share the dutch reach with your friends and family, you never know, it could be me and my son you see riding by your parked car. In the not-too-distant future, the WABA Education team will be reaching out to vehicle operators in the region to have discussions on how to be a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly driver. These conversations will serve as an opportunity for drivers to understand the challenges that bicyclists have while riding on the road and for bicyclists to hear the same from drivers. Ultimately, our roadways can be shared by all modes and everyone should be able to get to their destination safely. Keep watching for the announcement and launch of this program.

‘Tis the season…to add more lights

Riding a bike around Washington, DC can be a bit intimidating, for sure. But, if you keep your eyes up and take in some of the sites, it can also be awe inspiring. WABA wants to inspire you during this dark and cold season by riding around downtown DC and take in some of the more impressive light displays on the Lighting the Way community ride. lighting the way Unlike some of our big signature rides WABA community rides are usually shorter weeknight events, sort of the bike equivalent of taking a stroll. Generally a dozen or two riders will ride 4 – 6 miles at a conversational mosey. No one gets left behind, no matter their skill level, and we stop a few times to discuss different riding scenarios and take in some beautiful sights one can only enjoy while riding a bike. So clear your calendar next Wednesday, December 14th and join us. The ride will begin at 7th and Indiana Ave NW, by the Archives Metro station (map). We will depart shortly after 6:30 p.m. In addition to taking in some scenic lights, we will also be giving them away! Thanks to the DC Bike Ambassadors, we have a number of bike lights to give away to to riders we see along the route that don’t have any lights on their bike. Finally, since the highly anticipated WABA Member Holiday Party is the same night, after the ride ends near City Center DC, a group of people will continue on to Boundary Stone, to arrive around 8:30 p.m.

“Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike?”

Did you know that WABA offers classes to teach adults how to ride a bike? The classes are only 3 hours long and are offered almost every weekend in the spring and fall, in different locations throughout the region. You can view the schedule of remaining classes by here.


Nervous about signing up for a class? Each class is taught by instructors that have been certified by the League of American Bicyclists. In addition, each instructor has gone through additional training in our nationally acclaimed approach to Learn to Ride classes. Here’s recent success story:

Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike? There was always an excuse… I grew up on a hill in the country without access to a bike… I was traveling… I saw too many people get hit by cars to want to ride a bike. And then I felt too old, every time a man asked me on a date to go bike riding I would make up an excuse. Finally, at 33, on a beautiful Sunday I joined WABA for an adult bike riding class. We all trickled in nervously, as if not knowing how to ride a bike was shameful and a secret we’ve carried for years. The instructors were kind and enthusiastic and people started talking and making jokes. I decided there and then this was the day I was going to learn! My new friend Greg and I posted up at the end of the line, under the excellent instruction of Jeff, a kind older man who reminded me of my magnificent hippie parents. He taught us how to glide, we laughed through the awkwardness. We gradually got pedals for practice, and then got a taste for speed. By the end of the three hours I was weaving through the obstacle course, wanted to buy a bike, take new classes and become part of the club. Two new friends from class and I walked to brunch and talked about how excited we were. It felt like the first day of camp (in a great way). While I am still afraid of hills and cars I am excited for the next step. Thank you WABA – I encourage everyone to go out and give it a whirl!

So far this year we’ve taught more than 500 adults how to ride a bike. You can already ride a bike? Can your friend or neighbor or colleague? Wouldn’t it be great to go ride bikes together on the weekend? Send them to WABA—one of the ways we work to make bicycling better in the region is by putting more people on bikes in the first place!


Becoming a biking instructor

Understanding the paths that people take to get to where they are fascinates me. I’m constantly asking people how they got to today. Teaching a City Cycling class recently I was chatting with the Lead Instructor for the class, Jason. The lead instructor is responsible for the entire class that day. They have to manage the team of instructors and the students to ensure that the educational experience meets or even exceeds students’ expectations. It’s a tough but rewarding job! While watching Jason work I wondered how he got to this place—leading a group of participants through a City Cycling class. I was curious why he joined WABA in the first place and how that led him to not just teach classes for WABA, but become a lead instructor. Some of the details are unique to Jason, but I imagine that many of his greater points resonate with you, too.
When I moved to DC in 2006 to start a new career, I chose a location close to the free shuttle bus to Georgetown University.  For years I would walk to the bus stop and would arrive on campus a short time later.  One day in 2008, the bus turned a different way, the long way.  Come to find out, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission had voted to prevent any private busses from running through the neighborhood for fear that the old row houses were being shaken to the ground.  Needless to say, I was not happy about the extra time it was taking to go to the same location. The very next day I rushed to the local bike shop—I walked through the door just before closing. I selected a bike and when going to pay for it, noticed WABA membership flyers behind the register. I inquired and noticed that a benefit of being a member of WABA was a discount at local bike shops. The opportunity to save money immediately is how I entered the DC bicycling community.  Before moving to DC, I had a bike which collected dust in my garage where I left it for the new owner. I started to get emails. I learned about the City Cycling classes WABA offered in the community.  Having never biked in a city before, I decided to sign up for a class.  At the time, there were 2 distinct classes. One class focused on the fundamentals of riding a bike while the other offered bicyclists an opportunity to learn and hone hazard avoidance maneuvers. I took both. In the second class, the lead instructor, Glen, mentioned that WABA was looking for instructors to help teach classes—there were hundreds of adults requesting lessons. Who knew? What a great way to help more people feel safe on their bikes! After all, one way of achieving better bicycling is by having more bicyclists on the road.
  In December 2010 I completed the League Certified Instructor (LCI) seminar and became a nationally recognized cycling instructor with the League of American Bicyclists.  Since that time I have been helping WABA teach people how to ride and those that knew, how to ride better and become a “driver” of their wheeled vehicle.  After all, we share the roads with cars and should be just as predictable and respected for the safety of everyone. After teaching classes with WABA for several years, I was asked to become a Lead Instructor.  Lead Instructors are in charge of the classes and work closely with the education staff to ensure quality and consistency.  Leads allow WABA to teach classes simultaneously instead of only one class being held on each day. I appreciate the opportunity I have to teach with WABA and feel honored to be a Lead instructor.
Do you want to help make a difference in the region’s bicycling community? Are you ready to make bicycling better in the region by helping more bicyclists get out on the road? Come and teach with WABA!

Let’s make sure improvements to Jones Point Park work for people on bikes

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.27.08 PM The George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP), which is part of National Park Service (NPS) is in the process of reviewing Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA. Specifically, GWMP is looking to redesign the paved space under the Woodrow Wilson bridge to accommodate and encourage more recreational uses. The space under the bridge was originally intended for parked cars, but security changes following September 11th, 2001 made that no longer a possibility.  Since then, the space has been underutilized while the rest of the park actively encourages recreation. In our formal comments to NPS, WABA has requested that a portion of the paved space under the bridge be turned into a “traffic garden” for bicycle education classes. WABA also recommended that the flexible space designated for a bike safety course in the plan be expanded. The Jones Park Park Recreation plan also proposes to re-route the Mount Vernon trail around the park instead of straight through it. WABA recommended retaining the Mount Vernon Trail alignment through the park to facilitate biking to park amenities and restrooms, while encouraging through-bicyclists to utilize the new routing. We noted that if new routing or re-routing is put in place, the new trail must be 100% off-street, multi-use, and not require any mixing with motor vehicles. Finally, if bicyclists are going to be discouraged from riding through the park past the restrooms, then in-pavement solutions i.e. differentiated pavers or stencils, should be utilized rather than bollards or barriers. Public comments on the project are being accepted through September 23rd. The proposed recreation plan and planning documents can be accessed by clicking here.  To submit comments of your own regarding the plan, please click here.  

Bring your bike to work – EVERYDAY

BTWD-2016-Promo-no-logo Are you tired of explaining to your co-workers how to bike to work? Let us have a try! Bring an Everyday Biking Seminar to your workplace. We’ll cover the basics of riding, preparing yourself and your bike, and what to do when you arrive at your destination. Then we’ll bust some bike myths and answer burning bike questions, with the help of any resident office bike experts. Topics include:
  • Finding a Bike that feels good
  • Bike Law, traffic law and bike etiquette
  • How to be safe & confident on the road
  • Tips on preparation for commuting
  • Tips on having fun while riding in
And if there’s a specific topic you want to tackle, let us know! We’re happy to adapt to your office’s bike needs. Our intent is to provide the facts and answer all of the questions so your colleagues will be inspired to hop on two wheels and experience all of the joy & benefits of biking. To learn more about the Everyday Biking Seminar please click here. You can request an Everyday Biking Seminar by completing this form.   

Meet Doug, our New Education Coordinator

Doug Smith Hello everyone, I’m Doug Smith. I’m very excited and fortunate to be the new Education Coordinator here at WABA. I was encouraged to apply for this position by my family because the role directly aligns with my personal passion. I love to ride a bike. I don’t care if I’m riding down to the corner store, across town to meet friends, or repeatedly up and down the largest hill near my house so my son (on the “tag-a-long”) can feel the thrill of going downhill fast. I am looking forward to sharing my love of riding the bike with you in the community. Professionally, leading up to this position I found myself mostly working from the road. For ten years, I worked in the natural care and wellness industry with a special focus in values-based business and leadership practices. I was a member of the customer development team for the leading producer of natural toothpaste and deodorant. I regularly saw people riding in town while I was stuck at a light and I envied them, I was tired of always looking through my windshield. In this role as the Education Coordinator I’m getting back to where my passion lives, bikes. I’m looking forward to working with the community to get people safely on bicycles that have never ridden before. I believe everyone should be able to experience that joy and freedom. If you’re already comfortable on a bike, I’m looking forward to working with you to help you achieve whatever your goals are, be it greater confidence riding in the city, or experiencing the wonderful roads and trails that are available outside the city. Cheers! You can meet Doug and the rest of our Education Team tonight (2/11) at the Mad Fox Tavern in Glover Park