Cyclist Struck in 11th Street Bike Lane between L and K St, NW


@pglatfel tweets (and emails us the photo above):

“cyclist struck by car in SB 11th St. bike lane, btw L and K NW. Stood up to get onto stretcher when EMTs arrived.”

84 Comment

  • Without any prior knowledga and based solely on how the car is positioned, I am now going to assume who is at fault in this situation

    • Looks like the car illegally crossed a double-yellow line to enter the parking garage, crashing right into the cyclist who was traveling in the bike lane. Asshole. I see this everyday in DC. Hope he gets the book thrown at him.

      • I hate to be pedantic but you’re allowed to cross a double yellow to enter a private driveway, which this is.

        Of course the law also requires you to yield to oncoming traffic and it looks like that didn’t happen here so….

        • brookland_rez

          I go that way everyday on my motorcycle. There’s a number of garages right there. I’m guessing what other have said is correct about the car entering the garage.

      • I agree that it looks like the driver is at fault, they had to yield to the biker. But was the left turn actually illegal? You can turn left into a parking garage, right?

    • Not sure whether you meant to say “not” instead of “now”, but given the positioning this seems rather straight-forward as to what likely transpired. (Car failed to yield to the bicyclist)

  • Driver turned left across double yellow to get into parking structure. Failed to yield to cyclist.

    • Ugh. Hoping for a quick recovery for the cyclist…

    • Not surprisingly, it was a MD driver who failed to yield.

      Luckily it looked like the cyclist wasn’t hurt too badly. Eyes open and communicating when I walked past.

      • Good news about the cyclist.

        MD drivers are truly the worst. We were recently driving in Manhattan and I remarked about how everyone there is generally very skillful and vigilant. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, we saw a car riding the brakes erratically on a fast avenue, and swerving around (including into a bike lane) without signaling. Lo and behold- MD plates.

      • I don’t like painting in broad strokes (except when capturing a lovely natural scene on canvas), but the stereotype of MD drivers as crazed, apoplectic maniacs is kinda accurate.

    • With the way I see people operating both cars and bikes around here, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that so many are exhibiting such a ridiculous lack of comprehension when it comes to the laws and regulations, but yes, there are times when it is perfectly legal to cross a double yellow line.

      • Congratulations! You’ve got the first blame the victim comment. Feel good about it. Situations in which you cannot cross the double yellow line: when a cyclist is blocking the path from you to the parking garage.

        • HaileUnlikely

          No victim-blaming here. Jamal simply stated, correctly, that situation in which it is legal to cross a double yellow line exist. He did not say that this was one of them, and the fact that situations also exist in which it is not legal to cross a double yellow line does not refute what he said.

          • He stated “I shouldn’t be surprised that so many are exhibiting such a ridiculous lack of comprehension when it comes to the laws and regulations” and further demonstrated his shocking disregard for the value of human life. It is never legal to run over a cyclist.

          • clevelanddave

            No, you are wrong, No You Can’t.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Driveways don’t exist. Got it. Thanks, Dave!

        • Speaking of lack of comprehension… It sounds like you’re the one looking for someone to blame. I said absolutely nothing about the biker in this situation. In fact, from looking at the photo, I’d most likely put the blame on the motorist.

  • I’m so glad the cyclist is ok.

    This is so not ok. While I do support bike lanes for a lot of reasons, they’re not a 100% solution. They’re often more dangerous downtown (south of K) than taking the entire lane.

    • BTW, this is not AT ALL to blame the cyclist. Appears to be the car’s fault. Only speaking as a frequent 11th St bike lane rider who feels unsafe in it south of K.

      • I was hit on 11th St near this intersection as well. I took the whole lane going through the intersection and the car didn’t care. Still hit me.

    • And drivers wonder why many cyclists don’t use the bike lanes. I take the 15th St lane to M St lane. Both are treacherous. I’ve started riding in the street on some stretches.

      • I don’t bike on streets with bike lanes. The bike lanes are (much) more dangerous than taking the real lane, and if I do take a lane on a road with a “special little lane just for you bicyclists”, I end receiving alot of road rage. I also don’t bike against traffic or on sidewalks, in case you are wondering. It’s getting harder and harder to travel on roads without bike lanes though…

        • The bike lanes are more dangerous? I’ve never heard that before. Below is a link that supports the argument that’s more familiar to me: that bike lanes increase cyclist safety. Do you have some info that suggests otherwise?

          • I’m guessing you don’t ride a bike. This “study” is nice, but not even remotely scientific. Whether a bike lane vs. occupying the full lane is safer is entirely context dependent. Different riders, times of day. streetscapes, drivers, etc. will change the calculus. For many District streets where bike lanes are immediately adjacent to parked cars and result in faster moving traffic it’s almost certain that bike lanes are less safe. Indeed several of the bike fatalities in DC and NY in recent years have resulted from cars or trucks making right turns across the bike lane (often without signaling). Furthermore, there’s no need to be such smug about the nonsense you’re spouting. Bikers lives are at stake and it’s a matter that should be taken very seriously.

          • PDleftMtP

            And your “study” is that you own a bicycle and have opinions? There is data out there, and you’re not right.


          • gotryit

            Hi, I do ride a bike. I like to rely on studies, for example, as summarized by WABA in their safe city cycling classes / guides. When I don’t have anything scientific, then I go with my own feelings, which are – that bike lanes are safer for me.

          • I’m guessing you have little to no knowledge of statistics or understanding of what is in these studies. All of these simply compare streets with bike lanes to those without, or streets before and after bike lanes. The problem is that the population of bikers is entirely different before and after. None of this tells me whether my probability of an accident as in individual cyclist is greater with or without a lane.

            Try telling the poor cyclists who have been plowed over by trucks making right turns and killed while in the bike lane that they were safer there than if they had been occupying the full lane.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I just downloaded and read the actual study (the version published in the American Journal of Public Health As far as study designs go, it was actually pretty decent. I would have done a couple of things differently, but it’s their study, not mine, and I suspect they would have changed the results by a small amount, not a large amount. Anyway, I think the authors did a rather poor job of explaining clearly what condition was being compared to what other condition in the results that they reported, though, so it takes a fair amount of effort and knowledge than should be expected of the reader to fish out the comparisons that are actually meaningful.

            Having done that (this is what I do, albeit on different subject matter), they find that for a major road without parked cars on the side of the road where the cyclist is (11th street at this location fits this description), it looks like it might be a teeny weeny bit safer to have a bike lane than not have a bike lane, but there is a great deal of uncertainty in that estimate and the authors don’t really have means of concluding with any degree of certainty whether it is safer to have a bike lane vs. not have a bike lane on such a road. Their finding that bike lanes are significantly safer is based on comparing apples (major roads with no bike lanes and no parked cars) and oranges (major roads with bike lanes *and with parked cars*). After adjusting for the effect of the parked cars (again, parked cars = bad), their finding regarding bike lanes hints that they might improve safety a little bit, but it has enough uncertainty that it is not incompatible with bike lanes not making any difference or even with bike lanes being harmful.

            The clear, unambigous results of this study are that minor roads (as defined by the authors) are safer for cyclists than major roads, having construction increases risk for cyclists, down-hill slope increases risk for cyclists, train tracks increase risk for cyclists, and on major roads having parked cars on the cyclists side increases risk relative to not having parked cars on an otherwise similar major road. The results also hint that cycletracks physically separated from the motorized traffic lane (think 15th street) are much safer for cyclists than most other alternatives, but they had very little data on these, probably because they’re still very rare. I suspect this last result regarding cycletracks is correct and could be reinforced with more data, but given how little data they had on these, I wouldn’t take it to the bank just yet. Anyway, my main point was that I don’t think the study really does show convincingly that roads with bike lanes are safer than otherwise similar roads without bike lanes.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Biker – I agree with your comment with respect to the vast majority of studies out there. The one we were discussing here differs from most of the others in a few important ways, though, and your broad-brush (and admittedly mostly correct) criticisms of most of the other studies don’t really fit this one. It ain’t perfect – and I want to give the authors a little dope slap for how they constructed Table 4 and how they explained the results contained in it – but all in all, I think it was a pretty solid study. You seem to be into this stuff (both cycling and studies about cycling safety) – I’d be genuinely interested in your thoughts on this study after you read it.

          • HaileUnlikely – I just looked at the abstract, but thanks for taking a closer look on behalf of PoPville readers. Generally I think people take “studies” far too seriously without realizing they are often based on hugely problematic designs. After taking a closer look, beyond the problems you mentioned, I have a couple problems with this one.
            First, the study says “the design compared route characteristics at the location where the injury event occurred to those at a randomly selected point on the same trip route where no injury occurred.” This is called selecting on the dependent variable and undermines most of the statistical properties of the estimator.
            Second, by including only data from cyclists who were hit the study limits the population about which they can make any inference.
            Third, riders select their routes and rider characteristics vary accordingly. Does the population biking on the 15th st cycletrack look like those who bike Beach Drive in the morning? The authors use some controls but don’t account for this properly.
            Fourth city planners select where to put bike lanes. Even assuming the above two problems could be accounted for, it’s possible that difference in accident rates are due to inherent characteristics of the street that precede bike infrastructure and are not included in the controls.
            Generally I think observational injury data can help us identify problem intersections/streets and try to fix them. As for wether a bike lane or occupying the full lane is safer, I think studies like this just muddy the waters. Both have their place and without a randomized study (i.e. bike lane placement is randomized and both riders and drivers don’t vary their behavior) I think qualitative analysis of individual streets will tell us more about the best safety strategy than any study.

          • I haven’t seen this study before, so I read the summary. It says nothing to validate that the type of bike lanes we have in DC are safe. It specifically mentions “bike lanes on streets without parked cars” – we don’t have many of those.
            — — —
            There are studies about “bicycle facilities” conducted all over the world with varying conclusions. Many support my argument, most are garbage, and almost none of them are relevant to DC. You can google some of them, but I’m not going to cite them because they aren’t any better than the one you cited.
            Most accidents happen at intersections. This accident is an example of a collision at an informal intersection. DC Bike lanes exacerbate this problem because they are invisible at intersections – they are too narrow, and obscured by parked cars and cars traveling in the main roadway.
            The main benefit of DC bike lanes for bicyclists is that they help bicyclists from being rear ended, but being unintentionally rear ended on a bicycle is uncommon (almost all studies agree on this).
            The main benefit of DC Bike lanes for motorists is that it enables them to drive faster. Do you really want motorists downtown driving faster? Making facilities that compliment bad behavior does not make us safer – a line of paint will not save your life. Well intentioned US Motorists killed 36,000 people in 2012. Homicidal maniacs only killed 16,000.
   has great commonsense bicycle advice whether you believe in bike lanes or not.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Biker – Thanks for the reply. I don’t think the issue of outcome-based selection here is the same kind of concern here as it is in a simple cross-sectional study of different people who did vs. did not experience the outcome. This is a standard and well-accepted method for certain types of questions (is the safety of bike lanes such a question or not? I’m not sure. More on this below.) Another problem with their statistics is the stepwise selection of variables in their model, which often yields artificially small variances. A related but different problem is that some of the variables that they omitted might have confounded the relationships between their exposure variables and crash involvement (number of lanes is the obvious one), even though those variables didn’t themselves have statistically significant relationships to the outcome (to me, number of lanes is the obvious one; one-way vs. 2-way vehicular traffic is another). The major limitation with this type of design (in addition to those that you noted) is that the exposure in question (here, type of bike infrastructure) has to vary within a trip for this study to have any hope of discerning any effect. I don’t have a good idea of how much exposure to thing we’re talking about here–bike lanes–varied within a trip within the study population. This would be about as good of a method as one could devise in reality (as opposed to fantasyland, where you can do any randomized controlled trial you want, and it will pass ethics review, and it won’t cost much, and the study participants will actually cooperate). Anyway, the study was first offered up as a study showing it is safer to ride in the bike lane than in the vehicle lane, and my point here was that, ignoring sloppy wording by the authors and ignoring the many limitations of this study, it didn’t even find that bike lanes were safer in the first place.

          • PDleftMtP

            Gee, I took statistics in graduate school, but, to back up to a much more basic methodological point, I must have missed the day when they explained that as soon as you find a flaw in study design, the best available source of evidence becomes personal opinion and anecdote.

            “Your study is imperfect, so whatever I want to believe is right” is one of the older fallacies in the book.

          • HaileUnlikely

            To restate the point as concisely as possible, since it was evidently missed: this study was originally pointed to as evidence that bike lanes are safer. Forgetting about all of the limitations of the study for a moment, the study didn’t even find that in the first place.

          • Bike lanes and cycle tracks, while theoretically providing dedicated space for a cyclist, can significantly increase the potential for collision with a vehicle or a person. Delivery vehicles, people waiting to cross at intersections, joggers, etc. all end up in the lanes, increasing maneuvering decisions by a cyclist. Riding with traffic in the travel lanes is more straightforward. The 15th St. cycle track has those obstacles plus vehicles turning left across the lanes at regular intervals. In fifteen years of bike commuting my scariest near collisions have all been in the last year trying to use the cycle track.

        • gotryit

          Do you have a source for your assertion that “The bike lanes are (much) more dangerous than taking the real lane”?

        • that’s not been my experience.

        • I don’t feel that safe in either to be honest. I bike primarily in bike lanes and go out of my way to stay on roads that have them, but I can definitely see where the biker’s coming from. In most bike lanes you’re sandwiched between parked cars and moving traffic. If someone unexpectedly opens a door, makes a right turn with out signalling, pulls out of a parking space or a pedestrian attempts to jaywalk without checking, there aren’t a lot of options other than slamming on the brakes and hoping you don’t get hurt or hurt anyone else. I bike 7-14 miles a day during the week and generally experience 2-3 of these each ride. Additionally you’re often forced into traffic anyways due to double parked cars and service trucks, as well as buses which often block off both the right lane and bike lane while pulled over. Having to pull into traffic from the bike lane is more dangerous than already having been established there since you’re unexpected and unwanted by the drivers in those lanes.
          On the flip side, when biking in traffic you have a decent amount of control over the lane you’re in (assuming you’re visible and drivers don’t want to hit you). You’re still unwanted, but If positioned a few feet into the middle of the lane, you can avoid car doors opening and keep cars from passing you too closely. While this annoys drivers, staying too far to the right encourages too many cars to pass uncomfortably close. The downside to biking in traffic is the constant pressure to keep up, drivers are more territorial, and you have to deal with the few drivers that do get pissed off enough to act aggressively, despite your right to be there. There’s also still risk from opening car doors and cars turning from the opposite lane but you have a larger area of maneuverability if you can control the lane.
          On the whole, bikers are at a huge disadvantage no matter where they are in the street. Cars will always weigh a lot more and helmets aren’t as safe as air bags and seat belts. You’ll notice in the study that it notes “bike lanes on major streets without parked cars” as safer without listing “major streets with parked cars”. Most of DC allows parking next to bike lanes (rightly so, just saying). I’m not advocating for riding in traffic and I’ll continue to ride in bike lanes. I think over time more and more drivers/peds/bikers will become accustomed to them they’ll get safer. But I can understand why “Biker” might feel safer in traffic regardless of whatever data is out there.

          • Thanks for making my point more clearly. To add to your point, I think some bike lanes are safer and some riders may be safer in bike lanes. But in many (if not most) cases bike lanes are worse. And to clarify, I’m not saying that despite evidence to the contrary I think bike lanes are unsafe. I’m saying that the evidence presented in the studies fails to make the case that bike lanes are safer. The studies are poorly conceived and poorly executed. Urban planners and bike advocates really need to learn better statistics.

          • I agree with this 100% and have experienced all of it too, which is why I think sometimes it’s safer in the street than a bike lane. Statistics and studies mean nothing to me- based on all the close calls I’ve had, every single one of them happened while in a bike lane and none were due to my own negligence. I ride very carefully and am constantly on high alert trying to anticipate all the things that could happen. Thanks for explaining everything that’s swirling in my mind. 😉

          • Another biker, you’ve expressed my feelings exactly as well.

          • +1. Long post but nails the realities of bike commuting.

        • It depends how you ride. The big danger in the door zone bike lanes, as note elsewhere is getting doored. I just do not ride that fast, so my danger from a door collision is less – and that is also why I feel less comfortable taking the lane on many streets than faster riders. There is of course ignorance from the drivers who think the presence of a lane means it is suitable for ALL riders in all conditions. The thing that will help most with that is when more drivers ARE riders – and the bike lanes help with that, by drawing out more riders.

  • Sidenote: It really pisses me off that drivers are allowed to drive across the sidewalk to access a parking garage downtown, yet it’s illegal for bicycle riders to do the same to access their parking like a rack or bikeshare dock.

    • Good point. However, what other way would cars have to get into subterranean garages? I hate that many drivers seem to believe the sidewalk is an extension of the roadway, but absent some sort of magical transporter they will always have to drive across the sidewalk to get into the garage. Is there a safer way I’m not thinking of?

    • what’s your solution to the problem?

      • Change the law so that a bike on the sidewalk in the central business district isn’t breaking the law if they’re just coasting from the curb-cut to the bike rack.

        The alternative, under present law, is that you have to dismount your bike in the street and walk it up onto the curb. There are cases of cyclists having been ticketed for riding up onto the sidewalk via the curb-cut and then dismounting, which seems very silly.

        • Going to have to disagree here. I bike all the time and if there’s one thing that pisses me off about other bikers more than salmoning, it’s biking on the sidewalk. Don’t do it. You can walk that far. Cars just cross the sidewalk, they don’t cruise down the block to the curb cut. And in instances where cars exit parking via the sidewalk, bikers using that same parking may also cross onto the street in the same way.

          • I generally agree with you and don’t want to see the law changed in quite the way I described (I was trying to better describe the situation Myron mentioned).

            But it is silly to ticket a cyclist who dismounts after rolling up the curb-cut, rather than in the street. Just like it’s silly to ticket someone who starts from on the curb-cut rather than waiting to enter the intersection to mount their bike and ride. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have a law that took those things into account.

        • that seems strange. can a cyclist not legally bike into an alley?

        • Does this actually happen? I’ve only ever seen bikers being ticketed for sidewalk riding downtown when the sidewalk is really crowded and the obviously should dismount or when they are blatantly riding for blocks at a time. I can’t imagine a biker going up the curb cut then immediately dismounting would get a ticket (although I guess I shouldn’t put anything past MPD).

      • In San Diego there are a number of parking garages where the ramp is in the street, so no cars cross the sidewalk.

    • All I’ll note is almost no one I see actually follows that rule. I’ve come out of Metro Center on 11th and G I don’t how many times and nearly been run down by some moron driving his CityBike to the nearest rack.

      The rule makes total sense. Downtown is too pedestrian heavy to have people rolling down the sidewalks on bikes. The city bends over backward to give bikers full access to all lanes of the roads throughout the city, now you want free reign over sidewalks too? Get over it.

  • this stretch of road is especially dangerous. So many people trying to make right turns without checking for cyclists. Also people taking lefts, rushing to beat traffic and not checking for cyclists. Bike lanes aren’t much help when the problem is poor driving.

  • Oh no. Well wishes to the cyclist – I was also hit while in a bike lane in July; not fun at all. Hopefully they aren’t too badly hurt and are able to recover quickly!!

  • Looks like this situation is different from what I see in this picture, but as someone who uses Uber, their drivers will oftentimes break traffic laws and pull a u-turn across a double yellow line to pick up passengers on the other side of the street or to just change directions. It’s illegal and they’re going to cause accidents.

  • Thankfully he was wearing a helmet. All too often I see people on bicycles without helmets. I have a friend who used to work in the brain trauma unit at Washington Hospital Center and most of her patients were people hit while biking without helmets in the city. “Organ donors” we call them. It’s just not worth it. Rant over.

    • And many cyclists have helmets that are strapped to their backpack or hanging from the handlebars. I don’t get it. If you’re not going to wear a helmet when cycling in the city, where would you want one?!?

    • My ER doc friend calls motorcycles “donorcycles”. She says they’re perfect for launching a body through the air, crushing the head and/ or breaking the neck high up, but leaving the internal organs undamaged. She says it’s as if that’s the purpose for which they were designed.
      And she cheerfully reminds everyone who rides one: “don’t forget to check the organ donor box!”

    • Data suggest that biking with a helmet means a significant decrease in seriousness of head injuries compared to cycling without one. But it also suggests serious head injuries are still possible without a helmet, and many very serious injuries to cyclists are not head injuries. So the overall difference in safety is not that big. What do your friends think of people who walk on icey streets without helmets, or enter slippery bathtubs without helmets? Also what do they think of people who get cardio vascular disease because they passed up casual bike rides, because they did not have a helmet handy?

      All things to consider. But yeah, all other things being equal, its good to wear a helmet.

      • Motorists drive closer to cyclists wearing a helmet.

        What would reduce cyclist injuries is charging people who operate motor vehicles in violation of the law – starting with looking where you are going and yielding to those who have the right of way – with the results of their action. This would mean assault for impacts upon the person, homicide for deaths. The same should apply to anyone else, a cyclist who fails to yield to a pedestrian who has right of way and injures or kills them should be charged.

        • Assault and homicide? Is this a joke? There are appropriate crimes for failure to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist and those are not it.

  • orderedchaos

    I ride that block every day — it is indeed dangerous there. If there’s southbound traffic, cars making a left into the garages often can’t see cyclists in the bike lane (which means the cyclist can’t see the turning car either ) until the last second. Any time my route takes me past parking garages I’m hyper-aware and take it slow.

    Best wishes to the cyclist for a speedy and full recovery.

  • As the cyclist in this picture, I feel like I should comment. The photo looks much worse from the car’s perspective than the actual incident. The driver (an extraordinarily nice woman who loves cyclists), was slowly making a left turn through stopped traffic as I came through the green light at L St. I was looking down the street toward the light and the cars

    • *accidentally posted my first while I was typing.

      I was looking down the street toward the light and the cars beginning to move (since they often blindly swerve across the bike lane into the turn lanes) and didn’t see her until late and because I was moving quickly she didn’t see me. The accident happened because my front brake grabbed as I tried to stop and I flipped completely over my handlebars and landed in front of her car.

      There are certainly many terrible drivers who drive without the least caution for bicyclists in this city. But this incident was truly more a matter of bad luck (and my concern for bad drivers further up the road) than anything she did.

  • Glad you are alright and thank you for clarifying. The main lesson seems to be that driving, cycling or walking, we need to always be looking in eight directions and expecting the unexpected from everywhere.

    • So true–and soon we are adding street cars to the mix. The best thing is for everyone to be careful–and considerate.

      • This thread has it all: Bicycle-car conflict; references to Uber drivers; and streetcars! A good day for comments here at PoP

  • Wow, this photo was like an inkblot test–so many people express their biases with suppostions and with minimal facts…only to reinforce their own biases.

    I am glad the bicyclist is okay and let everyone know what really happened. As a bicyclist/pedestrain/driver in DC, there is a lot of potentital for conflicts and true accidents–how we react to them is a measure of who we are. In this case, it looks like it brought out the best.

    • I didn’t see that many comments that were even about this specific accident — maybe 10 out of 70 had anything to do with. The productive conversation most of us were having didn’t focus on the facts of this individual accident, we talked about the bigger picture. That said, THIS IS a “true accident”, and this accident was not caused by recklessness, but by bad design.

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