Dear PoPville – Cyclists and Drivers Must Learn to Coexist

Photo by PoPville flickr user Glyn Lowe Photoworks

Dear PoPville,

This war ends now. No more bloodshed. Cyclists and drivers, hear me.

This is a crisis. DC, you know what our commute is like: how white-knuckle-and-teeth-grindingly awful the experience can be. Obviously, the DMV leads the nation in automobile accidents. Anyone who’s driven on our roads knows why. And now, the green revolution could not have come at a worse time: many of us have also decided to begin biking to work en masse. Not only are the cars already at war with each other, but we’ve cast bikes into the fray, as well.

Yesterday my wife and I went to the intensive care unit to visit our downstairs roommate, who last week had been hit by a car while biking. When the driver hit her, she got “very airborne,” as she put it, and when she landed and arrived at the hospital, the doctors had to put her leg bones back into her leg. She will be able to walk without assistance after months of physical therapy. Was she obeying all traffic laws? Yes.

My wife normally bikes to work. Today I decided to drive her. During the ride, I told her I was glad she wasn’t biking today. As I approached her building, we spotted a cyclist lying on the ground and a crowd around him — another accident.

This feels like Juarez. Too many accidents.

Drivers and cyclists — there’s fault on both sides. If we don’t stop hitting each other, the government will undoubtedly pass stupid legislation that will suck the fun out of cycling and make it even less fun to drive a car in DC, if that’s even possible. And more people will be hurt and killed.

The following list of suggestions is by no means exhaustive. I simply want to add to the discussion about how we can all get to work without killing each other.

1. Obey the rules of the road. Cyclists, the first one’s for you. I love you and I want everyone to bike to work, but you are breaking my heart. I’ve seen you, blowing through those red lights like you’re Road Warrior. Everyone else has seen you. Stop doing that. Cars expect every vehicle on the road to be behaving in the same way. When you don’t, they just want to hit you.

2. No really, obey the rules of the road. Drivers, we need to set a better example for those pesky cyclists. I’ve seen you drivers in the left turn lane, blowing through a light a full five seconds after it turns red because you “deserve” to turn left or something. I’ve seen you blocking the box like you own that box. You own nothing. Stop it.

3. No sudden moves. I know this one is difficult to follow, especially when other people are terrible drivers, but you really need to A) look around you, and B) make your move.

4. Use signals. You know those hand signals you’re supposed to use on a bike? Learn them and use them, even when you don’t see cars around you. Drivers, you all need to learn them too, because the insurance claim will probably not be in your favor.

5. No “shortcuts.” Watch for “short-cutters.” People on bikes can do things people in cars can’t, like darting between other cars, going the wrong way down one-way streets, cutting through people’s lawns, and generally traveling in ways that cars don’t expect. This one goes along with rule #1 — obey the rules of the road and stop doing this. And if you absolutely have to do it, follow rule #3.

Hopefully if each one of us follows these rules and pays attention we can cut down on the amount of bloodshed out there. I wish you all the best of luck, and godspeed.

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