Dear PoP – “joined bikeshare, need advice!”

Photo by PoPville flickr user kevnkovl

“Dear PoP,

I joined Bikeshare this week, and I’m totally excited to whiz around the city, hair aflutter (under a helmet, of course). I’m also terribly nervous! I’ve never biked in DC, and as a pedestrian and occasional driver I’m constantly frustrated with DC bikers. I want to be the good kind! Unfortunately, I’m not totally sure how to avoid pissing off everyone in the road (I suppose I do in theory, but I imagine in practice it will be completely different) and I’m hopeful your biking readers will have some suggestions. I’ll stay off major roads until I get the hang of it, but what should I know to be a good biker?”

While I’m a pretty novice rider myself, I’d say the most important thing is to follow the rules of the road. IE stop a red light, don’t swerve across lanes etc. What do experienced riders recommend in how to be a good responsible rider?

121 Comment

  • Stay on the sidewalk.

    • WRONG. the sidewalk is for walking.

      • Actually, you’re wrong.

        You can ride a bike on the sidewalk as long as its not in the downtown area. (1201.9).

        The downtown area is:

        To the OP: happy biking and see you out there! I joined CaBi as well!

        • lordscarlet

          Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

        • While riding on the sidewalk may be legal, it’s much more dangerous than riding in the street. You are risking collisions with pedestrians as well as exposing yourself to collisions with cars when crossing intersections. Drivers are simply not expecting to encounter a fast moving vehicle (like a bike) crossing in a crosswalk. It may be legal, but it’s a bad idea to make a habit of it.

          • I agree that riding on the sidewalk probably isn’t the best idea, however the point was that you’re allowed to.

            I think its important that the fact that you are allowed to ride on the sidewalk should be known, and then let the rider decide for themselves what they want to do.

          • riding on the sidewalk is legal as long as you aren’t downtown. if you are going to ride on the sidewalk, go sloooow and give pedestrians the right of way.

          • Also, keep in mind that it’s illegal to ride a bike in a crosswalk – you have to dismount and walk it across.

          • I agree that riding on the sidewalk probably isn’t the best idea, however the point was that you’re allowed to

            Oh, fer christ’s sake. No, the *original* point was that in response to a request for advice on safe biking, some idiot responded “ride on the sidewalk”, which is completely ass-backwards advice. Unless you’re going to ride at a walking pace, riding on the sidewalk is a recipe for disaster. And if you’re going to ride at a walking pace, why not walk?

    • The OP wants advice on safe cycling. Cycling on some sidewalks might be legal, but it’s unsafe. National studies show that a cyclist increases their chances of an accident by 50% if they bike on sidewalks and use crosswalks at intersections. That’s because they’re not visible to turning cars and are traveling relatively fast and unexpectedly compared to pedestrians (which drivers actually expect to see in a sidewalk/crosswalk.)

      • Love this exchange on sidewalk riding…as a part-time rider and part-time pedestrian, I think I can bridge this divide by saying simply “use common sense.” For example…if there is a big, beautiful bike lane on the street, DON’T ride on the sidewalk (see also: Calvert St. between Adams Mill and Connecticut). If it’s a dicey, busy street w/ lots of was for cars to merge on and off w/ wide sidewalks and few pedestrians (e.g., Mass Ave NW from N. Cap to Scott Circle or so), use discretion. If it’s a busy day on U Street, 18th Street, or M Street in Georgetown…just don’t.

        Oh, and yes definitely buy clip on LED lights.

  • Following the rules of the road is a huge one, but in general you need to maintain a hightened state of awareness.

    Assume no driver sees you, even if you can see their eyes.

    Always signal your intentions, and try to be curteous (it is often difficult) to other motorists…you are all sharing the road.

    • “Assume no driver sees you.”

      That’s an important one, since “I didn’t see him” is seemingly a legitimate defense to escape prosecution for running over cyclists or pedestrians in DC.

    • “Assume no driver sees you, even if you can see their eyes”. – great advice

      I always try to be as defensive of a rider as possible. when I come up on a green light, I check to make sure no cars are running it, an alley I assume a car is going to come out from it, etc.

      Just keep your eyes and ears open and take it slow at first you’ll be fine.

    • saf

      “Assume no driver sees you, even if you can see their eyes.”

      This is good advice in general. (I’m a motorcycle-type biker, not a bicyclist-type biker, and I KNOW it applies to me.)

  • For all the rhetoric you hear from drivers and pedestrians about scofflaw bikers, the worst experiences I have with drivers usually come when I’m obeying traffic laws. There are simply a lot of overly aggressive drivers out there who just can’t wait an extra second to get back to Maryland (for reasons passing understanding), who will honk at you, dangerously swerve around you, or in some cases, “Kornheiser” you (that’s when a driver approaches from behind and “bumps” a biker to “teach him or her a lesson” about getting out of “their” roads, often resulting in totaled bikes and/or injury to the biker).

    My best advice to a novice biker–depending on where you live–is to avoid northbound arterial roads full of Maryland drivers and simply watch out for yourself. And if you see a cab driver suddenly stop in the middle of the road, he’s more than likely about to perform an illegal u-turn, so avoid him at all costs, because they will indiscriminately run you over. I’ve had it happen to me when I was riding at dusk (with a front and rear light). The cab driver wasn’t using his headlights (illegal at dusk) and turned right into me.

    • I’ve always been under the impression that U-turns are legal in the District (unlike, say, Ohio, where I’m from). Mistaken impression?

      • They’re not legal when they’re made directly in the path of oncoming traffic, or on, say Pennsylvania Avenue and some other streets where no U-turn signs are posted. Doesn’t stop cab (or most other) drivers. That’s why I made the “illegal u-turn” distinction. The driver who hit me was driving without his lights at dusk and turned into oncoming traffic. Nothing about his u-turn was legal.

      • Having been run over by a u-turner while cycling up 18th Street in Adams Morgan, I can confirm that U-turns are illegal (and dangerous) in DC.

        • That’s exactly where mine happened, too. Cab drivers get to the bottom of the hill and swing around to go troll for customers without paying the least bit of attention to oncoming traffic. I hate them.

  • Make sure cars see you. I would make sure you feel comfortable looking over your shoulder and not swerving. Keep an eye out for parked cars and the possibility of a door opening. I guess just be alert. Also check out waba- Washington area bike assoc to get rules of the road. And yes avoid major arteries like Michigan, Florida, Georgia, connecticut until you feel confident.

  • Just ride, stop worrying. Act like you are in a car. Come on now…

  • To add to nice marmot’s comment… Avoid city buses and cabs. They are so dangerous. I have been pinned by irritated bus drivers along the road, which is totally not OK. Also cabs stop so randomly to pick up and drop off. Just be alert! If you want a relatively stress free hair blowing in the wind experience check out the two mile loop at Haynes point. It is gorgeous!

  • Most bike riders around DC are the good ones, but you only really notice the bad ones, of which there are also a lot.

  • -Stay out of blind spots.
    -Watch out for unpaved spots in the road.

  • never join mass bike rides of any kind. especially not the naked kind.

  • Take one of WABA’s biking safety classes:

    They have classes designed specifically for safe city biking and commuting.

  • Sidewalks are legal for bikes north of K St. Use them sparingly though because people walk there.

    Wear a helmet because while it won’t keep you from getting hurt, it could preserve your ability to speak and feed yourself.

    Give drivers no credit for knowing WTF they’re doing behind the wheel. If you can’t accept you are taking your life in your hands when you bike in the road, you should reevaluate this interest in two-wheeled transportation.

    I find traffic rules exceeding useful for keeping cars from building up the kind of speed that kills on contact. As a biker, I don’t follow them religiously.

    I’d rather be faster than traffic whenever possible because I can see what’s ahead of me and I have less to worry then about what flavor of idiot is driving behind me. They can’t hit me if they can’t catch me.

    Watch out for car doors. Always.

  • As a transplanted DC biker (originally Boston), I think some sound advice to offer a novice biker would be: 1)Pay attention to what you are doing 2) pay closer attention to what any vehicle that outweighs you is doing 3) always wear a helmet 4) use front and rear lights any time it is anything approaching dark (having a car door open in front of you sucks) 5) obey trafic laws when riding in a street 6) be realistic about your bike handling abilities 7) enjoy the ride 8) always wear a helmet.

    • Best advice!

    • Let me add:
      1) As a biker the main laws to pay attention to are the laws of Physics.
      2) Try to avoid any action (on your part) that requires action from another party (cars, peds, etc…). Eg: Assume that others (cars) will keep on doing what they are doing (stopping, being clueless, accellerating, etc.).

  • Know that it is your right to be on the road–it’s legal and it’d lovely. If you ride very close to the parked cars, it will encourage drivers to pass you very narrowly by using the lane. It’s safer to bike in the middle of a lane, if a car wishes to go faster than you, they can pass you, ignore it if they honk. Since it’s best to use the lane (where no bike lane is available) it’s also best to avoid roads with only one lane in your direction, since cars can’t easily pass you unless there are two.

    • Be careful with this advice.

      Just because it is legal to ride in the middle of a lane does not necessarily make it a good idea. During my commute and in my experience, drivers come a lot closer to bikers riding down the middle of a lane than those off to one side of a lane. Most drivers don’t seem to be aware of the law, and feel they need to make a statement to the biker occupying an entire lane.

      At least that is my experience.

      I think arrogance by anyone using the roads is dangerous.

      • During my commute and in my experience, drivers come a lot closer to bikers riding down the middle of a lane than those off to one side of a lane. Most drivers don’t seem to be aware of the law, and feel they need to make a statement to the biker occupying an entire lane.

        This is actually totally backwards. There have been several studies that show that *most* drivers give the same amount of passing clearance on the left that the cyclist gives themselves on the right. In other words, if you hug the curb, cars will hug you. If you give yourself a reasonable amount of space, cars will give you a reasonable amount of space.

        You may occasionally upset some douchebag in a car who thinks they own the road, but who really gives a shit about that? Sure there are childish fuck-sticks who “feel they need to make a statement to the biker occupying an entire lane” but those people pay *very* close attention to how close they’re passing. This is a good thing, and is a hell of a lot safer than some moron texting.

        • “There have been several studies that show that *most* drivers give the same amount of passing clearance on the left that the cyclist gives themselves on the right.”

          Citation please.

          • It’s been my experience that when I ride close to the edge of the road that cars will attempt to ride by me within a few feet. This is because they have the space to. If I ride in the center of the lane, I do get occasional honks but rarely do they try and pass me unsafely.

            My commute is down Columbia Rd./ Irving st

  • I like to stay safe by being an old lady biker (seriously). I go slow enough that I could catch myself if I teeter over, I try to stay on the sidewalks when there are no pedestrians in sight on the coming block, I pull over and wait when I see there’s a backup starting behind me, and I sit at every stop sign and red light. I do most of this because my dog rides the bike with me most of the time, but it makes sense for everyone who has the time to go slow. Of course if you’re biking to commute, that’s a whole different ballgame and different advice applies.

  • I too am interested in joining Capital Bike Share, but really is it worth getting into an accident? Pedestrians hate bicycles on the sidewalk, drivers hate bicycles on the road (even when you’re in the designated bike lane), so it’s a lose-lose situation.

    If you are going to pursue life in the bike lane, I’d recommend watching out for buses when they come towards the sidewalk to pick up passengers. I’m amazed that some bus drivers don’t look (for bikes, specifically) before they merge and I’ve seen a couple of bikers get caught in the back part of the bus. One time in Dupont, the bus tire bumped into the biker and she felt onto the curb/sidewalk.

    I really want to join as well, but I think I might save up for a scooter instead, which I guess is another story as well…

  • From the D.C. code: 1200.3 “Operators of bicycles have the same rights as operators of motor vehicles.”

    Don’t let drivers intimidate you. Use your middle finger liberally. I speak as a car owner & driver and a cyclist. The road doesn’t “belong” to automobiles.

  • Who cares about being responsible? Just make sure you look good:


  • “Operators of bicycles have the same rights as operators of motor vehicles” … but the law says nothing about responsibilities!!!!! Remember, never EVER stop at a red light. That’s for cars to do, not bikers!

    • Your delusional thinking that drivers in DC stop for red lights is simply adorable.

      • don’t condescend! there simply isn’t enough blame for selfish and erratic transportation behavior to go around — it all belongs to the bikers!

        i don’t think i have EVER seen a driver in DC run a red light, roll through a stop sign, make an illegal right on red, blow through a crosswalk when someone is in it, or turn without signaling. and pedestrians NEVER jaywalk.

        put the blame where it belongs — bikers!

      • If DC drivers were jumping red lights as often as you think they do, there would have been a lot more accidents, and a lot more traffic cameras catching those people.

        Just because you ride a bike, please dont try to justify your jumping red lights by claiming that the cars jump red lights too.

        If I was to get a penny for every car that jumped a red light during any given day and you were to be given half for every biker that jumped the red light, you would still be a lot richer than me at the end of the day.

        • You must be legally blind if you’ve never seen cars rolling red lights, running through crosswalks, egregiously ignoring the speed limit, or blowing through red lights when they know there’s no red-light camera.

          I certainly hope you’re not driving with that eyesight.

          • fine.. we got it, we know you are an asshole. How many more times are you gonna say that?

            I pray for the day a Metrobus runs over you when you are jumping a red light.

            But I also wish you safe journey if you try not to be an asshole when on the roads. And you know there is a very fine line that makes a biker an asshole.

          • ANNNDDD this is the reason that auto drivers are clearly more assholish than bikers, we have praying for the death of a biker because he ran a light…

            Please lighten up. You are in an air conditioned polluting car listening to music while surrounded by a ton of steel. I would think you would be happier.

  • As someone already mentioned, WABA gives very good confident cycling classes; that would be a good place to begin. You dont’t mention why you are “constantly frustrated by DC bikers” but I guess you could just do the opposite of whatever they are doing assuming that what they are doing is incorrect instead of the mere fact if their existence. Also, don’t worry about pissing off other people on the road, worry about your own skills/habits.

    Also please avoid riding on the sidewalks. Yes, it is legal in most places in DC, however it is far more dangerous than riding in traffic. Vehicular traffic (for the most part) travels in a predictable manner. There are lane markings, traffic signals, speed limits all designed to help people predict what a fellow driver will do. Pedestrians are not predictable. From the walker-talkers with a cell phone in one ear, a latte in one hand, and 3 puggles/children on a leash in the other, they have an irritating habit of stopping suddenly or darting in front of you without warning. The likelihood of collision is far more likely than on a street. This is why being predictable ( i.e stopping at lights and stop signs) is important for cyclists as well. Ever seen the confusion cyclists cause at a 4 way stop? It’s because drivers can’t predict what they will do. Will they stop? Or will they blow through it?

    In the end, relax and enjoy the ride. You will be surprised at how quickly you’ll get used to riding with traffic.

  • No matter what the law says,unless a cyclist can pedal fast enough to not hinder the traffic flow, it is unwise to ride in the middle of a lane. Especially on a busy street; be serious!!!!

    • A bicyclist is much more likely to get hit by a door opening, or by a car pulling out from a side street or alley, than hit from behind.

      My first priority is always keeping myself safe — NOT making sure a driver is saving a few precious seconds.

      That said, if it is safe, I will move over if there are cars behind me. At least enough so they can go around me.

      • then why dont u just stay at home, perhaps cover yourself in bubble wrap when you HAVE to come out.. do you also wear a condom 24/7 to be safe.. just in case!

  • 1) Look for the routes that have bike lanes. They’re not always ideal, but they’re usually better. For example, use 15th instead of 16th.

    2) WEAR GLOVES. Seriously. You don’t think you need them, until you fall for the first time (and if you bike often enough, it’s a matter of when, not if). After the fall, you’ll never go without them again!

    3) Similar to 1, look for quieter side streets as alternatives to super busy routes (ie take N, not M). I often find one ways to be better than two ways.

    4) Claim the road. Bike where cars can see you, and give them room to go around you only if you can do so safely. If the parking lane is really wide (enough distance to avoid getting doored) then I’ll ride in it, but if not, I won’t.

    5) Look for heads in the driver’s seat of cars parked to your right that are up ahead…this can often be a sign you’re about to get doored.

    6) Where traffic is moving slowly anyway, I find that cars don’t seem to mind if you bike up the lane along the side of them and get in front so you can take off when the light changes (and get to the side again), since they’re moving slowly anyway. Don’t do this when traffic is moving fast.

    I used to be super-nervous about biking in the city, but it’s better than you think. Just takes practice!

    • Nice points. I’d add:

      7. Liberally point and make known what you’re going to do and ride predictably. When drivers know what you’re doing, they (usually) don’t get mad and understand what’s going on. Ex. turning left from the bike lane requires first merging into main traffic. Point!

    • I’d just like to 2nd this post. My gf is the more cautious of the two of us, and she’s certainly instilled in me a love of streets with bike lanes. Most of my routes tend to be ones with good bike lanes over ones without them.

      Also, you’ll find as you bike more often that you’ll get comfortable biking in the city which helps knowing how to deal with traffic.

      Lastly, don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive. I’m not advocating swerving through traffic or flying through red lights at busy intersections, but realize you’re biking in a city. When you make any kind of move, whether it’s passing a car/biker, making a turn, whatever, do it with conviction. You’re more likely to get yourself in trouble if you hesitate or are afraid than if you are confident. Just ride as aggressively as you feel comfortable.

      Oh, and before I forget, don’t bother riding up 15th street by Meridian Hill. Unless you’ve got ridiculous leg muscles, that hill will make you weep. Most useless bike lane ever.

      Enjoy biking in the city! It’s fun! See you out there.

      • MSF’s gf here – he’s right about acting with conviction. You will confuse drivers a lot less if you communicate your intentions, observe right-of-way (including yielding to cars when they have it), and follow through with your actions. Good luck!

  • Also when riding on the street be very aware of parked cars – their doors fly open unannounced. Flying through, into or over a door hurts.

    Get a good lock as well – and the old addage of you get what yuo pay for is very true.

  • please, pretty please, don’t ride on the sidewalk.

  • I always ride my bike on the sidewalk unless I’m in the suburbs.

    • Me, too.

      I go very slowly, give pedestrians a very wide berth, and politely let them know I’m there.

      My theory is that at the speed I’m going, I’m unlikely to hurt someone in a collision. In the street, a collision is likely to end in me being maimed or killed. Way too many speeding, cellphone-using commuters out there!

      • You are 50% more likely to get in an accident if you bike on the sidewalk instead of the road; you are not visible and tend to go faster than pedestrians which drivers expect to find in a crosswalk.

        • Yes, I just read that very interesting study. But the bikers aren’t getting killed on the sidewalk; they’re getting killed on the road.

          I never go shooting off a sidewalk onto a crosswalk; I go even slower than I do when I’m on the sidewalk. Which is very, very slow — I’m more like a baby carriage with a person on top.

  • This is tangential but the photo made me think of it: I was told never to wear open toe shoes when riding a bicycle but to wear something with grip, like sneakers. Is that a real rule or something my parents made up because they didn’t want to pay for having my toe sewn back on when I snapped it off in the spokes of my bike?

    • It’s real – you have a greater chance of slipping off the pedal and either scraping up your leg or falling if you wear flip-flops. Just wear something that will actually stay put on your foot instead of sliding around.

    • Is that a real rule or something my parents made up because they didn’t want to pay for having my toe sewn back on when I snapped it off in the spokes of my bike?

      That is something your parents made up.

  • Absolutely take a WABA class.

    More generally speaking, I would like to say that biking in DC is not nearly as scary as you probably think it is or as the commentariat is leading you to believe. The majority of DC’s streets are quiet and residential, with good connectivity to major hubs. You can easily make it from RFK to the edge of Georgetown without having to spend more than five minutes on a road without a bike lane.

    Drivers are also more courteous than a lot of cyclists claim. We’ve all dealt with the idiot in the SUV with tinted windows and Maryland plates, but that is definitely the exception. I have good, polite experiences with drivers nine times out of seven.

    However, always following the rules of the road verbatim is not good advice. I’ve commuted from Downtown DC to PG County for almost 20 years, and if there is a single takeaway I could offer from my experience, it is to trust your judgment, and understand that after enough time you will definitely find yourself in a situation where what feels most natural, safe, and courteous will be 100 percent illegal. For instance, should you find yourself at a red light on Pennsylvania Avenue Westbound during the morning rush, running the light (safely) will give you ample time to pick up velocity and stop wobbling. Following the rules of the road will lead to a traffic backup and cars passing you or riding your butt. It’s the legal thing to do, but it sure as sh*t feels suicidal.

    Break the law for safety, not for expedience.
    Lots of DC is still designed for cars, and many of the traffic laws were written with the assumption that the average adherent is piloting a clumsy 2 ton block of steel at high speeds. If you get turned around and find yourself, say, on Rhode Island Avenue during the afternoon rush, the smartest thing to do is run a red light and get on the sidewalk.

    You’re a smart person…these things will start to feel very natural after a little road time. Have fun!

    • great advice on safety vs. legality – it always annoys me when others accuse bikers who go through stop signs or red lights of being unsafe. sometimes it is the more safe option. you don’t know until you’ve experienced it from the perspective of a bike.

    • what this guy/gal said. Anyone who moans about scofflaw cyclists needs to spend some time on a bike. It really is the safest thing to do a lot of the time.

      • a lot of the time, not all the time. if you have a legit safety reason to run a light or do something else is illegal, more power to you. but if you’re doing it for your convenience, you’re not in the right. for example, running lights and stop signs on 11th street north of florida is not for the benefit of your safety (unless you’re even with or behind a bus who needs to make a stop in the next block or two). it alienates people and isn’t justifiable.

    • +1. Keep yourself safe, even if that means occasionally running a light or jumping the sidewalk for a block.

  • First off, congratulations on joining CaBi and making the decision to bike more often.

    I think that as CaBi’s popularity grows, we’ll see a lot of inexperienced urban cyclists on the roads here. Which may lead to cyclist-hate by non-cyclists. I hope more bike newbies take your lead, and seek out ways to do it right.

    There’s a lot of good advice in the comments above. I’ll direct you to this page, which contains diagrams of the most common types of automobile/bike collisions, and advises on how to avoid them. (I hope I don’t scare you by linking to that, but you should be aware of the common issues, which you will encounter as you bike more.)

    If you feel like delving into this more deeply, The Art of Urban Cycling (which is actually called “The Art of Cycling” in its second printing) is an excellent read about this art (and it is an art!).

    Best of luck to you. See you on the road!

  • It helps to know the actual laws around cycling:

    It’s also helpful to keep a sense of perspective. Everybody’s going to get there, give or take a few minutes; know that you are not obligated to risk your safety for anyone else’s convenience. (This advice would serve anyone well, cyclist, driver, or pedestrian.)

    Take a confident city cycling class, free through WABA. Riding around in a city is a wonderfully liberating experience, and it’s just plain fun. The CCC classes are useful in helping you to understand how safe this practice is, how to control risks, and how to enjoy yourself out on the road.


    • noo.. then they will start breaking the laws while they are driving.. If you have no respect for the law, it would be hard to change their habits whether in a car or on a bike

  • i would recommend taking one of WABA’s confident city cycling classes. and also, start off slow. stick to paths and streets with bike lanes, move to quieter streets, before tackling heavier trafficked streets. don’t be intimidated by snarky people who don’t like bikes!

  • The two times I’ve crashed were when I let go of the handlebars with one hand and hit a bump. If you absolutely have to take a hand-off (which happens but you otherwise should not do), take the other hand and place it in the CENTER of the handlebar. That way if you do hit a bump, you won’t place an uneven weight on one side of the bar and turn unexpectedly or flip over your front wheel.

    Sounds terribly specific, but it’s worth noting.

  • Quincy St Neighbor

    If you are just starting off cycling in the city, I advise sticking to residential streets and streets with dedicated bike lanes. This might make your course of travel more circuitous yet so much less stressful too.

    I also advise:
    – stopping at red lights
    – using hand signals
    – maintain constant vigilance to ALL motorists coming from all directions

    You really have to second guess every motor vehicle on the road. I may sound biased but my empirical evidence has shown that cars with MARYLAND tags are by far the worst offenders. Sayin’!

    I also joined the CaBi and have used it a couple of times. Looking forward to seeing the stations expand. For those curious about the riding experience, here’s my take:

    – When you release a bike from its docking station with your key fob, the dock rings a bicycle bell. so CUTE!
    – The bikes are heavy and sturdy so don’t worry about riding too fast that you end up going out of control, because they are not designed for speed. There are only 3 speeds on the CaBi bike and the 3rd gear does not go very high.
    – That said climbing hills is pretty easy.
    – Don’t try to jump curbs because the frames are too stiff, I learned that the hard way – jumping a minor curb gave me a mega jolt to the wrists and elbows. OUCH!
    – No need to roll up your pant cuffs because the chains are completely encased!
    – The front ‘baskets’ have a built in bungee cord for you to firmly secure your bag/parcel/tote.
    – I did not see any built in lights so bring your own lights if you intend to do any nighttime riding. You can purchase those clippable red LED flashing lights from your local bike shop.
    – I wish the bikes came with a bell.
    – If you sign up for the intro $50 1-year membership you get a free CaBi t-shirt printed on an American Apparel tee. Super soft and American Apparel slim fitting, be sure to order the appropriate size! (shoulda ordered the large ;-/ FML)

    I only had one technical glitch when I went to return a CaBi bike back to the locking station. This was at the one located by Sweet Mango Cafe near the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station. 3 out of the 4 available docks would not lock my bike. Remember if you lose a bike that’s $1000 charged to the credit card you used to set up your CaBi account! So make sure you hear the CLICK and you see the green LED light up on the dock when you return the bike back to the station!

    Happy Cycling!

  • Please, please do not jump redlights or stop signs like many others who I consider to be morons, not only are they a threat to other vehicles but just as dangerous to pedestrians.

    Please have some sorts of lights or reflectors so you can easily be seen in the dark as days are getting shorter.

    Ride in the bike lanes, to avoide traffic, try using parallel running back alleys. There is no traffic and you can go from one place to another just as easily and yet avoid the traffic.

    If there is a vehicle behind you that want to go faster, do not increase your speed thinking that you can avoid giving that vehicle the right of way, this just makes things worse, in case you have to stop abruptly. Let the car behind you go, no matter what, you cannot beat a motor vehicle when it comes to speed.

    At a traffic intersection, do not swirve in between cars to get to the front, it is risky and annoying.

    Try to stay in the bike lanes as much as possible, that is your right and you should make the most of it.

    But at the end, just think rationally, and if you are in a dillema of some sort about what to do there is no traffic, and there is a red light sort of.. Do what you think would be appropriate if a cop was standing there watching you, or lets just say do what you think would not be made fun of on the daily show if they somehow got the footage of you breaking a certain law.

    • This is all excellent advice. If you do the exact opposite of what this ignoramus, who clearly has never ridden a bicycle in the city, recommends, you should be just fine.


  • Also:

    1. Wear light colored clothing, particularly long-sleeved tops, at night.

    2. Do not pass stopped cars on the right; they are often dropping off or picking up passengers, and you will get doored.

    3. Watch the wheels of the cars in front of you, as they often indicate a car is turning before you actually see the car turn.

    4. Do not ride right on the tail of other cyclists; it’s annoying, and you are liable to rear-end them.

    5. Do not wear headphones; you want to be able to hear what is going on around you.

    6. Yield to anyone who has the right of way, and communicate what you intend to do by eye-contact, head nods and waves, and hand signals.

    7. Be courteous, to drivers, to pedestrians, to other cyclists; it improves overall relations, which makes all of us safer.

    8. Be prepared for pedestrians to do incredibly stupid things — stand in the bikeline, jaywalk with their backs to traffic, pop out from between parked cars, etc.

    9. Look out for potholes, cracks, sewer grates, and gravel.

    10. Buy a pair of biking gloves, and use them; gravel in your knuckles is incredibly painful.

    Join WABA! Happy Biking!

  • Don’t wear flip flops.

  • lordscarlet

    Use Ride the City to aid yourself in finding bike lane routes.

    • lordscarlet

      It looks like that anchor tag may not have worked…

      • +1

        This is a great resource- I just joined the Bikeshare too, and I’m also adjusting to city biking- no light running/speed demon swerving lane-sharing for me. But I feel very good in a bike lane, and there are a lot of convenient routes using them if you take a minute to plan. Usually you can avoid going through dangerous circles or down streets where lanes go to the curb- just be aware and make smart choices. Use the lanes on Q and R and take 19th to go south and 18th to go north rather than taking the six lane zoo that is 17th for example. It might add a little time to your ride, but think of all the time you’re saving by not walking or sitting on a bus that’s stopping every block.
        I also agree with those above who say that you should be confident and take lanes when necessary. I just think a smart combination of asserting your rights and being courteous, defensive biking, and a dose of zen thinking when people are still assholes lead to a more pleasant ride.

  • 1. Don’t wear headphones
    2. Wear glasses. Getting a speck of dirt in your eye takes away your depth perception until you can see out of both eyes again.
    3. Know this: you can’t make everyone happy, especially ignorant people
    4. Make eye contact with drivers if you want them to see you
    5. Don’t trust turn signals or lack of turn signals. Instead watch a car’s front wheels. That’s the only sure way to know where a car is going.
    6. If a car is going slower than it should, expect it to do something unexpected, like turn right in front of you 2 seconds after it passes you.
    7. Forget signaling (except in very rare situations). You’re better off keeping both hands on both brakes at all times.
    8. Beware of rental trucks (Ryder, U-haul, etc.) Their drivers just learned how to drive today and don’t know how big their trucks are.
    9. Observe experienced commuters and do like them. But definitely not couriers. They’re on another level. Trying to bike like them will land you in the hospital for sure.
    10. Understand that the learning curve is huge. The more weeks you bike, the more your risk goes down. Experience is your best safety device.

    • +1 to headphones. when i see cyclists with no helmet and/or headphones, all i think about is natural selection.

  • three words: Doors, doors, doors!

  • While riding form Petworth metro to home on Georgia Ave, I get honked and insults from car drivers, really rude, since then I ride on sidewalks as much as I can. I think is considered dangerous to honk at bikers by the DMV (I read it in the DMV manual). An Advide, stay away from parked cars by the road. a friend of mine was hurt bad when someone opened the door of a car carelessly.

  • I started out riding on side streets until I gained confidence to tackle roads like 16th St during rush hour. Although some are disagreeing, I think it is safest to take a whole lane. That saves you from being doored and it gives you more visibility. And if someone needs to pass me in order to get to the next red light, well go ahead.

    The only time I get on the sidewalk is riding up 16th near Meridian Hill Park because I’m going so slowly. The sidewalk is wide enough to easily accommodate a bike and pedestrians.

    • as a bicyclist, you have NO reason to be riding on 16th street during rush hour for the part you’re discussion when 15th street with TWO bike lines is one block over. while i’m fully supportive of sharing the road, 16th doesn’t need bicyclists adding to its hecticness (word?) when the city has spent good money to make a great resource on the next street.

      • The southbound contaflow lane on 15th St doesn’t begin until south of U St. It is one-way northbound north of U St. If I need to go south from say, Euclid, I have to take 16th St or go out of my way to 14th St. I do not travel the wrong way on one way streets, especially one that has a blind curve on a steep hill. I’ve navigated 16th St during rush hour just fine. It’s not a relaxing route, but it can be done safely.

  • Outside of the other good advice, I try to make it easy for drivers to see me. Reflective vest and a reflective helmet help, I also use one of the flags you often see on bikes pulling a cart. And I use my tail light all the time.

  • The two biggest threats are getting doored by a parked car and making left turns. Getting doored is, unfortunately, something that you don’t have that much control over– don’t go too fast on downhills, practice braking hard (even into a skid), and look at the parked cars for signs that someone might be about to put their door in your path. Somebody will open a door in front of you. It will happen.

    For left turns on busy streets, it is sometimes far safer to turn right on a quieter side street, pull a U around to the stop light, and cross that way when the light permits.

  • Google maps now has the ability to show you directions via. bike lanes. Just click the bike icon at the top & voila – all of the bike lanes in & around DC are highlighted in green. Im not sure what the difference in dark/light/dotted green is, but it certainly helps you plan the best route!

  • pick up one of these. they’re not that expensive, and it can save your life. tiny enough to keep in your bag, clip on your bag strap, shirt, bike, whatever.

  • Lots of good advice here!

    I will second the following:

    1. Use streets with lanes if you can and quieter streets if there aren’t any lanes around. 16th Street etc. might seem like the most expedient way to get around but really they are just drag strips for cars.

    2. If you find yourself having to ride on a street you feel is too busy, then use the sidewalk! However, when using the sidewalk, make sure you go slower and yield to pedestrians – they ALWAYS have the right of way when you’re on the sidewalk. Make liberal use of the bell on that bike so people know you want to go by them – it’s not obnoxious! Also, slow down and check traffic before you go through crosswalks – drivers are often not easily able to see you and almost always just pull right into the crosswalk.

    3. While on the street DON’T ride as far to the right as possible. Give yourself enough room so you feel safe. If you need to take the whole lane then do so – as someone pointed out above, cars give you about as much room as you give yourself, so if you ride all the way to the right they will try to squeeze by in the same lane.

    4. Along with the above, don’t always feel like you have to stay to the right. There will be times when you have to move left – like passing a bus or a car letting people out or turning right. Passing on the right in those situations will lead to an accident.

    5. Always pay attention to the cars around you. You can see MUCH better than they can. Assume that nobody is paying any attention to you or knows how to drive properly – they aren’t and they probably don’t. You will quickly discover that NOBODY in a car uses turn signals, so when you get to an intersection pay attention, somebody may swerve out in front of you and turn right.

    6. Stop at stop signs and traffic lights until you are more comfortable with biking. Eventually you can learn how to come to a stop sign, look both ways, and roll through. It’s perfectly safe when there’s no cross traffic. Also at red lights, you can learn to slow down/stop and if there’s no traffic coming continue on – drivers hate this because they are stuck at the light, but in reality if there’s no traffic coming it’s perfectly safe to cross and SAFER to be out ahead of traffic than accelerating with car traffic when the light turns green.

    7. Most importantly, just be smart and courteous. Don’t dart out in front of other cars, bikes, or pedestrians. When you come to a stop light, don’t roll up in front of the guy who passed you two blocks ago and insist on going in front of him. Just be nice to other people.

    • As for number 6: cyclists hate it as well when some obnoxious cyclist blows a stop sign or light and doesn’t yield the right of way to the cyclist that actually has the right of way. BE PREDICTABLE. Stop at stop signs, don’t assume the intersection is clear just because you don’t see or hear a car. It’s for everyone’s safety that everyone (cars, cyclists, pedestrians) are on the same page and behave in the same manner.

  • vz

    Take the time to learn a good route for your commute, and to learn about which streets are safest for cyclists. That doesn’t just mean looking for streets with bike lanes, but looking for streets where cars are more aware of drivers (14th St NW is a good example) versus high speed and traffic streets where some Marylander will honk at you for slowing down his or her commute by 3 seconds (most of the main state streets).

  • As a general non-biker (but one who dated a very serious biker for a few years), here are my thoughts as a driver:

    The places where I have the greatest issue with bikers are the following:
    1). When they illegally and stupidly ride through a sidewalk at full speed. I’m not looking for someone traveling at 30mph there, and I’ve had a couple close calls as a result and have witnessed a biker run right into a turning car. I don’t actually expect you to dismount (because that is stupid too), but pretty please make sure you’re doing something more like a fast walk.

    2). Turning across a bike lane at a stop sign. I generally have given up on this point and wait for the bikers to run the stop sign because it’s just not worth dealing with them running into the side of my car.

    3). Running a stop sign in front of me when vie already started to go. Look, I get the stopping is a pain in the ass for you and don’t really even mind that much that you guys run stop signs and lights with impunity. But please, please pay some attention to the rules of the road when it actually matters.

    4). Be aware that if there is a bike lane and you’re not in it, no one is looking for you. My girlfriend almost got a biker through the driver’s window because that guy was riding full speed up the non-bike lane side of the road. And running a stop sign, of course.

    Generally speaking, I don’t have issues with the novice bikers. They are pretty good about staying out of the way when it matters and they are reasonably good about being careful. The bikers whom I generally have issues with are the really experienced ones with a death wish.

  • Taking time to learn your commute goes a long way in easing your tension and helping you relax on the road. I commute every day on my bike and I’ve got a route that I know front and back, down to the timing of the lights. I aim for routes with bike lanes, as they’ll not only keep you out of the way of erratic drivers, but they’ll generally allow you enough room that a sudden car door won’t get in your way either.

    Also, stay out of cars’ blind spots (this is especially true in traffic circles. They’ll force you off the road without even noticing). Watch for right-turning cars especially, as they’ll drive right over the bike line without thinking.

    If traffic in your lane backs up, be extra cautious of other cars crossing your lane to make turns. A line of cars to your left extremely obstructs your view of what’s going on in the opposite lane. And those cars can’t see you in the bike lane.

    Basically, I’ll echo a line that’s been said a lot. Don’t assume any cars see you.

    Use lights, front and back.

    Signal if you’re leaving the bike lane to pass a stopped car. Signal if you’re making normal turns too. That’s not just for the driver’s benefit, but also for other bikers behind you in the lane.

    And since this hasn’t been covered too much, be mindful of other bikers too. Don’t cut them off or treat them differently than you’d treat a car.

    Taxis are the worst.

    Other than that, just obey normal rules of the road and enjoy the benefits of biking.

  • A couple of things no one has mentioned.

    1. Don’t tilt your helmet up, leaving your forehead bare. Think about when you’re most likely to need your helmet — falling forward over your handlebars. I speak from the experience of flying over my handlebars and landing on my forehead. Thank god for the helmet and for my sister teaching me the proper placement.

    2. Watch for cars coming out of parking garages. You can tell the drivers who think cyclists are invisible. You see them scanning the horizon for oncoming cars without looking at you.

  • Possibly the most important piece of advice: don’t take anything you read on the web too seriously. Particularly not PoP comment sections. There’s more angst in this thread than I’ve had in years of actually riding around DC.

  • Watch Ben Hur.

  • Oh, and one more thing – never, ever ride against traffic. Sounds perfectly logical, but if I had a dime for every time I was minding my own business in a bike lane and almost ran down some asshole who barreling the wrong way down a one-way street…

    Going a block or two out of your way will not kill you.

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