Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear Dr. Gridlock: Cyclist Pushed Quest For Respect Back a Few Miles

Sparked by a post on Washcycle that referenced a posting from Dr. Gridlock about the ethics, legality and safety of cycling in the area.

From: americancyclo.blogspot.com
Sent: Tue 6/23/09 10:55 AM
To: drgridlock@washpost.com; ombudsman@washpost.com
re:Cyclist Pushed Quest For Respect Back a Few Miles‏

Mr. Thomson-
In an area where cycling is on the rise, and therefore the conflicts between motorists are also on the rise, I would appreciate a little more research and education in your column when motorists write you with questions about etiquette, ethics, and safety, such as the following:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Adjacent to your column [Commuter page, June 14] was an article on sharing street space safely. I was disappointed to see missing the situation that I find most annoying and dangerous.

Scenario: I am driving along a lovely two-lane road. (There are many; let's use Hunter Mill Road as our example.) I approach a cyclist and patiently follow until I can swing out wide and pass. Not too far after, I come to a stoplight.

While we wait for the green, the cyclist passes all the waiting cars, sometimes running through the red light. Now the cyclist is first again, and all of us have to putt along behind until we can pass again. This seems wrong and dangerous.

Melanie Snyder, Vienna

Ms. Snyder is concerned that the actions she is observing are wrong and/or dangerous. My first reaction was to look up the bicycle laws of Virginia (http://www.vdot.virginia.gov/programs/bk-laws.asp) They specifically have a section that addresses her questions.

Q. Can the cyclist ride through the red light?
A. No. This is illegal and might be dangerous.

"Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings.Reference: §46.2-830"

Q. Can the cyclist pass all the stopped cars legally?
A. Yes.

"Bicyclists may overtake and pass another vehicle only when safe to do so. Bicyclists may pass another vehicle on the right or left, and they may stay in the same lane, change lanes, or ride off the road if necessary for safe passing. Please note that passing motor vehicles on the right side may be extremely dangerous if the motorist does not see the bicyclist and attempts a right turn.

A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, motorized skateboard or scooter, or moped shall not travel between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, except where one lane is a separate turn lane or a mandatory turn lane.

Motorists must approach and pass a bicyclist at a reasonable speed at least two feet to the left of the bicyclist.
Reference: §§46.2-839,46.2-907"

I think it would be helpful for motorists to know that bicycles are allowed to pass, since I get the impression that many motorists automatically assume that cyclists are in the wrong. There is a handy guide to basic bicycling laws in the DMV area with links to further detail on WABA's website at http://waba.org/areabiking/bikelaws.php

Thanks for your consideration,

Shawn Gallagher
DC Cyclist

Mid Summer Update

Three weeks in to june and I'm over the 1200 mile mark. Back on May 27th I passed the halfway mark and thought about posting, but never got around to writing anything to commemorate it.
June has been a difficult month for cycling. The rain has been torrential and unrelenting for the first two weeks of the month, flooding my basement and forcing me out of my home for over a week. I even ended up with a flat over on the Mt. Vernon Trail, three miles away from anything in a downpour. After walking for a mile, a fellow biker was nice enough to stop and give me a tube so I could continue on.
The Raleigh is getting older and even more squirly. I need to get an outer plate put on my crank to keep my chain from jumping off. The Shogun is even heavier now, with the addition of some nice wheel brows for a birthday present. They have served me well in the inclement weather, keeping most of the road grit and moisture off my legs.