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I will continue to ride, bent frame and all

I started biking in DC to become a moving, breathing part of the city. But Monday morning, while in the center bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th streets, a driver made an illegal U-turn straight into my bike.

A driver makes an illegal U-turn on Penn. Photo by jwetz on Twitter.

I feel compelled to say I was obeying all laws and going the speed limit when I was hit. I catapulted into the side of her car, was jostled off my bike and caught myself with one foot on the ground, which she then ran over with her back tire.

She pulled over to the shoulder and leaned out her window, "Oh my God! I did not SEE you!" At this point, I yelled across all three lanes of traffic, "I WAS IN A BIKE LANE!" I walked my bike up to the crosswalk and onto the sidewalk to meet her on the shoulder of the road. She burst out of the car, apologizing profusely. A police officer who had witnessed the scene from nearby came over.

First, he asked if I was okay. I told him that I thought so, but wasn't quite sure. He said he could call an EMT if I thought I needed one. I said I wasn't sure, so he didn't.

He asked us what happened at which point the woman frantically and apologetically explained she was looking for an address and did not see me when she tried to cross to the other side of the street between intersections. I reminded her again that I was, in fact, in a bike lane. The officer gently informed her that making a U-turn in the middle of the street was illegal.

Why I started bicycling

I picked up a bike to heal heartbreak. I was living in Minneapolis in May of last year when I dusted off my old hybrid bike from middle school, pumped up the tires, bought a helmet, and started to move around the newly thawed city.

My heart mended on a bike and in turn, I fell madly in love with the city around me. Minneapolis is a great city to bike in. There are bike lanes and lakefront trails and drivers who, characteristic of "Minnesota Nice," use archaic lights called turn signals when moving about the streets.

I moved to DC this September and left my bike behind. The first week I took the Metro. Before long, my commute began to wear on my soul and empty my pockets. I realized buying a bike would both allow me to be a moving, breathing part of the city and save me money. I scoured Craigslist until I found the perfect, girly, single speed with turquoise wheels, a bright pink chain and little yellow stars on the spokes.

I now commute ten miles to work each morning and the same distance home. I ride Georgia Ave from Silver Spring where passing drivers tell me to get off the road. I turn off at Aspen Street then follow the sleepy hills of 14th Street south to the bustling obstacle course of Columbia Heights.

Here, I pop over to 11th and ride south in a sea of bikers to Pennsylvania Avenue, the home stretch. I love Penn. The buildings part and the morning sun shines as I head straight towards the Capitol.

The officer shrugged

I could feel and identify the adrenaline pulsing through me. My chest felt light and my hands were shaking. I had a hard time concentrating on what was happening around me. I had never been in an accident with a car and was unsure of the procedure.

I kept looking at the police officer, waiting for him to take action or at least give me options. He nervously stood there, afraid to make eye contact and unsure of what to do next. I didn't know if I should take down her car insurance and license plate information. I didn't know if I should file an accident report or what that meant. I didn't know why he wasn't ticketing her for hazardous driving.

Based on his actions, it didn't seem he knew the answer to these questions either.

Finally, I asked for her information. I took down her name, address, and phone number, then looked at the officer and asked if there was any other information I needed. He shrugged.

Eventually the woman drove off and he waited until I calmed down. I got back on my bike and slowly and cautiously rode down Penn the rest of the way to work.

Biking shouldn't be a risk

When I arrived, I was still shaken. I am a member of WABA's Women & Bicycles community and follow the group on Facebook. I posted about the incident under another post about the poor installation of the Zebras intended to stop illegal U-turns through the bike lane.

The comment thread exploded with outraged lady cyclists who showed me where law enforcement failed to follow through on enforcing laws put in place to protect me. By failing to cite the driver and not follow procedure to report cycling accidents, the officer stripped me of any recourse in case my bike or body ended up more injured than I originally thought.

While I am okay, my bike frame is bent and my front wheel wobbles. As a result of the officer's inaction, the burden of these necessary bicycle repairs now falls on my shoulders.

Biking through the city alongside this cycling community is the best part of living in DC. This accident is bigger than this one incident. It is about all of us, and the risk we take each day. It is about the fear of knowing it could have been so much worse.

I will continue to ride my pretty little single speed through this city, with her bent frame and all.

I demand to do so without the fear that I am risking my life.

Alexandra Waters is an artist, organizer, question asker and adventure seeker. She recently moved from Minneapolis, MN to the Washington D.C. area, where she has become a member of WABAs Women & Bicycles group that aims to advocate for and create community among women cyclists. She sees blank walls as blank canvas, her bicycle as her home and city maps as leading to treasures unknown. 


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Sorry to hear of your incident, I would have punched the driver in the face. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by 20011 on Nov 6, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

Why didn't you make an insurance claim? It's not that hard.

FYI, if that is an aluminum frame, you should not ride on it bent. Steel retains its strength went bent, aluminum does not.

by Crickey7 on Nov 6, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Sorry to hear about this. It's horrible. So there was no incident report at all? I'd contact MPD asap if I were you. I saw someone make a U-turn this morning again.

And do not ride on a bent frame or tire.

by RDHD on Nov 6, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

I would contact the woman and tell her how much it will cost to replace your bike (you shouldn't ride w/ a bent frame). She doesn't necessarily know she's not legally bound b/c of the cop's ineptness. Don't tell her. If she is as truly sorry as she says she will want to replace your bike anyway.

by Tina on Nov 6, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

...and I didn't think your bio was pretentious. i thought it was cute and whimsical.

by Tina on Nov 6, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

Wow! Way to gang up on the OP. Tone it down, folks.

Thanks for sharing, Alexandra. Glad you weren't hurt. I wonder what type of training officers (all of them, not just MPD) get on enforcing traffic laws concerning bicycles. In my mind, at the very least, the driver should have been cited for a moving violation and an accident report should have been provided.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 6, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

More proof that on America's main street, the rule of law as it applies to drivers is totally absent. Speeding, illegal u-turns, tailgating, dangerous lane changes are commonplace. It's an embarrassment. DC is a city with lots of security and people presumably watching your every move...unless your a motorist. Then you can practically do whatever the hell you want.

by Craig on Nov 6, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

Biking shouldn't be a risk

poorly worded. Driving is a risk. Walking is a risk. You cannot remove the possibility of risk from these activities.

The officer should have filed an accident report.

The lady shouldn't have U turned

Even if the lady was making a legal turn(for instance a left into a driveway), she shouldn't have hit you(as you had right of way).

by Richard on Nov 6, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Thanks for sharing. Hope MPD reads this.

by Ward 1 Guy on Nov 6, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

20011 also called the baby panda pretentious. Ignore.

Hard to do when you've been hit by a car, but this is the time to not take "no" for an answer from the MPD. He (I assume a he) knows he should do something, and that is to write up a report and hopefully issue a ticket. Perhaps he was nervous having to deal with two women, but this is not hard stuff.

If you have the inclination, I would make this a big deal with MPD and might even suggest calling the local media to let them know how MPD is not defending the rights of cyclist, particularly when they are women. Don't forget to mention how sad you are that Chief Lanier permits this treatment in her police force.

by fongfong on Nov 6, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

Thanks for sharing, Alexandra. I think you should contact a personal injury attorney asap.

by aaa on Nov 6, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

What a well-written, expressive post. Thanks for taking the time to describe what happened. We all learn from each others experiences.

by kob on Nov 6, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

I see so many people making sketchy U turns in DC. Why do they not just go around the block? Is it really that hard? If you need more time to safely get to your destination... maybe leave a little earlier!

by BTA on Nov 6, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

Lane markings, signs, an emergency order by the council, zebras, and the officer didn't even issue a citation? Unbelievable.

by MetMet on Nov 6, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by selxic on Nov 6, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

I also thought your bio is fine and you seem like a pretty good sport. I would be apoplectic if someone hit me like that.

by BTA on Nov 6, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

I don't think we should make an issue out of every fender bender, but if you have just been knocked off your bike and it is damaged, it should not be up to you to decline to press charges: you are in flight or fight mode. The default should be for the MPD to charge the driver, and then contact you later to determine whether you want to go ahead.

by SJE on Nov 6, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

U-turns on Penn are dangerous, patently illegal, and a serious problem. Something needs to change.

Thanks for writing about your experience. I'm glad you weren't hurt, and I pray that the next cyclist who is struck is equally lucky.

by JDAntos on Nov 6, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

This would be a good moment to remind everybody that if you see a cyclist get in an accident, offer assistance. After being in an accident, a rider is unlikely to be making good judgements, because of injuries and shock following the accident. You can help by recording as many details of the scene as possible, including taking photos with your cell phone camera. Don't ask the rider if they are OK. Call 911 and ask for emergency medical assistance. A rider is likely to insist they are OK even when they are not OK. Let a trained emergency responder make that call. If a police officer attends, get the officer's details.

by renegade09 on Nov 6, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Thank you for writing this. I have stopped riding on Penn because the illegal u-turns (and illegal left turns) have become far too dangerous.

She burst out of the car, apologizing profusely.

This is exactly the opposite of what insurance companies tell drivers to do when they're in a wreck. Apologies can and will be used against drivers when determining who is at fault (though in this case it's pretty clear).

As a result of the officer's inaction, the burden of these necessary bicycle repairs now falls on my shoulders.

Since you have the driver's contact info, definitely contact her. If she isn't cooperative, seek out a personal injury attorney. I don't know how far you (or an attorney) can get without that police report, but the driver shouldn't be let off the hook because of what happened in the heat of the moment.

by RP on Nov 6, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

Not that it matters to the location of the accident, but I presume, you live in Downtown silver spring. A safe bike route would be this, take the metropolitan branch trail to takoma metro station, then take 3rd down to Kansas (the best on street bike lanes in Washington DC). When Kansas ave ends in columbia heights, wiggle (a couple of blocks) to 11th ave, and take that all the way down to Pennsylvania ave. You shouldn't get any more car honks after that, sorry about your accident.

by Bill on Nov 6, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

Sorry about the accident. I almost get hit every day by bicyclists going through red lights and generally not obeying any law, but I'll keep walking. MPD needs to enforce the laws for bicyclists, automobiles and pedestrians if we're all to share the roads safely.

by James on Nov 6, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

She pulled over to the shoulder and leaned out her window, "Oh my God! I did not SEE you!

This is a magic phrase that will let you get away with murder in many towns in the USA. This should never be allowed as a defense in a collision, especially from someone driving a car.

by drumz on Nov 6, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

sad thing is that the outcome of this would have been totally different after ~12/20/2013, since that is when the bicycle safety amendment act is supposed to pass congressional review

by Rob on Nov 6, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport


The key word in your post is "almost". It's very easy to weave in and out of pedestrians on a bike. It's what they're designed to do. People just don't get hit very often by cyclists. But if they do and they were breaking the law they should face the consequences (and not be able to use the "I didn't see you" defense).

by drumz on Nov 6, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Thanks for telling your story. Odds are, I wouldn't know what to do in that situation. Chalk up a failure by the police there. I'll be looking out for a pink-chained bike on my commute from Takoma. (if we only had more streets like 11th)

by GalenDC on Nov 6, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

First, the officer should have ticketed the woman for making an illegal U-turn, as well as for some other charge related to crashing into your bike. I don't know what applies, but things like failing to yield, being in a bike-lane and perhaps reckless driving come to mind.

Secondly, my standard reply to 'I'm sorry I didn't see you' is: 'Then you weren't looking', with a mental 'Open your eyes, idiot'. It helps that I am tall and fat, i.e. hard to miss. It is not an acceptable excuse ever [insert Taylor Swift lyrics], especially not when it comes after (near) crashes.

Unfortunately, many traffic participants feel an enormous sense of entitlement. I see cars in bike-lanes. I see bikers cross red lights at busy intersections and salmon. And I see pedestrians stepping into the road without looking.

Generally, a lot more civility is needed. And some counting to 10 after WTF moments. Which is a problem, because most people in DC are the under-assistant of the executive director of ACRONYM and therefore about as important as the VP. As a biker and pedestrian, it is even harder to stay civil when your life gets constantly threatened by all these large vehicles coming your way at too high speeds.

[WTF highlight of the week: I was walking towards an intersection ready to cross a marked crosswalk, when a car came straight as me, basically perpendicularly to the way he was supposed to go. When I looked somewhat puzzled, I was yelled to to get out of the way - the driver was driving around a bus blocking the box, and thought it acceptable to choose a route pretty much across the marked pedestrian crossing and *across* the side-walk corner of the intersection to continue his way. I am always torn what to do in situations like that. The rebel in me wants to calmly explain to the driver that the side-walk is not a place where cars should be, but the part of me that wants to stay alive tends to jump out of the way.]

by Jasper on Nov 6, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

A pretty good percentage of pedestrians have "almost been hit" by cyclists. A pretty good percentage of cyclists "have been hit" by motorists. See the difference there?

(Yes, I "have been hit" by a motorist.)

by Mike on Nov 6, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

@James. Stop being facetious. The story is about being *actually hit* not "almost hit", so it would be nice if you'd stay on-topic and stop trying to minimize her and her experience, which is particularly relevant given the amount of attention recently devoted to these very lanes, and this very issue.

If we want to talk about almost hit, then we all are almost hit every day, car-on-car, car-on-bike, bike-on-ped etc, you're really not that special.

Also, where are you walking that you have so many terrifingly close calls? I walk around DC and Old Town on a daily basis and have had only a scant few encounters with these rogue bicyclists, all at the intersection of 7 & H NW. For the most part, they're just passing closer than cars do (because they can pass closer because they're so much smaller), usually with wider bearth than afforded on a bike trail.

by Catherine on Nov 6, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

Thank you for writing up your story - I can't imagine. I'm very glad you are okay. I would call the police district where the incident took place and explain the situation to see if you can get a police report after the fact. If not, I would complain that the driver was not ticketed. I would also write to the Councilmember in whose ward that police station falls and describe what happened, and ask for a remedy (copying WABA's advocacy team), like training police on bike laws. If no one demands better, then the situation won't get better. I would definitely follow up with the driver, with an estimate of the damage, and ask her to pay for it. Good luck.

by MiddleofNowhere on Nov 6, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

I got hit last year by a driver who failed to yield while making a left turn, and got a similar response from police: they were superficially helpful and nice, but nothing ever came of it and I was left to pay for my own bike repairs, with no consequences as far as I know for the driver. In retrospect I know I should have been more insistent that something happen, but I was pretty shaken from, you know, just having been hit by a car, and wasn't really thinking through all the potential ramifications. In some ways DC police have improved culturally from being actively bike-hostile, but there's still a general "oh well, these things happen" attitude that leaves cyclists to be their own advocates at a time when they're really not equipped to do so, and it sucks.

by Andrew Pendleton on Nov 6, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

If you have her insurance information, and you contact them, then (i) the fact that you have the information tells the insurance company that there really was a accident and (ii) they will contact the driver. Then one of two things happens. Either your stories match, and they pay you, or they do not, and the insurance company has to weigh whether to pay the claim. There is no risk to you.

But you have to have the insurance information. I would contact her and ask her for the insurance information. Give her the option of not going through insurance.

by Crickey7 on Nov 6, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

I walk much much more than I ride but comparing "almost" getting hit by a bike and getting hit by a car is silly. A bike can swerve or stop quite suddenly. Even a quickly decelerating car can do a lot of damage. I agree that more cyclists need to be observant of the laws but that is not really relevant to this particular situation.

by BTA on Nov 6, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

Ms. Waters, MPD is interested in uncovering the specifics regarding the members who were present during your incident. Please contact the Executive Office of the Chief of Police 202-727-4218 at your earliest convenience so that we may assist you with this matter. Thank you in advance.

by MPD on Nov 6, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

I think MPD is getting way better. About 2 months ago, I had a driver blatantly squeeze me out of the lane on Water Street. A fellow cyclist and I flagged down a Second District officer in a patrol car, related the story, and identified the vehicle stopped at a red light a block away. The officer pulled over the vehicle and questioned the driver, who admitted the infraction and got a ticket.

by Crickey7 on Nov 6, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Bravo MPD.

by Tina on Nov 6, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

The cop should be removed from the MPD for witnessing the breaking of the law that resulted in a collision and not ticketing the lawbreaker. Simple as that!

by NE John on Nov 6, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

Hey Alexandra

Don't underestimate the consequences of side whip-lash. I am now three years on from a similar incident and the chronic back pain came on slowly but with force.

Get checked out by a doctor. Do an accident report- make sure that her insurance covers the bike, but also any future medical bills, arising from physiotherapy etc. In the moment the adrenaline masks all pain, and some muscular and spinal injuries take time to show themselves. But in case they do, you must have this legal back up!

by Nats on Nov 6, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

And one of the oddities (at last in Maryland) is that your claim for medical damages is equal to the total medical bill--including the part your health insurance company pays (assuming you have insurance).

The law actually lets you double claim (which is one reason why some people always go to the hospital in a very minor accident). Maybe that anomaly will be fixed one day, but until then, think of it as compensation for the hassle.

by JimT on Nov 6, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Sorry for your suffering.

Kudos for stepping in, MPD.

I didn't see anyone link to WABA's crash FAQ. It explains what to do if you're in a crash -- including taking down not just the driver's info, but the cop's info too. They even have a form you can print in advance and carry with you so you have it if you ever need it. And they have a questionnaire to report your crash.

Also: There are a million TV ads for personal injury attorneys offering to represent people injured in car crashes (typically, while in a car). Seems like there's a big opportunity for attorneys specializing in bicyclists and pedestrians injured in car crashes. I'm surprised there's no law firm listed as a WABA partner -- I'm sure there's a ton of referrals!

by Gavin on Nov 6, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad you are okay after the crash.

The fact that the women says she never saw you shows the lack of awareness of both surroundings and the law. Unfortunately, I assume most drivers do not know the rules. I look forward to zebras but also wish there could be pavement markings placed mid block in each lane with the no u-turns symbol. It could reduce the I didn't know excuse. In addition, those who hold certain licenses such as taxi, limo and shuttles should have special conditions placed on their privilege to earn money from driving. A ticket should require a suspension whether for bike infraction or other violation. An at fault crash should mean loss of the privilege.

I had near miss in the same lanes done by a US Marshall who then verbally assaulted me, including threatening to run me over rather than turning legally 100 feet ahead when the light allowed it. He actually withheld his status as a Marshall until MPD officer on bike arrived. Was so disappointed that federal law enforcement would be so abusive.

Hoping enough stories like this raise awareness and enough folks continue to use the lanes to bring the safety in numbers that groups of riders provide.

by ujavitiz on Nov 6, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

Please, PLEASE don't get back on your bike until you've had it repaired and checked out by a professional!!! Even if it's not visibly damaged, which you say it is, the integrity of the wheels and frame could be compromised. You were lucky enough to walk away from your accident -- please don't risk another one that's entirely preventable!

by Laura on Nov 6, 2013 6:11 pm • linkreport

Worst case scenario: Small claims court.

Also, contact MPD and try to get a report written and citation issued. Theyre the department infamous for ticketing people in the hospital after a collision, they can still write a citation.

by JJJJ on Nov 6, 2013 6:44 pm • linkreport

Kudos to MPD.

And to those going after James for his near misses with cyclists: yes a car is more dangerous, but James has a real complaint, and we shouldnt be apologizing for jerks on two wheel any more than jerks on four wheels.

by SJE on Nov 6, 2013 9:12 pm • linkreport

No, it's a false equivalency. Drivers kill thousands each year. We are lucky to live in a few cities where govt's and PDs pay lip service to wanting safe cycling infrastructure but the fact that it's often a political fight to install the most basic infrastructure shows that there is still a hostility to something as simple as riding a bike to get somewhere.

Most towns and cities just don't care what happens to cyclists which is a shame since people are literally getting injured and dying over it. In a situation where you know that if you get in an collision where the police are unlikely to be any help even if you're in the street bleeding what benefit is there to try to play a game that is rigged against you?

by Drumz on Nov 6, 2013 9:36 pm • linkreport

First of all Alexandra, the most important thing is that you are OK.
I would do a couple of things, that you may or may not have done already:
#1 Try and contact an attorney to see what your writes and options are. WABA might have a link or list, if not try this
#2 The driver was responsible to report the accident to their insurance company within a certain period of time. If she did not that may not have harmed your claim.
#3 Take the time to contact MPPD re: the officer's action/inaction. Again, maybe there is still something which can be done. It may also help educate this officer and or others at that precinct to better aid the next person.
Each MPPD precinct now have a web page, so you could email the commander or one of the officers at the precint to get a better understanding of what should have been doen, in the event it happens again.
#4 Get your bike looked at. I say this because if it was damaged or compromised in the process, riding it until it fails and may cause you injury is not a good thing.
In the meantime I wish you safe and happy travels.
If there is any info or questions I can answer for you lmk, as I know a lil bit about bikes as well as riding in traffic.

by David M Isler on Nov 6, 2013 9:53 pm • linkreport

While it may seem that the nice, generous, and forgiving thing to do is to give the driver a pass, you'll be doing us all a favor by pursuing the matter with the driver and with MPD. Word needs to get out among drivers that there can be serious consequences to not looking out for cyclists. Similarly, it's hard for MPD to get better (and they genuinely want to improve) if specific incidents are not brought to their attention.

by Falls Church on Nov 6, 2013 10:57 pm • linkreport

Apologies can and will be used against drivers when determining who is at fault (though in this case it's pretty clear).

According to my lawyer and wife, this is incorrect. An apology immediately after a crash is inadmissible.

by David C on Nov 6, 2013 11:22 pm • linkreport

@SJE: bull. You're trying to equate "actually hit" with "almost hit" like they're the same thing. They simply are not. If the statistics showed that cars "almost hit" cyclists but didn't actually hit them, I'd be annoyed but much less concerned. Similarly, since statistics show that cyclists "almost hit" pedestrians they have every right to be annoyed, but that is completely irrelevant to whether their safety is actually in danger, or whether we need better enforcement of traffic laws which might prevent "actually hit" incidents.

by Mike on Nov 7, 2013 7:42 am • linkreport

SJE is not trying to equate anything with anything, he is just encouraging everybody to be reasonable even when confronted by someone being a bit unreasonable who still has an underlying concern. That reflects the different purposes people have for posting comments at all.

It's always a bit odd to talk about your own annoyances in response to somebody else's near trajedy. But once someone does that, different people have many different responses. Some will say: "How dare you"? Others might let the impropriety slide and try to address the concern, even if it was expressed at the wrong time and wrong place.

Personally, I'm hoping SJE expands the thesis to a full-length post.

by JimT on Nov 7, 2013 8:39 am • linkreport

Thank you for the story. I like how you are going to keep going, which is what we have to do. With people like you on the streets, maybe DC will some day be as good to ride in as Minneapolis.

If you haven't already, get the bike checked out before riding. But yes, get back out there. Don't let the fact that even when police officers see the accident they don't help cyclists get you down. It's only through more and more of us being out there that things will change.

by DE on Nov 7, 2013 9:01 am • linkreport

With all due respect to the administrative officer in Chief Lanier's office who noticed MPD was rightfully getting trashed on this website, there is a common thread to all of this, and it's MPD.

I walk, bike, and drive mostly around my home in Columbia Heights and my workplace in Adams Morgan. MPD traffic enforcement is an absolute joke. At any given time, but especially on weekends, there are regularly 5-10 cars illegally parked in the bike lanes on 14th in front of DC USA and the building across the street which houses the Chipotle. There are also regularly 2-4 MPD cars with officers in or near them who ignore this blatant and dangerous violation. On top of that, you have DC's awful taxi brigade. I've nearly been hit more times than I can count by taxi drivers who stop in the middle of traffic, pull u-turns, or dart over two lanes of traffic and the bike lane to pick up a customer. The cops do nothing.

When driving down this stretch of road, one also has to be mindful of the apparent lack of self-preservation instincts that has invaded the local populace. You can't go half a block without people walking through the street with their backs to traffic, either because they're drunk, or just assume you won't hit them. Take that, the aforementioned terrible drivers, and yes, some inconsiderate bikers, and you honestly do get a situation sometimes where you don't see something happening because you have nine other distractions on the road. It sucks, but I've almost hit someone operating their bike, car, or person legally, because someone else did something crazy.

This can stop today. The lazy cops need to be called out. Start pulling people over. Start writing tickets, or at least flashing your lights at drivers parked in the bike lane so they'll move. Do your damn job.

by Upper 14th on Nov 7, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

I was thinking that photo enforcement was the solution here. But does anyone know if that is technically possible? I mean a speed camera is triggered by radar and a red light camera is triggered by the light changing (+ motion sensor??), but would a u-turn camera need a trigger? Or would you just have to have someone go through hours of footage? I actually brought this up last night at the BAC meeting and Jim Sebastian of DDOT thought it was a good idea, but now I'm worried it won't work.

by David C on Nov 7, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

@David C

Image Processing techniques for automated detection and identification of illegal U-turns are 100% technically feasible.

by Joe M on Nov 7, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

It's always a bit odd to talk about your own annoyances in response to somebody else's near trajedy. But once someone does that, different people have many different responses.

I think it goes beyond this. To take it to an extreme example, it's like someone reporting their rape on a public website, then having someone jump on and talk about how some women get drunk, and other dress provocatively. All those things may be true, but this is not the time or place. It's off-topic, and more important, in context it's offensive. Probably intentionally.

by oboe on Nov 7, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

Sorry you got hit; glad you weren't seriously hurt. Continuing to ride the bent bike is not a good idea.

by Jimg on Nov 7, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

I'm so glad you weren't seriously hurt. That woman should pay for your bike to be repaired/replaced. Regardless of whether she is legally obligated to do so, she is definitely morally obligated. Please contact her to have her to do - she shouldn't walk away scot free.

by Danielle on Nov 7, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

I am not equating "actually hit" with "hit"
I am not equating "hit with a car" with "hit with a bike." I've experienced both.

They are completely different: its like the difference between being shot, and being pushed. But if someone is pushing you, he's a jerk. It doesnt matter that he is not shooting you, and we should not be defending him from being a jerk. From my days living in the rough parts of Baltimore, I can tell you from experience that the same people and places where you are likely to get shot are also those where you are likely to be pushed, heckled, and otherwise assaulted. Its the same problem of lawlessness and general a-holery.

Lets hold everyone-cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians- to a standard of safety and consideration. James' concerns are not directly relevant to being hit by a car, but dismissing them sounds like we cyclists think that the law does not apply to us. Plenty of drivers and peds think cyclists believe that we cyclists are above the law: that does us no good in the long run.

Given that the biggest lawbreakers are drivers, and the weakest standards are applied to drivers, merely asking for a mode-neutral application of the law can only be to cyclist's net benefit.

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

As to my call for a general application of the laws: that's exactly what Upper 14 is complaining about. A little more zeal from the MPD in enforcing the laws will make is safer for bikers, even if we will occassionally get a ticket for rolling through a red.

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

DC gave out 3000 tickets to cyclists in 2011.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

"I feel compelled to say I was obeying all laws and going the speed limit when I was hit."

I can go 25 mph, but only for short periods.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

Drumz, I agree that MPD unfairly tickets peds and cyclists. But the far bigger problem IMO is that MPD doesnt ticket motorists enough, even when they kill or cause injury. That is what we need to focus on. Defending cyclists who are being jerks just plays into the hands of the opposition, who argue that cyclists think that the law does not apply to them (somewhat true), and therefore go on to conclude that the problem is lawless cyclist (untrue).

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport


I don't know if the ticketing is unfair or not. But apparently they are ticketing cyclists (contrary to when people ask why bikes don't have registrations for all the red lights they run).

I think MPD could ticket more motorists (I'd like to see more cameras as well).

It's not that I want to defend jerks. I don't think they deserve. I do think that a lot of what people read as jerkish behavior actually isn't though but I think its hard to see that until one rides for themself. My personal example is stop signs. When people see a cyclist roll through a stop sign they think "what a jerk" except that once you're out riding and such it becomes clear that cyclists don't really need stop signs like cars do. I'm moving slow enough that I'm usually able to see if cross traffic is approaching the intersection. Plus it's easy to drive up very quickly to a stop sign, stop, and blaze through faster than if I'm pedaling through without stopping on my bike.

Sorry, that's kind of rambling. TL;DR most cyclists aren't jerks once we examine why they're doing what they do.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport


Don't rise to the defense of cyclists who speed through lights. The other night I was walking across 15th. It was near dark. I had the walk light and stepped off the curb. A bike with no headlight that had obviously plowed through the changing light, and made no effort to slow down, came with inches of striking me. I did not see this person coming. And this is far, far from the first time.

So I really don't care. Ticket cars. Ticket bikes. Ticket narcissistic, selfish, reckless and self-absorbed law-breaking behavior in all its shapes and forms.

by kob on Nov 7, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

Don't rise to the defense of cyclists who speed through lights.

I didn't. But I also don't think it's as common a problem as asserted. I also think we'd have less need for stop lights if more people biked.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

I ride thousands of urban miles per year. I still think blowing a stop sign or light is jerkish. No one is deputized to decide which traffic laws are unnecessary and don't apply to them.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

blowing a stop sign or light

And I agree one shouldn't blow through stop signs or lights without regard for caution. I do think though that more cyclists use caution than it may appear. I don't think most cyclists are "blowing" through intersections. I think most are just practicing Idaho Stops (which doesn't allow not yielding) even if they still aren't legal here.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

"No one is deputized to decide which traffic laws are unnecessary and don't apply to them."

I dare you to spend a few hours driving around FFX county arterials AT the speed limit. You will be tailgated, you will be honked, and you will generally be considered a traffic obstructing jerk.

EVERYONE decides which traffic laws do and don't apply to them. And yes, LE accepts that, and our lawmakers accept that. Heck they ENCOURAGE it. There are bus stops in Fairfax county that are placed in medians between the service lane and the main arterial - and NOT at a crosswalk, so the only way across the service lane to the sidewalk is to "jaywalk". People jaywalk because its necessary to save time and because they can judge traffic on a service lane or slow moving or empty street.

Drivers go 5 MPH over the speed limit cause thats how the road is designed, and there are no pedestrians present.

And cyclists go through stop signs for all the reasons that we have discussed ad nauseum.

And yes, in a thread about someone who was ACTUALLY hit by a car, raising the scofflaw cyclist meme AGAIN is a distraction and a jerkish move. DA has created a thread about improving cyclists behavior. Thats great. But sometimes you have to judge things by context. its like the difference between discussing JFKs failings, and raising them in a discussion about his assasination.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

We have even had thread discussion cops.

by kob on Nov 7, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

I did not bring it up. Read the thread. Someonet said that this behavior is acceptable. I cannot disagree more strongly, and I have the right to say so because I'm one of the people he thinks will see the light once they cycle. Nope. Not okay. Not. OK.

And really? The "everybody does it" argument is beyond childish. If someone wants to argue that in a discussion about how an innocent cyclist was hit, then expect to get smacked down.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

No one is deputized to decide which traffic laws are unnecessary and don't apply to them.

True, though my focus is less on law obedience and more on just operating in a way that doesn't hurt people. But I also think the deck is stacked against pedestrians and cyclists. The roads are mostly built for cars and it's hard to operate if you're not also in a vehicle, that's partly why I'm willing to give more slack to a cyclist or pedestrian breaking a law out of convenience (they still should be operating carefully) than a driver (because the stakes are so much higher).

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

It's off-topic, and more important, in context it's offensive. Probably intentionally.

Though, as you can see from the direction this thread has taken, it's a fabulous technique for getting people to stop talking about the major problem at hand, and getting people to start talking about those wascally Scofflaw Cyclists.

What were we talking about again? Who cares. I had a neighborhood kid throw a stone at me. Almost hit me too! No one should get a pass from law enforcement, no matter what age!

by oboe on Nov 7, 2013 5:49 pm • linkreport

This is a debate within the community that helps set the norms, so it's not offered as a distraction. I'd dismiss it coming from outside the community, as in fact being a distraction. I would agree with you on that.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

I agree that cars are the most dangerous, that drivers get off too lightly, and that the MPD is an important part of the problem, and must be part of the solution.

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 6:34 pm • linkreport

Wow! I am a commuter and it seems every day is a challenge in one form or another to get to work and back.... I hope this has a good outcome... BTW, if you need a bike, I have a couple to spare

by Austincycler on Nov 8, 2013 12:12 am • linkreport

@SJE: let's imagine a hypothetical world where cyclists obey all laws because, I dunno, cyclists are all saints rather than humans. how many lives do we save? now let's imagine the hypothetical world where motorists obey all laws (I know, work with me here). how many lives do we save? the effort needs to be focused where it is actually needed and where it can actually provide value. if some cycling advocates want to self-flagellate on behalf of other cyclists who may be breaking the law, I guess that's fine if that's their kink. but I don't think that doing so helps at all, and is counterproductive insofar as it distracts from the elephant in the room.

by Mike on Nov 8, 2013 7:31 am • linkreport

Mike: I am not saying that cyclists need to obey the law. All I am saying is (1) we shouldnt assert that we are above the law (2) not defend cyclists who are being jerks, and (3) not marginalize those who have reasonable fears, like pedestrians getting buzzed by a cyclist.

by SJE on Nov 8, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Was she from DC? She sounds like a visitor or new to the area. In lots of places it's fine to make a U-turn in the middle of the street, and you don't have to watch for bikers, which would explain why she was so shocked and apologetic when this happened.

by Carlo on Nov 8, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport


1) who did? some people refuse to obey laws that they think make them unsafe, and work to get the law changed, but I don't think anyone argued that it is because they are above the law. there's a very old argument concerning a citizen's responsibility to obey the state against his own conscience, and reasonable people take differing positions.

2) who did? I think most cyclists here (and in most forums) advocate a "don't be a jerk" policy. they may also refuse to take responsibility for the bad actions other people, but that isn't the same as defending them.

3) who did? I didn't see any reasonable fears expressed. I did see a discussion about someone being hit by a car followed up with "well, sometimes cyclists almost hit me". what is the value added by that comment, in context? had someone advocated riding a bike in a dangerous fashion in close proximity to pedestrians, then the comment would be reasonable. as it stands, what message was the comment intended to convey? it is disingenuous to ignore the fact that nearly every time dangerous driving is brought up in the context of pedestrian or cyclist safety, someone comes along with a comment like "well, this one time a cyclist ran a stop sign". it's a technique intended to stifle the conversation about the behavior that actually kills people, and it's time we all stand up to it.

by Mike on Nov 8, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

"And really? The "everybody does it" argument is beyond childish. If someone wants to argue that in a discussion about how an innocent cyclist was hit, then expect to get smacked down."

its not childish. Its an attempt to discern what are realistic, real world standards for real human beings in the USA.

To say that someone who drives a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit, or a ped who crosses an empty suburban side street mid block, "holds themselves above the law" (like a tyrnanical ruler?) is just rhetoric. They dont hold themselves above it - they fully realize (well most do) that if they are caught and stopped by LE they have no case. But they also know LE will almost never stop them, because LE has to prioritize, and what they are doing present barely any danger (in some cases, esp the bike ones, but also some ped ones, it may reduce danger) and has considerable offsetting benefit.

There are many laws that are worth enforcing in some instances, but not in all. Thats why LE has discretion, and why no jurisdiction that I know even targets never having anyone drive above the limit, or never having any ped engage in the least dangerous forms of jaywalking. Its simply a realist, rather than formalistic, approach to law and law enforcement.

And no, no one should be a jerk. But thats a different question.

And yes, I find it a distraction, and it doesnt matter if its an internal discussion or not.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 8, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

"The "everybody does it" argument is beyond childish."

you are missing the point, and I guess you do NOT drive a car in Fairfax. its not that everyone does it - its that everyone is expected to do it. If you dont do it you are offending the community norm, which in this place does not agree with the law as written. Why doesnt FFX enforce 35MPH on a 35MPH road - because they thing the cost benefit of people going 40 instead is positive. Why dont they raise the limit to 40? because the norm will mean in that case everyone driving at 45. And the cost benefit to change that norm isnt there.

Why does no one try to enforce against peds crossing midblock on quiet streets? Because the cost benefit of stopping that behavior is negative? Why not change the law? Because there is no way to legalize that without changing the law in places where jaywalking is a terrible idea. The exact same thing is true of Idaho stops, and, arguably, of cycling through a red light after stopping.

Law is a blunt instrument that cannot reflect every eventuality. Thats why human discretion - of the LE officer, and of the citizen - is part of our norm.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 8, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

In regards to all the comments regarding bicyclists who do not stop at red lights, stop signs and yield signs, I'd like to suggest implementing the Idaho Stop. At red lights, stop signs and yield signs in Idaho, this law permits bicyclists to slow down or stop as necessary in order to yield the right of way to motorists, other bicyclists and pedestrians as required, then proceed cautiously. Idaho recognizes that it takes a lot of effort to "restart" a bike from a standing start...more so than for a motorist or pedestrian.

by DaveG on Nov 9, 2013 4:50 am • linkreport

@drumz - "my focus is less on law obedience and more on just operating in a way that doesn't hurt people"

That's exactly what the law is supposed to be about. Not hurting other people.

by DaveG on Nov 9, 2013 5:00 am • linkreport

And to further expound on my last comment, I agree that reason and common sense must be applied to enforcing the law, with everyone's safety always uppermost in everyone's mind.

That said, by failing to ticket the driver despite it all happening before his eyes, the officer in this article clearly did not apply any form of common sense, at least not initially. Hopefully MPD will now follow through and properly ticket the driver in this case, and that Alexandra receives just compensation for her injuries and damage to her bicycle.

by DaveG on Nov 9, 2013 5:20 am • linkreport

"Everyone does it" may be a valid observation--though I and many others do, in fact manage to cycle, and make very good time, without breaking laws. It's not a valid normative statement, though, which is how it was being offered. It's okay for cyclists to break the laws because everyone does it?

I say that is not a sufficient reason. Lawbreaking will happen, I know. That does not mean we should say it's okay.

by Crickey7 on Nov 11, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

It's okay for cyclists to break the laws because everyone does it?

No but it is ok to ignore arguments that say that since cyclists break laws the city shouldn't build infrastructure that helps make cycling safer or having police do something about drivers who do hit cyclists and can't defend themselves other than saying "I didn't see him/her!"

by drumz on Nov 11, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

This NY Times op-end was a super read and is very on point with this thread:

Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?

by kob on Nov 11, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

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