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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 08/11/2009

Dodging Bicycles in D.C.

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Diane Gibbs
Washington


I live on a main avenue in the District. If I had a buck for every time I was almost hit by a speeding bicycle, I’d have a nice nest egg by now.

Recently, I was crossing an intersection near my home. I had a green light, plus the walk sign. Suddenly, a bicycle going faster than the speed of light shot down the hill, ran the red light and missed me by a hair. If this cyclist had hit me at that speed, I’m sure I would have been maimed — or worse.

Another day, while I was waiting for a bus on the sidewalk, a cyclist almost hit me. She told me I should stay to one side of the sidewalk. We had words. I told her she should be in the street. It got ugly.

On another occasion, a young man hit my friend and knocked him to the ground. This cyclist never asked if my friend was hurt. Instead, he said: “Oh, mister! Do ya think my bike is damaged?”

I have researched the city’s laws regarding biking on sidewalks. The mayor’s office says there is a law barring bicycles from the sidewalks downtown, but they do not have to be kept in the streets in other areas of the city. I wish somebody would change that. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder every time I take a step outside.

We all wonder sometimes how we will die when our time comes, and over the years I’ve thought about it. But leaving this Earth because of a bike? Who would have thought?

By washingtonpost.com editors  | August 11, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

I've been struck twice by cyclists while I was walking on a green light across Connecticut Ave. In neither case, did the cyclist even slow down, much less stop and help me (drivers did that). They need to be licensed, with their licenses displayed, just like cars, because that's the only way their lawless behavior can be controlled.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | August 11, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, many bicyclists feel they can disobey every traffic law and rule of common courtesy with impunity. Originally, this was mostly messengers. Now, it's spread. And when challenged online, they respond with sob stories about the dangers of cars, open doors, and the fact that Metro won't let them take their bikes on jammed trains in rush hour and they can't whiz past graves in Arlington Cemetery.

I would start by requiring licenses and visible tags, either on the bike or the bicyclist, in the District, if you are over 16, and allow citizen complaints to be heard in traffic court.

Posted by: ggreenbaum | August 11, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Oh look, someone whining about all those hooligans on bikes, based on one or two incidents. Gee golly gosh, I've never seen that before.

I'd have more sympathy if I didn't spend a good portion of my time on the bike dodging drivers who refuse - yes, REFUSE - to look for bikes except as a target, pedestrians who think their right to wear headphones is more important than their responsibility to maintain "situational awareness" (or at least look both ways before crossing the street), dog-walkers who don't control their pets, broken glass left behind by clever miscreants, and self-righteous jerks who think anything closer than a mile is a "near miss".

Posted by: drewdane | August 11, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Dam those eco-friendly bike-riders!
Why don't they drive a car or ride the bus like normal people?

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 12, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

This is hilarious! I have lived in this city for 16 years and have never even come close to being hit by a cyclist. On the other hand, I can't count how many times as a pedestrian I've almost been mowed down by drivers. I can't count how many times as a cyclist I've almost been doored or run over by a driver. And it seems that NO drivers in this city know where their turns signals are. And yes, I agree whole heartedly with drewdane that pedestrians who think their right to wear headphones is more important than their responsibility to maintain "situational awareness" (or at least look both ways before crossing the street) deserve what the get. If EVERYONE -- pedestrians, cyclists and drivers maintained vigilance in waling/cycling/driving and followed the rules, we would all be better off. COMMON SENSE people. You need to look out for where OTHER people are in addition to other people looking out for where YOU are. Simple as that.

Posted by: chaddsford1971 | August 13, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

We can see there's plenty of blame - and credit- to be shared. I'm a cyclist, pedestrian and driver and can speak from each perspective. Most who cycle on the sidewalk are careful and courteous (me included). Some cyclist are so into speed they disregard and disrespect everything and everyone around them. Sorry but it's true and I often witness this. Drivers can be amazingly considerate when I'm riding. I've had car drivers wait for me to cross intersections, though they didn't have to, and slow down patiently behind me as I rode through Rock Creek Park, I've also had drivers pass me way too close and generally scare the bejeezus out of me. Frankly in DC I am loathe to ride on most major downtown streets because there is just too much congestion. I wish we had more bike lanes and more path options leading from Silver Spring into the city. Pedestrians can be great, moving to give room on the sidewalk, or oblivious. I generally expect oblivion and ride slowly on sidewalks.

Posted by: insilverspring | August 16, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm a cyclist myself and unfortunately, I agree with you. I know the District's bicycle laws and try to obey them, but my biggest fear in riding the city's streets is not that I will be struck and injured by a car, but that I will be struck and injured by another cyclist doing something stupid like running a red light or going the wrong way in a bike lane on a one way street.

Posted by: ktriarch | August 17, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

What a fascinating piece of writing! (Not.) For the real story, look four inches to the right – there’s the story about Fenty in his SUV, one of a million Washingtonians who endangering himself and others by driving recklessly in a car.

Diane Gibbs needs to realize that her exaggeration makes her look foolish, not credible. “Nest egg”? “Speed of light?” Let’s at least notice the “If” and “almost.” In other words, she’s fine. Lonely and sad, maybe, but never actually harmed by anyone else. The Post occasionally lets the weak-minded speak for themselves, in the manner of the New York Times, as a way of allowing the writer to undermine his side of an issue, but this bathetic spattering of ink on the page seems especially cruel.

For those claiming to be run down over and over: the stories are beginning to look a little ridiculous. Is it the attention in the newspaper they like, or victimhood in and of itself? Maybe the clue to solving their life’s troubles would be to wake up. As others have pointed out, it’s called situational awareness. It could help in other areas, too. The hapless dude above was probably listening to hate-radio podcasts, or trying to relight yesterday’s stale cigarette. instead of paying attention. Can you imagine the menace of this person at the wheel of a car?

Posted by: Hans1924 | August 17, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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