Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Gear Prudence: My friend and I were walking up to a Bikeshare station, where there were just two bikes left. When we got closer, I saw that there was a tourist standing in front of the kiosk slowly navigating the screens to get a bike. We’re both Bikeshare members and had our keys out and ready to go. My buddy said we should just take the last two bikes because we’re members, but I thought we shouldn’t since the tourist was already in the process of checking out. In the end, we didn’t take the bikes, but would it have been wrong if we did? —Must Everyone Mull Bikeshare Etiquette, Reasonableness
Dear MEMBER: Probably. There’s both a text and a subtext here that GP will unpack. The primary question is, when does the Bikeshare bike belong to you? Is it when you begin to go through the touchscreen at the kiosk, when you swipe your credit card, when you receive your code to unlock the bike, when you approach your selected bike, or when the bike is actually under your butt? GP is inclined to think that it’s much closer to when the process begins than when there’s actual possession. In that regard, your initial judgment was correct: One of the bikes “belonged” to the tourist. But the subtext of all this is the question of whether members with keys are more worthy of bikes than tourists. And the answer is no. Every Bikeshare user is equal and your key confers only convenience, not greater priority. —GP
Gear Prudence: I have noticed a preponderance of mopeds and motorized scooters in the bike lane lately. While I know the low-powered ones are legally allowed to do this, it still seems dangerous. The riders also don’t seem to look out for bikes and weave in and out of the bike lane whimsically. What are your thoughts on this scourge? Shouldn’t bike lanes just be for bikes? —Motorized Or Pedal Equality Demanded?
Dear MOPED: First, the law. A motor on your two-wheeled apparatus doesn’t disqualify you from use of a bike lane, provided that you’re not riding a motorcycle, which D.C. law regards as anything with more than a 50cc engine or capable of traveling faster than 35 miles per hour. As you rightly state, there are motorized vehicles that don’t meet these thresholds, and legally these are permitted in bike lanes. Should they be there? GP doesn’t know. Most bikes in the city aren’t going more than 15 miles per hour, and adding much faster traffic to the narrow strip of pavement that constitutes most bike lanes seems likes a recipe for trouble. At the same time, they’re not cars either, so if responsible moped riders are willing to accept that sometimes bicyclists might slow them down—and to behave accordingly in those cases—changing the law to ban them outright seems unnecessary. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.