As cyclists enjoy spring weather, AAA adds note of caution for bikers and drivers


Jessica Marquier stops to drop a bike off at a Capital Bikeshare rack in 2011. (James A. Parcell/For The Washington Post)

Like most national statistics, the raw number — 4,734 dead — conveys none of the emotion: the grief of those who knew the bicyclist, the remorse of the driver in the collision, or even the general frustration voiced by some motorists who say people on bicycles should strictly obey traffic laws.

Closer to home, however, the number of bicyclists killed in a year and the occasional tensions between drivers and cyclists become far more personal. AAA says at least eight cyclists were killed in the Washington region in 2013 and that many more were injured by collisions with cars.

Bike riders were out by the thousands throughout the area this weekend, heralding the spring weather that coincides with National Bike Safety Month.

“National Bike Safety Month is a reminder to share the road with cyclists, who are often our neighbors and also other drivers,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid Atlantic. “Taking the time to slow down for a cyclist helps ensure that everyone makes it home safely.”

With good weather forecast for most of this week, the number of people who commuted by bike through the winter will be bolstered by thousands who waited for more fair weather, Townsend said.

The Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey found that 4.1 percent (about 13,372) of District workers biked to work. The growing network of bike lanes and the popular Capital Bikeshare rental program have encouraged more people to commute by bike.

The District recorded close to 580 crashes involving cyclists in 2012. In 2010 and 2011, the city saw 14 bicycle crashes on Pennsylvania Ave NW, the only road in the District with a center bike lane. The vast majority of those crashes came when drivers made U-turns.

The District Department of Public Works issued 707 tickets in the 2013 fiscal year for stopping or standing in a bike lane, 1,617 tickets in 2012 and 1,079 tickets in 2011.

The Department of Transportation and the police department also issue tickets for the offense.

Data compiled by AAA indicate that eight bicyclists were killed on area roadways in 2013. (Federal figures on traffic fatalities are being tallied, with a release expected later this year.)

AAA said two cyclists were killed in the District. Two were killed in Prince George’s County, including 9-year-old Jahbari Jawon Howe, a third-grader, who was struck by an SUV in July while riding his bike near his home in Bowie. In September, a 66-year-old male cyclist was killed in Prince William County, and last March, a 23-year-old cyclist in Silver Spring was killed.

At least two cyclists were killed in Anne Arundel County, including a bicyclist struck by a dump truck in July. Last August, a track and cross-country coach at Annapolis High School, Trish Cunningham, was killed when a van hit her bicycle from behind on the crest of a hillock in Davidsonville.

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Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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