Council Member Nadeau Requests DMV Send Bike Safety Info to DC Drivers

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lorie Shaull

From a press release:

“The DC DMV should work with regional bicycling advocates to send information to all registered drivers about being mindful of bike lanes and the shared responsibility for safety, according to a letter sent from Ward 1 DC Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau today, National Bike to Work Day.

The letter asks the DMV to work with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council and would complement the work those organizations are doing to educate bicyclists about their role in being responsible commuters. The information could be included in already planned mailings such as annual registration notices, or sent as a standalone piece.

“Washington is a national leader in supporting bicycling infrastructure,” said Nadeau. “As biking to work grows in popularity, we need to ensure both drivers and bicyclists have all the information they need to help keep each other safe on the road. The DMV and bicycling advocates sending safety information to all registered drivers could go a long way to helping keep all the commuters who share our streets safe.”

The full text of the letter is below

Director Lucinda M. Babers
District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles
95 M Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

Director Babers:

Today is National Bike to Work Day, an occasion to celebrate bicycle commuting and draw attention to the many benefits of biking to work, including less traffic, cleaner air, and healthier residents.

The District of Columbia is nationally recognized as a leader in supporting bicycling infrastructure and our investment continues to expand the number of residents who use bikes regularly. The Washington metro area now has the second highest percentage of bicycle commuters of any major U.S. city. Just this week, it was rated by Time Magazine as the number two best city in the U.S. for biking to work.

With the growing number of bicyclists sharing the road with motorists, Bike to Work Day is also an occasion to remind drivers and bicycle commuters about safety.

Given your shared focus on safety, I request that the DMV work together with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council to send a letter to all registered drivers in the District about being mindful of bike lanes and our shared responsibility for safety. This information could be included with already planned mailings such as annual registration notices or as a standalone piece. This letter would complement the existing work that these two organizations are doing to educate bicyclists about their role in being responsible commuters.

Many of the licensed drivers in the District never took our driver’s license test, or took the test before the more recent addition of bike lanes and the rise in bicycle commuters. The letter would serve as an important tool to increase the safety of bicyclists and drivers as we continue to invest in transportation infrastructure that encourages a range of commuting options.


Brianne K. Nadeau
Councilmember, Ward 1″

57 Comment

  • They should also send driver safety to drivers. And more speed cameras.

    • It’s kind of crazy that you can get a license to operate a dangerous machine in any state (with it’s own laws) at age 16-17, and then continue to operate it for the rest of your life in any other state without any kind of continuing education requirements.

      • Especially when there are as many car deaths as there are. You’d think it would be a popular move to try and curb those.

        • I think because driving is so common and, in most parts of the country, absolutely necessary if you want to function, we don’t really acknowledge how dangerous it is. It is one of the most dangerous things most people do daily, but we treat it like it’s no big deal.

          We build communities so that people have to drive to get to a bar. How ridiculous is that? We give 16 year-olds the keys to powerful machines – 16-year-olds whose brains are still developing, who have trouble assessing risk, and who basically have the judgement of drunk adults. It’s crazy.

  • Proposed draft:
    “Dear DC drivers,
    We’ve noticed you like to suddenly swerve your gigantic trucks through bike lanes and other spaces on the road that bicycles regularly occupy. You often do this while staring at your phone. Please either (a) use a turn signal first or (b) look over your right shoulder. Either one would allow a defensive, vigilant biker to avoid vehicular manslaughter by your routinely staggering negligence. Thanks. – xoxo”

  • What they really need to do is send bike safety info to Maryland drivers.

  • This seems like a “can’t hurt, might help” sort of thing… although I wonder how many people will just discard the brochures/fact sheets/whatever unread.

  • I’m speechless. Shootings, dealers, and muggings on my block in Columbia Heights and nothing but crickets from Nadeau. But no problem sending a letter essentially celebrating national bike to work day. Priorities?

    • Oh come on. I mean, I would like the city to do more about crime too but this is more than a little pedantic.

    • Almost like there are multiple issues going on at the same time.

    • Over 300 pedestrians and bikers die in DC each year after being hit by cars, and you’re more worried about small-time weed dealers? Talk about someone needing to adjust their priorities…

      • HaileUnlikely

        Your statistic is off by more than a multiple of 10. I agree with your point, but no need to fabricate stats in support of it.

  • This is a step in the right direction. Too bad there’s no easy way to send the same sort of information out to cyclists.

    • Agreed, When I first moved to this city, I was so worried I would door a cyclist because I forgot to look. But every day I bike to work, I have some idiot on a bike blow past me, without looking, at red lights and stop signs. Or they will try to balance on their bike, instead of just stopping, and slowly inch into the intersection. I also watched a young woman on 14th today drift multiple times out of the bike lane without once turning her head. Then I also see people almost get clobbered because I driver doesn’t care. Or ever taxi cab that goes by me likes to crowd me in the bike lane, or swerve around me to stop dead and pick up a fare or turn right.

      Maybe the answer is sending out bike safety to every address in the district, reminding drivers AND cyclist to be respectful and follow the rules of the road so hopefully we can all get along a little better. Neither group is going away.

  • Agree completely that there needs to be some sort of public awareness campaign to get all road users to know the laws about bikes sharing the road. WABA does a good job of this for the cyclist side of the equation; this would be a start at least for the drivers…but, how to reach MD drivers?

  • I want to say this is a nice thought, but really it seems a way to look like we’re doing something without actually doing anything. Meanwhile the city is making next to NO progress on bike infrastructure improvements this year – which is what actually improves safety for cyclists.
    Most people who get these will probably discard them as junk mail.

  • For every bad driver there’s a bad biker. Every day I see people on bikes weaving their way (or racing) through a red light, seemingly because they don’t want to take their feet off the pedals. I am always looking out for bikes, but if you dart in front of me when you don’t have the right of way, I might not be able to brake in time. Thank you to all the bike riders who wait with me at red lights!

    • Congratulations on being the predictable first anti-biker comment, we’re all shedding a tear for the difficulty you face in watching people break the law. Send me a letter when bikers kill 300 DC residents a year like cars do.

      • The problem isn’t that we’re “watching” it, it’s that with everything else going on in DC traffic some bikers decide to nearly or completely cause accidents for both vehicles and pedestrians. Plenty of bikers do the right thing just as many drivers do the right thing. It’s just as wrong to group all drivers into one basket as it is to group all bikers into one basket.

      • 300 a year? That sounds very high. What’s your source for that information?

        • The number is 109 cyclist deaths. In the DC “region”, not DC. Since 1971, not per annum.

          However, at least 515 cyclists and pedestrians were reported to have been struck in traffic last year. That figure is already on track to rise significantly this year.

      • Do you know how terrifying it is to almost hit someone on a bike, because he has just decided to dart across the crosswalk, in front of you, as you are already making a left hand turn, because he is too impatient to wait for the green? As terrifying as it is to be the biker almost getting hit by a car. I am not saying bikers are the problem – I’m saying bikers are half the problem. No one is innocent here. I don’t want to injure or kill anyone. It would be easier to avoid accidents if everyone obeyed the rules of the road.

        • You were turning left? Where was the bike coming from? If they were going straight in the opposite direction, it sounds like they probably had the right of way.

          • Not necessarily. I see bikers do this every day on the 15th street bike lane when cars have green left turn arrows.

          • Yes, there certainly are places where cars turn left and other traffic has to stop. However, since anongardener’s description of this incident left quite a bit to the imagination, I was hoping he could fill in some details.

          • 8 AM, turning left onto 15th St from M St, after I patiently waited for all the pedestrians to clear the crosswalk, with probably 3 seconds left on the walk sign. I was actually halfway through my turn when a guy on a CaBi bike came towards me. Cars were parked along the bike lane, and he came from in between cars. Thank god he was coming towards me, so I actually saw him. No helmet on, turned so sharply he almost fell over.

          • M Street here is one way, so there is no way he had the right of way. I was so shocked I had to pull over. Our day was 1 foot away from horrible.

    • People break laws, regardless of how they get around. Some do it more often and idiotically than others. But what is more dangerous: being the law-abiding motorist who collides with a law-breaking cyclist; or being the law-abiding cyclist who collides with a law-breaking motorist? The former may be psychologically painful, but the latter… is just painful; often lethally so.

    • anongardener- I agree with you, there are poor cyclists and poor drivers out there. I just want to point out that although many cyclists break the rules, most of the time they are doing it for their own safety. It is easy to assume if a cyclist crosses a red light, they are being reckless. However, it is in fact safer to cross the red and get ahead of traffic, than to merge and try to gain speed at the same rate as vehicles that are tying to fly by you. Just like if you were merging onto a highway, you might need to break the speed limit to do it safely. Being on a bicycle, you have a much wider field of vision, and quicker stopping distance, so certain laws made for cars do not make sense for bicycles. This is just one example, but there are several of how cyclist can break the laws for their own safety. So yes, there are cyclists, just like drivers, that make crazy dangerous decisions, but don’t assume every time one breaks a rule, it is reckless.

      • I completely agree, and I’m actually glad when the bike next to me takes off just as the light turns, to get ahead of me.

  • Look, I appreciate the spirit of this, but why not take the $10,000 or whatever it will cost to produce and ship a piece of junk mail and put that money towards signage, or speed humps, or even towards defraying the cost of a section of bike lane? I guarantee that there are dozens of better ways to improve safety than sending a piece of mail that most people will never even notice.

    • Even if some drivers read it, I’d say it’s worth the relatively low cost. You can’t get much bang for that buck in the other measures you mention. Many many drivers are simply ignorant of the law regarding bikes. Some willfully so, but some just because there’s no real forum for continuing driver’s ed. Some will read a mailer, even if some don’t. It’s not really different than mailers about trash collection and leaf collection. With those, too, some don’t care, but when I was new to DC I was happy to be informed of the rules and procedures. I don’t think there’s a need to be so cynical about this.

    • It would be nice to have real barriers between bike lanes and car lanes, instead of those plastic things that are easily run over. And bike-level traffic signals. these would do some real good. paper will just go directly to the trash.

      • When I visited Stockholm and Copenhagen, I was impressed with how the bike lanes were actually at another level — midway between the level of the street and the level of the sidewalk. I think that must help tremendously.
        There’s a stretch of 1st Street NE in NoMa that has barriers between the car lane and the bike lane — I think maybe like a super-skinny median? (It’s been a while since I saw it.) I was really impressed with it, took a photo, and meant to send it to PoPville.

        • And in Italy – when I lived there, the bike lanes in my city were completely separate from the cars, and it was so easy to bike everywhere. Not sure how they managed it with all the old historic buildings that can’t be touched. It would be nice if some of our alleys could be converted to bike lanes, but I’m not sure it’s possible.

  • Waste of money. No one will read them.

    Shame on Nadeau for being so clueless. Why did she run for office if she has no idea what to do now she’s there??

  • A worthwhile effort, but I’d much rather hear from her on what she is doing about the violent and property crime in Columbia Heights.

  • I have seen more bike riders running red lights, weaving in traffic- out of the bike lanes, generally disregarding all traffic rules. Just yesterday I saw a biker swoop around stopped cars to almost hit a pedestrian crossing the street. Last week a young male speeding biker cut off a female cyclist causing her to fall over into oncoming traffic. luckily the nearest car missed her. It could have been much worse.

    • I see cars speed and run lights everyday. I’ve seen cars kill people.

    • Just to be clear, bicyclists can merge into traffic out of the bike lane, and often have to do so.

    • I have seen more drivers turning right on red without stopping, speeding, going through stop signs without stopping, turning without signaling, blocking the box, generally disregarding all traffic rules. Just yesterday I saw a driver turn right on red without stopping and almost hit a pedestrian crossing the street.

      Oh, and 20 people died in auto collisions in DC in 2013.

    • Just this morning, drivers made illegal U turns or K turns right in front of me at least 4 times. I don’t see your point.

  • My first thought – it’s a waste of money because USPS can’t seem to deliver mail correctly anywhere in the city.

  • DC drivers aren’t the problem. The problem is Maryland drivers.

    • Reckless drivers come from all jurisdictions. I’ve seen cars with DC plates doing plenty of illegal and dangerous things.

    • I see all kinds of bad driving in the District. I’d say it’s about 35-40% D.C. drivers, 40-45% Maryland drivers, and 20% Virginia drivers.

  • My daughter is 16 so she is talking about driving. Does anyone know if DC DMV added a section about driving with bikes on the road to the drivers ed book or to the exam.? At least we can let new drivers know driving safely with bikes on the road is part of their duty. Here is the deal with me I look out for pedestrians and cyclists because I don’t want to hurt anyone. If a bike hits me and I am in my car I am good, if I hit somebody on their bike I could take them out. Cyclists should ride like they know they are at greater risk, I would always assume the driver does not see me.

  • good news for the US postal service. completely neutral news for cyclists. bad news for trees.

    I expect Councilwoman Nadeau to follow this up with future mailings encouraging DC residents to avoid littering, stand on the right on metro escalators, solve the affordable housing crisis by renting spare bedrooms at low rates to the homeless, and for pete’s sake quit shooting at each other.

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