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'Ghost bike' set as memorial

bike
'Ghost bike' near 12th Street and New York Avenue NW. (Courtesy of Washington Area Bicycle Association)
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has placed a memorial to cyclist Constance Holden, 68, near 12th Street and New York Avenue NW, where she was killed Monday evening.

The white bike, which we've seen elsewhere around the District near the sites of fatalities, reminds us of the need for all travelers to pay attention to one another, even under the stresses of getting around in a crowded city.

Holden, of Mount Pleasant, was struck by a D.C. National Guard truck assigned to the Nuclear Security Summit. She was the first cyclist to die in the city this year. The incident is under D.C. police investigation.

I had walked through the area about a half an hour earlier. The mix of drivers, cyclists and walkers was somewhat diminished because so many people worked from home, but the intersections still were quite active, with motorcades and security forces occasionally passing through.

The cyclists' association has long urged all of us, no matter what our mode of travel, to be aware of our surroundings and cautious in our navigation.

Glen Harrison, who directs the association's education program, passed along some safety reminders for everyone.

Cyclists
Be seen. If you can‟t see the driver of a vehicle either directly, or through a window or in a side-view mirror, then they cannot see you. Make eye contact if possible. Wear high-visibility clothing and use front and rear lights when riding at night or in the early morning.

Ride away from the "door zone."
Give enough space between yourself and parked cars that a car door can open unobstructed. If necessary, take your own lane of traffic. It's your right.

Obey traffic rules. Inside the central business district in Washington, bicyclists are not allowed on the sidewalk. On the road, you are subject to the same rights, responsibilities and rules as motor vehicles.

Drivers
Watch for cyclists. Check your side mirrors when turning. In urban areas, bikes and cars can travel at comparable speeds so just because you passed a cyclist doesn't mean he or she disappeared. Always use your turn signals when turning. Take the time to look before you open your car door.

Reduce your speed. Driving slowly and carefully around other road users saves lives.

Share the road. There are more than 72,000 bike trips a day in the Washington region. Give cyclists three feet when passing. The extra time it takes you to drive safely around a cyclist could save a life.

The association has a guide called Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area that I think is very helpful for all travelers.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 13, 2010; 6:24 PM ET
Categories:  Biking , Driving , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock  
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Comments

"Obey traffic rules"

Funniest thing I've read all day.

Posted by: fireball72 | April 13, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I've never seen a cyclist obeying traffic laws. In fact, a few weeks ago I saw a cyclist run through a stop sign and then RING HIS BELL at pedestrians in a crosswalk because they were in his way.

Posted by: jw703 | April 13, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

1. Classy. In a case where it doesn't seem the cyclist has broken any laws, you two find a way to take a jab at scofflaw cyclists.

2. Compliance with the law is probably higher among cyclists than it is among drivers. You're just more used to seeing drivers speed and more accepting of it.

Posted by: cranor | April 14, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

2. Compliance with the law is probably higher among cyclists than it is among drivers.

____________________

Well, it's just 8 am, and I've read the biggest whopper I'm going to see today. Thanks for the laugh, buddy.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | April 14, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The overwhelming vast majority of bicyclists I've seen in the District do not obey traffic laws; they almost always run stop signs, red lights, veer across traffic in front of cars, etc. As a general rule, they have do not respect the law, from the years of driving here and what I've witnessed to merit any sympathy from me when they do get into accidents.

I don't know this woman, and my heart goes out to her friends, associates and family. I don't know the conditions under which this tragedy occurred. The best thing they can do is encourage any other bicyclists they know to obey the laws of the road and not act as if they own the road.

Posted by: HillRat | April 14, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The overwhelming vast majority of drivers I've seen in the District do not obey traffic laws; they almost always run stop signs, red lights, veer across traffic changing lanes without signaling or checking if anyone's next to them, etc. As a general rule, they have do not respect the law, from the years of driving here and what I've witnessed to merit any sympathy from me when they do get into accidents.

I cannot recall a single time in the last five years I've witnessed MPD make a routine traffic stop, which probably explains the "Road Warrior" mentality in the District.

Posted by: nocando | April 14, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"scofflaw cyclists" is redundant redundant.

Posted by: jiji1 | April 14, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Cyclists "Obey traffic laws"? Yeah, right.

I visit clients downtown 2-3 times/week and come into the District a lot on weekends. Nearly every time, I see cyclists blow through stop signs, ride on the sidewalks downtown, and block traffic as if they own the road. My personal favorite are the cyclists who approach a red light then ride through if the intersection is clear. Not to mention the clowns (funny how that Spandex looks like a jester outfit) who ride several abreast completely blocking traffic and refusing to clear the way.

And don't dare blow your horn or call them out. I've been yelled at, cursed at, spit at, blocked, and lectured about my "gas-guzzling SUV" (which BTW is a hybrid).

I'm sure some of the cyclists will call me a liar and post something snarky, but take note: I've NEVER seen a driver stop/slow down at a red light then drive through it if no one was crossing. I see cyclists do it every day, even after dark. End of story.

Posted by: ceefer66 | April 14, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm very sorry this woman died, as it doesn't seem like she was doing anything wrong. However, many cyclists don't obey the traffic laws, and are downright arrogant about taking up the entire road in packs. Why doesn't the cycling association try to do something about that?

Posted by: slim4 | April 14, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Large areas of the perimeter of the summit were a combination motor pool and staging area for police / feds and frankly it was very tense and hazardous throughout. I am not sure this is a cyclist safety issue so much as a federal event planning issue. Those of us in buildings along the perimeter should have been ordered to stay home, as it was we dodged motorcades and security convoys all day. Constance didn't dodge fast enough.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | April 14, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

It's terrible that the overwhelming response to this article for the drivers to say the bikers are bad and vice versa. How about recognizing that some drivers, bikers, and pedestrians completely ignore traffic laws in DC. The solution is to make an effort, regardless of your mode of transportation, to follow the law and watch out for other forms of transportation. Multiple wrongs don't make a right.

Posted by: anon35 | April 14, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

How do cyclists sit on those tiny seats since they're such large bungholes?

Posted by: ronjaboy | April 14, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I am one of those law breaking cyclists.

Here is the deal, I am trying to stay safe, not obey traffic laws. I have been hit too many times by cars breaking the law (illegal U-turns, double parking and opening a door without looking, etc.) to feel any sympathy for you poor drivers. Remember we drive cars too. Know what I do when I see a cyclist? I give them some damn room to do their thing.

While I am sure this lady was doing nothing wrong, I betcha I would not have been in the situation she was in as I probably would have been out in the middle of traffic, breaking laws...but being seen.

Posted by: keithrjackson | April 14, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I cannot recall a single time in the last five years I've witnessed MPD make a routine traffic stop, which probably explains the "Road Warrior" mentality in the District.
==============
well granted, MPD has more important issues to deal with, like, idk, murders maybe?

Posted by: thetan | April 14, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

"Inside the central business district in Washington, bicyclists are not allowed on the sidewalk. On the road, you are subject to the same rights, responsibilities and rules as motor vehicles."

It is a rare that I actually see this happen. As a driver, I've learned to expect cyclists to blow through red lights and stop signs.

The best place to see this in action is at East Potomac Park. I drive through there on a weekly basis. I can't recall the number of times I've hace cyclists yell "share the road" at me as I start a turn at a stop sign (and yes I do come to complete stops) while they blow through theirs. If you want cars to share the road, start by obeying traffic laws.

Posted by: lambsphotos | April 14, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree that cyclists too frequently do not obey the traffic rules. That said, in a collision between a 4000lb. car and a 180lb bicyclist+bike, the car always wins. When a biker does something stupid, you get a dent in your car; the bicyclist gets dead. Same thing when the car/driver is the one at fault: car gets dented, the biker gets paralyzed, brain damaged or even dead.

Posted by: mawst95 | April 14, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It's sounds like some of these motorists think that a dead biker gets what he/she deserves. What a sick attitude! Nobody who commutes in DC can pretend that pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists don't ALL disobey laws routinely. I witness abundant examples every morning and afternoon, with every mode of transportation (even Metrobuses run lights). For cyclists, disobeying traffic laws is sometimes a necessity for safety, given the lack of bike lanes and the inability to accelerate at the same rate as motorized vehicles when the light turns green.

Posted by: monongahela79 | April 14, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I just love how the among the very first comments from drivers when a cyclist is killed will always be the obligatory "But I see cyclists breaking traffic rules all the time!!" Regardless of whether the dead cyclist in question had violated any traffic law, and regardless of whether that should, in any case, serve as some sort of weird justification for killing another human being.

I have a few friends who drive tractor trailers. I think I'm going to start agitating with them -- "I see car drivers violating traffic rules all the time! They speed, they tailgate, they cut in front of big rigs! Therefore, they deserve what they get! Run 'em down!"

Posted by: foxhound1 | April 14, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@WashingtonDame, @HillRat,

How many cyclists do you see speeding?

Posted by: Wallenstein | April 14, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know Tony Kornheiser had so many aliases for posting to these comment boards!

Coming from a cyclist, the most important thing a driver can do is to use turn signals properly as required by law.

And I would like all the posters who complain about cyclists breaking laws: when is the last time you drove without breaking ANY traffic laws?

Posted by: lhaller | April 14, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know Tony Kornheiser had so many aliases for posting to these comment boards!

Coming from a cyclist, the most important thing a driver can do is to use turn signals properly as required by law.

And I would like to ask all the posters who complain about cyclists breaking laws: when is the last time you drove without breaking ANY traffic laws?

Posted by: lhaller | April 14, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Then you get the cyclists with one of those baby carriers on wheels behind their bike. That baby carrier is about is sturdy as a Tupperware bowl. If the cyclist gets hit the baby will be crushed, too, and of course the auto driver will be blamed. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? We also have to deal with the hired biking couriers who zip in and out of traffic like dragonflies, running red lights and going between cars. I'm surprised more aren't squashed.

lhaller: I have been driving for 42 years in and around the DC Metro area. Never got a moving violation. The only ticket I got was for an expired parking meter in a College Park shopping center on Route 1 while waiting for a prescription to be filled.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | April 14, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Sad story about the woman.

But the next time I see a fleet of bikes rushing towards me while I'm crossing the street at a crosswalk... And the bikes don't stop at the stop sign and zoom around me, making me stop so they don't run over my feet; I'm kicking that bike.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

As a pedestrian, it is probably safer to push the bike over than to kick it: "Ooops, you ran into my hands"

Posted by: jiji1 | April 14, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The arguments on both sides are irrelevant. If cars could blow stop signs without the fear of getting a ticket, they'd do it too. This is all human nature, people; it has nothing to do with cars v. bikes.
Everybody is constantly trying to get the edge on each other to get home an extra 5 seconds earlier. And what happens? People die by the hundreds each day in this country in traffic accidents, the vast majority of whom are car drivers. It’s so silly to point fingers here when we're all guilty of incivility and carelessness—all of us! But hey, that's life nowadays. The only thing we can do is protect ourselves as best as we can and hope the guy or gal near us isn’t a complete moron or psychopath.

Posted by: thadude33 | April 14, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore11, I didn't ask if you've ever gotten a ticket, I asked when you drove last that you didn't violate any traffic laws. Not getting caught isn't the same thing as obeying the law. You probably get over the speed limit at some point every time you drive, and I'll bet there are a few stop signs that you don't quite come to a full stop at.

So let's all remember that we have probably recently broken some traffic law the next time we see someone else breaking one.

Posted by: lhaller | April 14, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that in the rush to get to the fingerpointing, nobody's noticed something odd: though reporters have interviewed at least one witness who claimed the crash was the most horrific thing she ever saw, I've yet to see any articles explaining what, exactly, it was that was seen. Apparently, we're all waiting breathlessly for the police to tell us their version. So much for an independent news media...

Having said that, WABA's information is woefully lacking in one respect: it doesn't mention that DC, MD, and VA are all contributory negligence states. In other words, if the cops determine that the biker contributed to the crash by even 1%, she will share 50% of the blame for it. It is for this reason that any biker in these three jurisdictions who EVER breaks traffic law is a bloody idiot. And I'm saying that as a former daily bike commuter who stopped riding after being sent to the ER four times in 10 years by demonstrably negligent, scofflaw car drivers.

Interestingly, even the time I was rear-ended by a car when I stopped at a stop sign (SURPRISE! A biker who actually obeys the law!), the driver was not cited by the police. It will be interesting to see what the police tell us happened at the scene. If the cyclist did not contribute to the crash, will the National Guard driver be cited?

Posted by: doompatrol | April 15, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

EVERYBODY NEEDS TO READ AND HEED WHAT 'THADUDE33' SAID -- couldn't have said it better if I'd had a straight line from heaven.

Posted by: CTD50 | April 18, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

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