In August, reader Guy Francis Stark, of Gibson Island, Md., complained that he had been knocked down twice by bicycle messengers on District sidewalks, and he asked for more protection. Dr. Gridlock noted there were laws on the books to protect pedestrians from bike couriers but they apparently were not being enforced. I asked you readers how widespread the problem was. There was a deluge of mail. Here are some responses:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was a victim of a bicycle messenger's "bowling ball" approach, as you so aptly described it in your Aug. 26 column. While walking across K Street at 17th Street NW, with a green WALK sign, I was hit full force by this messenger who was running a red light. I went flying and landed on my head.

Witnesses told me that he got up, attempted to help me up until someone told him to wait until the ambulance came, then picked up his bicycle and left. Two men in business suits ran after him, flagged down a patrol car, began a chase and lost him.

In the meantime, I was rushed to the George Washington Hospital emergency room. I have never been more frightened. There was blood everywhere, and I truly thought that I was at risk of losing my life. After several hours of tests, poking and prodding, I was fortunate enough to get away with a few stitches and a night in the hospital for observation.

As a student, I only had an insurance policy with a $3,000 cap. The bills keep coming. I am going to have to pay at least $2,000 out of my pocket. I still suffer from headaches, dizziness and panic nightmares. I dream that he is coming straight for me and I can't get out of the way.

I went to a neurologist for a follow-up exam. He says the good news is my reflexes are normal. The bad news is that I should not still be so dizzy. He recommends a CAT scan. There is no way to have this test since my insurance won't cover it.

The police have forwarded my report to the hit-and-run squad. The detective there tells me they receive 70 to 80 hit-and-run reports every day, and there are only two detectives to follow through. I asked him what he thought the chances were that we would catch this guy. He said, "None." I had three witnesses who gave their names to police and two who gave me their cards.

It is still difficult to walk across the street. When I see a messenger zoom past, my heart pounds. If there is ANYTHING I can do to help this community see that the laws are enforced, as you described in your column, I would be happy to do so.

Thank you for the opportunity to vent my frustration.



A Call for Bicycle ID Tags

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Aug. 9, I was hit and badly hurt by a hit-and-run bicycle messenger. I started to cross Pennsylvania Avenue, at 19th Street NW, on a WALK signal. Suddenly I received a powerful blow from behind. A bicycle messenger had come down Pennsylvania Avenue at great speed, crossing 19th Street against a red light. I never saw him.

I stumbled, trying to maintain my balance. The messenger fell to the ground, on top of his bicycle. He immediately got back on his feet, and we stood there for two seconds, staring at each other. We never exchanged a word. He was holding in his hand a menacing, black U-shaped bicycle lock, which he brandished like a weapon to dissuade me, should I have any intention of trying to detain him. Before I could do anything, he mounted his bicycle, and within five seconds, he was out of sight. Many onlookers were watching, but nobody offered to help.

In considerable pain, I made it to my office. My right leg was gashed and badly swollen. I had bruises on my back, left arm and other parts of the body. Since then, I have been to see doctors six times, lost over two weeks of work, taken heavy doses of antibiotics and suffered in other ways.

I discussed with the security adviser where I work whether to report the incident to the D.C. police, and his advice was not to waste time, as it would lead to nothing. Accidents involving pedestrians hit by bicycles apparently are given low priority by the police.

I wish the D.C. authorities saw fit to enforce the existing laws requiring commercial bicyclists to display, from the rear, identification numbers. Without such identification, bicycle messengers are free to terrorize pedestrians and to avoid responsibility for their actions.



At the Mercy of Two-Wheelers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am a retiree who walks daily. To me, the cyclists are a menace on the streets.

I go out of my way to enter the K Street area (in particular) as close as possible to my destinations.

I constantly and nervously watch for the cyclists.

I wear pantsuits so a skirt isn't swished into a passing bike.

I have shouted to riders who responded, "Watch where YOU are going."

Why are we at their mercy?

I am aware of injuries sustained by friends and others and have experienced frightening incidents with bicyclists zooming into the sidewalks, reversing directions, running red lights and zig-zagging between cars.

Why does the District of Columbia continue to ignore the problem; why are the bicyclists allowed to continue to disregard the law? We are at their mercy.



Scarring Experience at 17th and L Streets

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Jan. 11, as I was about to cross the street at 17th and L streets NW, I was felled by a courier.

Dropped to the sidewalk by the maniac, I only heard a "damn," uttered before I went black with dizziness for about 15 to 20 seconds. As I staggered to a standing position, I saw my unknown assailant careen through the morning crowd.

I agree that professional bicycle operators should be required to sport racing numbers, especially since too many of them behave as if they are on the Indianapolis Speedway.

If my attacker had worn one -- even though he was racing away from me -- I would have been able to read his number and report the lunatic.

As it was, I lost one earring, one pair of pantyhose and one sick day to the menace. I also had three large bruises, a pounding headache, persistent dizziness and a lasting scar as testimony to the grief caused by another reckless driver.



Bike Collision Sets Her Back a Month

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Two months ago, I was knocked flat by a speeding bicyclist when I was in a crosswalk with the walk signal. No broken bones, but I did suffer severe bruises, scrapes, a large lump on my head and a bad back, which kept me out of work for nearly a month.

The crosswalks and sidewalks in the business district are very dangerous for pedestrians because the bicyclists are ruling the roads.



Action From D.C. Sorely Needed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Aug. 16 at 5:15 p.m., as I was crossing on a WALK signal at 18th and L streets NW, a bicycle messenger ran a red light, hit me and knocked me down in the street. Since I work downtown, I am familiar with the hazards these messengers create.

They weave in and out of pedestrians, ride the sidewalks, go the wrong way on one-way streets, run traffic lights, hang on to cars, etc. All of these actions are prohibited by D.C. municipal regulations.

The District of Columbia should initiate some action to require the bicyclists to be responsible for their behavior; that is, require license plates, clothing/signs with the name of their employer; require them to stop and give some identification after accidents, etc.



Bring Back the Bike Bells

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm one of the pedestrians who feels threatened in the central business district. I'm down there several days a week, a senior citizen coming in from Maryland via the subway, pursuing several volunteer jobs and varied errands and luncheon dates on foot.

Bikes make no noise. One can't hear them coming from behind. Whatever happened to the neat little bells mounted on the handlebars, back in the pre-multigear bike days, that one pushed with one's thumb? I don't understand why some audible signal isn't feasible or available.



Apply the Rules of the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I concur 100 percent with the complaints in your column. In the Foggy Bottom and K Street NW area, the bicyclists come tearing down ON the sidewalks and zip past us so close you can feel the blast of air. Never have I seen any one of them being removed from sidewalks by police.

Recently I saw a cyclist go THROUGH a red light, hit and knock down a woman and then continue on. This was on Independence Avenue. Passersby picked her up, and she was off to the hospital in a cab.

Obviously, bicyclists in D.C. haven't any idea they are subject to the rules that apply to motor vehicles. All citizens would be grateful if the law was applied to bicyclists too.



Ticket More Bicycle Messengers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your Aug. 26 article on "barreling bicyclists" was certainly worthwhile. As a resident of the Dupont Circle area, I am very aware of the problem. As a pedestrian walking on the sidewalks, I have three or four close calls a week of nearly being hit by bicyclists, mostly, but not always, by couriers.

The city of Washington is very, very effective in handing out parking tickets but almost totally ineffective in curtailing illegal bicyclists who cause physical harm to pedestrians. So much for priorities!



Red Lights Mean 'Stop' for Cyclists Too

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I work at a federal agency in the Federal Triangle, and I am confronted with cyclists on the sidewalks almost daily. I've yet to be struck by one, but I've been forced to move QUICKLY to avoid one MANY TIMES.

I've often been tempted to carry a baton or cheap umbrella to stick in their spokes when they almost run me down, but I decided the cyclist would probably BEAT ME TO DEATH.

You should also mention that they ALL ignore red lights. Crossing the intersection with a WALK sign is dangerous when there's a cyclist anywhere around. Why can't they be ticketed for running red lights?



And now, here are some views from bicycle messengers:

Ride a Mile in Our Shoes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Unless your readers have ever been a courier and dealt with the pedestrian and automobile traffic, they shouldn't complain.

While I admit that sometimes it takes riding down a sidewalk to bypass a traffic jam, we are just doing our job. In three years of inhaling automobile and bus exhaust, avoiding kamikaze cab drivers and the rain, snow and humidity, I only had one minor accident with a pedestrian.

Though I agree that the laws set up to regulate the commercial bike traffic downtown and ensure pedestrian safety are rarely enforced, the police realize it would be almost futile to issue a ticket to every bicycle messenger who rides on the sidewalk. Bicycle commuters, skaters and runners and joggers are just as likely to cause an accident with a person as a messenger.

So, Dr. Gridlock, I ask your readers to give us a break and realize something: The bicycle courier that just flew by on his/her way to a pickup is earning a living, just like everyone else.



Pedestrians Aren't Perfect

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've been a bike messenger since 1974. I've never hit a pedestrian, but have come darn close to hitting jaywalkers and others who step absent-mindedly from the curb. On sidewalks, I ride at a walking pace and ring my bell when passing.



No One to Enforce the Law

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who enforces the legal requirements for commercial bicyclists? The answer is no one.

After the law was passed requiring commercial cyclists to obtain a commercial bicycle operator's license, nothing else happened. In July 1991, I spoke with then-D.C. bicycle coordinator, Tom Pendleton, about bicycle registration, and he said that although the law had been enacted and funds appropriated for the administration of these licenses, the District government had done nothing about getting the program underway.

To my knowledge, nothing has been done since. Mr. Pendleton comprised the entire D.C. bicycle office, and he was laid off during the great RIF by Mayor Kelly.

Regardless, the police forces of the District and every other locality in our area routinely fail to enforce existing traffic laws that apply to cyclists. Laws governing things like stopping for stop signs are only enforced sporadically. Most of the time, a cyclist can ride through a red light in front of a policeman with impunity, for the policeman is too busy "patrolling" to deal with something as insignificant as a cyclist running a red light.

This is unfortunate because it furthers a circle of neglect in which cyclists are not seen as legitimate road users and are not included in the planning for roads. Some cyclists rationalize that because they are not included in road planning, they don't have to obey the traffic laws. Non-cyclists, seeing this behavior, assume that all cyclists are like that, and the circle continues.

As a serious cyclist who bikes to work as well as for recreation, I'm tired of getting the short end when it comes to things like making roads wide enough for bicyclists and adjusting traffic light sensors so they'll "see" a bicycle. I wish Mayor Kelly would hire a real bicycle coordinator again so the legitimate complaints of the non-cycling and cycling public could be addressed.



Thank you all for writing. I think we can conclude this: It is dangerous to walk in downtown Washington. People are getting hit by bicyclists, particularly messengers. Apparently nothing is being done about it.

Laws already are on the books: Messengers are supposed to display the name of their company and its phone number, and an operator's license from the rear of their bike. And they are prohibited from riding on downtown sidewalks.

But spokeswomen for the D.C. police and the Department of Public Works, whose officers and parking control aides write 2 million parking tickets between them, acknowledge there is little enforcement of the laws requiring commercial cyclists to display identity. And there are no records available about citing cyclists for other violations.

I think the readers have got it about right: Cyclists, particularly messengers, seem to be able to flout the law with impunity. Lawlessness prevails.

Now, Mayor Kelly has her hands full with homicides, assaults and robberies to the point that there has been talk of calling out the National Guard. Perhaps it's not on her agenda to deal with rogue bicyclists. But what we've got here is a chronic problem in which people are getting hurt, Mayor. Perhaps out of a police force of 4,200 or so, one or two officers could patrol downtown and send a message that the District does care about the safety of citizens on city sidewalks.

Dr. Gridlock appears in this section each Thursday to explore local transportation matters. He'll try to find out why bad situations exist and what is being done about them. You can suggest topics by writing (please don't phone) to DR. GRIDLOCK, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers. You may include photos of a particular situation, but photos cannot be returned.