Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Recommenda-tions for cyclists’ safety, especially when they have chosen to ride after dark on poorly lighted roads or roads with no lighting:
1. Wear a helmet.
2. Wear clothing with something reflective. Don’t dress in all black when riding after dark.
3. Have a light and reflectors on your bicycle.
I come upon cyclists many times each week who are doing none of the above.
Those of us driving cannot see you. One of these times, it is going to be too late.
Kate Koebler, Hyattsville
DG: I completely agree with all the recommendations but would extend the second one to include pedestrians — namely, the pedestrian I saw making his way across Connecticut Avenue on a rainy night last week.
He was crossing legally at a crosswalk uncontrolled by a traffic signal. Drivers had a responsibility to stop for him. But he was dressed entirely in dark clothing and had a dark umbrella pulled down low over his head. He was nearly invisible as he emerged from the headlights of the heavy outbound traffic to continue crossing the inbound lanes.
Although I appreciated his faith in my motoring skills, I think the better long-term survival plan is to avoid relying on total strangers for your safety. This was a theme behind the pedestrian advice offered by Greg Wahl of the District [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 24]. Among other safety tips, Wahl suggested that pedestrians walk on the right along sidewalks and glance over their shoulders before passing on the left, to avoid stepping into the path of a speeding bicyclist.
Another pedestrian picked up on Wahl’s comment.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I can’t tell you how many times I was almost hit by a fast-moving bike around the White House. (The area in front of the White House is, to use Wahl’s phrase, like “a four-lane highway.”) And then there’s 15th Street, with its dedicated bike lane. I was almost hit a couple of times there trying to cross 15th while having the “walk” signal.
The bikers don’t seem to recognize or care that they have a red light and that there are people trying to cross the street with a “walk” signal. Their red light means nothing to them.
If some bikers aren’t more careful, it’s only a matter of time until someone is hit.
Robert Werner, the District
DG: I like to get out and play in traffic, but observing the 15th Street bike lane is almost too easy. The Washington Post’s building sits by the junction of two relatively new cycling lanes on 15th and L streets NW. The 15th Street lane is two-way, and the L Street lane is one-way.
A person doesn’t need to stand by the junction for too long before seeing bad behavior — some of it by cyclists, some by pedestrians and some by drivers.
First, though, I’m glad the District Department of Transportation is creating such lanes, even though they impinge on the lanes formerly available for motorists. The older of the two, the 15th Street track, has become quite popular with bike commuters, and the newer lane on L Street is coming along.
As with Maryland’s Intercounty Connector and Virginia’s 495 Express Lanes, the fact that the new bike lanes are not filled with travelers in their early days tells us nothing about their long-term role in the Washington region’s transportation system.
But the District government needs to accept the long-term consequences of creating a diversified street system that puts different modes of travel in conflict. Drivers shouldn’t be parking in the bike lanes, bikers shouldn’t be running red lights or riding the wrong way down L Street, and pedestrians watching only for cars as they jaywalk shouldn’t be stepping into the path of oncoming cyclists.
Although I’d like to think miscreants would reform because Dr. Gridlock and his letter-writers suggested it, a law-enforcement effort is likely to have more impact.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has unveiled his Sustainable D.C. program, filled with transportation goals for the next two decades that focus on expanding options for travel by bike, streetcar, bus and foot. This is where the city says it wants more people to stay healthy by taking walks such the one as Werner describes, and the new infrastructure catering to that sounds wonderful.
Walking and riding will make participants healthier, but they are not contact sports.
Sustaining the new infrastructure for its users must include education and enforcement for safety. Travelers should know the rules for getting along with each other, and they should occasionally be prodded to follow those rules.