10 July 2008

I was reading stories about the bicyclist who was struck and killed by a trash truck in D.C. on Tuesday, and while wading through all the comments on the WP story about drivers vs. "asshole bicyclists", I saw this:
No, the stories about bikers who choose to run red lights aren’t irrelevant. Someone has placed a bike spray painted white at the intersection of Connecticut and R as a memorial to Ms. Swanson. This morning, as I sat in my car on R St. at a red light during rush hour, I watched as a young woman pulled up right next to the white bike. She appeared to be in her twenties, and was wearing a helmet. Having seen the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy, I wondered if she knew what had happened just 24 hours earlier, at that very spot. Just as I pondered that thought, she glanced quickly in both directions, then rode across all six lanes of Connecticut, rather than wait the extra 30 seconds for the light. Yesterday’s horrible accident may have been entirely the truck driver’s fault, but bikers and drivers alike can do much to improve safety on our streets.
Let me tell you, lady, I will bet you money that this girl was perfectly aware of what had just happened in that intersection, was probably scared shitless to be on her bike at that moment, and used the "extra 30 seconds" to put herself ahead of traffic - which is actually a smart way to ensure you won't be wedged in by the cars waiting at the light with you - provided, of course, you check that all six lanes (omg, so many lanes) of traffic are clear before you go. I get a kick out of the philosophical pondering regarding this girl's safety, when the cyclist likely did make the decision, not out of haste to reach her destination, but out of a desire to not get taken over by a car.

I've gotten a citation for running a red light on my bike before. I admit, fully and freely, that I deserved it, but where are these damn cops when cars are parked in the bike lane? When people are riding their bikes on the sidewalks? Where's the city funding for cops who actually do their jobs? Since that citation, would I run a red light again? You betcha. Especially with the frequency that people use their turn signals out here. It's just safer, sometimes. It's sad that it takes stories like this to make me sit back and think about how recklessly I ride, but with every one I read I try to take a little bit of knowledge away, and hopefully will be more conscientious (and alive) for it.

By the way, the nicest thing a cop has ever done for me in my life, ever, was force a car to remove itself from the bike lane when he saw me coming up the road - I seriously wanted to make out with him for that.

P.S. - the "white bike" she was referring to was a ghost bike.

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