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October 13, 2013

What Makes Drivers Angry

Dear Traffickers:

I learned something from this issue of themail, and that is why drivers are so angry at the bicyclists they encounter on Washingtonís roads. The answer isnít that drivers are afraid that bicycles will injure them. Bicycles may dent or scrape cars, and can pose a real danger to walkers, but they are unlikely to injure drivers. But drivers live in perpetual fear that bicyclists, through their recklessness and disregard of traffic laws, will cause an accident in which they will be hurt and for which drivers will be blamed. Over time, after enough provocative and dangerous encounters with freewheeling cyclists, drivers begin to view cyclists as tricyclist toddlers, without enough maturity or sense of responsibility to share the public roads. At the same time, cyclists portray drivers as homicidal maniacs bent on running them down.

Speaking of misconceptions, one bicyclist wrote to another, who forwarded it to me, that I was censoring his messages to themail, which proved my bias. Iíve searched my inbox, and I havenít found any message from this person to themail during the past year. As Iíve written several times, E-mail isnít perfect. If you donít see your message printed in themail in a timely fashion, and I donít send you an explanation, write me. On the other hand, the same bicyclist wrote that the Cleveland Park listserv was censoring him, and not publishing his messages, and when I searched my mail for his name, I found four issues of the Cleveland Park listserv that published his messages in the month of July alone.

Gary Imhoff


Two-Wheeled Entitlement
Jack McKay,

Iím a bicyclist, and I was a bicycle commuter back in the 1970ís, long before there was the least bit of District encouragement for bicycling. I can report many incidents of abuse by aggressive, bicyclist-hating drivers, such as the guy who carefully nudged his bumper up against my back wheel as I was stopped, waiting for a red light to change, and forcibly shoved me out of his way. But those incidents are no excuse for the outrageous behavior of too many bicyclists on DC streets. Here are a few examples, and every DC driver will recognize these aggressive-bicyclist behavior patterns: 1) Iím driving north on 14th Street, and Iíve got a green arrow for a "protected" left turn. But that oncoming bicyclist is not about to stop for any red light, and she imperiously holds up a hand to command me to stop and wait. Sheís going to run that red light, and we drivers with the green are supposed to stop and wait for her. 2) Iím driving south on 18th Street, and stop at a four-way stop. Then I start up, only to have a bicyclist zip through from the right, glaring angrily at me as if Iím supposed to stop and wait for him while he runs his stop sign. 3) Iím driving south in Columbia Heights, stopped at a stop sign at Park Road, close to the curb, as is legally required for a right turn ("as close to the curb as practicable," says the law). The bicyclist behind me is not about to slow down for any stop sign. Unable to pass on my right, he races past on my left, then turns hard right directly in front of me, inches from my front bumper, and speeds on his way. 4) Iím driving south on Mount Pleasant Street, and stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. The bicyclist behind me is not about to slow down for any mere pedestrian, and he races by, first past me on the right, then directly in front of the pedestrian, forcing her to stop abruptly to avoid being hit by the bicyclist.

Yes, Iím a longtime bicyclist, and I tell other bicyclists that if you want respect, start by respecting traffic laws. That some drivers occasionally violate traffic laws themselves is no excuse for flagrant, repeated, willful violation of traffic laws, and rude behavior towards automobile drivers and pedestrians, by bicyclists. That behavior defames those of us who take bicycling seriously, and bicycle responsibly.


Safety Laws Apply to and Benefit Everyone
A. Loikow,

I must disagree with Paul Baskenís post on "Four-Wheeled Entitlement," themail, October 6. Traffic safety laws, whether they apply to trucks and automobiles, bicycles, or pedestrians, are necessary for the safety of everyone using the public streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, too many people in all these categories do not know the laws and, even if they do, do not respect and obey them ó to the detriment of their personal safety and that of others using public space.

At least drivers are required to pass some minimal tests on knowledge of the rules of the road. Bicyclists using the roads are subject to the same rules but receive little or no training in the law and often have no knowledge that it applies to them too. Similarly, pedestrians distracted by their cell phones and I-pods often pay no attention to traffic and whether anyone can see them at all when they dart out into the road. Cyclists who ride in the dusk or dark without lights and reflective clothing and markings on their bicycles are often similarly difficult or almost impossible to see.

Not obeying traffic signs and signals or making sure that you are visible to other traffic of whatever kind is dangerous for everyone. This is an entirely avoidable situation and the onus is on the driver, cyclist, and pedestrian to obey the law and make sure they travel safely and can be seen. As the days get shorter and the weather worse, please donít assume others know you are there. Each of us has an obligation to obey the law, practice common courtesy, and take appropriate protective measures to safely travel.


Bicyclists at New Hampshire and V, NW
Hila Berl,

Jack McKay, who is an ANC1D commissioner and a bicyclist himself, pointed me towards your site. I saw Alma Gatesí posting and could not agree more. Almost every day on my way to work I have to deal with bicyclists going the wrong way on V Street, NW, from 16th towards 15th Street or turning into New Hampshire Avenue. It does not matter if I look twice, use the crossing properly, or act extra carefully. They come full speed, almost always unseen because of the parked cars, often wearing no helmets. And ó they get annoyed with me. True, there is a bike lane they can take once they are on New Hampshire, but ó silly me ó I do not think that they should be turning into it from V, going against the traffic. So I am with Ms. Gates. When will DDOT stop giving bicyclists a pass on regulations?


Cars, Bicycles, and Safety
Tom Grahame,

In previous E-mails Iíve expressed the notion that bicyclists have their place in the city; it is their choice of mobility, and although drivers may find their presence frustrating, partly out of fear that we might hit a bicyclist (I do), that is just a frustration drivers have to deal with. Bicyclists are indeed more in danger of what drivers may do that drivers are of bicyclists.

That said ó and this is a positive reply to Paul Baskenís previous E-mail (themail, October 6) ó I am pretty scared of a collision that might happen after dark. Many bicyclists wear dark clothing and drive bicycles with no lights or reflectors. After dark, I simply donít see many of them, if they come from a side street (especially if a light is turning green), or from behind me (when the car has been slowed by a light or a stop sign), so my car might be moving at a faster legal speed than it would have, had I seen them earlier. Once last week, as the light just turned green, a bicyclist came from behind, on the right, and crossed in front of my car to take a left turn. Wearing only dark clothing, no reflectors. I didnít see him until he was in front of me, and I didnít miss him by much. In this type of case, my fear isnít just for the safety of the bicyclist, but also for how the accident might be portrayed in the likely lawsuit.

So, if Paul has access to an listserv for bicyclists, Iíd like to ask him to encourage cyclists to make sure drivers can see them after dark, and please donít engage in the type of reckless behavior I just described.


Bicycle Traffic
Paul Basken,

Frightening as it may be, the bile expressed by Mr. Howard is just him saying out loud what a lot of folks out there actually think and behave like. This listserv has plenty of them, openly encouraged by its im-moderator. These are people who move about in civilized society, speaking at times in polite tones as if they are advocating for a more orderly and respectful and commonsense way of life, but are only barely concealing the rage that bubbles inside them. For many of them, as Mr. Howard demonstrates, a car is essentially a four-wheeled anger box, magnifying that seething frustration with life that they canít quite seem to identify or manage.

The federal shutdown is a society-wide manifestation of that misdirected anger. One side benefit of it, however, is that our entire city is now seeing quite clearly that we can close off Rock Creek Parkway to cars, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, and the world in fact does not come to a halt because of it. It is not a war on cars to point out the obvious fact that there remain plenty of other options for cars to move north and south through our city without Rock Creek Parkway, and that leaving open just one safe alternative route for pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists is not the apocalypse that some seem to have imagined it might be.

Hopefully itís a highly instructive lesson that many people are noticing.


Bicycle Traffic

[To Clyde Howard, themail, October 6] I found it disquieting, to say the least, that you seem to imply that car drivers should be proud of killing bicyclists. At the same time I found persuasive Mr. Baskenís submission contrasting the relative risks of driving and cycling. Itís interesting that people get worked up about this issue as if thereís a moral scale measuring one mode of transportation against the other.



Soccer Field Dedication, October 16
Jordan Gray,

Dedication and opening event for kids of Marie Reed Elementary School and the Adams Morgan community who will receive a brand new, all-season state-of-the-art soccer field. Children and Adams Morgan community members will celebrate the opening of the new approximate $1.5 million field in the heart of the Adams Morgan, along with senior diplomats from the United Arab Emirates and senior DC government officials. Following the dedication ceremony students will participate in a soccer clinic, featuring coaches from City Soccer in the Community along with players from the Menís and Womenís varsity soccer programs at Georgetown University and George Washington University.

Washington, DC, will be the fifth US city that has received the gift of a soccer field and coaching from the UAE Embassy and City Soccer in the Community. Fields have also been built in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Hass Park neighborhood of Chicago, East Los Angeles and Miami. Ongoing youth coaching program at the new field will also be provided.

Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center, 18th Street, NW, and Wyoming Avenue, NW, October 16, 1:00 p.m. (rain or shine).


Developer/Neighborhood Harmony: Is It Possible?, October 22
Anne Renshaw,

J. Matthew Ritz, Vice President, WC Smith Company, will address the DC Federation of Citizens Associations, October 22, on "Working Together, Achieving Results." The Citizens Federationís Assembly, which is open to the public, will be held at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church Hall, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW, from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Mr. Ritz will discuss ways in which the WC Smith Company has effectively interacted with neighborhood groups and the city during its development of The Shops at Park Village (formerly Camp Simms), the 250 M Street office building, and 3333 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, a one-hundred-unit residential apartment complex. Mr. Ritz is currently responsible for the project management of NoMaís 2 M Street 314-unit high rise and zoning approval for the Skyland Town Center 470-unit residential/retail project.

Audience participation will follow the presentation. Discussion may cover such key issues as controversial elements of proposed zoning revisions now before the Zoning Commission. Residents involved with neighborhood redevelopment concerns are encouraged to attend this interactive meeting with WC Smithís Vice President, Matthew Ritz.

All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church is located at 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW, near Connecticut Avenue and the Woodley Park Metro (Red Line). The Church parking lot is off Woodley Place, behind the church. The Church Hall entrance is down the garden steps from the parking lot. The door will open at 6:30 PM. The presentation by Matthew Ritz, to include audience Q&A, will begin at approximately 7:15 PM, following opening announcements. For further information, contact Anne Renshaw, President, DC Citizens Federation,


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