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It'd be a shame for cyclists to have to start carrying steel water bottles. It's awful the damage one of those things can do to a cab when it startles a cyclist by running into him. The cyclist might be so surprised at being hit he'd swing the water bottle right into one of the cab's windows.

Unfortunately, the police uniform doesn't impart wisdom, just power.

MPD officers (and police in general) are unreliable, bottom line. No form-response from the Chief is going to change that.

There's currently a proposal to bring back a traffic division of MPD so there actually are traffic cops. That might help.

I've been pulled over by cops a couple of times. When we discuss the issue, they ususally realize they were in error, we say have a nice day, and get on with our days.

The one time I got a ticket on my bike is when I got out the code and tried to prove to the cop they were wrong. That only made her stubborn and she wrote up a ticket just to inconvenience me. The judge found in my favor, but it was a waste of a day. The only plus is that the cop looked like a fool in front of the judge.

this sucks and glad the writer is ok. I'm sure you were just trying to be courteous by traveling on the right of the lane (in the gutter?), but doesn't this kind of thing justify taking the lane?

What strikes me about this is that the driver's side of things is all that mattered to the police officer. The very same thing happened when my wife was run over by an SUV 3 weeks ago. So far as I can tell, the officer never asked her for her side of the story. She was either unconcious or under the care of the EMTs and a passing nurse. So her report doesn't mention that the driver obviously failed to stop at a stop sign.

this sucks and glad the writer is ok. I'm sure you were just trying to be courteous by traveling on the right of the lane (in the gutter?), but doesn't this kind of thing justify taking the lane?

Yup. Courtesy will get you killed.

This behavior from drivers happens to me regularly and I'm sure I'll be clipped or worse sometime soon. Most of the cars that do this are in my neighborhood (idiotic, considering that they're only advancing to another stop sign) or by a taxi cab (when I correct them on their behavior, I get a standard, "Thank you for telling me, yessir," as if scripted.

As a general rule, cars will give you as much clearance as you give yourself from the right-hand edge of the lane.

The problem as I see it is that the Officer will get an entirely free pass. The MPD needs to ensure accountability.

"Therefore I wanted to make sure that this was handled properly and so after the officer spoke with the cab driver I insisted that the officer file a report so that there would be a record of the incident."

Considering that there's no injury (from what I understand from your message), and no property damage, there is no requirement report because the cyclist in this context is not a pedestrian. Now if the officer wanted to, he could do a report but it would be superfluous. As for 'handled properly', what exactly did you expect? As for moving violations, that closest one in my collateral book that I can find that would cover the law would be Improper Passing, but that violation is for DCMR 18-2202.2, not 18-2202.10. Otherwise, I don't think there's a NOI that we can issue for being too close to a cyclist.

"The officer responded by saying he was unaware of any such law about passing cyclists and therefore it didn't matter. When I became reasonably astonished at such a response he said he wasn't a traffic cop so he wouldn't know about such things."

We're human, and unless you really, really like doing traffic, an officer isn't going to know about an obscure provision in DCMR for cyclists passed a few years ago unless he's a bike enthusiast or a guy who likes doing traffic. And before everyone jumps down my throat about cops not knowing the law, we're human and we focus more on the criminal side rather than the obscure municipal regulations side. If we were all apprised of obscure provisions of DCMR Title 18-12 as you'd like us to be, the cycling community would bitch and moan if we started enforcing bicycle parking regulations and applaud when we enforced the three foot passing rule.

"Don't officers have access to a computer that can tell them what the law is? And is it really "just as likely" that the cyclist swerved into the taxi? I guess it's a "no blood, no foul" situation."

This time it is a "no blood, no foul" situation because nobody was injured and info was likely exchanged. Yes, we can look up DCMR, but most Officers don't because, contrary to the Chief's response that we have a robust training program, we don't have a robust training program that teaches Officers about DCMR and how it relates to traffic and other enforcement.

"lets ensure that they are up to date on DC traffic law and are willing to take the necessary steps to enforcement these important regulations."

There's no cite that I can recall that covers this law, so I don't think it can be enforced. Even if there was, we can't issue tickets for this kind of moving violation based on hearsay. That would be like someone flagging me down pointing to a cyclist down the road and saying that the cyclist down there passed the stop sign and me issuing a ticket for that. You'd probably say that me writing the cyclist a NOI at the say-so of a random person and not at the observation of an officer would be ridiculous and you'd be right.

"The problem as I see it is that the Officer will get an entirely free pass. The MPD needs to ensure accountability."

Aside from pleading ignorance on his knowledge of DCMR, the Officer didn't do anything wrong. No report was required and no violation was observed.

Well, thank you Officer Cyclist. Now we have an official line on how and why drivers in the District of Columbia do no have to follow the law, and when a driver crashes into the cyclists with their car, they are completely absolved of all culpability.

Thanks a million D.C. police. I can't wait to hear the next petty administrative excuse for not protecting the citizens who pay your salary.

Brilliant Off-Duty Cyclist Cop!

Like if a taxi driver hit YOU with their car there would be no consequences.

Only for the residents of the district you don't give a crap.

I have traveled all over the America and Europe. Nowhere in a developed country have I seen laxer enforcement of traffic laws or more egregious flouting of such "laws" anywhere than in the D.C. region.

To think that our stupid police forces cannot be bothered with even citing a motorist who dangerously threatens the life of fellow citizens and goes so far as to hit them with his vehicle is considered "a-okay" by the awful, horrible, lazy D.C police force is BEYOND unacceptable.

It is absolutely contemptible that police would rather take the time to author and post a ranting blog article explaining why they don't care at all about D.C.'s cycling community that go out there and actually enforce the law.

D.C. police's lack of concern is a national embarrassment.


This reminds me of the comment sent by MPD to our local neighborhood mailing list, when someone asked for more (any) enforcement against the 99.99% of commuters who shatter the speed limits.

He basically said, "We give an equal number of citations to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians." As though this were evidence of equanimity, rather than the actual fucking problem that needs correcting.

I have a lot of respect for MPD, and the officers have a tough job. It's just that a larger percentage of them should be doing that tough job on foot or on a bicycle. When you spend 95% of your life behind the wheel of your car, suddenly the concerns of pedestrians and cyclists seem quite trivial.

My guess is that if more officers were doing their job on a bike every day, taxicabs buzzing them would suddenly be a pressing issue of public safety.

And if more officers were walking the beat, cars that failed to yield ROW at crosswalks would suddenly become a much bigger issue.

As far as the 3-foot passing law, you're right, why would police know anything about an esoteric law that was recently passed to protect cyclists? I wonder how many officers know that drivers need to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in a crosswalk? After all, they don't specialize esoteric traffic code.

"The Officer didnt do anything wrong": the officer didnt seem too concerned about what happened to determine if an offense was committed, using ignorance of the law as a reason to not act.

The general complaint is that dangerous or illegal behavior by drivers and cyclists is rarely policed, which perhaps explains why DC has a very high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

IN the end, the officer had this situation: he had one person who said they were hit by the taxi and another who said that didn't happen. I agree that that is not enough to give the taxi driver a ticket. Or even a ticket for passing too close. The officer didn't see it and without a witness, they just didn't have enough evidence to go on. But, I wish this were the standard they always used. There have been cases, perhaps isolated, where a cyclist was ticketed solely on the word of the driver. That's wrong, and it would have been just as wrong to ticket the taxi driver on this cyclist's word. Not because he's lying, but because we have standards for evidence.

Officer - the car hit the cyclist. How is that not worth a citation or ticket? If a car hits a car and someone gets a hold of a police officer or calls 911, a citation or ticket is written. But a car hits a cyclist and no action?

@Shawn,

If the officer didn't see it, it didn't happen--at least unless someone's bleeding out on the curb. Now, if the cyclist had been killed or injured seriously enough to be carted off to the hospital, the officer would've been sure to take down the taxi cab driver's version of events, and filed a full report.

Alternatively, if the cyclist had gotten really angry and struck the cab, he might have been arrested for assault.

[OK, yes, I am that cynical.]

To defend this officer, the rule (law?) in DC is that a report is only written if someone is injured or if property damage exceeds a limit ($1000 I think). Now whether or not that is right or not is another issue, but in not writing a report in this case the officer is following policy.

Ummm......following policy?? Well then change the fucking policy!! A policy is not a law. It's just a bad decision in writing.

For Christ's sake I simply cannot believe that anyone would defend this. "washcycle"? Are you serious?

The cyclist was hit by a car!!

Who cares about a fucking "policy"? CHANGE IT!

I think we should change the policy, but anger at the officer in this case is mis-directed. Don't mistake my defending the officer with defending the policy.

Thanks, Washcycle. So the advice to a cyclist would be then, if hit by a car, maintain that you're injured so a report is written, even if you're relatively fine?

"Even if there was, we can't issue tickets for this kind of moving violation based on hearsay. That would be like someone flagging me down pointing to a cyclist down the road and saying that the cyclist down there passed the stop sign and me issuing a ticket for that."

Actually this is by no means a fair analogy. Take the width of the lanes on that part of Pennsylvania subtract off the average width of a bike, then the required three feet, and probably another 6-12 inches assuming the rider wasn't brushing the cars parked to their right. This remaining number will surely be less than the width of the large american car typically favored by cab companies. Something had to give and the only thing that could be is the three feet. This isn't hearsay this just requires simple math and maybe a tape measure. But then again, if we don't require our officers to know the law we might not require them to be able to subtract either.

I'm with you oboe. I'm that cynical. In fact, haven't we heard of something to that effect? Person on bike hit by a car , person on bike hits car (not person in car, but car itself), who gets assault charges? Yep.

Just want to be clear: I don't blame the officer, and I'm actually grateful to the officer who posted earlier. Those guys have a tough job to do, and the problem is largely a political one--driven by the culture.

But I would think a bike-cop should be uniquely suited to understand the causes of the anger and frustration among civilian riders.

I'm with Washcycle and the Officer. A claim you were hit is not sufficient. It's a case of he-said, she said. We as cyclists are prejudiced to believe the cyclist (that's normal tribal behavior). But that's not fair to this driver.

On top of that there was no damage or injury, so what's the point of further inquiry?

Even an officer of infinite ability does not have infinite time.

There's two issues here. First is whether there was a reportable collision. Clearly there wasn't, there was no property damage or personal injury. Second issue is whether the driver was citable for a moving violation. This is distinct -- people get ticketed all the time when there is "no blood" for things like speeding, running red lights, or passing stopped school buses. The idea is that these offenses are so potentially dangerous that you don't have to actually injure someone for their to be a public interest in keeping you from doing them. I think most cyclists would feel the same way about the three foot law.

A bigger issue -- and something that we can do something about -- is the fact that there is no mechanism for charging someone for violating the 3-foot passing law. We need to get the Notice of Infraction form updated. This would help cyclists in two ways. First, there would be the obvious benefit that the law would actually be enforceable. The second is more subtle. Thousands of officers read the form every day, looking for the proper infraction to charge someone with. If one of the infractions listed was "passing a bicycle less than three feet" all of those officers would be exposed to the existence of the law. With luck, Chief Lanier's vaunted "robust training program" might even address the changes to the form.

Until the form is changed the law is essentially symbolic.

If an MPD officer witnesses a 3 foot violation, they should cite the driver. But an officer cannot cite a violation based on hearsay.

The driver is still a boob and did a dangerous thing, he just didn't get caught doing it.

Color me officer-friendly.

They have to make judgment calls all day long, to the best of their ability. If that "best" wasn't so great in your opinion, usually the answer is usually not that they are against you, but that, in their hard-won experience, what you want them to do is not realistic or a good use of their limited time.

It is wrong to say that the officer would be citing the driver based on hearsay. There was clearly a witness to the events. If officers can not charge someone based on a witness statement corroborated by available physical evident, there is no enforcement.

How about I take my u-lock or metal water bottle and connect with the car that passed me too close. If I can touch the car with either of those, they're within 3 feet of my handlebars... Right? I have to be able do $1000 worth of damage, though, right?

I was hit by a car in DC once. It slightly grazed me. It caused me to dismount unintentionally, but I was able to land on my feet. No damage to me or my bike or the car.

We exchanged apologies and moved on.

If there is no damage done, it's like a car tapping another car's bumper, or a pedestrian bumping another in the street. No harm, no foul. No reason for a police report or citation.

In this case, it would be worth a complaint to the cab company though.

I ran over a pedestrian's foot in DC once. They were in the crosswalk, but I wanted to take a right-turn on red. No significant damage to the pedestrian's feet or my car.

We exchanged apologies and moved on.

Sometimes shit happens.

That was WashingtonDame, Oboe, and she's been haunting the Post comments section ever since.

You created a monster.

@Krickey7,

I *thought* she let it go way too quickly.

Sometimes shit happens. But the solution is to ACKNOWLEGE, apologise and move on. Pretending nothing happened causes problems and resentment.

If someone assaults another and since a police officer did not witness it, no charges can be filed.

- Something is wrong with traffic law if vulnerable users do not have the full force of the law on their hands.

There was no assault. Nor was there a claim of injury of property damage. Those would have triggered a requirement to file a report.

It's always true that police are extremely reluctant to issue a traffic citation for behavior they did not witness.

Assault = An attempt to commit battery: a violent attempt, or willful effort with force or violence, to do hurt to another, but without necessarily touching his person, as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner, or by striking at him and missing him.

Victim: "Officer, I was scared for my life a second ago."

Officer: "If he used a baseball bat it would be a different story but since he struck at you with a car it cannot be assault as that is not in traffic law."

As I said, something wrong with traffic law.

The letter writer uses the word "accident". That strongly implies no willful effort to hit, and in fact the writer does not say anything to suggest there was any.

Not to excuse causing an accident, but these are two very different things, one of which the police have to do something about, and the other, they don't.

Perhaps vulnerable user laws should include a provision for nominal damages or shift the burden of proof to the defendant for damages less than (say) $500. I agree tht this does not seem to be assault, but it is possibly a substantial and unjustified deviation of care, possibly even worse.

Getting knocked off your bike may well have psychological damages such as ruining your day. If people filed cases in small claims court for these types of action, the insurance companies might punish as if there had been a ticket.

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