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Bike Commuting Pitfalls October 21, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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There are many obvious benefits to commuting by bike in DC.  Fitness, eco-friendliness, and cost saving are just three – each indivdual has his or her own reasons why they feel that cycling adds something positive to their daily routines.  Personally, I enjoy the fresh air and the “me time” factor – I can prepare myself for my day much better on a bike than in a crowded Metro car.

But, for every plus, there must be a minus.  Here are some of my least favorite things about bike commuting in DC.

* Segways – Note that I did not say “all tourists,” as there are plenty of visitors who manage to walk all around the city without getting in the way of my bike.  However, since Segways are, apparently, supposed to ride in the bike lanes and not the sidewalks whenever possible, it is inevitable that I will encounter a huge motorized tour group when I am trying to go downhill on 15th Street (which, on my PM commute, is the only time I really get to generate any speed and give my legs a breather).  I despise Segways as a general principle, but I especially despise them when they keep me from my desired pace.  They don’t signal, they don’t listen when I try to audibly signal, and they go slower than 99% of the cyclists in the city.  Grrrr.

* Kamikaze pedestrians – Again, note that I did not say “all pedestrians.”  I am a pedestrian most of the time, and the majority of walkers are courteous and safe.  However, when I am cycling in the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, there are always a few daredevil pedestrians who decide to jet across the road in traffic, only to realize that they cannot make it the whole way – which means they come to a dead stop right in my lane as I am cranking on through.  Come on, folks – I know my red bikeshare vehicle is not as scary as a SUV, but I promise it will still be messy if we have a collision.

* Asshole drivers – Are you noticing a theme here?  I did not say “all drivers,” as there are many delightful ones who keep their eyes open and follow the rules of the road (as do I, for the record – more on that in a moment).  I only hate the drivers who think they are the only vehicles on the road and who can’t understand why I am angry when they make an illegal U-turn into my supposedly protected bike lane, nearly taking me out in the process.  I don’t know if this is surprising or not, but a lot of these offenders are driving taxi cabs.

* Cyclists who disregard the rules – I know this is an area of great strife within the cycling community, but it’s pretty simple to me.  If you’re on the road with the cars, you need to follow the same rules as the cars.  Ya know, important stuff like stopping at stop lights/signs.  Signaling before you turn.  Not texting/wearing earphones.  It’s really hard to expect other travelers, regardless of their mode of transportation, to respect your rights when you so blatantly disregard the laws and guidelines that are meant to help keep everyone safe.  Tangentially, I get very upset with cyclists who don’t wear helmets.  I know, it’s going to give you less attractive hair, but in a collision, it’s not your hair you should be worried about.  We have so many well-educated, successful people in DC, I just can’t believe so many of them would opt out of the most obvious piece of protective gear.

These pet peeves are nothing new – countless bike commuters have vented similarly, and I certainly won’t be the last.  I just hope that with the expansion of cycling in DC comes an enhanced understanding of how we can all cohabitate on the roads, safely and politely.  A girl can dream, no?

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