Dear PoPville – Frustrating Biking Experience

“Dear PoPville,

Yesterday morning I was riding my bicycle toward the right side of the right lane headed south bound on 11th Street. This is a two lane road in both directions. I passed a stopped bus which was partially occupying the right lane however I did not have to switch lanes to do so. At the moment I passed I was in the process of positioning the bike to the right of my lane again when a tan Dodge Caravan came from behind me and came to inches of hitting me.—It was similar scenario to the biker who was hit by the pickup truck riding on Rhode Island Ave. except there was no verbal exchange and no actual contact.— I think that the minivan definitely tried to scare and intimidate me for no apparent reason.

I followed the minivan a couple blocks to the intersection of 11th and K St NW and approached the window of the car. The driver rolled down the window in anticipation and asked me if I have a problem in a very confrontational manner. I asked if he did not see me as he came inches to hitting me to which he asked if I was speeding. To me that did not seem like a logical response/question since he came from behind me and was probably speeding himself. I made him aware that I am on a mountain bike with stop lights every block which would make speeding very hard.

I decided to leave since other then to escalating the encounter there was little I could do. As I was leaving the driver had a smirk on his face, as if he was acknowledging an accomplishment.

The thing that bothers me is that we, as bicyclists are vulnerable on the road as it is, and I truly feel that this is clear provocation of a bicyclist for no apparent reason other then hate. Had this driver made contact with me I would have been truly injured and in my opinion it would have been a hate crime. There was no reason for the driver to behave as he did on the road other then the strong dislike of cyclists.

I guess my question to you and the readers would be if there is any good retaliation to this kind of behavior?”

Sometimes even when you are in the right – there are no satisfactory answers. And to a certain degree, I can see this as a somewhat rhetorical question. Nevertheless, while I know some folks will disagree with me, in my opinion there is never “any good retaliation to this kind of behavior”. The best retaliation is to smile and bike on by. Believe me, I respect the desire to want to punch somebody in the face or hit their car or scream but, as trite as it sounds, you gotta be the better person. I don’t believe a confrontation will have any positive outcome.

It is my hope that one day bike lanes will be better respected and cover more of the city. But until that time comes some shitty and unfortunately sometimes dangerous situations are going to arise. And no doubt there are some serious jerks in the world – that is just a reality that I don’t think will ever completely change. No retaliation will change their behavior. If you take the bait of instigators then they win, if you smile and bike on by with your head held high – then you win.

I believe Council Member Tommy Wells recently said that ultimately the culture needs to change to make the harassment of bikers less common (though I believe some legislation is being debated as well). And certainly there are some bike riders who instigate drivers. In fact some cyclists can be down right insufferable. But at the end of the day – we all need to respect each other whether our mode of transport has two wheels or four. It does take time for culture to change so in the meantime I’ll leave you with the words of the great Canadian jurist Barbara Hall:

“Justice does not come from the outside. It comes from inner peace.”

149 Comment

  • Best revenge is living well. Fingers crossed for civil comments.

  • After posting this i realized i am a total hypocrite having totally NAILED a cab today with a nickle when he saw fit to block rush hour traffic to make an illegal left turn.

    I will try to follow my own words better in the future.

  • “Justice comes from a U-lock to the windshield. Or to the jaw, if the offending driver gets out and asks for it.”

    • That might be justified (in rare cases) but is among the dumber things you could possibly do. Even if the driver hits you with the car, busting out a window is only going to provoke someone who has already proved their willingness to use their vehicle against you as a weapon.

      I’m not going to be naive enough to say “call the cops” since cops in DC could give a shit about people on a bike or on foot. If a driver goes out of his way to intimidate or hit you with a car, take down the license plate, solicit witnesses, and get an attorney and sue. Bypass the criminal “justice” system, and go for their car in court. Taking that away will cut the asshole driver’s already microscopic penis in half.

      • I respectfully disagree. Based on the OP’s description, this didn’t sound like a hate crime or a psycho driver; it sounded like an a-hole bully, plain and simple.

        The thing about bullies is, there’s only one thing they respond to–and it ain’t talking about feelings. Until they finally pick on the wrong person and find themselves being “taught” about boundaries, bullies don’t cease their behavior; they continue to escalate it to the maximum extent of their comfort zone. And frankly, if one’s comfort zone includes threatening a fellow human being with a multi-ton weapon without provocation and then laughing about it, it’s hard to argue that he’ll stop at mere menacing. This guy probably passed a bicyclist too closely two weeks ago, and cut one off last week…and next week he’ll go ahead and try actually rear-ending a cyclist simply because he’s not afraid of what will happen to him if he does.

        I’m not blaming the victim here–it’s really unfortunate that this happened, and it’s shameful that we live in a society where decent folks have to put up with an incessant stream of crap from $hitheads. That said…obviously confrontations can be dangerous, but so’s life in the big city. If we’re so civil that we can’t even enforce a little civility when and where it’s called for, and we know darn well that the police aren’t going to help you any more than smiling at your attacker will, who’s to blame but ourselves if we continue to allow ourselves to suffer a plague of a-holes just so we can feel like we’re taking the high road?

        • Taking the high road does nothing to solve the problem. Bullies really only seem to respond to one thing. And they get to the point where they use violence because a dozen times before that their menacing, but nonviolent, actions have been met with a “smile and the high road.”

          I’m someone who would cringe away from violence out of self preservation, so I’m not purporting to be a badass. But if someone had punched this man in the nose, I wouldn’t scold them. That puncher just needs to be prepared for a hit back.

          • the problem is, and I’ve been bullied by drivers many times as a pedestrian, that these people will likely respond to violence with more violence. so unless you’re okay with them pulling out a gun or trying to run you over, this is a dangerous move.

            can the city start some kind of database of complaints about drivers who bully bikers/pedestrians? then, if they get 10 credible calls, the driver get ticketed, pulled into court, something…

          • I agree that someone fighting back is inherently dangerous, as I noted above. But there comes a point when some people are willing to accept that danger when the alternative is to continue being a silent victim. I understand their feelings, and do not reproach them.

            I don’t see how that database could be implemented. What would stop several people who dislike a person from filing random complaints? That ticket would never stand up before a judge.

      • PS – I really like your idea of going after the car in court though. 🙂

    • Ah, so it was you who threatened me with your U-lock on 14th St between Irving and Park Rd the other night when you came flying up the center line, dressed in all black and making it damn near impossible to see you in my mirrors, and I did a “What the fuck?” gesture because you scared the crap out of me and I really, truly didn’t want to hit you. Nice. Maybe next time I won’t actually care whether I hit you or not.

      • I had a similar situation, where a cyclist popped out of nowhere, and my reaction was to slam on the brakes and honk (more out of defensiveness than anything else). He freaked out, so I got out just to chat.

        He seemed ready to fight, but I explained that I was sorry I almost hit him, but I couldn’t see him at night with no reflectors in black clothing if he was riding erratically. I also explained I wasn’t honking aggressively – more out of being scared.

        He appreciated it all, said he would get reflectors or a light. Don’t know if I believe him, but being cordial and honest can help with relieving tension with some people.

  • Nickel. Sorry.

  • gotryit

    I agree with PoP – his summary is basically non-violence, which will work best in most scenarios here.

    While there are a few psychos on the road, many people respond well to kind words.

    • JH, you’re delusional if you think someone like this will respond to “kind words.”

      • gotryit

        I do think it’s more likely they’d respond well to kind words than violence / cursing.

        We’re different when driving cars, especially in DC. We’re expecting aggression, and prepare ourselves to meet it with aggression (i.e., road rage). You might just take someone by surprise and bring out the humanity in them.

        And if not? Then you’re still no worse off. You just don’t scratch the itch by yelling back.

        • Well your kind words in response to my not-so-kind ones have made me feel like a dunce about my snarkiness. 🙂

          I agree that a gentle response to a nasty one can sometimes shock the person out of their behavior, but I see that working more with someone who might yell or beep a horn. Someone who physically menaces a cyclist, who literally puts their health at stake – I don’t see that person responding to kind words. I see them taking those words as a sign of weakness, and feeling justified to escalate their behavior.

          Think we’ll just need to agree to disagree on this point…

          • What about just not responding at all?

            I don’t see how “kind words” are really going to do anything in this situation, and it seems like escalating the anger, confronting someone, etc. isn’t going to have a positive effect either (esp. if the other party is willing to engage in physical violence or has a gun).

          • gotryit

            You’re right – I am talking about are the more common situations where people act aggressively, honk / shout, etc.

            To be clear – if someone is trying to hurt you, then non-violence doesn’t help. Your best bet is probably getting out of their reach (defensive). Unless you really think you can fight back and defend yourself against a car. “Physically menacing” makes it a gray area – we just have to use our judgement in those cases.

            I’ve used the line – “You do realize that you could kill me if you’re not more careful.” Most people don’t have the balls to follow through on that.

  • I’m very sorry for the frustration you experienced but I’m put off with your equating the worst case scenario to a hate a crime. From your description, it sounds as though the driver’s actions may have been very intentional but I’m not willing to go with you on the hate crime assertion. Seems a rather hysterical suggestion, IMO.

    All the same, glad you are OK.

    • ..whatever it is, it’s particularly hateful.

    • You would feel very differently if you had a car accelerate towards you, for very intentional reasons. Most bike/car collisions are accidents, but as a cyclist I have had one occasion where a driver very clearly accelerated towards me. If it wasn’t for being able to duck between cars I think I would have been nailed by an SUV whose driver was pissed off because I yelled, “watch out.” Apparently he was mad that I interrupted his running a stop sign, almost hitting me (accidentally this first time), and talking on his cell phone. He almost ran me down and there were no repercussions for him. Since then I have a hard time not justifying taking a U-lock to someones window in such brazen cases.
      That said, I still think it is better to bike away safe and let the idiot wrap his car around a pole someday.

      • How about having a Lance Armstrong blow through a red light and nearly run you down when you have pedestrian right of way? Because that happens to me trying to legally cross 15th Street at least three times a week.

        I am to the point where I have little sympathy for bike riders, as the same percentage of them are assholes toward pedestrians that drivers are to bikers.

        • me

          I have to agree. I’ve seen some awful bike riders that obey zero laws out there for when they’re riding, and it is really frustrating. However, while I’m sure they’re in the minority of bike riders out there, those crappy riders have given me the same bad impression that the few really aggressive-toward-bikers drivers have given bikers.

          • How many bikers have you seen intentionally try to run down pedestrians? Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all break the law in large numbers around here. Are you saying we should just deteriorate into Mad Max on the roads? I at least try to remain courteous and empathetic on the roads. The OP wasn’t talking about run of the mill selfishness either, but a malicious attack with no obvious response.

        • how about having some pedestrian run up to you and mug you?because that happened to me while legally standing around shooting the shit at florida and 3rd at least 58 times last month.

          i am to the point where i have little sympathy toward pedestrians as the same percentage of them are assholes towards loiters that loiterers are to lollygaggers.

          • um, that’s a rather idiotic analogy.

          • anon,
            then you missed the point. my post and dave j’s post were both diversionary and just excuses to justify bad behavior by pointing out other bad behavior.

            he uses his anecdotal experiences of bad bikers to claim that he has little sympathy for others that have felt threatened.

            that’s screwed up. like my post satirically points out.

          • yeah, sorry I have total internet add.

          • you were mugged 58 times at the same place?

  • I was in a similar situation on Georgia Avenue. I was riding home at night. Hardly any traffic. I was on Park between Sherman and Georgia and riding to the right of the lane when a car roared past me on the left. The car seemed to make a big deal about passing me, but I didn’t think too much of it. I came to the red light and saw a woman in the car talking on her phone. I treated the light as a stop sign and pulled out on Georgia to go north – no traffic at all, and it wouldn’t have been reasonable to sit and wait on the light to change. Here comes the woman again roaring by me – still on the phone – and she yells out “obey the f##### law !!!” …I’m like wtf!? I pull up to her again at another light and I address her asking what her problem was, stating that I have a right to be on the road, and that her talking on the phone is against the law. Then she got crazy hood, stepped on the gas, and lunged her car at me. I was to the side so there wasn’t much of a chance that she was going to hit me but, since then, I have really tried to avoid conflict. Some of these people are just nuts..

    I bike everywhere. I wear a helmet most of the time. I try to be respectful of everybody who is on the road. It’s beyond me why some people think it is funny to mess with cyclists, but there is a terrible feeling to be vulnerable on a 20lb piece of steel when somebody is menacing you with their 3000lb vehicle. It’s pure bullying really.

    Things can happen anytime, but I am particularly vigilant during rush hours. That’s when people seem the most prone to popping off.

    • “it wouldn’t have been reasonable to sit and wait on the light to change”

      I think I found the problem.

      • I think you have. Some bicyclist don’t want to accept the fact that they are some of the biiggest law breakers when it comes to following the rules of the road.

        • you guys really need to think of yourself in that situation and what you would really do. sitting at a traffic light late at night on your bike, or walking, you really going to sit it out? not a chance. you’ll jaywalk. you’ll ride your bike through it. seriously, think about it.

          • Anonymous 9:11 – I think most people here are speaking of when traffic volume is high. Of course, if you out after hours most people on foot would not wait for the walk signal, however,most cars would still stop at the red light.

          • When driving I sometimes get worried late at night by myself in bad neighborhoods. So I’ve found it’s better to just treat the light as a stop sign. The cops are cool with that right if I explain my rationale?

        • So late at night – when there is no traffic – you would have cyclists sit at red lights and wait for them to change.. ?? please… I don’t think that I’m special or particularly privileged being on a bike or that laws don’t apply to me. But there is no argument that is going to have me sit for 40 seconds at an intersection in the hood waiting for a light to change when I am on my bike.

          • True when I am in my convertible in the same situation I just floor it after a quick look if it is red. Also justifiable, right?

      • +100

        Of the thousands of cyclists I’ve seen on DC roads the past year, I could count on one hand the number I’ve seen actually stop and wait at a redlight.

        Cyclists need to get overthemselves. They aren’t a “special class” of road user that can pick and choose which rules to follow and when.

        • Sorry Anon, but we are!

        • I don’t really have a dog in this fight as I do all three. I see all three break the laws constantly. On my block there is a stop sign that everyday between the hours of 7 am-9 am you could pull over atleast 25-50 cars for rolling through. 98% would be folks from Maryland commuting and take this route everyday. On the otherhand You could also probably pullover every biker….on the other end of my block is a stop light. I rarely if ever see walkers wait until they have the man if traffic is light.

          Now, for some reason I only really get pissed with the cars rolling the stop…Bikers upset me if its blantant and causes the right of way to shift.

          • I should say that when I do all three-I bike, I drive, I walk. not that I roll stops, hit bikers, mug walkers.

      • ok ..I argue that it’s not reasonable because that area of Georgia Avenue isn’t the nicest place to just sit out in the open. There is a gas station right there, right in front of government housing, and a strip club a block away ..and always some interesting people hanging out. People get mugged and stabbed on the regular in Petworth. I try not to sit still on my bike.

    • You are the problem with bikers in this city. You broke the law, and expect cars to obey it. She may have lost her temper, and making to lunge her car at you is awful, but her sentiment is understood.

      You know, as a driver, sometimes I feel like my commute would be faster if I didn’t stop at lights. But wait, that’s dangerous…

      • me

        Meg, you’re spot on.

      • Excellent point Meg!

      • Bad point, Meg. If you are a driver in this city, you ARE the problem. DC was never designed to accomodate the sheer number of cars that pollute and congest our roads each and every day. Some bikers believe fully stopping at a red, looking both ways, and proceeding is safe because it allows the biker to get ahead of traffic waiting behind them (which sometimes creates dangerous situations).

        • So that makes it ok for bikers to disobey traffic signals?

          It doesn’t matter what bikers “believe” is right. It matters what is safe. As a pedestrian, I have to be more on watch for bikes than cars. While some bikers might be extraordinarily careful at all lights, I’ve seen more not even slow down at lights to make it more commonplace.

          • And you’ve never crossed the street in the middle of the block? Or ran across an intersection while the hand was shown? Or sped when driving? Sure you have.

          • If, on the rare occasion I do (and in this town, it’s very rare), I’d make damn sure there were no cars coming. I’ve been hit by a car as a pedestrian (not my fault). That will change your outlook on jaywalking. Can’t say bikers take the same caution with regard to pedestrians.

          • Cool. So you can break the law because you are sure it’s safe. Sounds like what everyone else does, then.

          • So bikers very rarely run red lights. OK.

          • I’ll start waiting at Red Lights when Cars start giving bikes the same amount of space on the road they give other cars…

            That’s the Law too!!!

          • yea, I don’t believe you have to be more on watch for bikes than cars…if so, you’re not in DC or have your priorities messed up.

          • Ever had to cross the street at 15th and M? Yeah, probably at least a dozen times have I nearly gotten plowed over by bicyclists disobeying the traffic signal. And as I mentioned, I’ve been hit by cars. I know how to be careful around them.

          • you said “cars” as in plural? I don’t think you do know how to be careful around cars-seeing as you’ve been hit multiple times. All kidding aside, as a ped I worry about cars (taxi, MD, VA drivers) more than bikers. I agree that 15 and M has a good amount of bike traffic that you have to watch out for…that is one intersection. I can probably count on two hands the number of intersections where bike traffic is a problem. The majority of intersections in DC, you had better watch out for cars.

        • Also, if we were going to use the roads for what they were intended for, we’d all be on horses.

        • dc wasn’t designed for cars? that’s a really poor argument.

        • I totally agree with Anonymous 8:49 and do it all the time. However, often I do wait out the light because the traffic is heavy, and there is no safety benefit to stopping, looking, and moving on. It’s an entirely different situation being on a bike than being in a car.

      • Yes, taking an action that could kill someone is a totally reasonable response to seeing someone run a red light. Good point!

      • Not all violations of the law are equal. Running a red light after carefully looking is different then intentionally trying to run someone off of the road.

        • Agreed. But I don’t see where this guy felt the need to whine about his “right to be on the road” to a driver when he broke the law. Best course of action should’ve probably been to ignore her.

          • No, the point is that bikes and cars are unequal by about 2000 lbs., and when a driver decides to use that to intimidate (or even attack) a cyclist that cyclists wants a reasonable response.

          • Only an idiot would confront a person who’s unreasonable enough to yell something rude like that. Sorry, but when dealing with crazy, you should do your best to ignore it, lest you be on the receiving end of road ragey violence.

          • I feel the need to speak up about my right to be on the road because so many drivers in DC don’t seem to want to recognize that right. Let’s be honest. By law, I have the right to take a lane of traffic and have no obligation to get out of the way if I am not slowing traffic down.

            If I perfectly obey the law, I can take my lane of traffic and stop at red lights. Now consider this – when I stop at a red light like a car does and as you argue that I should – the car behind me is likely to get antsy and want me to move. Even tho I may not really be slowing him down, many cars start to get agitated simply by the fact that a bicycle is in the road. Downtown, most cyclists can get from one stop sign to the next as fast as a car does. But, if we choose to stop at every light and use our lane right when there is no bike lane, inevitably drivers get agitated. On a daily basis drivers will try to pass me just to get to the next light – even if it is red. It’s almost like, just because a car can go much faster than a bike, the car has a presumption that you are in its way and slowing it down. But, half the time a car passes me only to stop right in front of me at a red light, it would have gotten there just as fast had it been patient.

            If cyclists perfectly obey the law and stop at red lights, drivers will still be agitated and some will be aggressive. I argue that it is reasonable for a bicycle to treat a red light as a stop sign when there is light traffic because, in doing so, cyclists can better get out of the way of cars.

            Cyclists have a right to be on the road, and I will not be quiet about that right.

          • I don’t disagree with you, pwedz. Bikes have the right to be on the road. And I understand your reasoning for going at red lights. However, consider this: you will always be slower than a car. That car, whether it’s at the light or past the light, will catch up to you, and will have to go around you. They should be patient about that, but don’t act like you’re doing everyone a favor by going ahead. You might say you’re diligent about being cautious at lights, but I can tell you that I can’t count the number of times as a pedestrian I’ve been nearly taken out by a cyclist who simply wasn’t paying attention. More than I have with cars. And when you do that, you not only endanger yourself, but you endanger drivers, other cyclists, pedestrians, etc. And if you want respect on the road, you should follow the rules.

            Therefore, your best course of action is to stop at lights. Unless your real motive is to not be inconvenienced yourself.

          • I would quibble with your statement that a biker will always be slower than a car. On DC streets during rush hour depending on the biker and traffic, that might not be true.

          • Absolutely, there are exceptions. But they are exceptions. And generally speaking, if everyone (including cyclists) are following the rules, this should be a very rare occurrence.

          • Everybody needs to pay attention. These days, pedestrians are lucky if they don’t walk into a tree as half of them are walking while texting. It would also be nice if they looked before stepping into the street. Not sure exactly what the numbers are, but according to @struckdc – an equal number of bikes & pedestrians have been hit this year by cars – about 450 each.

            Yes, bikes need to be responsible and respectful. By law, in some jurisdictions, stop lights are treated as stop signs for bikes. In reality, a large number of cyclists are going to treat them as such.

            And as Honey Badger (lol) says, bikes are often just as fast if not faster than cars in the city. Half the time cars just want to pass bikes on principle. What rules are you citing that say as an exception bikes should be slower than cars in the city?

          • You’re actually saying you can go 30 miles an hour on your bike?

          • please.. the average speed downtown is not close to 30 mph

    • What if car drivers took your approach and decided that it would be unreasonable to wait for traffic lights to change? Traffic laws are for everyone, and just because you’re on a bike doesn’t exempt you from the rules of the road. Although I don’t agree with the car driver’s reaction, you don’t seem to have a clue that your actions contributed to setting that person off. Try obeying the law before seeking out sympathy.

      • I love these threads. They so quickly diverge into bike riders break laws so they deserve what’s coming. Oh sure, the driver was wrong, too, but the really egregious law-breaking was the biker’s. In this example, the woman was talking on the phone while driving, a far more dangerous activity than treating a red light as a stop sign at a deserted intersection. Bikers are not perfect. Some of them are jerks. I was rear-ended by a biker last weekend while my car was stopped at a light. That one encounter doesn’t mean I think all bikers are scofflaws that don’t deserve civil treatment on the road.

      • “What if car drivers took your approach and decided that it would be unreasonable to wait for traffic lights to change?”

        Yes, can you imagine if car drivers decided it would be unreasonable to obey the posted speed limit. What a world that would be.


        • Prince Of Petworth

          Can you do me a favor and make your point without calling people a dumbass. I’m getting tired of beating that dead freaking horse. Thank you.

    • “I treated the light as a stop sign.”

      Well, there’s the problem right there.

      Sure, it’s hypocritical for a driver to criticize you for running the light while she’s talking on her non-handsfree cell phone.

      But last I heard, it was a secondary offense for a driver to be on a non-handsfree cell phone in D.C., whereas running a stoplight is a primary offense.

  • Are you leaving out the part where when you went around the bus you cut off the minivan?

    This incident actually highlights the problems with Tommy Wells’ bill. It depends on how the biker felt and what the biker thought about the actions of the driver – not what the reality was. This biker thinks the driver was intimidating him, its possible that the driver just had no idea the bike was about to cut him off and narrowly avoided hitting him. As for the confrontation, we have no idea how innocent the biker was in the situation. He followed the van for a while.

    who knows what the whole story is here.

    • So… if a car is in front of you and merges to avaoid a bus, you will drive along side them and try to run them off the road?

      Just because you’re bigger than a bike, doesn’t mean that when a biker needs to merge (and has space to do so), you use your superior speed to run them over…

    • driving is a huge responsibility.
      had the driver been practicing safe driving techniques that should not have been a problem.

      not to say we can judge the interaction between the two people. we can’t.

    • I once accidentely cut off a biker because I didn’t see him. He was apparently riding in my blind spot and I moved into the next lane to make a right turn. He screamed at me and pounded on the hood of my car and scared the shit out of me. He was so angry that I assume he thought I did it on purpose, but I had no idea what had happened. But because he was screaming at me and startled me I screamed right back at him (immature, I know, but I just reacted). I felt bad about it for the rest of the day. My point is that sometimes things happen and are not intentional; there’s no need to get confrontational unless you need to be.

      • Thanks for sharing that story… it’s good to remember that we’re all human beings, and that adrenaline kicks in very quickly for both drivers and cyclists, and it’s actually really hard to avoid confrontation.

        I was on the opposite side of a fairly similar incident a few years ago, where a moved into the bike lane to turn ride and just barely missed my front tire. As usual, I felt my life threatened in a very visceral way, my adrenalin kicked in, and I got ready to bitch him out when he stopped at the light. But when I pulled up next to him I realized two things: (1) he looked like a very friendly person and (2) he had NO idea what he’d done. His window was down, so I took a deep breath and calmly explained what he’d done and how close he’d come to hitting me. He apologized and, amazingly, asked me what he should have done differently, and I told him that the correct move (both legally and pragmatically) would have been to treat the bike lane like a regular lane: signal in advance, then do a head check before “changing” lanes. If he’d done that, either he would have seen me in his blind spot or I would have slowed down to let him in. He said thanks, we shook hands, and went our separate ways. It was kind of amazing.

        It’s really hard to keep your emotions in check at those moments, but it’s SO worth it.

    • No, bikes are not just entitled to cut off cars, not signal, and not slow down when their lane is obstructed. When cars do not signal, cut people off, and not slow down when there is an obstruction that is also not right.

  • This guy was driving a tan minivan. You win.

  • houseintherear

    You know, there is a balance between rage and silence. I often smile yell nicely at drivers who almost hit me when on bike or foot– for example: “Please watch for pedestrians! HAVE A GREAT DAY!” or “The little light man says it’s my turn to go! HAVE A GREAT DAY!” Or even a big toothy smile and a wave when a driver attempts to drive through a crosswalk.

    Silence is a problem, and it’s not okay to be silent anymore. It just leaves the hard part to other people, and that’s unfair. Nothing changes in the world if everyone just goes home to meditate.

  • I have to say that almost every day I see people on bicycles whizzing through red lights and stop signs, weaving through traffic and exercising a general disregard for traffic laws. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but I am very tired of people on bikes claiming “intimidation by cars” when so many of them act like they don’t have to follow the rules of the road. While there are many asshole drivers, there are also plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of asshole bikers who think they can do whatever they want and then claim foul if someone else gets mad at them. If you want respect….obey the law!

    • Ledroiter – Amen!

    • just because not all bikers follow the law doesn’t justify the huge problem we have with cars harassing, intimidating, and hitting bikers.

      • I think that is part of the problem right there. This seems to be the attitude of many bikers. They don’t want to take responsibility for their contribution to the problem. It’s always the cars that are to blame. People not on bikes (pedestrians, people on scooters, cars, etc)should be responsible for having to watch out for the biker that runs the red stop sign in front of them, or the one that squeezes between traffic? Is that it? Being on a bike does not relieve you of your responsibility to follow the law. Don’t pass the buck. Bikers are not innocent victims.

      • Huge problem? Really? Based on a monthly anecdote from PoP?

        • See: Dcist commenters, City Data Forum commenters, etc… Every Blog on DC has their threads the seem to get the same people fired up over and over again.

    • It’s legal to weave through traffic.

      • Actually, no.

        You learn something new everyday!

        • Directly from your page:

          Allowed to pass on left or right, in the same lane or changing lanes, or pass off road.

          • Passing is not weaving, my friend. Passing would mean to go around a parked car or if a car is going below the speed limit. Not weaving through cars to get to the front of the intersection.

            Slower traffic to the right (unless that slower traffic is meaning to make a left turn), right?

          • Full code for others out there:

            DCMR 18, Sect. 1201.3, b-c:
            “(b) A person operating a bicycle may overtake and pass other vehicles on the left or right side, staying in the same lane as the overtaken vehicle, or changing to a different lane, or riding off the roadway, as necessary to pass with safety. (c) If a lane is partially occupied by vehicles that are stopped, standing, or parked in that lane, a person operating a bicycle may ride in that or in the next adjacent lane used by vehicles proceeding in the same direction.”

          • A stopped car at a stop light is not a parked car. I’m all for scooting up the front on your bike, but there’s no reason to weave from the right side. It’s not safe to weave through traffic.

            My point in all of my arguing is that I would HATE to hit a person on their bike. My car can do a lot more damage than a bike, but cyclists need to do their part and obey the law.

          • right- a stopped car is not the same as a parked car. But it is stopped. The post clearly says “stopped, standing, or parked”.

          • Let’s be realistic here: do you think it’s safe to weave through traffic? Drivers won’t see you, and no they don’t teach “look for weaving cyclists” in drivers ed.

    • Well put, Ledroiter.

  • That is why we need bike lanes that separate bikes from vehicle traffic. It’ll get more people to bike (decreasing congestion) and prevent confrontations like this.

    I’ve been hit and nearly run over countless times running. I yelled at one person and hit her car with my water bottle. After being followed for 1/2 mile and yelled at and being told she was going to kill me I’ve since stopped responding.

    Just smile and move on.

    • I completely agree. More bike lanes.

      • Useless. Cars and delivery trucks constantly block them,and most are in the door zone(close enough to park cars to be hit by an opening door).

    • Should have got her first.

    • Andy(2) – Were you running in the street?

      • Nope on a sidewalk, crossing at a green light. Most of the times I’ve been hit have been in crosswalks by people making a right turn or coming out of a driveway/alley.

        I now where bright colors and lights – I look a little crazy but ending up on the hood of a few cars will do that to you.

    • Protected bike lanes with curb cut-outs much likes the right lane on K st, but the median doesn’t have to be that wide.

    • When I am running or biking, I assume every driver has a healthy buzz on and is busy texting or getting road head. I assume any car approaching a red light is going to run it. I assume every alley curb cut is about to have a car come flying out of it chased by a cop. I assume every car approaching an intersection is likely to make an un-signaled right or left turn without warning. I assume there is someone in every parked car who is about to fling the door open.

      Is it “right” that I assume this? Aren’t there laws that prohibit (most) of these things? Sure, but I’ve been around long enough to know that what is right/lawful and what will keep me from being run over by a 4000 pound machine are unrelated enough to be paranoid.

      My problem with many DC bikers is not that they “slow me down” but rather that they fail to assume this posture of self-preservation, and I honestly don’t want to hurt one of them. When I see a guy with his infant child in a kids’ seat on the back of his bike driving in the middle land of traffic on Rhode Island Avenue during rush hour, I cringe. I know you can cite some regulation that gives him the right to do so, but the regulation isn’t going to save his kid’s life when some Marylander on her phone during her commute merges into that lane and kills them both. When I see a biker bust ass through a stop sign while a car approaches perpendicular to them, assuming that the car is going to stop, I cringe, because I’ve seen cars fail to stop at stop signs many, many times. The fact that this is unlawful isn’t going to save your life when it happens. I’ve seen police cars come flying through red lights without their sirens on. This is a busy city.

      Fundamentally this is my problem with the dialogue about biking that occurs every time on these message boards. Bikers assume the vast majority of drivers hate them because they slow them down. Actually, the vast majority of us just want to get to our destinations without hurting someone, and are realistic enough to know that DC’s bike regulations aren’t going to save you when a car doesn’t see you or ignores a law. I’d love to see a network of protected bike lanes, like Amsterdam, but because we don’t have them doesn’t make it a good idea to bike on arterial roads during rush hour as though you are functionally equivalent to a car.

    • don’t do that. don’t hit people’s cars because you’re pissed off…

  • I bike to work every day, also walk a lot, and drive sometimes. The reality is regardless of how I’m getting around I see drivers on phones (illegal), rolling stop signs (illegal), and speeding (illegal); pedestrians jaywalking (illegal), running in the middle of the road (not sure, but should be illegal); and bikers running red lights and stop signs (illegal).

    Yes, I’m guilty of every one of these offenses at times. If you think you are not, you are lying. Point is, just be courteous, nobody really cares about biking through red lights if you are not getting in anyone’s way, same goes for jaywalking and many of the other offenses. The only big distinction is that as a driver in urban walkable environment, your offenses are potentially lethal.

  • Buy an RPG launcher. Use it.

  • Boy if I got a dollar for every time I got pissed off at someone for ALMOST doing something, I’d get zero dollars.

  • i am both a driver and a biker. i have been doing both for decades and i have to say that DRIVERS in DC terrify me. they are unpredictable and simply dont know how to drive.

    with that said…
    just as many drivers break the law as bikers do. the only difference is the law that is being broken.

    drivers tend to speed, roll through stops, talk on cell phone, text, etc…

    bikers run lights

    texting has been proven to be more dangerous then driving while intoxicated. so while you drivers pick at one thing that bikers do you need to look at the crap that you create on the roads. you are moving weapons and the fact that drivers in dc are horrible drivers makes things even worse.

    also, if driving through red lights was not enforced by police every driver would be doing it as well. so really this is an issue with enforcement. if you need a case study look at Greece, yes the country. most drivers run through stops and lights because it is not enforced.

  • I’ve always fantasized about having a rocket launcher on my handle bars. Probably a good thing they don’t make those.

  • “hate crime”? …seriously?


    Too many cars think bikers are a nusiance, and don’t really have a right to momentarily slow them down. It all boils to this!

    As a Biker/Driver I feel the same thing when I’m driving -(honestly!) …but I rain it in. I treat red lights as stop signs, and only go if the street is VERY clear. I’ll continue to to this until Cars actually follow the law that allows bikers to bike in the middle of the lane.

    There’s a snowballs chance in hell that that will happen, so I’ll continue to safely “run” light!

    • +100. Note: this is not the same thing as “blowing through a light.”

    • *rein*


    • you’re playing with fire… unless you can see for miles that there is no car coming. if a car comes down the street and doesn’t see you, it won’t slow down. it has a green light. it’s not expecting anything to come in front of them. that said, be careful and mindful and drivers need to be prepared for anything that may come out of nowhere.

  • We need to get this discussion back on track … the bike in this incident did NOTHING ILLEGAL. It was the driver that recklessly threatened her.

    In my year of frequent biking in DC, I’ve had two incidents like this — one car that passed me within inches on my left, then got pissed when I overtook him at the stoplight ahead and purposefully took a right turn almost right on top of me, while yelling out the window. Second time, a cab driver purposefully bumped into my back tire at a stoplight. When he saw I was writing down his license no., he got out of the cab and tried to play innocent. After he acknowledged what he did and apologized, I let him go.

    Point is, there are a non-trivial number of drivers out there willing to intentionally, bodily threaten bikers. That’s inexcusable, and in NO WAY justified, by anything.

  • I’ve been hit twice during my most recent stint as an area resident. Both times the driver was at fault. Once, I was a pedestrian, once I was biking. Neither time did the police give a damn.

    Though I was born here, I’ve lived in other parts of the country and briefly overseas. The drivers here are the least competent I’ve ever seen. People who are aggressive and ignorant of the traffic laws should not be allowed behind the wheel.

  • I don’t think the culture needs to change to embrace bikes more necessarily. Take this quote, ” And certainly there are some bike riders who instigate drivers. In fact some cyclists can be down right insufferable.” A jerk is a jerk no matter his choice of transportation. And like when dealing with aholes in any part of your life, it is best to just let them be.

  • I think you need to ditch the afternoon pet photos for afternoon bicycle photos. This is clearly where peoples passions are.

  • As I appreciate the abject terror that must be biking in this city, and the fact that I’m sure you all are often put into danger by irresponsible drivers but I am sick of the bikers having a holier than thou response to everything. As a pedestrian in this fair city, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been nearly hit or grazed by bikers who do not follow traffic laws. Particularly, yielding to a pedestrian in a cross walk. I cross 15th St. everyday on my way to work and often I’m forced to wait in the middle of a lane while rude bikers come whizzing by down 15th on their way to work. Take a second and let me out of the street please!!

  • this happens to me all the time when i am biking. this is why the law states that bicycles are entitled to take up an entire lane if they want to. you might think that riding to the right of the lane is safer, but then cars try to pass you and they come scary close (plus you are more exposed to being doored). i believe there is a rule that states a driver must leave 3 feet when passing a cyclist.

    i’ve tried saying things to drivers in the past, but it never goes over well, no matter how politely i approach them. all you can do is try to educate them – maybe tell them the 3 foot rule, and reiterate how scary and dangerous it is to be passed that close.

  • that’s why he posted it! we all know what gets the PoP community fired up… having a BALL reading all these comments

  • Here is the solution, or, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “chronosynclastic infundibulum” (That point at which all opinions, no matter how contrary, are reconciled):

    Go in peace, my brothers and sisters of the two-wheeled persuasion.

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