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What will get more families biking?

Washington DC has made great strides over the past decade towards creating a vibrant bicycle culture. How well does this extend to families so far? How can bicycling be more appealing to families?

Families biking to school via Stanton Park

Recent research has found that children who bike or walk to school perform better. A Danish study found that exercise, including from biking or walking to school, helped kids concentrate better, while chauffured children had a poorer grasp of geography, another study found.

In spite of the benefits, there are a number of reasons why families may not choose to or be able to bike. The reason I most often hear from parents is safety (even when biking is convenient). I feel the same way. Too often, I have found myself biking with my children, following all road and safety rules, only to be overrun by a driver who sees my small children as obstacles, not a family.

Mayor Gray's sustainability plan sets goals for "safe, secure infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians" with a target to "increase biking and walking to 25% of all commuter trips."

Part of this needs to be a concerted effort to focus on making it easier for children and families to commute to school and get around in general, by bike.

The city has programs aimed at stimulating families to bike. For families with school age children, the District Department of Transportation's (DDOT) offers the Safe Routes to school program, run by Jennifer Hefferan. She works with schools to support various types of active transportation models, including biking.

At my own children's school, Jennifer has designed more efficient drop-off and pick up processes, helped us to get appropriate signage, and worked with us to develop a comprehensive longer-term safe routes plan for our school. On biking, DC's Safe Routes program coordinated with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) to triple the number of bike racks for the school, as well as advise and support us on efforts like Bike to School Day and Fuel Free Fridays.

There are also advocacy organizations like WABA, who offer safety and skills education opportunities, including Bike Rodeos for children. KidicalMassDC promotes "safe, fun family biking in the Greater Washington area" by holding regular mass family rides and teaming up with DDOT, WABA and bicycle shops like BicycleSpace and the Daily Rider to host the ABC's of Family Biking.

Personally, I find programs like ABCs of Family Biking particularly compelling, because they bring together a comprehensive community of stakeholders invested in promoting family biking. There are opportunities to learn from each other, practice skills, and discover gear that makes sense for individual needs and lifestyles.

What seems to be lacking, however, is education (and skill-building) directed at drivers. Those who bike spend time learning how to co-exist with drivers, but until drivers learn to co-exist with cyclists, families will continue to face safety-related obstacles when considering whether or not to bike.

What obstacles do you see to getting your family or other families to bike?

Sandra Moscoso runs the World Bank Finances Program by day and works on community efforts around education, active transportation, and open government by night. Sandra lives in small, quaint, Washington, DC, where she tries to get a little biking in with her husband and two children. 


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What seems to be lacking, however, is education (and skill-building) directed at drivers. Those who bike spend time learning how to co-exist with drivers

YES! I'd also add police officers, though it seems WABA is working towards increasing officer awareness of cycling issues. As an example I recently had a Lincoln SUV pass within inches of me at almost double the speed limit. The responding officer's first question/statement was "He didn't hit you right?" as if that was the only way it would/should be taken seriously.

Second, I think we really need to work towards more separated infrastructure. While I may be comfortable riding down 17th or R Streets, I wouldn't want my child to do so simply b/c it's far too easy for a driver to drift into the lane, intentionally or otherwise. Combined with the lower visibility of children on bikes a situation like that could be disastrous.

by thump on Mar 28, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

It is very important to get kids to bike, as Americans are very protective of their off-spring. It might help to get some force behind the simple demand for safety.

by Jasper on Mar 28, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

I don't have kids nor do I frequently ride bikes but I think something like Ciclovia would be an interesting way to expose people to riding in cities would might be otherwise uncomfortable.

by Alan B. on Mar 28, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

Dedicated, curb raised bike lanes on every single street.

by Col. Brentwood on Mar 28, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Or, at least in roads leading to various schools.

by Just so on Mar 28, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

Don't build a light rail line on top of bike paths.

by Chris S. on Mar 28, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

As with most things biking, unfortunately you need to have the right equipment to get junior to begin to love riding at as early an age as possible. That means ditching the Burley trailer as soon as the child hits 2 years old so they are no longer being tugged along in that cocoon of doom. For me, it was getting him onto a Weehoo Igo trailer but I'm kinda of bike weenie. The point is to get them on a bike early so they want to ride. There are many other alternatives from a simple child's seat to a more fancy extended length bike.

I believe that making it something cool and fun, and better than driving really can help formulate a child's viewpoint on cycling. This is easier said than done if the parents are not committed to cycling also. So if this is your goal, gotta start riding places you may have driven in the past.

I do know there is nothing more interesting for my son than getting to ride on his red bike, even though it happens to be attached to my bike.

by Steve Seelig on Mar 28, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

I'd second @Thump's suggestion to expand education efforts toward police officers. While MPD seems to have made strides recently (mostly in reaction to the U-turn rule clarification in the past few months), it seems that the Park Police continue to be indifferent to cyclists, speeding, and safety along the Mall and other prime locations for the "interested, but concerned" cycling crowd.

by KG on Mar 28, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

I completely agree that we need to continue promoting cycling in Washington. I also agree that we are way over due for better driver education. I think you are missing a significant point however when you fail to note the need to educate cyclist as well. I am a 30 year resident of Dupont, I don't own a car and I usually walk (to work, shopping and socializing). You state "those who bike spend time learning how to co-exist with drivers" but in fact there is no training or licensing process whatsoever for cyclist so that remark is actually just wrong. Anyone walking in the heart of the City can't help but notice that a solid majority of cyclist don't stop at red lights, for example. It is a daily occurrence to watch bikes going the wrong way up one-way streets and bike paths. Many cyclists dart back and forth between sidewalks and streets, or pass other vehicles improperly, such as along parking lanes or between stopped cars. I personally have been hit twice by bikes in the past year (both times minor events but I was hit from behind, without warning, while I was in the middle of the sidewalk and was walking in clear view during daylight). The bigger problem here is we are inserting a new transportation pattern - bikes - into the existing street and sidewalk system, not always with proper infrastructure, and certainly without educating all of the participants - pedestrians, drivers AND bikers. That is why we have so much growing friction between cars, bikes and pedestrians.

by DupontDem on Mar 28, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Steve, I get that things are probably a little different in a urban environment with lots of traffic and fewer quiet trails and sidewalks to ride on, but no one had to force any kids in my neighborhood onto a bike. We begged and begged to get our bikes, and it's not like any of the adults biked, except as some "exceptional" or "exotic" thing an *adult* might do if they went on a vacation or mountain biking trip or something. I guess it was just perceived as perfectly natural that kids would ride bikes...we couldn't drive, so how else to get around. Of course, we were also allowed to go some places without direct and constant supervision. By the time I was 10, I was allowed to go as far as the grocery store, which was only a half-mile, but it seems like parents don't let their kids out of their sight for even a minute anymore. I admit, I wouldn't have wanted to bike, either, if all it meant was spending even *more* time with parents I was almost never separated from.

by Ms. D on Mar 28, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

dupont Dem

WABA has classes for cyclists (free I think) and I suspect most of us would support more of those - and also bike safety education in the schools. As we have been over ad nauseum, licensing is not a practical solution. I would also dispute that bikes are a new system, and I do not believe (based on my own observation) that the majority of cyclists dont stop at lights.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

@ DupontDem:but in fact there is no training or licensing process whatsoever for cyclist

Correct. Can I see your pedestrian license, please?

It does not work to point out that 'other people' break the rules all the time, when you belong to a group that breaks the rules all the time as well. Do you want to go into the amount of pedestrians ignoring red lights at Dupont Circle?

Case and point: Everybody breaks traffic rules regularly. That's because they are often very impractical. The reason we require driver's licenses and not traffic licenses, is that drivers are surrounded by a ton of steel that is a de facto murder weapon if operated improperly. This is not the case for pedestrians and bikers who are much more vulnerable and therefor have a much higher incentive to play by the rules.

by Jasper on Mar 28, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Keep promoting cycling for adults and the kids will follow.

by Drumz on Mar 28, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

@DupontDem-I hear your concerns and agree that some cyclists are doing those things. I also think the impact of those "illegal activities" (btw, cyclists are allowed to pass stopped vehicles on the right or left), is overblown at best. I definitely call out people (and I've seen others doing the same lately) that pointlessly jump reds or don't give enough space to pedestrians or don't signal when there are clearly other road users around. I think as more cyclists get out there, we're going to need to start following practicable laws more carefully and signalling more often so we're not causing damage to ourselves or others.

@Ms D-I grew up in upstate NY and we too, begged for bikes.
I think part of the reason that we were given far more freedom to ride on our bikes was that there were far fewer cars on the road and motorists expected to see people, adults and children, in the streets. That and maybe 300+ horsepower family sedans weren't the norm. The expectation that cars aren't dominant, even on residential streets, today is gone.

by thump on Mar 28, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

I do not believe (based on my own observation) that the majority of cyclists dont stop at lights.
@AWalkerInTheCity, when and where were these observations made? My observations around the Dupont Circle area have been that (excluding circumstances were car traffic is so heavy that blowing through the light would be practically suicidal) 85+% of cyclists don't even slow down for red lights.

by Jacob on Mar 28, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

Mostly in NoVa, but this one time I was biking on the 15th street cycle track I made it a point to check. About half the cyclists stopped at each light and waited for it to change, and most of the others treated it like a stop sign - stopping and then going through the red if there was no traffic (which it being a Sunday, was the case at several intersections). Given the sheer number of traffic signals, which are timed for the speed a car can go, not a bike, and the superior visibility from a bike, I don't think thats suicidal - though its not something I choose to do (I prefer to be predictable, alert and lawful - a PAL)
Cyclists value preserving their own safety very much (which is why they wear helmets, load up on lights, etc)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

This is why it's so important to rein in drivers. No one thinks twice about letting their kids ride bikes in, say, Cape May, NJ. That's because cyclists are expected, drivers don't consider them illegitimate, and they take reckless driving seriously.

So long as there's this mentality that "the city is for drivers who must be allowed to do as they please" we won't see large numbers of kids on bikes.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

I would like to see all bike lanes protected. Put them next to the curb, install bollards on the lane lines, and if there was parking on the street then put it between the traffic and bollards. It wouldn't be terribly expensive and hopefully we have learned enough from the 15th St line that it can be done well.

by Nick Casey on Mar 28, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper -
The author of the story argued that bikers aren't part of the problem. I disagree - they are. I also noted that even pedestrians need better education on what's appropriate. I never exempted pedestrians or put myself above anyone in my original posting in anyway. There is no "other people" style reference in my post whatsoever. And as to your "case and point," cars/trucks are indeed dangerous due to their power and size. That is why we should do better planning and education before inserting them together with bikes and pedestrians.

Thanks for your thoughtful response! I was not suggesting licensing, I was noting that the author's claim that bikers are somehow trained to follow traffic rules is simple not true. Anyone can buy a bike and head out into traffic, no training required. So it is not fair to say that somehow cyclist are inherently knowledgeable as the author erroneously claimed. Also, the introduction of bike lanes and the significant growth in ridership is new in DC beyond dispute. Finally, I live at 15th and T (I went to the planning meetings to support new bike lanes on 15th). I walk down 15th everyday to go to work and Jacob's estimate of 85% is closer to accurate. And even if your 50% is right, could you imagine if 50% of cars ran red lights? I know that is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison but running lights - no matter who does it - is not a behavior that other roadway users can safely anticipate.

by DupontDem on Mar 28, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

Don't forget scooters. Some people are too frail for bikes and motorized bikes are necessary. But DC still treats them horribly- like motorcycles.

A lot of Asian cities' primary traffic is scooters.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 28, 2013 6:53 pm • linkreport

You need to look at the drivers. Not just education, but enforcement in areas around schools, and crosswalks. Seeing drivers ticketed for failing to yield is highly educational.

by SJE on Mar 28, 2013 7:03 pm • linkreport

Great comments! I do wonder, though... by show of hands, how many folks have taken a bike safety class (or the like) vs folks who have taken any kind of motorist behaving safely near cyclists class? in the past 5-10 years?

I'll admit that I was surprised to learn (in the WABA confident commuter brown bag I attended) that as a cyclist, I should 'own the lane' and that car doors opening into bike lane were the biggest cause of accidents...

I certainly did not think of these things from the motorist perspective until I took the cyclist class....

by Sandra Moscoso on Mar 28, 2013 7:06 pm • linkreport


I think at least 85% of drivers go above the speed limit - and probably over half make rights on red without coming to a full stop, and go through stop signs without coming to a full stop. Thats more dangerous, because of the size of their vehicles, and their less fields of vision compared to cyclists. Fact is we've had one bike - ped fatality around here in I think at least a year, and that was on a trail. We have regular auto ped collisions. I walk a great deal, in DC, and in NoVa, and I rarely find cyclists a problem.

Are all cyclists knowledgeable - good grief no - here in NoVa we have a huge problem with immigrant cyclists who ride on sidewalks, who ride against traffic, etc. I find riders in DC (and the lycra clad set here in NoVa) generally much better.

Would it better to have more education for cyclists - sure - but I think the authors point was we need more for drivers as well. Personally I think the best education for drivers about cycling is when they become cyclists themselves.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2013 7:31 pm • linkreport

If 85% of cyclist run stop lights then you are able to accurately predict what they're going to do. They're probably going to run the stoplight. Problem solved.

by David C on Mar 28, 2013 8:49 pm • linkreport

As a mother of three avid little cyclists, I think the sidewalks matter a lot. I mean, with kids, you're talking about riding on the sidewalks, right? (I occasionally lead my oldest into a bike lane for educational purposes, but not regularly). With kids you stay out of the street.

So having nice wide sidewalks, that are not too crowded with pedestrians, is key. I'm lucky to have some right on our route to school. Having pedestrians who understand that they are sharing with cyclists is also a big help (in that, my hotel-filled neighborhood is not particularly blessed). If you have neither of those things, then it's no use. Cycling with kids would be more trouble than it's worth. The ideal infrastructure for family cycling would be, as another poster mentioned, bike lanes ON the sidewalk. Of course most sidewalks would have to be significantly enlarged to permit that.

by Emily on Mar 28, 2013 11:29 pm • linkreport

@Walker, I 99% agree...cyclists behaving badly are a nuisance. Drivers behaving badly are a threat. I've been annoyed by my share of cyclists (as a pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist), but never put in danger of grievous bodily injury by one (minor bodily injury...sure, I've even sustained that). Sure, it's *possible,* but unlikely. Cars, on the other hand. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a giant game of frogger...

What kills me is that if drivers just paid attention and acted like they were piloting what could be a deadly weapon, we could actually make things easier on them. On low-volume streets, there is actually no reason to have 4-way stops. 4-way yields (including to pedestrians and following the same "right side has right-of-way" rule) would work just fine. While it upsets me that people blow through our stop sign without a care, I've never seen an accident result from that behavior. If they just reliably slowed to a speed where they could check all directions and the sidewalk before proceeding (that's pretty slow, maybe 5 MPH and for several feet on approach to the intersection instead of jamming the brakes to "almost stop" and then flooring the gas), and actually yielded to pedestrians in these situations, we could probably improve their gas mileage by allowing rolling stops by use of yields, with no worse safety result. This is not actually insane. If you Google it, you'll find some examples, and we have some of these in my hometown! A few years back, for some reason, the city claimed they were "mandated" to turn some 4-way stops into 2-way stops on some low-volume residential roads. But since the roads are wide and people speed a lot, and there are lots of mature trees and people who park on the street making sight-lines less than ideal, people got upset. So the city changed one to a 4-way yield as an experiment (apparently that also met whatever mandate it was they were given). It worked so well that they turned many of the 4-way stops in a particular neighborhood I drive through a lot to yields. PEOPLE ACTUALLY DRIVE SLOWER, and the number of accidents at those intersections has apparently gone down. Maybe it's that they're concerned about others not obeying the yield properly and they, therefore, behave more responsibly to preserve themselves or maybe it's the whole "trust people and they might surprise you," but it works, VERY WELL!

@thump, I think it goes beyond that. Kids in my current neighborhood are trusted to venture from home, and taught how to do it safely. Sure, some of them have parents who aren't all that involved, but I know some of the parents, and they're totally involved, they just realize that giving kids limited freedom with expectations of responsibility in that freedom, you know, actually helps them learn to make good choices and become responsible people. I'm not going to say that the neighborhood kids or I (back in the day) never made a poor choice, but we had enough decision-making skills and "street smarts" to not make a TERRIBLE decision that put us in danger of anything more than discomfort (for me, it was things like trying to jump the widest part of the creek and falling in or forgetting to ask my mom about the weather before heading out and ending up soaked and having to do laundry because I got caught in a thunderstorm), and learned from the (minor) mistakes we did make. While there's more traffic in the city, at least in the residential neighborhoods I've lived in around here, it's not PROFOUNDLY more, especially outside of rush hour, there are still sidewalks and crosswalks and parks, and, personally, I think drivers (not all, but most) are MORE alert for pedestrians and cyclists here and in other urban places I've lived than any less-urban place I've lived before. Of course there are risks in the world, but I see a lot of parents who won't let their kids out of their sight, even at an age where, when I was a kid, if you asked my mom where I was, she'd shug her shoulders and say "best guess is Jennie's (my childhood best friend from a few doors down), the park, or the library, but she might be out picking blackberries or playing in the woods...I can find her if you need me to."

by Ms. D on Mar 28, 2013 11:51 pm • linkreport

We're barely set up for adult cyclists for a sufficient number to feel safe, much less kid cyclists. I bike nearly every day and I feel unsafe every time I do it, despite being a (mostly) rule-following, mellow cyclist.

While motor vehicle drivers are mostly to blame for this unsafe situation, other cyclists are also a threat to children. Though small in number, overly-aggressive, mostly male cyclists can be a menace on a trail. I think we've all seen guys on their aerobars flying down a congested trail zipping past, and barely smashing children on bikes.

Clear rules, more bike infrastructure (which is dirt cheap to build btw) and a dose of enforcement. That will take a commitment which is slowly growing among city leaders and administrators.

by TLL on Mar 29, 2013 12:41 am • linkreport

We need a bicycle lane network that is completely protected from cars.

I would love to see a pilot at one or two elementary schools where they get funding to build something rather comprehensive out into the neighborhood and have the kids help paint the protected lane(s) with one big rainbow leading to school. This could highlight that this path is used by children to get to school.

by Katherine Mereand-Sinha on Mar 29, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

It's such a different culture now from when I was a kid. I don't think most parents feel they'd be responsible if they just let their kids bike on their own, but that's exactly what we did as kids.

I was walking downtown yesterday when a kid with his family saw the Cabi station at Gallery Place and suggested using them. The mother said something about how you can't bike around here because it's too dangerous. Personally I now actually feel about as safe biking downtown as I do in the suburbs or on a country road, but I can see how you would be terrified to have your bike biking here.

by DE on Mar 29, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

*kid* biking here, not "bike biking here". Sheesh.

by DE on Mar 29, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

In Arlington, we are including motorist education in our PAL campaign (bikes, peds, vehicles all need to remember to be Predictable, Alert and Lawful).

We also have plenty of bike education as well--including informal "just starting" curriculum based classes. Check out

by Tim, BikeArlington on Mar 29, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

I'm not suggesting that it would be wise to ship a kid off on their own down the PA Ave. lanes or 15th St. cycletrack or any number of other bike lanes on generally-busy streets. But on a Saturday afternoon on residential streets with sidewalks (after being taught that *they* are the guest on the sidewalk and need to give each and every pedestrian the right of way and pass safely) or in a park or on the Mall or if they happen to have a trail nearby, there's an opportunity to provide some freedom. The places I was allowed to go unsupervised started with friends' houses (within 1-2 blocks) and the nearby woods (which was basically an extension of the neighborhood back yards) starting at around 6 and progressed to the store, pool, park, and library starting around 9 (all of these were accessible by using exclusively back roads - though I may have to cross a main intersection with a signal and crosswalk - and within a half mile of my house). By 12 I had the skills and freedom to venture pretty "far." I could go to my friend's house 2 miles away or the big park 2.5 miles away, which involved more main roads (though always on the sidewalk...even with the skills and assertiveness I have now, I don't think I'd try to ride in traffic in my hometown - people don't expect it and, IMHO, wouldn't take kindly to it). I think the freedom was good for me. I had to make choices and keep my wits about me.

The kids in my neighborhood also don't go far. Very little kids (under about 8) may go to a neighboring house or the pocket park, older ones (8-12) the rec center or store, and even older, well, they already ride the bus and/or train to school, they can handle themselves just fine, though they mostly just walk around or do bike tricks/skateboard or shoot hoops with their friends. Sometimes the older kids will take the younger ones up to the larger park a bit further away (still under a mile & accessible by residential streets) so they can use the playground.

Basically, I'm not suggesting that kids be traversing the length of the city unsupervised by kindergarten, but things within a few blocks to a mile-ish of their house, if they can be reached safely, shouldn't be off-limits, at the appropriate age and with the appropriate training. My parents were particularly laissez faire, but it's fair to make them tell you where they're going and when they'll be back and who they'll be with and demand they carry a cell phone (I just had to be home by 7 for dinner and was told that if the police ever picked me up for any reason (and they certainly made it sound like even something as minor as littering would land me in the "hoosgow"), they'd tell the police to keep me). I just think it's unfair to the kids to demand constant supervision and escorting. I mean, I liked my parents and all, but I certainly didn't want to spend every waking moment outside of school with them.

by Ms. D on Mar 29, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

The author's point was not that drivers need training as well, but rather that cars are the problem and not bikes. She concludes:

"What seems to be lacking, however, is education (and skill-building) directed at drivers. Those who bike spend time learning how to co-exist with drivers, but until drivers learn to co-exist with cyclists, families will continue to face safety-related obstacles when considering whether or not to bike."

I disagree with that point and based on your last posting I think you agree with me that there are pedestrians, cyclist and cars contributing to the problem. And cars may present a greater threat but that does not excuse the cyclist who causes an accident or injury.

by dupontdem on Mar 29, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

And cars may present a greater threat but that does not excuse the [child] who causes an accident or injury.

So we're clear what we're talking about here.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Dupont, if I may, can I ask that you post a news story or police report detailing a cyclist causing an accident or injury to another? I've seen exactly one that was the cyclist's fault in my time, and there would be no report of it because it was very minor, caused no damage to the car, and the (drunk) cyclist just huffed off with his broken bike. Meanwhile, today, I (on foot) and 2 cyclists were almost crushed by a cement truck who made an illegal turn and then didn't yield at the crosswalk (I was in the crosswalk, bikers were in the bike lane). This is not a rare occurrence, and I'd wager you'll find hundreds of stories of drivers causing accidents with bikers and pedestrians before you find even one that's the reverse.

by Ms. D on Mar 29, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@Ms D,

I can remember two such incidents: several years ago a young Hispanic boy hit an elderly Asian man and killed him. And last year an elderly woman was hit and killed by a cyclist on the four mile run trail. Over that period, the number of people killed by cars in the region probably numbers in the thousands. Both were terrible, tragic accidents, but just slightly more frequent than catastrophic wrecks of large commercial aircraft.

But, y'know, it's important that we crack down equally on cars and bikes...and presumably gray squirrels.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 7:21 pm • linkreport

Driver skill? Perhaps, yes. What I fail to understand is cyclist judgement, or lack thereof. I can't tell you the countless numbers of those on bikes I see each day plowing through stop signs, red lights, going the wrong way on one way streets -sometimes with their children in tow. And appearing self -righteous about it. Please. Safety is every one's concern and there's plenty of foolishness displayed by BOTH drivers and cyclists. Let's encourage everyone to follow the rules of the road and not let those using pedal power to be exempt from that.

by Karen on Mar 29, 2013 9:22 pm • linkreport

I can't tell you the countless numbers of those on bikes I see each day plowing through stop signs, red lights, going the wrong way on one way streets -sometimes with their children in tow. And appearing self -righteous about it.

I'm curious: How exactly does one discern the level of self-righteousness of another person. Are you sure it's not just projection.

While it's true we should encourage everyone to follow the rules of the road, at the end of the day, if you're behind the wheel of an automobile, you're going to be the one who's got a very high potential of killing someone. So drive accordingly.

Drive as though pedestrians and cyclists are going to behave erratically--because they will.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 9:37 pm • linkreport

Driver skill? Perhaps, yes. What I fail to understand is cyclist judgement, or lack thereof.

Since this thread is about children riding bikes, I'd also point out that sometimes children's judgement is not as developed as that of adults. So drive accordingly.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 9:45 pm • linkreport

@ Ms. D

Note the NPR report attached below as an overview of the issue:

The NPR story is wrong in one respect. When I was working in policy at USDOT, we did a study that broke down cycling accidents by category. The University of North Carolina did the report and it concluded roughly 35% of accidents were caused by cyclist,40% by drivers and the balance no fault could be determined.

Finally, if you search the borderstan blog you can find a report on an accident at 15 and T from last Summer(I witnessed the emergency response). A cyclist ran a red light, thinking he could beat the oncoming traffic on 15th street. He ended up going through the windshield of a taxicab. He was seriously injured.

Cars are more dangerous. No one is argung that they are not, but bikes operated poorly do cause accidents and injuries.

by DupontDem on Mar 30, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

but bikes operated poorly do cause accidents and injuries.

And so? The current law environment means that a cyclist has to be perfect at all times to get any sort of restitution while a driver just has to be kind of sorry to avoid facing any sort of real penalty.

Maybe the law should take into account the inherent danger of a particular mode as well as figuring out who had right of way.

by drumz on Mar 30, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

I agree the cops are ridiculously pro-driver, but the point in the article and that is being debated in the comments is whether the overall problem of traffic accidentis involving cyclist is solely caused by cars or by cars, pedestrians and bikes.

And yes car's are more dangerous. I have said that in my posts. Negligently pulling or walking in front of a car causes injuries just like being hit by a negligently operated car. Which is why I'm arguing everyone needs to be more careful.

by Dupontdem on Mar 30, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

No one is arguing to be less careful. I and most others are saying that the law doesn't recognize the inherent risk cars pose (regardless of who is at fault) and the law and the way these crashes are investigated should reflect this.

by Drumz on Mar 30, 2013 6:25 pm • linkreport

Oboe, you ever seen that commercial where the squirrel causes an accident on purpose? I actually saw a squirrel trip a pedestrian one jumped off a low wall, landed on the guy's foot, and circled it a few times before running off. He appeared to trip more out of shock/confusion than force, but, yes, those evil squirrels need ticketed. I'm sure that squirrel was laughing about that with his buddies all night over a few brews. :)

The thing is, Dupont, those of us who are ridiculously careful on foot and bike still have a lot of "war stories" to tell. I'm not going to say I don't jaywalk or go through the occasional red light on a bike, but I've NEVER had even a "far call" doing that, because I only do it when it's 100% safe to do so. If you cross streets downtown enough, you'll see that the lights are somewhat poorly-timed, and there are stretches of time when there's NO traffic that would have the green for blocks, even at rush hour. Do I go ahead and cross when the nearest car to me that would have the right-of-way is stopped at a red light 2 blocks away? Yes, and I've never even come close to causing an accident doing so.

But I've been hit in a marked crosswalk at a controlled intersection (4-way stop). I shared my story from yesterday above, of 2 cyclists and myself, all behaving 100% legally and carefully almost being hit by the operator of a MULTI-TON vehicle acting dangerously, unlawfully, and carelessly (we, OTOH, were being so careful we managed to avoid his erratic and unlawful behavior). The incident that sparked the "no U-turn through the bike lane" campaign by the city? I saw that go down, along with dozens of other close calls because of the same DRIVER behavior. Given that I *might* spend 20 minutes a day on that stretch, the problem is HUGE if I'm seeing it so much. Every single morning and evening, the only way for me to get to and from home, using a marked and signed crosswalk (though there are no stop signs or lights, there are white lines on the pavement with signs saying "stop here for pedestrians" and bright yellow crosswalk signs on top of the crosswalk marking), is to make eye contact with a driver and give them the WTF shrug when they don't appear to be stopping. Even then, they often don't stop. Some don't stop even if I'm IN the crosswalk, even in broad daylight. I had a woman last fall seemingly intentionally attempt to run me over in this crosswalk (I was several steps into the crosswalk when she changed lanes and drove straight toward me while making direct eye contact with me, forcing me to leap back onto the sidewalk to avoid being hit...I'm lucky I'm pretty agile). I've had numerous drivers beep or flash their lights at me from a distance away - oh, they saw me, but they're telling me that if I go ahead and cross (which I have every right to), I'm toast.

It's incidents like these - which will never be reported in official statistics because there was no accident and, therefore, no report - that really illustrate the issue. If I took my right-of-way each and every time I had it, I'd have been put 6 feet under years ago. My own eyes say that drivers may only be slightly more likely than cyclists to cause accidents because cyclists are regularly avoiding potential accidents caused by dangerous actions by drivers. When they do assert themselves, like with the RIA incident, they run the risk of INTENTIONALLY being hit. Over the years, the number of times I've had to yield to dangerous and illegal actions by drivers to avoid an accident (as a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver) FAR exceeds the number of times I've had to even slow down because a pedestrian or cyclist did something stupid and illegal. The fact that bike-car accidents are pretty rare (there aren't many great stats, but CaBi, with millions of rides and not even dozens of accidents is a good proxy), is also pretty telling on this front. If you assume that the average driver makes 4.25 trips each and every day (Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey), the fact that they will have an accident about every 8 years makes drivers over 10x more likely to have an accident in any single trip than a CaBi user. Since both the drivers and the cyclists are facing the same VEHICULAR traffic, I WONDER (not really) what could be behind the far lower incidence of accidents among cyclists?

by Ms. D on Mar 30, 2013 6:44 pm • linkreport

No, drumz, I am actually arguing that the STRONG MAJORITY of cyclists and pedestrians are being plenty careful, and saying that "everyone" needs to pay more attention is giving drivers yet another pass. The SMALL MINORITY of cyclists and pedestrians who behave dangerously should be more careful. The MAJORITY of drivers who regularly behave illegally if not totally carelessly need to behave more carefully and lawfully. I'm already diving out of their way with some regularity, what more do you want?

by Ms. D on Mar 30, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

"I agree the cops are ridiculously pro-driver, but the point in the article and that is being debated in the comments is whether the overall problem of traffic accidentis involving cyclist is solely caused by cars or by cars, pedestrians and bikes"

Thats not what the article was about - it was generally about getting more families to bike, and specifically said it would help if drivers knew more about bikes. She said that cyclists already know about cars (which is largely true, both because most adult cyclists drive, and cars are pretty hard not to notice when you bike on the roads) not, that all cyclists are perfect. That has been seized on for the usual discussion of scofflaw cyclists. You may not wish to be anti-bike, but this long involved quibble about what none of us deny (there are some bad cyclists out there - heck, if you want to hear about them, you find out the most on biking forums)has diverted us, I think, from any discussion of what might, you know, actually get more families cycling.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 30, 2013 8:10 pm • linkreport

Ms D,

You either misunderstand me or I misspoke. I agree with you.

I'll go further an say that it's natural to expect pedestrians and cyclists to break law meant to regulate the behavior of drivers because the laws aren't made for them, the police by and large aren't willing to do anything about collisions, and its natural to expect that in a hostile environment (many city streets) people will do what's necessary to keep themselves safe.

When I'm dictator I'd make certain that the burden of proof to say the collision was unavoidable rests on whoever was operating the heavier vehicle.

After changing the laws to Idaho stops and radically redesigning city streets of course.

by Drumz on Mar 30, 2013 9:19 pm • linkreport

Erm, and by "you" I don't mean you, drumz. I mean the general consensus. Like the idiot who kept telling me that I should be wearing a safety vest when crossing the street on the earlier post, even if I were crossing in marked crosswalks at controlled intersections with the right-of-way in well-lit areas with heavy, expected pedestrian traffic. I'm (not) terribly sorry that my walking and biking might inconvenience a driver for a split second, and require them to actually pay attention. I think Thursday's incident/yesterday's post where Aimee was hit by a driver who had ample opportunity to see her well illustrates this point. She didn't come "out of nowhere," she was more than halfway across the street in broad daylight when he decided it was time to go without looking up from his phone, and was only spared severe injury by jumping out of the way. Again, what more do you (general) people want from us?

by Ms. D on Mar 30, 2013 9:40 pm • linkreport

Probably go away to end this war on cars and ensure that everyone can get from Manassas to DuPont circle in 15 minutes and not worry about parking.

Did you know that one time I had to drive somewhere and that proves that it's useless to invest in transit or simply make sure that pedestrians who are hit while following the law have some chance at justice?

/I shouldn't have to explain that I'm kidding.

by Drumz on Mar 30, 2013 10:14 pm • linkreport

@ awalkerinthecity

Apparently you have not been reading the posts. Multiple posters have argued that cyclist caused accidents and/or injuries are a rarity, ranking up there with squirrel caused accidents. I was also asked to post some proof that cyclist can cause accidents, which I did in the form
of an NPR report that cited multiple studies - including by DDOT here in DC - that cyclist cause as many accidents as drivers. The author of the piece as well point blank blames only drivers for unsafe conditions. I have simply been pointing out - without hyperbole or personal insults or condescending remarks - that drivers, pedestrians and cyclist are all at fault because of poor education and poor infrastructure design. To state that is not anti-bike (I support bike lanes), or anti-pedestrian or anti-car.

by Dupontdem on Mar 31, 2013 2:09 am • linkreport

Again, so? Out of the three groups only one is really capable of really causing serious injury/ death. Shouldn't the law take this into account? Why does there have to be some sort of weird notion about equality when that clearly isn't the case? The only reason walking is unsafe is because of cars, regardless of who is at fault in a collision.

Relentlessly pointing out stats on who causes accidents doesn't do anything to fix the problem of the fact that when its a drivers fault nothing ever really happens.

Lets focus on that rather than pointing out that people aren't perfect.

And even if pedestrians are responsible for a great number of collisions don't you think society's response be to mitigate the damage rather than say "welp, they did it to themselves, nothing to do here folks."?

by Drumz on Mar 31, 2013 8:30 am • linkreport

@ drumz

And again. as I have said already, I agree current enforcement is not fair and protects drivers. My one "relentless" citation to a set of studies showed bikes do cause accidents -- that means they cause the injuries and deaths associated with those accidents as well. And if a pedestrian ignores traffic signals and runs into onc

by Dupontdem on Mar 31, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

But why does that matter? It's something that people harp on but it doesn't change anything with regards to why should be done.

by Drumz on Mar 31, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

Here is what the author said

"What seems to be lacking, however, is education (and skill-building) directed at drivers. Those who bike spend time learning how to co-exist with drivers, but until drivers learn to co-exist with cyclists, families will continue to face safety-related obstacles when considering whether or not to bike."

there is nothing about all accidents being caused by drivers. There is a reference to learning about coexistence - without the specific modifier "all". A. Its true most cyclists know about coexistence - either from classes, from their experience as drivers, or from their experience riding in the street. Not so much for drivers, who are usually not cyclists, and who are less likely to be aware of cyclists (esp if they usually drive in places with few cyclists in the street). Ergo, formal education, though good for cyclists is more important for drivers.

Thats all I get from the piece. That is quite compatible with a relatively small group of bad cyclists causing one third or more of cyclist-driver collisions - since such collisions are small in number compared to the number of cyclists (tell your friends in OST policy that we really need data on cycling, for just such exposure measures - but I suspect they already know that)

Again, this has been diverted into logical side paths - now, how DO we encourage more biking by families?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 31, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

I was also asked to post some proof that cyclist can cause accidents, which I did in the form
of an NPR report that cited multiple studies - including by DDOT here in DC - that cyclist cause as many accidents as drivers.

The studies say nothing of the sort and nothing about the leap you are trying to make - that cyclists pose as much of a danger to other users as cars do to other users.

by MLD on Apr 1, 2013 8:17 am • linkreport

We can get more families cycling by making it safer to do so. To make it safer to do so, we have to make sure that the pilots of vehicles that could kill them know how to treat and respond to cyclists (and pedestrians) along their route. We also need to make those drivers more law-abiding. Speed and red-light cameras are called a money-grab, but they wouldn't be grabbing so much money if so many people weren't speeding or running red lights.

The article you posted also cited another study showing that over 80% of accidents in that study were the driver's fault, so the evidence is mixed, at best, and consistently shows that more car-bike accidents are caused by drivers than the other way around. And it fails to explain why, per trip (which, by its nature, accounts for fewer cyclists than cars on the road), drivers are over 10x more likely to be in an accident, of any kind, than cyclists like CaBi users. Again, my experience suggests that this is because cyclists and pedestrians are doing a good job of "saving themselves." We're watching for that car making the illegal turn or driver who might suddenly decide to go through the intersection, even though we have the right-of-way. And again, while the illegal U-turn that sparked the campaign to get people to follow the (well-advertised) LAW was an egregious example of bad driver behavior (I can confirm, having witnessed it, that the driver nearly turned right into the cyclist, and was on her cell phone...what may not have been mentioned was that she started across the lane again, like she was considering making the U-turn anyway, after the incident!), there was no accident and no report that would go into official statistics. Of course, drivers have close calls, too, but the greater distance/space needed to stop or move a car than bike or person means that they're less likely than a cyclist or pedestrian close-call to stay out of the stats.

It sounds like you at least walk if not bike around here at least occasionally. Do you not see this, too? Have you not had your fair share of close calls with drivers when you were doing nothing wrong, or regularly had to wait for drivers who are breaking the law before proceeding safely? Sure, pedestrians and cyclists should know and follow the rules of the road. If my experience in elementary school is any testament, pedestrians are getting that. They're taught to "stop, look, and listen" from a very young age. To use marked crosswalks and be visible. There are numerous resources for cyclists to get the information they need, some as easy as a Google search for "{locality} bike laws." Once again, out on the roads every day, even when I do see pedestrians and cyclists breaking the law, they rarely put themselves or others at risk doing so. Yet, drivers (rightfully, given the damage they can do to every other road user, including other drivers) get formal training and testing and STILL regularly and flagrantly break the law and/or don't apply best practices, leading to ONE PERSON EVERY 12 MINUTES DYING IN A CAR COLLISION IN THE US.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but the death rate from motor vehicle use is SO high that it simply can't be attributed solely to "circumstances beyond the driver's control." (even in the formal stats, the lion's share can be attributed to driver negligence such as driving drunk, distracted driving, excessive speed, or other illegal and dangerous behaviors) I've had 3 collisions in driving life. One was blatantly the other driver's fault (ran a light), one was my fault (car in my blind spot when I changed lanes...I should have checked, but was young and DEFINITELY learned my lesson...perhaps more intensive training or a penalty steeper than a $75 ticket would have made me more likely to check in the first place), and one was both of our fault but a "no harm, no foul" kind of situation (we were both backing out of parking spots and couldn't see each other around a 3rd, stationary, car...I'd guess the total speed of our collision was under 5 MPH, so we and our cars were all fine and we just apologized to each other and went home). In the first two cases, if I or the other driver had been paying more attention and/or following the law, the collision could have been avoided. Stats say that upwards of 80% of car collisions could be avoided by drivers behaving legally and paying attention, my personal experience puts it at, at least, 66%. I think it's pretty clear that we have a serious problem with drivers not behaving responsibly.

by Ms. D on Apr 1, 2013 10:35 pm • linkreport

"I would also dispute that bikes are a new system, and I do not believe (based on my own observation) that the majority of cyclists dont stop at lights."

Try hanging out at Columbus Circle or around Stanton Park.

The considerable majority of cyclists don't even slow for the red light.

Even during the very hectic rush hour.

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:26 am • linkreport

Can we all agree that texting while driving, cycling, or walking while in a crosswalk should be fined heavily?

Can't we all just get along, at least on this one point?

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:28 am • linkreport

"Fact is we've had one bike - ped fatality around here in I think at least a year, and that was on a trail. "

Didn't the elderly woman hit by a cyclist in the alleyway near the Convention Center later die of her injuries? I don't recall the outcome.

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:29 am • linkreport

"Again, so? Out of the three groups only one is really capable of really causing serious injury/ death."

Tell that to the woman hit by a cyclist in the alleyway near the Convention Center last year.

If memory serves correctly she died of those injuries.

Or the woman on the bike trail that died after being hit by a cyclist.

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:35 am • linkreport


The convention center incident was more than two years ago (November 2010).

And yes multi-use trails are often unsafe for the speeds people ride on them.

So that's two in over two years in a region that has how many other pedestrian deaths every year?

by MLD on Apr 3, 2013 8:42 am • linkreport

Hillman, how did you go from not recalling if she died to recalling that she did in 6 minutes?

Anyway, I don't know which event you're talking about. Are you talking about the man who was hit by a cyclist in an alley in 2010 and died from the injuries later, or are you talking about the woman who was hit by a National Guard vehicle and died on the spot? I don't know of any women hit by cyclists near the convention center.

by David C on Apr 3, 2013 9:14 am • linkreport

I can think of two incidents where a cyclist has killed someone. One of those was in SF where the cyclist faced jail time.

So to argue that bikes are as dangerous or that cyclists get preferential treatment is a false equvalency.

by Drumz on Apr 3, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

While this study was done in NYC, has anyone on this discussion noticed the NYTs article that mentions that most pedestrian/car accidents happen in the crosswalk when the pedestrian has the light?

The study is based on mixed use spaces where the traffic flow patterns were designed to preference cars.

"Pedestrians struck by cars are most often hit while in the crosswalk, with the signal on their side."

by Katherine Mereand-Sinha on Apr 4, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

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