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Sharing the road on foot and wheels

It is about time that we addressed both the upsides and downsides of increased bicycle traffic, as the May 2 editorial “Sharing the streets” did. In addition to cars, there is the issue of respect for pedestrians. I am a walker. Even when I have the “walk” light, I have seen bicyclists race right past me, missing me by inches. While some bicyclists do ring their bells soon enough for me to get out of the way, far too many do not. Some think a muttered “on your left” as they pass is sufficient — but if I do hear them, again it is too late to react. There is no place where pedestrians are safe from bicycles — on the streets, sidewalks or even off-road paths.

In the bicycle-pedestrian relationship, the walker is the one likely to come out the loser. The headline said it all: Let’s share the streets and walkways.

Sharon G. Hadary, Bethesda

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Although “Sharing the streets” focused on bicycling in the District, it touched on an issue that needs to be addressed everywhere motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians share the road.

For the past 16 years, I have commuted by car to my office via Route 7 between Falls Church and Old Town Alexandria. I frequently encounter bicyclists along the way. There are many traffic lights along this route, and I can’t recall a single time a bicyclist has stopped at a red light when there was no traffic crossing the intersection. In addition, I have never seen a bicyclist stopped by the police for a traffic violation.

I’m more than happy to share the road — with those who obey the law.

Peter Murphy, Falls Church

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Cyclists and motorists should not only obey the law and share the road but also be there for each other, as a motorist was for me recently when I had a bad bike accident on Massachusetts Avenue that was caused by the handlebars snapping off. A motorist whose name I never got immediately stopped, checked my condition, called an ambulance, waited until it arrived and carried my wrecked bike to my home in her car. There really are good Samaritans out there, and that is cause for optimism.

Alexander Ferguson, Bethesda

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“Sharing the Streets” used incomplete data from a 2004 D.C. government report to unfairly single out cyclists.

The study, which found cyclists slightly more likely to be at fault than drivers in accidents, included a critical fact the editorial ignored. Cyclists were faulted in 16 percent of crashes and drivers in 13 percent, but another 7 percent were hit-and-runs by drivers.

Furthermore, the study was based on police reports, which are unreliable. In four crashes, cyclists were cited for sleeping. And the police often assign blame without interviewing the cyclist, who can be under doctor’s care when the investigation begins, which a recent study shows leads to cyclists being more often blamed.

Many cyclists ignore traffic control devices such as stoplights, but so do drivers who, according to the Federal Highway Administration, also speed 70 percent of the time. Considering how much more reckless and dangerous drivers are, asking cyclists to follow the law “too” seems misplaced. Cyclists are still waiting for drivers to behave as well as we do.

David Cranor, Washington

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