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MPD not interested in investigating cyclist intimidation

WashCycle relays an incident where a locksmith van driver ran two cyclists off the road in Georgetown. It seems the driver was unhappy that the two, Nat Wilson and another unrelated cyclist, were taking the lane (which is completely legal).

Photo by Jari Schroderus on Flickr.

Wilson got photos of the van, driver and license plate, and reported the incident to the police. They took a report, but didn't give an incident number, and all they would do is radio around. If an officer spotted the van, they'd pull it over and "check ID."

What does checking ID accomplish? If the driver has outstanding parking tickets, then they can stop him, but otherwise there's nothing they can do?

When we let drivers intimidate cyclists (or anyone else) with impunity, the bad drivers keep doing it and cyclists get the message that their safety isn't a priority. If it's important for MPD to spend resources ticketing wrong-way cyclists on New Hampshire or jaywalkers in Columbia Heights, why not put some effort behind catching this guy—as WashCycle points out, the phone number is on the van!

We need a video like this one to get the word out that cyclist intimidation is a serious matter (the relevant part starts at 3:09).

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Friends and I often fantasize about ways to "get even" with motorists like this. I've had many fantasies that invlove items like rocks, baseball bats, water, paint, a hand full of pennies or pebbles...The only thing I've ever done (besides screaming back "YOU get off the road") is, one time after a cabby almost killed me on 23rd St. NW - only to come to a stop at the light ahead, I knocked on the window and, in an attempt to influence his passenger to not tip him, I asked, "Why are you trying to kill me?" I looked at passenger and said "He came dangerously close to me, and for nothing. We're both stopped at this light".

by Bianchi on Aug 26, 2008 5:06 pm • linkreport

i thought even faking like you were going to hit someone was assault -- like if someone runs up to you like they're going to punch you and you move out of the way, but bang your head on a street pole or something - why wouldn't they be charged with assault, or some similar crime? it's a lower form of terrorism.

we need more cops on bikes.

by Peter on Aug 26, 2008 7:35 pm • linkreport

That video was hilarious, but I like this San Francisco biking movie better. Good for your 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon skills, and Louie Anderson is a bike courier. Awesome.

by Brendan on Aug 27, 2008 7:02 am • linkreport

Here's a map I created showing the area where bikes are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks:,-77.024374&spn=0.039944,0.071754&z=14

We need some kind of ad campaign informing drivers that bikes belong on the roads. Maybe the tag line would be "The law treats bikes just like cars, maybe you should too." I'd be happy to volunteer the design work for that.

by Sean Robertson on Aug 27, 2008 6:08 pm • linkreport

The definitions are all screwed up because of widespread colloquial misuse, so definitions vary widely by local jurisdiction, but IN GENERAL under systems derived from English Common Law (like ours):

The crime of assault involves intentionally making someone fear that you will cause them imminent physical harm. Holding a knife up to someone's throat and running off is assault. The crimes involved in actually damaging someone's body are many & varied, ranging from battery to different flavors of murder.

The easiest solution to this (if it was a clearly intentional assault on the cyclist - "Ran me off the road" is a bit vague) is to call the number on the van and intimate that you want to know the name & contact information of the driver & a legal contact for the company in order to clarify a police report and possibly pursue civil action. Where you go from there depends on your evidence and your finances, but the company's reaction should be enough to discourage this type of behavior.

by Squalish on Aug 27, 2008 7:29 pm • linkreport

Regarding Sean's map, the logical thing for DDOT to do is to identify bike corridors and implement them. In many cases, this is a just a matter of applying some paint. However, this is D.C. we're talking about, so logical solutions go out the window in favor of petty politicking.

The ultimate solution is for D.C. to either be retroceded to Maryland or have some sort of special status created (state-equivalency for purposes of Congressional representation) so that politicians can aspire will engage in big-time, national politics. Right now, politicians have no upward potential, so they don't need to establish track records of statesmanship and competence. A real two-party system would go a long way to creating the necessary conditions, as neither national party will be able count on D.C.'s unconditional support.

by Chuck Coleman on Aug 27, 2008 7:59 pm • linkreport

You know, I'll agree with you that DC is dysfunctional; but I'm not sure I'd want Maryland's DOT involved in DC bicycle planning.

I will, however, agree with you that the lack of upward potential in DC politics probably keeps some talented people away.

by hiya on Aug 28, 2008 2:28 am • linkreport

For an example of the difference between DDot and MD-DOT compare the DC intersection of New Hampshire Ave.(NHA) and Eastern Ave NE to the MD intersection one block north at NHA and Sheridan.

The DC intersection has striped pedestrian crossings all the way around the intersection plus turn arrows for motorists and a bus shelter on the southbound side of NHA. There is a bus stop on the northbound side of NHA too.

One block north in MD there are no crosswalks even though there are bus stops on each side of NHA at a big office building and several large apartment bldgs. on Sheridan, no turn arrows and no bus shelter. Repeat, No Crosswalks to the bus-stops. It's a disgraceful neglect that makes MDOT look very bad compared to DDOT.

by Bianchi on Aug 28, 2008 8:18 am • linkreport

At the same token, Maryland has implemented pedestrian signals at NHA and Lebanon as well as CT Ave and Washington in Kensington. What does DDOT do? Removes the one pedestrian signal in the city in favor of a traditional signal, despite the successes for pedestrians.

What will this mean for pedestrian signals as defined in the Pedestrian Master Plan?

Where is the consistency of application across these agencies and jurisdictions?

by Andrew on Aug 28, 2008 10:03 am • linkreport

Do DDOT, PGCoDOT and MoCoDOT ever get together and talk about these things? One of the problems on NHA is that one side is in PG Co. and the other is in Mo.Co. with the seeming effect that both Co's neglect the whole thing.

by Bianchi on Aug 28, 2008 10:38 am • linkreport

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