Today, after our very close game in softball, I came to realize that my increased time on the “mean streets” of the District Columbia have brought back the anger I lacked when taking Metro. Oh, who am I kidding, that anger was always present. Well, better said, it brought back the angers of driving I so sorely missed.
Morbidly obese people taking their dear sweet time crossing a sidewalk during a green light. Local youth moving as a mass in the middle of the street, mocking what are normally accommodating drivers. Then, there’s always Maryland. Maryland is chock full of absolutely shitty drivers. Test my theory. If you see someone pull an asshole maneuver, odds are, they are from Maryland. D.C. drivers are different, probably because they are a bit more transient than crab cake eaters. D.C. has its share of shitty drivers, especially the cab drivers who learned to drive in their native land, but it’s a mixed bag. I won’t exempt Virginia, but on the whole, I think we’re the best drivers in the D.C. metro area.
What I am really getting tired of are inconsiderate bicyclists. I know that a few of my friends ride the bike here in D.C., so this is not directed at you. I realize that car operators tend to respect bicyclists less than bicyclist respect car operators. This is for two reasons. Sheer differences in numbers, and bicyclists are usually mindful and stay out of the way of cars because they realize that cars are deadly, while bicycles typically aren’t.
Similarly, most accidents are the fault of car drivers, but I’m not in the camp where they represent 100% of them. Bicyclists can be careless or idiots, too. One time, I noticed a friend from SLU, Nick Crowe, cycling through Columbus circle in a Cardinals hat. It made me happy to see him, I said hello, and he went on his way to work. Either during that incident, or the following day, I saw a cyclist avoid plowing into a big jolly guy trying to cross Massachusetts Avenue. The pedestrian was wrong and should have yielded. They still collided, and it may have given the guy pause. At least I hope it did.
On a somewhat-related note, I absolutely hate the “critical mass” events. I understand the point of awareness, but there’s no quicker way than arbitrarily creating a traffic jam to make enemies out of motorists. Bicycle advocates often relish these demonstrations, but it’s horrible public relations. You certainly always make more enemies than friends.
Back to the game. Driving through East Potomac Park, I came to a stop sign to turn left near the golf course to get on 395 South. Traffic is one way coming from Hain’s point in the opposite direction. They, too, have a stop sign. It’s a three-way stop. I get there first, and am about to make the turn, and some bicyclist zips through the intersection, turning right and cutting me off. By the time I had initially come to a complete stop, he was 35 feet behind his sign and had no intention of stopping. To make matters worse, he gave off the most flamboyant of hand signals the following five minutes I was behind him. That didn’t help. If he hit a bump and fell off his bike I would have laughed maniacally the way anyone would when karma strikes. It’s a chameleon though, so it didn’t happen this time.
I started fuming, operating under the assumption that “share the road” means that the laws of driving things on public roads apply to you, too. I checked it out, and in D.C., that is the law.
If I had proceeded and turned my car without hesitating and that guy’s bike (probably worth more than my car) collided with my car, I would have felt horrible if that happened. But because I had the right of way, the law favors me and I would have been legally exonerated, but probably vilified by some in the nonsensical bicycle apologist crowd who think you can do no wrong on two wheels.
My conclusion? Pedestrians and car drivers: share the road and respect bicyclists. That is, of course, unless they’re 14 and driving a BMX the wrong way down the street intentionally to be an asshole. This happened to me once in Anacostia Park after a softball game two years ago. It’s OK to call them out on it in that case. Or, if it’s a seasoned cyclist who thinks he/she is above the law, let them know. Courtesy begets courtesy, and bad driving begets middle fingers, a loud honk of the horn, or a stream of obscenities. I can support doing all three. Cyclists, the law applies to you, too. Obey traffic laws, because if you don’t, it’s on you — just like violations of traffic law apply to drivers of cars.