Greater Greater Washington

Many drivers and cyclists still need some education

People riding bikes, walking, and driving can all coexist peacefully and happily if they respect each other and follow common sense behaviors. We still have a ways to go, however.


Image by @robert158.

During Tuesday's election, Robert Vinson Brannum was standing outside Mt. Bethel church in Bloomingdale, and observed a number of people on bikes "telling pedestrians to 'excuse' them or to step out of the way so they can pass."

Mr. Bicycle Manners says: Don't do this. If you're on a bike, you can legally ride on the sidewalk in Bloomingdale and not downtown ( 18-1201.9 and 18-1201.10). But a better common-sense rule is this: Ride on the sidewalk if you don't feel comfortable on the street, or if it's one-way the wrong way, but NOT if the sidewalk is crowded.

If you do ride on the sidewalk, assume that all pedestrians are inviolate. It's their sidewalk, not yours; you are a guest. You can use it as long as you don't get in their way.

Treat them like they are...say...zombies. Pedestrians move slowly, and you can't make them change direction, but you absolutely don't want to touch them.

On the flip side, drivers need a lot of education too. In the past week, I was honked at or yelled at by two different drivers for engaging in a very legal, appropriate action: riding in the middle of a lane.

The first was on 19th Street NW, northbound between S and T. The road there is pretty narrow, barely wide enough for cars to fit between the parked cars on each side, and I didn't feel it would be safe for me to ride right next to the parked cars so other drivers could squeeze around or where I might get doored. It's a low-speed road with stop signs, and I was moving at a good clip, so I'd slow down a driver by maybe 5-10 seconds max.

However, a guy in a convertible (Maryland plates) pulled up behind and started yelling, "Bike lane! Bike lane!" Now, there's no bike lane, which I turned around and shouted back to him. A few seconds later, we reached T, and he turned.

The second time, I was heading southbound on 17th NW between M and L. This road has multiple lanes all in the same direction, and I was in the rightmost, non-curb lane (since cars were parked in the curb lane), also in the center of the lane, which is the right place to ride.

I was approaching a red traffic light at L, with a few cars waiting in each lane. Before I got there, a driver (Virginia plates) pulled up behind, leaned on his horn for about 10 seconds, then pulled around me, pulled up to the light in my lane, and moved a little farther to the right as well just to make sure it was impossible to ride around him. Unfortunately for him, I was going to the CaBi station at the corner, anyway.

If I hadn't been in his way, he would have saved absolutely no time, since the light was already red.

Mr. Driving Manners says: People on bikes are entitled to ride in the middle of the lane just as if they were a car ( 18-1200.3). You shouldn't try to yell, honk, or push them out of the way. On a rural road, you might get stuck behind a tractor and have to drive slow for a bit. The same applies here. Anyway, if it's a one-lane road, you're not supposed to be going very fast anyway, and on a multi-lane road, you can switch lanes to go around.

A similar issue came up on Jones Mill Road in Bethesda, where an angry letter writer called bicyclists "arrogant" for riding in one of two lanes instead of on a nearby trail where people were also walking. Michael Jackson from MDOT wrote a thriller of a response, pointing out the mistakes, and the letter writer retracted his argument.

Both rules follow a very simple principle: the slower or smaller mover gets the right of way. The larger or faster one has to yield. This is like the rule for boats: If you're in a motorboat, you have to always yield to sailboats (under sail), period. No yelling at them to get out of your way; it's not "your" way. Drivers, respect the cyclists. Cyclists, respect the pedestrians. Pedestrians, respect the child pedestrians. Giant truck drivers, respect the drivers of small cars. And so on.

Jim Titus wrote:

The fact that many long-time drivers and public officials also do not understand what it means to share the road suggests that there is a serious gap in driver education. What is the point of all these '[bicycle symbol] Share the Road' signs if most people do not even know what they mean?
Most drivers don't have to take any tests after they first get their licenses and psychological research shows people don't really read most signs, so besides talking about it on blogs, what can we do to educate everyone about the bicycle social contract?
David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Add pedestrians to that list of re-education. Don't text and walk.

There is a good "Yield to" sign on the W&OD trail which shows who is has right of way. I'll try and get a picture and send it in later.

by TGEoA on May 3, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Yeah TGEoA, because as pedestrians, we have no idea whatever that we are vulnerable. It's definitely NOT ingrained in us from an early age to "look both ways" before starting into the street. As adults, we clearly don't understand that we could easily be killed or maimed by a swiftly moving car. Gimme a break.

by thump on May 3, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure the rules of the road (nautical) say a powerboat yields to a sailboat under sail, but when it throws on an auxiliary motor it gets treated the same. And you, as a sailor, don't play chicken with large merchant vessels.

Your last paragraph is good, because education is the real puzzle here. More signs are doesn't any good to anyone.

I was on Corcoran and a couple on bikes behind me (very narrow sidewalk) did the 'excuse me". They turned out to live there. What should they have done there? We've all gotten on a sidewalk and it turns out there are more people around than estimated?

Likewise, bikes on K st, in particular past Washington Circle before georgetown, drive me nuts. Not a good place for a bike.

I suspect the education solution is about when you try a different mode.

by charlie on May 3, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

ha! 'Michael Jackson wrote a thriller of a response'. what, no choreographed dance on the rules of the road? i mean he's got those zombie pedestrians from earlier in the article.

by dano on May 3, 2011 1:07 pm • linkreport

charlie: The cyclist on the sidewalk should then do one of three things:
  1. Go back into the road, if it's not one way the wrong way
  2. Dismount and walk the bike the one block to the house
  3. Ride really slowly, at a walking pace, behind the pedestrians until and unless there's room to go fast again.

Let's say you're running, and you turn a corner and encounter a thick crowd. Do you yell at everyone, "MOVE IT! I WANT TO RUN HERE!" Or do you stop running and walk or sort of jog in place until you get through the crowd to a more open area?

by David Alpert on May 3, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

I get the sense that folks who behave like assholes while riding bikes on sidewalks would be susceptible to a public education campaign. My experience is that people with bad sidewalk habits are either extremely new to riding, or they're kind of marginal individuals who aren't completely socialized. Mostly the former, though.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

If everybody would just chill out, that would work great. Unfortunately, everybody is IMPORTANT in DC. And late for a meeting.

by Jasper on May 3, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

The nautical references made me think of the informal "law of gross tonnage" which, as my sailing instructor pointed out, is not a valid regulation. However, while that laden barge may technically have to give way to your sailboat, good luck getting it to stop, and it's better to avoid the thing then end up at the bottom of the bay. Sometimes I feel that pedestrians should use the same common sense. I know when I walk I would rather be wrong than dead - but it seems that some in this city seem intent on making a point...

by Annon on May 3, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

Good post, David.
I have a separate question, about motors in bike lanes:

DC Regulations (Transportation, 4033.1) say bike lanes "...shall be reserved for the use of bicycles and motorized bicycles; the operation of all other vehicles shall be prohibited within this lane."

Is there a standard for what separates motorized bicycles from scooters/Vespas, etc? I personally get really annoyed when scooters use the bike lanes, usually weaving in and out of them to get passed stopped cars - this happens almost every morning along R St NW. I often ask motorists not to drive in the lane but the majority of people I end up talking to say that it's allowed.

by Daniel on May 3, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

Speaking of rightmost lanes, what's the rule on turning lanes? My biggest bike peeve is when I'm in a dedicated turning lane behind a cyclist, and said cyclist meanders up to the light and...goes straight. Is my aggravation justified, or am I Jerk Car Man?

by HooShotYa on May 3, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

Seems to me a couple of rotten experiences here and there isn't evidence that most people need to be "educated" on the rules. These types of blog posts only perpetuate stereotypes and add fuel to the so-called bike war.

I commute by bike most everyday between Foggy Bottom to Penn Quarter, and I've taken many different routes throughout the city. I can safely say that in general, most drivers are courteous, respectful, give me plenty of space, and yield to me when they should (and a lot of times when they don't have to). Do I run across jerks? Of course. But I run across jerks when I drive, and I run across them while walking on the sidewalk. If some guy bumps into me on the sidewalk I conclude that he's rude. I don't automatically conclude that he needs to be educated on the rules of walking on a sidewalk.

My brother drives large cranes to construction sites, and constantly complains about cars that cut him off or honk at him because his vehicle is huge and slow. Are we to conclude that these honking people don't know that large construction vehicles like cranes are allowed on the road? Of course not. We conclude that those people are jerks. But in reality, we've all cut off cranes and we've all gotten annoyed at bicyclists. We're all jerks, we're all running late, we're all in a bad mood at some point. It's just life in the city, man.

by OX4 on May 3, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

HooShotYa... you aren't crazy. When approaching an intersection where cars may be turning right the proper move for the bicyclist is to "take the lane" by moving to the center so there's no chance that a car can turn right in front of them. If it's a dedicated turn lane then the bicyclist should not be in that lane at all unless he or she is turning. You also may have noticed that some (mostly newer) bicycle lanes will be to the left of turn lanes so turning cars will know to shift lanes across the bicycle lane (hopefully looking) instead of just turning across the lane.

Of course cars sometimes turn from the wrong lane, which is one of my biggest pet peeves as both a motorist and a bicyclist. The other one is when motorists do a poor job of parallel parking and take up half the bike lane when parked. I see this *all the time* in Arlington and have never seen one of these cars get a ticket.

by Adam on May 3, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

@David However, a guy in a convertible (Maryland plates) pulled up behind and started yelling, "Bike lane! Bike lane!" Now, there's no bike lane, which I turned around and shouted back to him.

I remember when the bike lanes first came out and I said one bad reason for them is that if they exist, then it's a given that bikers are going to be expected to use them in lieu of regular lanes. Now, no, there wasn't one directly on the street you were on, but there are ones in nearby streets (such as 17th Street) and, for right or for wrong (i.e., whether we like it or not), it's only natural for drivers to expect cyclists to use these specifically built bike lanes instead of the regular lanes when there is one within a reasonable distance.

Additionally, since we first discussed this matter some years back when the first bike lanes were built, the volume of bikes on the road has increased significantly (due to DDOT policies). I originally argued against bike lanes on the premise that 'if its not broken don't fix it'. I.e., as someone who used to ride a fair bit on the city streets (though definitely not in heavy traffic), I always encountered safe and courteous drivers willing to cede the way to me ... even if I really had no right to it. They'd go out of their way to be pleasant and ensure I had a safe and nice ride. Now that we've got a DDOT policy throwing thousands of bikers on the streets ---- and in all types of traffic conditions --- we're not surprisingly seeing drivers less willing to work around the unique navigating needs of bikers ... such as not stopping at stop signs. And, unfortunately, we're even seeing this extend to times when the bikers are in the right ... such as where you were in the center of the lane.

by Lance on May 3, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

However, while that laden barge may technically have to give way to your sailboat, good luck getting it to stop, and it's better to avoid the thing then end up at the bottom of the bay. Sometimes I feel that pedestrians should use the same common sense.

Right, but where your simile breaks down is that drivers, if exercising due care, *can* avoid pedestrians. It's only more than a half century of GHOOCW ("Get the Hell out of Cars' way!") legislation that has implanted this seed of an idea that auto traffic has the right-of-way in every scenario.

Yes, yes, everyone knows cars "officially" have to stop for pedestrians. But that would require cars to slow down to the speed limit in residential areas. And besides, pedestrians, would you rather be right and dead?

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

it's only natural for drivers to expect cyclists to use these specifically built bike lanes instead of the regular lanes when there is one within a reasonable distance.

Good point. This is an education issue: it's natural, but completely wrong, for drivers to expect cyclists to use roads with bike lanes. When I'm riding my bike in Rock Creek Park, I occasionally think to myself, "Shouldn't all these cars be driving on 16th (Or Connecticut? Or Wisconsin?) rather than driving through the park? Especially since the way those roads are laid out advantages the auto driver pretty much to the exclusion of all but the bravest cyclist...

But then I realize, I've got no more (or less) of a claim no RCP than your average driver. So it's all good.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

@Dalpert; bikers in questions would be salmoning down Corc to get to their house.

@Oboe; actually, pretty consistently the worst offenders are dudes in lycra. Then PG county drivers. Then Virginia drivers. Maryland drivers will just yell at you, and then do something stupid.

+1 to OX4, for reminding us 95% of all road interactions are polite and things are actually improving around here. Except for PG county drivers.

by charlie on May 3, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

@charlie:

actually, pretty consistently the worst offenders are dudes in lycra.

I was speaking specifically about sidewalk riders, though, and haven't seen a whole lot of lycra dudes on the sidewalks.

Have to take issue with you on the Maryland drivers versus Virginia drivers, though. You must be on the NW side of the city. East side Maryland drivers are in a class by themselves.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

HooShotYa: You're not a jerk. Mr. Cyclist Manners says: If you're on a bike, and a car seems to be getting ready to turn right, don't just go around it, go behind it or pass on the left. Otherwise, you risk the "right hook."

Conversely, if you're driving, and there's a bike lane to your right, you're supposed to move into the bike lane to turn right:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/6528/drivers-must-merge-into-bike-lanes-before-turning-right/

I've sometimes done that when driving, and had a bicyclist still pass me on the right. They clearly didn't understand the correct procedure. Instead, they should have either waited for me to turn right or gone around me on the left.

Daniel: I don't know the rule about Vespas and the like in bike lanes. It doesn't really bother me if they use the lane, as long as they are yielding to people on bikes rather than acting as though they own the lane.

by David Alpert on May 3, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

Add tourist bike renters in the National Mall area to the list of sidewalk offenders. The bikes should come with some basic etiquette tips. The most dangerous offenders, of course, are the narrow percentage of the lycra brigade who go way too fast through pedestrian areas. Again, see the National Mall and Reflecting Pool sidewalks for some good examples.

by aaa on May 3, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

I like the concept of bike lanes and I don't really care if a bike uses one or the traffic lane, but please don't, as the guy on 17th was doing the other day, weave in and out of the bike lane. Every time I'd think about going past him in the traffic lane, out he'd weave from the bike lane into the traffic lane. I didn't note any issues with parked cars and I don't think he was doing it intentionally to block me -- I just think he was clueless, just meandering down the street at 15mph or so.

by ksu499 on May 3, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

@oboe; my rule: maryland drivers are stupid, virginia drivers are aggressive. Sorry if that wasn't clear. Not really sure what is worse.

You're quite right I've never seen a lycra-clad-dude on a sidewalk. Days not over yet, though.

by charlie on May 3, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: "Likewise, bikes on K st, in particular past Washington Circle before georgetown, drive me nuts. Not a good place for bikes."

The sidewalks off K street west of Washington Circle are even worse for bikes than the streets are (although the traffic patterns, what with the merging Whitehurst traffic and the access lanes, are terrible). A cyclist on those sidewalks takes up virtually the whole space and has nowhere to go - forcing pedestrians to dodge out of the way at all times. I'm pretty sure Mr. Cyclist Manners would say that's a no-no.

by dcd on May 3, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

@aaa:

The most dangerous offenders, of course, are the narrow percentage of the lycra brigade who go way too fast through pedestrian areas. Again, see the National Mall and Reflecting Pool sidewalks for some good examples.

Of course, these folks shouldn't even be on the sidewalks. They should be on Independence (or at least Jefferson, or what have you). But it's a function of how out-of-control the auto traffic on Independence and Constitution has been allowed to spiral. Drivers do 40+ mph in a 25 mph zone, and whenever I ride Independence from the Holocaust Museum to the Kennedy Center, I inevitably get one or more drivers honking at me. Not sure why as it's four lanes and the posted speed limit is 25. Perhaps there's a bike lane somewhere within a five-block radius I should be using.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

@charlie:

@oboe; my rule: maryland drivers are stupid, virginia drivers are aggressive. Sorry if that wasn't clear. Not really sure what is worse.

Stop by my neck of the woods sometime. If you want to see stupid & aggressive, try circumnavigating Lincoln Park during rush hour.

I think the reputation various states' drivers get is a bit like the old parable of the three blind men and the elephant.

:)

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

My biggest bike peeve is when I'm in a dedicated turning lane behind a cyclist, and said cyclist meanders up to the light and...goes straight.

Many cyclists are brow beaten to stay to right as far possible so as to not interfere with other traffic so they are just disregarding the right turn only indication.

Also it is not uncommon for motorists to use ANY open pavement to pass a cyclist. If a cyclist approaching such an intersection is in lane 2 then some motorists will use the right turn lane to pass the cyclist and proceed straight through the intersection.

by JeffB on May 3, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

@aaa @oboe -- I am not in the lycra brigade, and I only go up to the 12 mph (if I'm lucky) at which my CaBi steed can roll.

However, on google maps, the southern pathway along the reflecting pool (though not the northern one) is shown as a designated bikelane. Of course, the path through Rose Park is also shown as a bike path, which while true according to NPS, probably drives the Friends of Rose Park anti-bike-brigade batty.

(Not that I think F.O.R.P. are anti-bike, they're just anti-bike on the multi-purpose path, or to their minds, walking path, in the park, and I couldn't resist the alliteration).

by Jacques on May 3, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

Do not apply the "law of gross tonnage" too widely.

This freakish term comes up in the context of city streets mainly as an excuse to justify bullying by drivers, maybe without having to admit to backing such a sociopathic set of values.

There's good reason for the principle on the water. Large ships can have turning circles and stopping distances measured in miles. Larger vessels often cannot maneuver to avoid smaller ones. In the cases of tugs with tows, and ships constrained to the channel, the regulations even give the larger vessel priority.

Nautical principles translate poorly to city streets. Every interaction between car, cyclist, and pedestrian would be an unimaginably close call at sea. Every vehicle on the street has far more control than a large ship.

The nautical rules of the road are, in principle and spirit, quite different from traffic regulations. The sea is a big place, and most of the time, ships share a mutual responsibility to stay out of each other's way. The current US Inland Rules of Navigation don't even use the term "right of way" - they talk about a "stand-on" vessel and a "give-way" vessel, just to emphasize that collision avoidance falls to both parties.

That seems to me a far more civilized approach.

by David R. on May 3, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

That's just weird. I wonder why on Earth they wouldn't just mark Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. I think the speed limit on those is 15 mph.

(Although that doesn't stop the drivers of various motor vehicles from trying to pass me doing 25+, of course).

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

^^^^^
@Jacques:

However, on google maps, the southern pathway along the reflecting pool (though not the northern one) is shown as a designated bikelane.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

jasper nailed it.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on May 3, 2011 3:00 pm • linkreport

The problem with "everyone chill out" as a philosophy, is that it's extremely susceptible to the fundamental attribution error.

"That arrogant asshole on the bike thinks he's so important, he won't get on the sidewalk; instead he's going to block traffic in the street."

"Look at that pedestrian, he's so self-involved he won't let me turn right on red! Texting away like he's Obama!"

Everyone's motives are pure as snow; it's everyone else who has the attitude problem. So now I'm going to be a dick, because "two can play at that game."

I think a better rule would be, "assume good intent", though history shows again and again that that's too high a bar for humanity to clear.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

@charlie

Likewise, bikes on K st, in particular past Washington Circle before georgetown, drive me nuts. Not a good place for a bike.

On this topic and in all seriousness, what's the best way to bike between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom? Having yet to attempt this, it looks like any route is a death trap.

by OX4 on May 3, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

M Street is perfectly safe for cyclists. Everyone seems to assume it is a "death trap" but this is untrue. There is plenty of space and traffic usually moves slowly.

by Phil on May 3, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

On this topic and in all seriousness, what's the best way to bike between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom?

Where in Foggy Bottom? If you didn't want to take the "high road", you could duck under the Whitehurst, then bust out onto the Rock Creek bike path where the Thompson Boat Center is, then hit Virginia Avenue near the Watergate.

When in a hurry, I've taken the Whitehurst Freeway from the west end of Georgetown to Washington Circle, though. So adjust to taste...

by oboe on May 3, 2011 3:28 pm • linkreport

When in a hurry, I've taken the Whitehurst Freeway from the west end of Georgetown to Washington Circle, though. So adjust to taste...

Gaaaaah!

by andrew on May 3, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

@OX4: I ride M/Penn every day, it's fast and totally safe. Since there is a lot of traffic I advise biking in the middle of your lane, carlike, and you'll be totally fine.

Wash Circle is hectic in rush hour, since every car coming from/to 23rd/NH apparently forgets where its wants to exit. Same rule as above applies, just go slow.

by Daniel on May 3, 2011 3:36 pm • linkreport

Thanks...but gaaaaah is right! I can't imagine taking my little CaBi on the Whitehurst Freeway.

@ Phil Yes, I'd think M St is the best way there, then I was thinking Penn Ave back? Let's just say I wanted to go back and forth from the CaBi station at 21st & I St NW to some spot in G'town.

by OX4 on May 3, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

@ Daniel Great, thanks. Will try it out.

by OX4 on May 3, 2011 3:41 pm • linkreport

I propose inviting people to send in photos/videos of motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and any other folk doing something dumb... then perhaps running a monthly showcase a the best offenders, with license plate info included.

Just like I've overheard some people who refrain from eating or putting their feet up on Metro for fear of ending up on Unsuck DC Metro; perhaps there could be a slight shift in getting people afraid to have their roadway antics highlighted on local blogs or Youtube.

Granted, there are already several websites which allow you to do this... but as far as I'm aware; there aren't really any stand-outs among them that quite capture the same casual reading/watching that blogs & Youtube get.

by Bossi on May 3, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

M street; or cut over to gwu and take h to Virginia to Washington harbor.

by Charlie on May 3, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

@OX4: I've had good luck on Penn->M street, or you can cut up 20th or 22nd to M directly, and you'll likely have even less traffic (and the comfort of a multi-lane one way, while also avoiding the circle).

For a number of reasons, crossing Washington Circle going eastbound on Pennsylvania is much more harrying than westbound, which is a relative breeze.

by Jacques on May 3, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

agreed

by Daniel on May 3, 2011 4:25 pm • linkreport

@thump

Gimme a break.

People who walk with their eyes pointed to the ground and their thumbs a tapping earn the broken bones they get from being hit by a car or elbowed by another pedestrian.

We sure as hell didn't have this problem 10 years ago.

by TGEoA on May 3, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

I agree with most of this, but I still think that you're highlighting a double standard that bicyclists use. I'd be HAPPY, as a driver, to stay behind and let bicycles keep the lane.

But they have to do the same for me - That means not passing me while I'm stopped at a red light or a stop sign, only for me to have to attempt passing them back once we start moving. Either we both get to pass each other, or no one gets to pass anyone.

It also means that bike riders need to SIGNAL. Seriously, it's not that hard, but I only see maybe 1 out of 10 using hand signals.

by jen on May 3, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

But they have to do the same for me - That means not passing me while I'm stopped at a red light or a stop sign, only for me to have to attempt passing them back once we start moving. Either we both get to pass each other, or no one gets to pass anyone.

There already is equity in this situation: cyclists have a responsibility to pass when they can do so safely, you have a responsibility to pass them when you can do so safely.

This has nothing to do with passing you safely, then upsetting you because now they're in front of you. One the abiding mysteries of the universe is car drivers who get bent out of shape because "the same cyclist keeps passing me!"

If the same cyclist keeps passing you, why not just slow down and enjoy the ride? Obviously your average speed is slower than the cyclist.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 5:34 pm • linkreport

Consideration and politeness is what it's all about.

I'd rather ride in a dedicated bike lane but if there isn't one and traffic's heavy and there's few pedestrians, I'm on the sidewalk in a very polite manner. (I resist the urge to get in front of an SUV and bike 2 mph).

by Tom Coumaris on May 3, 2011 9:39 pm • linkreport

It also means that bike riders need to SIGNAL. Seriously, it's not that hard, but I only see maybe 1 out of 10 using hand signals.

Ride a bike for a while and you'll see that nobody in a car uses their turn signal more than 10 feet before they're going to turn, if they use it at all.

by MLD on May 3, 2011 9:46 pm • linkreport

Haven't read all the comments, so don't know if someone's covered this. But I wish people who ride on the sidewalk where it is allowed would use bike bells or horns to alert pedestrians in front of them -- or even simply say something. On S St NW today, while walking my dog, a guy nearly ran over my dog, barely grazing him.

by Tioqueso on May 3, 2011 9:48 pm • linkreport

@MLD Ride a bike for a while and you'll see that nobody in a car uses their turn signal more than 10 feet before they're going to turn, if they use it at all.

You don't really believe that do you? If you do, I dare you to go out there on a corner and observe ... you'll quickly see your mind was playing tricks with you when you said that. Not that that's not a normal thing to do. When otherwise law-abiding citizens blatantly break the law, it's pretty common for them to try to justify it by claiming 'everyone does it'. The problem is, no ... everyone doesn't do it. If cyclist want to start getting respect in this town, they're going to first have to face the fact that in disproportionate numbers, they really do break the law way too often for comfort.

by Lance on May 3, 2011 10:25 pm • linkreport

You don't really believe that do you? If you do, I dare you to go out there on a corner and observe ... you'll quickly see your mind was playing tricks with you when you said that.

Sometimes I get the impression that Lance is really a disembodied brain gently floating in a glass jar, awash in a reality of his own devising. It's the only explanation for his shock and surprise at casual, everyday phenomenon which everyone who moves about in the world at large simply takes for granted.

People don't use their turn signals? No one comes to a full stop at stop signs? The winter wind makes one shiver? A dropped glass shatters on the cold tile floor? Every mundane human experience a controversy.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 10:54 pm • linkreport

So Lance, I suppose you've never rolled through a stop sign, shifted lanes without a signal, or gone even one mile per hour above the speed limit?

If drivers want to start getting respect in this town, they're going to first have to face the fact that in disproportionate numbers, they really do break the law way too often for comfort.

See what I did there?

by BeyondDC on May 4, 2011 1:13 am • linkreport

More than anything, there is a lack or courtesy and respect for others on all sides. For some, there is a sense of entitlement that each user sometimes exercises. This is due to either a lack of education about sharing the road or that some people just don't give a damn about other people.

Jerks are like ice cream, they come in all sorts of flavors.

Some bicyclists feel that because they ride that they are more noble; that they are personally saving the world and are entitled to ride as they see fit.

Some drivers feel that having a license gives them the authority to drive as fast as possible at all times and any person or act that infringes on their use of it should be vanquished.

Some pedestrians are sometimes oblivious and exercise "pedestrians have the right of way" to the nth degree.

Jasper, OX4 and others are right; however that most people who drive are considerate and its the outliers who are jerks. I ride often and I rarely have trouble because I would rather get of the road and be safe instead of rick being hit to prove a point.

Those who are jerks extend to cyclists and pedestrians. As a cyclist and a human being, I think that being more considerate and mindful goes a long way and ultimately helps ensure that all of us who use the streets are safe.

by Randall M. on May 4, 2011 8:09 am • linkreport

Wouldn't it be great if Capitol Rideshare required members to pass a test on the DC laws and biking etiquette before signing them up (and taking their money). And it would be Utopia if all bikers gave an audible sound before overtaking and passing others on the paths.

by Jack on May 4, 2011 8:20 am • linkreport

@beyonddc. What does that have to do with the price of eggs in china? Are you saying you'll only obey the laws once every single car out there is obeying them first?

This is my point. It needs to start with each individual - it doesn't matter what the people around you do, it's YOUR responsiblity to be courteous and follow the law.

by jen on May 4, 2011 9:06 am • linkreport

jen: His point is that this is what many drivers say: "I'll be courteous once every single cyclist obeys every law." It's just as fallacious in that case as it more obviously is the way Dan ironically said it.

Yes, everyone needs to be courteous and respect each other. Too often, people who evidently only drive, like the Washington Post editorial board, are just lecturing people who bike on being courteous.

by David Alpert on May 4, 2011 9:32 am • linkreport

Jasper, OX4 and others are right; however that most people who drive are considerate and its the outliers who are jerks.

I would take this further, and argue that we're misattributing ulterior motives to 90% of the outliers: the folks we think of as "jerks." Most of these folks are oblivious, not malicious or "entitled" or arrogant, etc...

by oboe on May 4, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

As a frequent pedestrian and driver, nothing is more terrifying than a bicyclist who doesn't stop -- or even slow down -- at a stop sign. I am almost run over or have to stop short in my car before running someone over at least once every few months. Obnoxious AND dangerous.

by dolly on May 4, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

As a frequent pedestrian and driver, nothing is more terrifying than a bicyclist who doesn't stop -- or even slow down -- at a stop sign.

As a frequent pedestrian and driver, I nominate buses and large trucks (both Metro and tour buses) that regularly speed through my residential neighborhood at 15-20 mph over the speed limit, often running red lights in the process. Not to put too fine a point on it, but "bikes that don't come to a full stop at stop signs" is about 183rd on my list of "terrifying things." Just above "West Nile Virus", but several places below "12 year olds riding motorbikes on the sidewalks".

by oboe on May 4, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

Question, are bikers also similarly entitled to do an array of stupid things, including running stop signs/lights, cutting people off, making left turns in front of oncoming cars, zigzagging in between slow moving traffic, going up along side traffic at a stop light to get in front of them, only to get in the middle of the lane and slow down all of the cars behind them?

I ask, because I see these things every day, and it says to me, many of this city's bikers feel entitled to do whatever the hell they want and act as if cars dont deserve to be on the roads.

by Anon on May 4, 2011 5:06 pm • linkreport

@Anon,

Question, are bikers also similarly entitled to do an array of stupid things, including running stop signs/lights, cutting people off, making left turns in front of oncoming cars, zigzagging in between slow moving traffic, going up along side traffic at a stop light to get in front of them, only to get in the middle of the lane and slow down all of the cars behind them?

Aside from "running stop signs/lights" every single thing you mentioned is completely legal. So, yes, bikers are entitled to do those things. Heck, most of them aren't even particularly stupid.

As far as splitting traffic at a stop light, then "slowing down all the cars behind them", so what? More often than not, you're either going to pass a cyclist once and not see them again, or you're going to pass them, and be passed by them, multiple times. If the latter, I'm not quite sure why *you* keep passing the cyclist. Since you're both going the same average speed.

Perhaps the cyclist is annoyed at having you keep pulling in front of him and stopping.

by oboe on May 4, 2011 5:30 pm • linkreport

Actually, you're not allowed to cut cars off, or turn left in front of them, or zigzag between cars. Those are all failure to yield. They most certainly are stupid, since I've damned near hit a cyclist doing something that they didnt signal, wasnt predictable, and wasnt legal. Of course, if I did hit them, I wonder if you'd blame me for it...

As for the one you wrote about at length, you made a ton of hypothetical generalizations, none of which matter. I have, repeatedly, had a bike come through a ton of cars in stopped traffic, only to slow that same traffic down as they need to get around him (its totally unacceptable to expect cars NOT to pass when there is an open stretch of road and its possible to go much faster than a bike).

Bikes need to take their egos down a notch and stop riding with a chip on their shoulders. Its not cool to slow down a ton of cars, just stay behind the cars that you arrived behind, its not going to get the biker there any faster, and the cars will just get out of your way MUCH faster.

Unfortunately, the majority of bikers in this city are inconsiderate. I even had a biker stop and scream at me because I honked at him for blowing through a red light.

by Anon on May 4, 2011 5:38 pm • linkreport

Anon: You know, you complain about "hypothetical generalizations," then you go and generalize things like ego, chips on shoulders, and being inconsiderate, attributing them to all cyclists based on a couple bad experiences you've had. It sounds like you're projecting these negative emotions into others.

I would recommend not generalizing if you don't like others doing the same.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on May 4, 2011 5:51 pm • linkreport

Actually, you're not allowed to cut cars off, or turn left in front of them, or zigzag between cars. Those are all failure to yield.

No, those aren't actually failures to yield. Given that "cutting off" or "zig-zagging" is purely subjective. As far as "turning left in front of them", don't be silly. If the cyclist has clearance, and he determines it's safe, go for it.

You hear a lot of operatic hand-wringing about how "I almost killed a cyclist!!!" I drive around the city quite a bit these days, and I don't think I've ever had what I think was a close call with a cyclist. Perhaps my comfort zone is more attuned to that of a cyclist. But most of this is just unnecessary drama.

I have, repeatedly, had a bike come through a ton of cars in stopped traffic, only to slow that same traffic down as they need to get around him (its totally unacceptable to expect cars NOT to pass when there is an open stretch of road and its possible to go much faster than a bike).

That's perfectly legal. And so long as the driver of a car can safely pass, he should do so. If not, you wait.

Bikes need to take their egos down a notch and stop riding with a chip on their shoulders. Its not cool to slow down a ton of cars, just stay behind the cars that you arrived behind, its not going to get the biker there any faster, and the cars will just get out of your way MUCH faster.

In some cases, yes. In others, no. I'm not going to sit behind three dozen cars stopped in a traffic-jam they've created to mollify someone's delicate sensibilities. I'm certainly not going out of my way to inconvenience anyone--and if it doesn't cost me much, I'll pull over and get out of your way.

But what you think is "inconsiderate" I think of as exercising my legal rights to get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable time. Guess it's all a matter of perspective. And frankly all the muscular verbal swagger about who needs to take their egos down a notch, and stop driving with a chip on their shoulders is unhelpful--it certainly makes me want to go out and assert my right to the travel lane.

And if you want to talk about who has the greater sense of entitlement, for every cyclist you've seen "blowing through a red light" I can find you three drivers who sit behind a cyclist, honk their horn, and tell them to get on the sidewalk (bike path, alternate road). When you start finding cyclists in large numbers telling you to get the Hell off Beach Drive and onto Connecticut Ave, then we'll talk about overblown senses of entitlement.

What you consider "inconsiderate", some might consider insufficiently indulgent of your temper tantrums.

by oboe on May 4, 2011 6:06 pm • linkreport

I'd say that cyclists like all road users have a duty to not unduly slow the overall transportation network--but that is different from having a duty to everybody on the road I am on as if we are all members of the same club.

Anon is correct that there are circumstances in which a cyclist might slow some particular cars down when traffic is heavy by taking the lane. The back-and-forth passing extends the time during which the cyclist might slow some of those drivers down. If you pass those cars at a light, perhaps some would have made it to the next light were it not necessary to wait before passing you during the previous light cycle. I think that is the essence of this point. (It is also true that the cyclist would have made it there faster were the car not taking the lane).

It may sometimes be irritating to the driver who realizes that because of a cyclist, he may be a complete light cycle (in a rare case two) behind because of the cyclist.

Still, assuming that this is rush hour, the cyclist probably helped other drivers by the same amount as he hurt the drivers with whom he played leap frog. The road is jammed, and the bottlenecks are always full. So the cyclist simply allows some drivers from a feeder road to get to the bottleneck sooner while the leap frog driver gets there later. Problem is: The driver who was helped will never know it, while the one who is slowed sees it. So drivers as a class think that cyclists are slowing them down during rush hour, except for those who reflect on the system.

Thus I'd say that cyclists can help the most by trying to avoid blocking traffic going through the end of the last bottleneck. Maybe take the sidewalk around that last illegally parked car if you are feeling generous. Before that point, however, cyclists are merely shifting the system to favor one road over the other, which could just as easily be offset by retiming some lights as by removing the cyclist from the road.

by Jim Titus on May 4, 2011 11:42 pm • linkreport

It appears some believe that inconsiderate means, "acting in a completely legal way, but if you weren't there my trip would have been completed a little faster." By that definition, every car on the road is inconsiderate every time I walk, bike or drive - anywhere.

by dcd on May 5, 2011 7:41 am • linkreport

Sure, the bottom line is I have a moral (not legal) obligation to be considerate. In fact, society as a whole works much more smoothly when people are polite. But it's like holding the door for someone: the second you're telling me to "Hold that door, asshole!" my obligation to be considerate is over. And certainly I don't see myself as "arrogant" in that situation.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 9:06 am • linkreport

Another side of this would be to look at dedicated bike paths (e.g. Custis Trail in Arlington) and other areas that are marked on maps as bike paths, made extra wide to accomodate bikes that can't be on the adjacent roads, but that seem like sidewalks (I'm thinking about the bridges, specifically the Memorial and Key Bridges, areas around the Lincoln).

Many of these are both main commuting routes and heavy tourist areas. An agreement about where bikes should go (e.g. pick a side of the bridge), and signs informing tourists to stay right and stay aware would go a long way to making everyone safer.

by dasgeh on May 5, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

@Daniel, s there a standard for what separates motorized bicycles from scooters/Vespas, etc?

Yes. it has to do with engine size. I saw a chart on the DC.gov site that showed different vehicles and how they were treated, but I don't have time to look for it. But it is out there.

@ksu499 Every time I'd think about going past him in the traffic lane, out he'd weave from the bike lane into the traffic lane.

By weave do you mean, change lanes. Bike lanes are built in the door zone. And they often have issues like being on top of manhole covers or blocked etc... I find I often have to move out of the bike lane for safety and then back in to allow cars to pass. As long as he was merging over safely, I don't see an issue.

by David C on May 5, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

I have deleted a comment by "Native Resident" which made ad hominem attacks.

All are welcome to comment at Greater Greater Washington, but we require that you remain civil. If you disagree with someone, please use reason and logic to debate, not name-calling.

by Matt Johnson on May 8, 2011 10:24 pm • linkreport

Run reds, yell at and weave through pedestrians on sidewalks, ride on streets, across lanes without signalling, ride the wrong way down streets,constantly switch between all of these techniques...and all with an "I'm saving the Earth" chip on the shoulder! Is there anythng bicyclists aren't allowed to do?

I would love for there to be enforcement for all- motorists, pedestrian, and bicyclists. I also would wish that there would be more bike lanes and more education of all three constituencies regarding rules of the road.

I won't hold my breath-- I was almost mowed down by a cop in a cross walk last week. As I carefully crept into the crosswalk, two lanes of regular vehicles stopped for me, but the third lane had a cop who sped up and made me jump back. Awesome!

by ed on May 10, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

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