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Struck in DC this week: Don't be a jerk edition

On Friday morning, two elderly pedestrians were injured, one seriously, by a hit-and-run-cyclist in an alley near the 500 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Click to view this week's map.

As WashCycle notes, "this story was picked up by just about every news outlet." The reason it got so much attention, while countless other hit-and-run incidents barely get mentioned, is because it's so rare. The last time Struck in DC recorded a bike-on-pedestrian crash was in July.

And although it may often not feel like it, cyclists and pedestrians benefit together: a recent study showed that streets with bike lanes are significantly less dangerous for pedestrians, as well.

This senseless incident here in DC coincides with the news that New York City, which for the past few years has focused heavily on bicycle infrastructure, is undertaking a new campaign to educate cyclists, pedestrians and drivers on responsible cycling and safe behavior around cyclists. It's called "Don't Be a Jerk." That's a lesson Friday's hit-and-run cyclist should have known.

Until no one is a jerk anymore, we map cyclist and pedestrian crashes in the District each week. Because DC Fire & EMS did not tweet pedestrian struck or cyclist struck reports this week, the only incidents we were able to record were submitted by tipsters or reported in the media. View this week's map.

The source for this data is Struck in DC, which has been tracking crashes on Twitter since June 1. While it is not a comprehensive listing of all pedestrian and cyclist incidents on our city's streets, Struck in DC does keep tabs on reports from DC Fire/EMS and other sources. The goal is to raise awareness of the approximately 8-12 pedestrians struck daily and the room for improvement in data collection of bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the District.

If you know of a crash that wasn't mapped here, report it to Struck in DC. For a tally of Struck in DC crashes we have recorded, please view the spreadsheet.

Stephen Miller lived in the District from 2008 to 2011 and is now a student at Pratt Institute's city and regional planning masters program. 


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A big reason for Long Beach CA's now famous green-stripe-with-sharrows was to get cyclists off the sidewalk. "Cdmcyclist" Frank Peters has a great interview with Long Beach's bike-ped coordinator, where he explains the whole thing.

by vabike on Nov 28, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

I thought it turned out that it wasn't a cyclist but instead someone on a dirtbike

by On a bike on Nov 28, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

It was a guy on a BMX bike. Which kind of illustrates the ridiculousness of the "cyclists are arrogant Lance wannabes, with their lycra and 'tude!"

They are, unless they're juvenile delinquents on BMX bikes; or quasi-homeless guys riding the wrong way on a stolen 15 year old mountain bike; or a dishwasher, just trying to get home from his 3am shift with no lights after a few beers.

Complaining about scofflaw cyclists is as pointless as complaining about violent pedestrians because somebody once mugged you and he was on foot.

by oboe on Nov 28, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

I am both a pedestrian (walk 30 min to work every morning) and a bicyclist (explore DC on my bike on the weekends)
I see more irresponsible behavior in drivers and pedestrian that in bicyclists.
Am I the only one that sees that?

by Mar on Nov 28, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Mar, yes.

by Lance on Nov 28, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

Of course the media picked up on the story. Today's online journalism is all about generating hits, and nothing is better at that than a scofflaw cyclist story. Ok, maybe the flame wars started by Palin or mac-is-better-than-windows stories are more intense.

People love these stories because it confirms what they already want to believe about cyclists: cyclists don't own the roads, so they don't belong on the roads; bikers don't obey the laws, so they don't deserve any facilities.

And let's face it: in a city where 37% of households don't own cars... we're still a minority of the mode share. I'm just guessing, but of those 37% that don't own cars, I would say that the vast majority would love to own a car--if it were affordable.

For now, until gas prices hike up again, I'd be happy if the local media and AAA would stop using bicycles as their wedge issue.

by markbikes on Nov 28, 2010 5:33 pm • linkreport

@Mar: I see a higher rate of irresponsible behavior among cyclists than among drivers. Running stop signs and even red lights is awfully common.

But the drivers are maybe 100 times as likely to kill or seriously injure someone. Irresponsible behavior by cyclists is less dangerous than irresponsible behavior by drivers.

People handle their guns more carefully than knitting needles, for the most part, but guns still cause more deaths.

by David desJardins on Nov 28, 2010 10:20 pm • linkreport

Might that be because guns, unlike knitting needles (or cars for that matter) are designed for killing?

by Lance on Nov 28, 2010 10:56 pm • linkreport

Guns may be "designed for killing", but cars do a better job of it here in the U.S.:

All Firearm Deaths: 31,224
Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths: 42,031

[Source: CDC 2007 Final Data: ]

by ontarioroader on Nov 29, 2010 12:31 am • linkreport

Cyclists often don't follow rules. not stoping at intersections is too common. My pregnant wife was struck by a cyclist two years ago in Woodley Park while crossing with the signal in a crosswalk. She was thrown to the ground, as was the cyclist. The cyclist got up, picked up his bike, asked 'are you ok?' quickly and not hearing a response got on his bike and took off. My wife was visibly pregnant, and stunned on the ground in the middle of the intersection while the cyclist rode quickly down Conn ave. I was in the car waiting (wife was going in to chipotle to pick up some lunch while I waited in the car with our son) and saw the whole thing. I ran out and picked my wife off of the ground. We followed the cyclist and caught up with him in dupont circle. We gathered his name and cell phone number in case there were injuries. We went to the police station to file a report, but the officers were not inclined to file anything since he was on a bicycle. They did call and verify that he was at the scene, and told him to be careful. The police did not seem to care that he struck someone and left the scene. My wife later went to the ER to be checked out and there were thankfully no injuries aside from a bruised hip, and a good knock to the head. No one seemed to care, and the police didn't seem like they could be bothered to do anything, even when confronted with a clear hit and run situation because they said he was on a bike, not in a vehicle. This is unfortunately too common, and it pisses me off. Everyone should be able to share the roads, but everyone should follow the rules and be held accountable when they do not.

by John on Nov 29, 2010 7:03 am • linkreport

Tally just from this morning's commute:

- 3 drivers running red lights
- 1 driver making an illegal U-turn
- 1 bicyclist running a red light (twice)
- 3 pedestrians jaywalking

It should be noted that the one bicyclist I cited was the only bicyclist I saw...though I only rarely see them in Suitland or along St. Barnabas Rd (this one was on Route 1).

In my experience, all three modes are equally guilty. Can't really single out one over the other two.

by Froggie on Nov 29, 2010 8:20 am • linkreport

I'm with Mar: as a pedestrian, I see a larger percentage of motorists breaking traffic laws than I do bicyclists. However, they're different laws.

Motorists ignore the speed limit close to 100% of the time, and also are pathologically incapable of either coming to a full stop before making a right turn on red or yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk when making a turn. Bicyclists are far more likely to run stop signs and red lights than motorists, and are almost as bad about coming to a complete stop before making right turns on red, but an appreciable minority of bicyclists do follow traffic laws, which is more than I can say for the motorists.

(Additionally, as a pedestrian, I prefer the bicyclists, because they're generally more aware of pedestrians. As I mentioned before, turning motorists typically do not look for pedestrians in the crosswalk, which as a pedestrian I find incredibly dangerous -- and an incentive to jaywalk; why bother waiting for the walk sign if it's not going to protect you? Bicyclists, on the other hand, are pretty good about yielding to pedestrians, the jerks in the libked story and John's experience notwithstanding.)

by cminus on Nov 29, 2010 8:34 am • linkreport

Perhaps this made the news because two elderly people were taken to the hospital, one of them in critical condition? Has everyone here forgotten that fact?

by Matty on Nov 29, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

What kind of bike was it? The Post said it was a bmx bike, which is a kids stunt bike, with little wheels, no gears, and not a high speed bicycle. But, the Post described it as the sort used for motorcross, which is a small motorcycle, not a bicycle at all. There's no motor on a bmx bike, of course.

The MPD release says it happened in an alley, not a sidewalk. It seems okay to ride a bike in an alley.

I'm not saying there aren't rude bicyclists who commit all sorts of sins, but it's strange that the reporting details don't match.

by mtp on Nov 29, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport


That's generally my experience, as well. Of course, the laws that drivers break with impunity seem--to the drivers--to not even exist as laws. If I'm on a bike and I treat a red light as a yield, I'm making a conscious choice. For drivers, the vast majority wouldn't even recognize they're breaking the law when they roll stop signs, fail to stop for right turn on red, or exceed the speed limit.

by oboe on Nov 29, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

Also, what cminus said. There are certain intersections where it's safer to wait for cars to finish turning and then walk across the street than to assume you have the right of way as a pedestrian even though you have the signal. I Street at Farragut Square is a prime example. I don't know how many times I've had cars nudging at my knees as I've tried to cross Eye on the southeast corner of the Square.

And drivers never count speed as a violation of the law. Or their rolling stops at stop signs.

by lou on Nov 29, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

"All Firearm Deaths: 31,224
Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths: 42,031"

Now, how many hours a year does the average person spend behind the wheel of a car?

How many hours a year does the average person spend brandishing a firearm?

It does not take a PhD statistician to understand the utter pointlessness of this comparison. The death rate per hour of use is obviously far higher for firearms. Firearms are only used with the intent to cause harm or the threat of harm.

By your same rationale, we could conclude that, say, the ebola virus is far less dangerous than riding Metro, since we know of seven deaths in the area from riding Metro in the last couple years, but none due to the ebola virus.

by Jamie on Nov 29, 2010 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Jamie, the prime difference is that its an unfortunate reality that for many people to get to destinations they must drive and in essence are pushed by historic circumstances of land use and transportation policy to be in a car. No one is pushed into using a gun by the same over arching set of historic policies as that affecting transpotration dependency on a car. No one uses a gun for something as basic as transportion (except hi-jackers and subsistence hunters).

by Tina on Nov 29, 2010 12:31 pm • linkreport

Regarding who breaks more laws, cyclists, pedestrians, or drivers - it depends (of course). I expect it's different for each neighborhood/block. For example, I walk along K Street in Georgetown (under the Whitehurst Freeway) going to and from work - despite the multiple stop signs along the 5-6 block stretch, it's rare to see a cyclist slow down, much less stop. But in my home neighborhood (Columbia Heights), pedestrians (myself included) and drivers (myself included) are more likely to flout the law than a cyclist.

Isn't it kinda silly to have this argument anyway? The urbanist version of, "I know you are, but what am I?"

by dcd on Nov 29, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport


No, not really. The pro-urbanist argument against cars is that they're driven in an incredibly unsafe manner, and that they should be reined in so that folks can safely walk (and bike) in the public spaces.

Inevitably, that leads to defenders of the status quo, who essentially argue that everything would be fine if only pedestrians and cyclists would "follow the law." But, of course, no one "follows the law"; not even drivers, for whose benefit pretty much 99% of the uniform vehicle code is written.

The two sides of the argument are essentially "Follow the letter of the laws (that we wrote)" on the pro-car side, versus "Don't be an asshole" on the pro-pedestrian/pro-cyclist side. The whole, "who is the greater scofflaw" argument is just a red herring offered by the auto-centric folks.

Of course, if we all just operated in an adult, respectful manner to one another that would result in a modest ding to drivers' ability to zoom through the city.

by oboe on Nov 29, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

@oboe, if it weren't for all your flaming in the above post, I might agree with you that you are on to something.

there's a minority in our cities that doesn't drive much or at all. (and I wouldn't call them pro-urbanist since anyone choosing to live in an urban environment is by definition pro-urban ... even those who choose to drive in addition to walk and bike). And this minority has come to resent all those who do drive in urban areas... They feel like the city would be a better place for them if everyone else lived just like them. And as such they view people in cars as being wrong simply by 'being' ... and likewise they feel nothing they do to 'take back' these roads from motorists can be wrong. They can blow through stop signs and red lights because these stop signs and red lights are only there because there are cars. And since cars 'shouldn't' be there in the first place, then in their limited (and prejudiced) mind-set, they feel justified in 'taking back' road space they never before had in their lifetimes to begin with anyways ...

by Lance on Nov 29, 2010 10:12 pm • linkreport

there's a minority in our cities that doesn't drive much or at all.

Or, as we call them in this city, "a majority".

According to the DC government, 37% of Washington households don't own a car. According to the Census, 19% of DC residents are under age 18; the large majority of them cannot legally drive, and the rest can't drive very often because of DC's graduated licensing restrictions. Assuming arguendo that the composition of car-owning and non-car-owning households is similar, that puts us up to 49% (37% in non-car-owning households, 12% under-18 residents of car-owning households). Add in that portion of the population that owns a car and could legally drive it without restriction if they wished, but nevertheless only drive it rarely, or who are 18 or older and live in a car-owning household but don't themselves have a driver's license, and we're well into majority range.

(Incidentally, I own neither a car nor a bike. I do have a CaBi membership, but I also have a Zipcar membership, so it balances out. And from my neutral point of view as a veteran pedestrian/transit user, I have my problems with bicyclists, but bicyclists have nothing on motorists when it comes to scoffing at traffic laws. Before a motorist beholds the mote that is in the bicyclist's eye, they should consider the beam that is in their own.)

by cminus on Nov 30, 2010 10:24 am • linkreport

@cminus: Your math is faulty. 12% is "people." 37% is "households." You can't add them, and many of them are in households with cars. Do you suppose that, because people under 18 can't drive, that they never use cars? Quite the opposite, they probably get driven around by their parents, much more often than adults in non-car owning households.

That is, I would guess that the among carless housholds, more are adults without children than not.

Everyone is a non-car-user sometimes, the question is, how many people use cars at all? Just because you don't personally drive doesn't mean you don't ever use a car.

by Jamie on Nov 30, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

@Jamie: Your math is faulty. 12% is "people." 37% is "households." You can't add them,

And I didn't. 37% is households, 19% is people. 12% is 63% (100-37%) of 19%. Hence, "assuming arguendo that the composition of car-owning and non-car-owning households is similar" -- if we assume for argument's sake that households are the same size and makeup, then 37% of people live in the 37% of households without cars, and 12% of people live in households with cars but are age 18 or under.

Do you suppose that, because people under 18 can't drive, that they never use cars?

No, but Lance's argument was "doesn't drive much or at all", and they certainly qualify by that standard. If you're going to include riding in motor vehicles as a passenger as a qualification for understanding the motorist point of view, then Lance's entire argument falls apart. I assure you, there's nobody advocating for more sensitivity to pedestrians or bicyclists in DC who (a) rarely if ever drives, (b) rarely if ever rides in a friend's or family member's car, (c) rarely if ever hails a taxi, and (d) rarely if ever rides in a bus.

I would guess that the among carless housholds, more are adults without children than not.

I wouldn't be so sure. The most recent breakdown of car ownership by ward showed that car ownership rates were exceptionally low in Wards 1, 2, and 8. Adults without children doing without cars would explain Ward 2 and to some extent Ward 1, but not Ward 8, which has large numbers of children. Low rates of car ownership in Ward 8 are linked to poverty, which is in turn linked to single parenthood. The next lowest rates were Wards 5 and 7, which are demographically more like Ward 8 than Wards 1 and 2.

Just because you don't personally drive doesn't mean you don't ever use a car.

Definitely. Tell that to Lance, since he seems to assume that people who rarely or never drive personally have no understanding of people who do.

by cminus on Nov 30, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

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