Eight letters critical of bicyclists have reached me since mid-July.
Six of the eight repeat familiar themes: bikers impede autos, go through red lights, squeeze through dangerously narrow openings to get ahead of cars waiting at traffic lights, endanger pedestrians on sidewalks, and one letter complained about bicycles that endanger strollers on the C&O Canal towpath.
Two letters raised new issues. A Glen Echo resident wrote: "A bicycle path was built alongside our portion of MacArthur Boulevard at considerable expense. Why don't the bicycles use it?
"MacArthur Boulevard has only one twisting, winding lane in each direction yet carries a heavy volume of vehicles. Instead of using the special path built for them, many bikers use the busy roadway. In doing so, they not only interfere with automobiles but endanger their own lives. Can you tell me what's the sense of spending so much money for a bicyle path that isn't used?"
The other letter really intrigued me. It was from a woman who wrote: "I know you have written about bicycle operators who run through red lights, and you have said that this is against the law because bicycles must obey all traffic regulations. However, I have a suggestion, or perhaps it is a question.
"Many of the violations that I have observed have been by bicycle operators old enough to drive ears. Most of by bicycle operators old enough to drive cars. Most of et for going through a red light on a bicycle, does that affect their license to drive a car? Could we use the 'point system' as a weapon to make some of these offenders behave?"
I think it's a good question and a sensible suggestion. But nothing will come of it unless the City Council chooses to change the law. In Title 32, Chapter XI, Section 11.204 (b), our bicycle regulations say, "No person shall be subject to the loss or suspension of his motor vehicle operator's permit for the violation of any regulation under this chapter, nor shall points accrue to the loss or suspension of such a permit by reason of a violation committed while operating a bicycle."
This provision obviously affects only those old enough to drive automobiles, and therefore old enough to know better than to go through red lights.
A person who is a scofflaw when he operates a bicycle is not likely to be magically transformed into an obedient, angelic, safety-mineded operator when he gets behind the wheel of an auto. It appears to me, therefore, that the law should be changed to make a scofflaw's transgressions on a bicycle pertinent to his right to operate an auto.
If a motorist's reckless driving piles up too many points against his driver's license, would you argue that his recklessness in an auto is not pertinent to his right to drive a school bus? How about a school bus carrying your children - would you want to see it driven by somebody who has already established a bad driving record in another type of vehicle?