Posts about Cyclist Intimidation
People riding bikes, walking, and driving can all coexist peacefully and happily if they respect each other and follow common sense behaviors. We still have a ways to go, however.
During Tuesday's election, Robert Vinson Brannum was standing outside Mt. Bethel church in Bloomingdale, and observed a number of people on bikes "telling pedestrians to 'excuse' them or to step out of the way so they can pass."
Mr. Bicycle Manners says: Don't do this. If you're on a bike, you can legally ride on the sidewalk in Bloomingdale and not downtown (§ 18-1201.9 and 18-1201.10). But a better common-sense rule is this: Ride on the sidewalk if you don't feel comfortable on the street, or if it's one-way the wrong way, but NOT if the sidewalk is crowded.
If you do ride on the sidewalk, assume that all pedestrians are inviolate. It's their sidewalk, not yours; you are a guest. You can use it as long as you don't get in their way.
Treat them like they are...say...zombies. Pedestrians move slowly, and you can't make them change direction, but you absolutely don't want to touch them.
On the flip side, drivers need a lot of education too. In the past week, I was honked at or yelled at by two different drivers for engaging in a very legal, appropriate action: riding in the middle of a lane.
The first was on 19th Street NW, northbound between S and T. The road there is pretty narrow, barely wide enough for cars to fit between the parked cars on each side, and I didn't feel it would be safe for me to ride right next to the parked cars so other drivers could squeeze around or where I might get doored. It's a low-speed road with stop signs, and I was moving at a good clip, so I'd slow down a driver by maybe 5-10 seconds max.
However, a guy in a convertible (Maryland plates) pulled up behind and started yelling, "Bike lane! Bike lane!" Now, there's no bike lane, which I turned around and shouted back to him. A few seconds later, we reached T, and he turned.
The second time, I was heading southbound on 17th NW between M and L. This road has multiple lanes all in the same direction, and I was in the rightmost, non-curb lane (since cars were parked in the curb lane), also in the center of the lane, which is the right place to ride.
I was approaching a red traffic light at L, with a few cars waiting in each lane. Before I got there, a driver (Virginia plates) pulled up behind, leaned on his horn for about 10 seconds, then pulled around me, pulled up to the light in my lane, and moved a little farther to the right as well just to make sure it was impossible to ride around him. Unfortunately for him, I was going to the CaBi station at the corner, anyway.
If I hadn't been in his way, he would have saved absolutely no time, since the light was already red.
Mr. Driving Manners says: People on bikes are entitled to ride in the middle of the lane just as if they were a car (§ 18-1200.3). You shouldn't try to yell, honk, or push them out of the way. On a rural road, you might get stuck behind a tractor and have to drive slow for a bit. The same applies here. Anyway, if it's a one-lane road, you're not supposed to be going very fast anyway, and on a multi-lane road, you can switch lanes to go around.
A similar issue came up on Jones Mill Road in Bethesda, where an angry letter writer called bicyclists "arrogant" for riding in one of two lanes instead of on a nearby trail where people were also walking. Michael Jackson from MDOT wrote a thriller of a response, pointing out the mistakes, and the letter writer retracted his argument.
Both rules follow a very simple principle: the slower or smaller mover gets the right of way. The larger or faster one has to yield. This is like the rule for boats: If you're in a motorboat, you have to always yield to sailboats (under sail), period. No yelling at them to get out of your way; it's not "your" way. Drivers, respect the cyclists. Cyclists, respect the pedestrians. Pedestrians, respect the child pedestrians. Giant truck drivers, respect the drivers of small cars. And so on.
Jim Titus wrote:
The fact that many long-time drivers and public officials also do not understand what it means to share the road suggests that there is a serious gap in driver education. What is the point of all these '[bicycle symbol] Share the Road' signs if most people do not even know what they mean?Most drivers don't have to take any tests after they first get their licenses and psychological research shows people don't really read most signs, so besides talking about it on blogs, what can we do to educate everyone about the bicycle social contract?
In 2007, a Los Angeles bus driver passed a cyclist at a very unsafe distance. When the cyclist confronted the driver, she screamed at the cyclist. He calls the police, who, without interviewing anyone, handcuff the cyclist and his wife, and refuse to charge either the driver or a passenger who jumped out and spit on the cyclist.
This happened shortly after a community meeting for police and bicyclists to discuss respect for and enforcement of laws for bicycles. Does DC need some community meetings of its own to clear the air between bus drivers, police and bicyclists? This morning, bicycle advocate Jeff Peel had experience eerily similar to LA's:
The incident [with a southbound 53 bus] happened at approximately 8:45am at the southbound intersection of 14th & R NW.It is entirely legal for cyclists to ride in the regular travel lane, especially if conditions like snow and ice make the bicycle lane unsafe. Cyclists can do it for any reason, though. Unfortunately, some drivers don't know this, and try to drive extra close to cyclists to "teach them a lesson". That's dangerous, and illegal. Our officers, charged with protecting the public, need to protect our vulnerable bicycle riders as well. It's also unconscionable for an officers to refuse to disclose their badge numbers, regardless of whether they are in the right or wrong about the underlying incident.
My first encounter with the bus was between U and T streets. Due to snow and ice on the roadway I was riding along the line dividing the bike lane and the right most travel lane at approximately 20-25mph. The operator passed me in the right hand travel lane at a high rate of speed (the speed limit is 25mph through here if I'm not mistaken) within less than 3 feet. I know this because it was close enough to touch. Scared, frustrated and angry I spit at the driver's rear view mirror when passing him at his next stop near the intersection with S street. He was also had not fully pulled into the stop and was blocking the bike lane and a portion of the right travel lane.
Once I stopped at the light at R street at the edge of the back of the crosswalk and on top of the stop bar, the operator pulled past his stop within inches of me stopped on my bike. Had I not noticed him out of my periphery and ducked, the mirror of his bus would have struck me in the back of the head. The operator then proceed to grab at me (he had pulled up close enough to reach me) while screaming at me through his window. He refused to tell me his name, and I had to briefly block the path of the bus to get the bus number in order to record it.
I know my actions may have escalated the situation, and I should not do this out of my own safety. However this does not negate the fact that the operator failed to pass me within a safe legal distance, and then attempt to use his bus as a weapon to strike me with.
Due to my previous negative interactions with Metro police in similar incidents and how difficult the complaint system is, I called for MPD instead. While on the phone with dispatch I was able to flag down an officer who upon hearing what happened refused to file a report and drove off. Dispatch then had Officer
with 3rd District respond. Because the operator didn't actually hit me she refused to file any sort of "accident" report. I stated that I did not want to file an accident report, that I wanted to report the driver passing to closely and an attempted assault, of which she refused to do either. Seeing the conversation going nowhere I took her name, but she failed to give her badge number.
The S routes and 50 routes encounter a LOT of cyclists once they reach Columbia Heights and south into downtown. I do hope these routes and operators are called out for special training in how to better interact with pedestrians and cyclists. Additionally, I regularly observe them running red lights and speeding. While many suburban customers have stopped using the system due to parking rates and frequent train malfunctions, I know more and more DC residents who are shying away from your transit system due to such poor performance of many of your bus system and the behavior of your bus operators.
WashCycle relays an incident where a locksmith van driver ran two cyclists off the road in Georgetown. It seems the driver was unhappy that the two, Nat Wilson and another unrelated cyclist, were taking the lane (which is completely legal).
Wilson got photos of the van, driver and license plate, and reported the incident to the police. They took a report, but didn't give an incident number, and all they would do is radio around. If an officer spotted the van, they'd pull it over and "check ID."
What does checking ID accomplish? If the driver has outstanding parking tickets, then they can stop him, but otherwise there's nothing they can do?
When we let drivers intimidate cyclists (or anyone else) with impunity, the bad drivers keep doing it and cyclists get the message that their safety isn't a priority. If it's important for MPD to spend resources ticketing wrong-way cyclists on New Hampshire or jaywalkers in Columbia Heights, why not put some effort behind catching this guy We need a video like this one to get the word out that cyclist intimidation is a serious matter (the relevant part starts at 3:09).
We need a video like this one to get the word out that cyclist intimidation is a serious matter (the relevant part starts at 3:09).
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Long-term closures: A solution to single-tracking?
- Metro policy for refunds after delays falls short, riders say
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- Cyclists are special and do have their own rules
- O'Malley announces first projects using new gas tax money