Bicyclists are not quite pedestrians - but there they are, screaming down the sidewalk to avoid dangerous D.C. street traffic. And bicyclists are not quite motorists, either - but there they are, rolling from a bike lane to the middle of an intersection, with the rider using hand-and-arm signals to communicate her intentions to navigate safely through the maelstrom.
Frustrating? Yes, for both law-abiding bicyclists hoping to get to and from work in one piece, as well as the motorists who share the roads with them.
To facilitate a safer D.C. commute for all, here are five easy tips to facilitate a safe D.C. commute for all.
1. Follow Traffic Laws. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association published a pocket guide for D.C. bike laws, which you can find here. Obey traffic signals, stop sign/right-of-way etiquette, avoid riding on sidewalks (it is forbidden in the D.C. Central Business District).
2. Use Hand-and-Arm Signals to Communicate Your Intentions. Failing to do this is the equivalent of drivers failing to use their turn signals. Very annoying and very dangerous.
3. Ride with a Light. It begins to get dark before 5 p.m. during the winter. Bicyclists with lights on their bikes and helmets, as well as reflective wear, are most easily seen by motorists and bus drivers as they navigate through the the morning and afternoon rush hours.
4. Put a Helmet on Your Grape. A bicycle injury can result in broken bones and bruises, but a rider wearing a helmet stands a better chance of protecting her most valuable asset - her brain. Helmets may look silly, but they can save a rider from traumatic-brain injuries or worse.
5. Take Nothing for Granted. Bicyclists, be predictable and use common sense and ride defensively. Motorists, pay attention to blind spots and look over your shoulder to ensure bicyclists are not creeping up your blind spot as you switch lanes or begin to a turn. Bicyclists, ride as predictably as possible - don’t hopscotch around. Motorists, use your turn signal to communicate to other drivers and bicyclists which way you intend to turn.