Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barriers to Entry, but Not to Exit

Just when you think the Woodrow Wilson Bollard Farm has reached it's maximum level of stupidity, the good folks at VDOT make it worse. Today's addition is four new flexible bollards leading to the center fixed bollard at the base of the hill on the southern approach to the bridge. That was long winded but the picture gives you the idea. The point here apparently is to give you seven bollards of two types to avoid as you approach the underside of the bridge.

The magnificent seven
For a while there was a lone bollard in the middle of the trail down near the river.  This bollard was not sufficient to keep out evil doers because the design geniuses behind this project left one entire side of an adjacent parking lot obstructed only by some saplings. Of course, rather than address this problem they decided to install more bollards across the trail.

The lone bollard.
Drawing to indicate location of new bollard
All of these bollards are intended to keep a truck bomb from beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which has been unprotected for 42 years.  Of course, every other Potomac River Bridge, including a key railroad bridge, a metro bridge, the 14 Street Bridges, the Memorial Bridge, the TR Bridge (plus assorted ramps) and the Key Bridge)  could be blown to bits by a truck on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, but the geniuses at Homeland Security couldn't figure out how to install bollards across the Parkway without pissing off motorists.  That just wouldn't be prudent.

Although I refrain from photographing it, the Homeland Security folks have also added some sort of black cages to some of the arches beneath the Wilson Bridge to deter evil doers on foot. I can't believe they don't just fill the underside of the bridge with a massive amount of concrete and call it a day.

Of course, they could place security cameras around these places but that would require someone to watch the cameras. Even though every local DOT does this 24/7, our Homeland Security folks can't get it together to do that.

(For the record, I briefly worked for Homeland Security and was nearly driven insane. I left after 8 weeks.)

If this keeps up, I may become a Tea Party person. Or, end up in the nervous hospital.

Meanwhile, seven miles to the north, the beautification committee of the National Park Service was hard at work installing plastic, water-filled jersey barriers along the trail near the entrance to Roosevelt Island.  Now, they could have actually planted some nice hydrangea bushes or maybe some arborvitae to act as a barrier but that would be tasteful and we can't have that now, can we?

Aren't they pretty?
On a bittersweet note, yet another of my cycling-related friends and a member of the Friday Coffee Club has flown the DC coop.  First, Richard, a member of last fall's 50 States Ride posse left for Puerto Rico by way of Spain. Then, Florencia, the organizer of the posse, headed for Cambodia by way of Argentina.  Then Adam (a.k.a. Froggie) was shipped off to Norfolk by way of Vermont.  (I do believe the 50 States corkscrew routing has messed up their senses of direction.) Today, Lauren, a.k.a. lkono, has headed off to Ireland (by way of London, which leads me to believe she rode the considerably less convoluted 13 Colonies Ride).  These four people embody why living here in the Washington area is so great.  Between them they have interests in meteorology, yoga, Chinese, acroyoga, Spanish, rock climbing, back alley waffles, running, a rooftop bathtub, and the Navy.  And I know I am leaving a lot out.  You'all (it's a southern city, don't you know) are welcome back any time.


  1. At least Norfolk's within the same state. Now if only I could get around these pesky surprise deployments...

  2. "All of these bollards are intended to keep a truck bomb from beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge...".

    I don't see how the 4 yellow, flexy bollards in your first picture could stop a truck. What is their purpose? It's almost like someone's messing with you!

    1. Freewheel,

      The new yellow flexible bollards are meant to keep trail users from hitting the big black ones. The big black ones are supposed to stop evil doers.

    2. The yellow bollards were the direct result of the meeting between Alexandria BPAC, WABA, VDOT, Alexandria city staff and the TSA. The TSA recommended the many anti-evil doer obstructions and VDOT played along (they didn't have to). We (bicyclists) could not convince everyone else to remove the center bollard or any bollard from the trail. We argued that they were trading a hypothetical concern (evil doers) with a proven danger, but got nowhere.

      So, given that the bollard trio sits at the bottom of the hill, the big danger is assumed to be to northbound cyclists approaching at moderate to high speed. Specifically, the danger was perceived to be maximum when multiple people are in the area, when some of them are passing each other and when one or more is surprised by the presence of the bollards (it was assumed that a lone cyclist would have no trouble). The idea of the flexible yellow bollards is to force people to stop passing each other before they get to the slid black bollards. If we (Alexandria BPAC and WABA) conclude they are making things worse, we will ask for them to be removed.

      There is the additional danger that a northbound cyclist will ride to the left of the left-most bollard, hit the curb, and land on the sharp rocks (no kidding). VDOT promised to do something to discourage this.

    3. Thanks, Jonathan.

      Now that you mention it, the curb with the big rocks just out from the underside of the bridge in a way that seems utterly pointless. In fact, that goes double for the whole idea of the curb and the rocks under the bridge. I am sure the people who designed this meant well but the entire thing seems so hopelessly inept, particularly in light of the fact that the trail down to the river is so nice.

    4. Thank you both for the explanation. There may be some collisions with the yellow bollards, so I hope they really are flexible. For example, if a cyclist takes too wide of turn coming from under the bridge (rounding the rock pile), he or she could hit the first 2 yellow bollards. In addition, given the lack of space to correct a too-wide turn, there could be collisions between cyclists going in opposite directions. This is definitely a take-it-slow area with those bollards there.

    5. I was coming from the direction of the river last night when I came to the bollards. A bike coming from So. Royal made the turn into the magnificent seven, couldn't make the tight turn and ended up on the wrong side of the bollards. She was lucky no one was coming the other way.

  3. If you're drinking tea Friday, I'll understand. Personally, I move for the modern tea party to drink coffee in protest of nasty government obstructionist tactical Gaian phalanges.