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Someone else tried to claim that it's illegal to bike through the crosswalk, but if so, I'm not familiar with that law.

But isn't illegal to run over people too? Or is the driver performing a civic duty by taking care one more "scofflaw" cyclist.

The directional signs on the Penn. Ave NW bike lanes instruct us to use crosswalks for turns.

When I ride to work, I take that same way. Riding on Constitution is simply too dangerous; I did it once and only once. By whatever chance of fate, I took a slightly different route yesterday to try out the Penn Ave bike lane. Wow. I hope she recovers.

Riding on Constitution is simply too dangerous; I did it once and only once.

She wasn't riding on Consititution, though. She was riding in the crosswalk. Dangerous.

I don't ride on Consitution, but I ride Independence to East Potomac Park all the time. It's quite safe, so long as you're in a travel lane, and "taking the lane".

As is said over and over here and elsewhere, visibility is your friend.

That was my point. I ride on the sidewalk because it is too dangerous to ride on the road there. And taking the lane in the street, while legal, feels far more dangerous to me.

But isn't illegal to run over people too?

That depends. In this case, I'd say so. The cyclist did have the right of way and so it was the driver's responsibility to make sure the crosswalk was clear before turning. That's how I'd judge it. But this is a contributory negligence jurisdiction. So unless they can argue the driver had the "last clear chance" it will be difficult to win.

So, who is at fault here?

1. Light had turned green to allow SUV to turn right
2. Cyclist was therefore crossing against the light
3. Does anything in the crosswalk get automatic protection?


My sense is clearly the accident was avoidable, the explorer may not be "at fault." Not entirely sure.

And do crosswalk count as "sidewalks" in the CBD?

charlie,

You're wrong on 2. They were both going west, so the light changed for both of them. But, since the driver was turning right, and since the cyclist was in the crosswalk, the cyclist had the right-of-way.

do crosswalk count as "sidewalks" in the CBD

I don't know, but as someone else pointed out, signage directs cyclists to use the crosswalk at some locations in the CBD.

charlie: the SUV was making a right turn on to 14th, and the cyclist was crossing 14th, so it sounds like they both had the green light. As far as I know, that intersection doesn't have a dedicated right-turn signal.

1201.9 There shall be no prohibition against any person riding a bicycle or personal mobility device upon a sidewalk within the District, so long as the rider does not create a hazard; provided, that no person shall ride a bicycle or operate a personal mobility device upon a sidewalk within the Central Business District except on those sidewalks expressly designated by Order of the Mayor, nor shall any person ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in any area outside of the Central Business District if it is expressly prohibited by Order of the Mayor and appropriate signs to such effect are posted.

1201.11 A person propelling a bicycle or operating a personal mobility device upon and along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except that the bicyclist or personal mobility device operator must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalk.

The traffic regulations do distinguish between sidewalks and crosswalks, and the rule against biking in the CBD only explicitly applies to sidewalks. Unless I am missing something, this rule would likely not apply to crosswalks.

@ washcycle; ok, got it. Both had the green.

So the general crosswalk rules (you have to yield) would be the controlling one here. Interesting they don't distinguish. Probably a wise choice --it's a pattern that I see a lot. Bike going straight, then slight turn to continue going straight along crosswalk, then back into the road.

I'm not a fan of the pedestrian delay on traffic signals, but this is clearly an example of why they are helpful.

If it's not safe for cyclists to use a crosswalk (going at a moderate speed), then it's not safe for a pedestrian either!

Cyclists can and should use crosswalks in busy areas like that. The sidewalk is wide there and traffic is bad. I'd feel much safer on the sidewalk than the street, whether far to the right or taking the lane. I simply don't buy the idea that vehicular cycling is safer in that circumstance.

I'm not a fan of the pedestrian delay on traffic signals, but this is clearly an example of why they are helpful.

I was about to make this same point - except to say that I'm a BIG FAn of them and such a delay should be on all intersections downtown.

Gives pedestrians a chance to establish themselves in the crosswalk. All too often vehicles creep into the intersection and then, as soon as the light turns green, they gun it forward to "beat" the pedestrians through the intersection.

Police need to start heavily ticketing motorists who fail to stop on or before the stop line. And ticket motorists who creep into intersections when they clearly can not make it through.

Right now we just let motorists bully their way around town.

Legality doesn't matter. Using sidewalks/crosswalks as your cycling path is unsafe. That's all that matters. This is a textbook case. I hope she recovers fully.

"feels" safer isn't the same as "is" safer.

The safety issue for bikes in crosswalks is that they're (likely) traveling at an unexpected speed. Drivers expect "targets" in the crosswalk to be going 2 mph (slow walking pace). They don't expect faster vectors like joggers (5-10 mph) or bikes (5-15 mph) to jump ahead of walkers.

Whether it's a cyclist or a kid running ahead of his parents, going an unexpected speed in a crosswalk is dangerous. The reduced sight lines of an SUV definitely don't help. They only exacerbate the driver's reliance on assumptions like, "Everyone in a crosswalk is a slow moving pedestrian therefore I can quick get across the crosswalk before the pedestrians clog it up."

Again, difference between legal and safe. Hopefully they pin some violations on the driver. But they'll be puny and they won't really matter compared to the cyclist's injuries.

Safe is better than legal.

There but for the grace of go I - and all of us. The take home we are should get from this a day latter as a matter of history is this. Fully one third of the linked article and the entire point of the photo is how badly this accident impacted traffic for a whole half an hour. The fact that someone may be crippled for life by a drivers inattention? Mmeehh. There is an angels on the heads of pins quality to the dissection of degrees of fault in such a situation when the over arching problem is the presumption of the supremacy of the speedy transit of the car over all other concerns.

Are cyclists and pedestrians, to slightly misquote a well know Supreme Court decision " beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the automobile driving race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the car driving man was bound to respect. " ( Dred Scott for the non-history mavens )

The day of the far flung suburban car culture is coming to an end. It really is time to confront the new reality on a number of fronts and for a number of good and valid reasons - not the least of which is reducing the likelihood of getting squashed.

@dayglo - while you may feel much safer using the sidewalk & crosswalk, this incident suggests that your feeling may be deceptive. A cyclist traveling at a "moderate" speed is still traveling much faster than a ped. Drivers often check the crosswalk itself without checking to see if anybody is about to enter the crosswalk, which I suppose is safe enough unless there's a bike traveling at 12 or so MPH about to enter the intersection. If the road really is to unsafe to bike on, that to me suggests that cyclists on the sidewalk should, out of prudence, dismount when crossing.

Also, even if riding on the sidewalk seems safer, it's not safer for the peds who have no choice but to be on the sidewalk.

I actually find cycling on constitution a pretty safe experience, partly because all those lanes of traffic means that drivers can get around you if you are holding them up too much. And the congestion on the road means that oftentimes you can more or less ride with the flow of traffic.

What a shame. I hope she recovers.
17th and Constitution has issues too. Drivers going east on Constitution are allowed to turn right on red onto 17th and boy do they, regardless of who might be stepping into the crosswalk. Also, the light is timed such that drivers are still flying through the intersection as the crosswalk light is coming on. I see close calls there all the time.

Sure, if a bike's going alot faster than peds and jumps out into the street when using a crosswalk, it could be an unsafe situation.

I generally don't use crosswalks, but when I do, I do it slowly and carefully, because I'm doing it in a situation where it's already hairy anyway, which is why I'm using the crosswalk in the first place.

Taking the lane to cross the intersection might be better, depending on the circumstances. If you're traveling in the shoulder and overtaking an SUV on the right that's about to turn right (whether or not you know it's about to turn because it's a DC driver, so turn signals are optional) is obviously the worst choice.

BTW, my policy is to look for any motorist who is turning or pulling out against my path and MAKE EYE CONTACT to make sure they see me before crossing in front of them.

@Brendan:

Safe is better than legal.

Right, and "being safe" is better than "feeling safe."

I think a lot of novice cyclists mistake "soothing potential driver animosity" by mousing around the edges of the shared space with a feeling of "safety".

It's a classic mis-assessment of risk: Novices think a miffed driver is the greatest threat. Experienced cyclists know that an inattentive or clueless driver is the greatest threat.

In any case, it's counter-productive, since the more drivers are exposed to cyclists riding in the street, the less aggrieved they tend to feel.

The day of the far flung suburban car culture is coming to an end. It really is time to confront the new reality on a number of fronts and for a number of good and valid reasons - not the least of which is reducing the likelihood of getting squashed.

One of the unanticipated benefits of living in DC--and the District's political isolation--is that as the population shifts from the older, car-loving Baby Boom generation to the younger X, Y, and Millennials, you're going to see political support for reining in he worst excesses of the Easy Motoring Age.

That's much less likely happen if our political fortunes were coupled with rural Virginia or suburban Maryland.

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised to read about this. I see car drivers turn into crosswalks -- when both the car and the pedestrians have a green light -- when the pedestrians are already in the crosswalk, the crosswalk is completely packed with pedestrians and the driver can clearly see those pedestrians. And yet those drivers push on and force out all of the pedestrians from the crosswalk.

I see this happen all the time downtown, although not necessarily at Constitution and 14th. It seems like truck drivers tend to do this more often than car drivers.

A leading pedestrian interval (like DC does at many other intersections) probably would have prevented this, but since Constitution is NPS right-of-way, no chance. Traffic operations at every intersection along Constitution is a mess (right turn from center lane of 15th St southbound? sure, why not).

I feel safe, to me, means I believe I'm safest. And in that situation, I believe I'm safest in a crosswalk, where drivers are (usually) looking for people to avoid. In fact, their attention may be on those pedestrians in that crosswalk INSTEAD of a bike in front of them or next to them.

Advise a cyclist to stay out of the crosswalk because it's dangerous, and you might as well advise pedestrians of the same thing. On a street like Constitution, it's best to go in the crosswalk, SLOWLY. This is the exception rather than the rule, of course.

Oboe, you're right that a clueless driver who doesn't see you or anticipate your next move is most dangerous. My 15+ years of experience riding downtown have taught me that.

The earlier legal discussion seemed to be distinguishing riding in the crosswalk from riding on the sidewalk. Do we know whether she was riding in the sidewalk?

If she was in the roadway and pulled right to cross at the crosswalk, the driver should have seen her (assuming he overtook her); if she was on the sidewalk, then we would have to know how fast she was going.

Note that the legality of sidewalk riding does not necessarily make the cyclist contributorily negligent for doing so. The purpose of the ban on sidewalk riding in the Central Business District is to protect pedestrians, not cyclists and drivers, so riding in the sidewalk is not negligent per se in a collision between a car and a bike. (But riding fast on the sidewalk and into the crosswalk could be negligent in fact, see oboe's first comment, though a jury could decide whether her speed was too fast. )

The most sure way to be seen by a driver is to be straight in front of them.

The best place from which to react to a turning vehicle is from a position directly behind them.

Any flanking position, whether passing or being passed, risks being outside the driver's peripheral vision or in a blind spot.

Jim, we don't know if she was on the sidewalk beforehand or not.

Statistically speaking, almost all of the added danger to cyclists of riding on the sidewalk disappears when done by an adult in the direction of traffic (with the street on your left-hand side on a two-way street). In this case taking the lane would have prevented this crash, but it might have placed the cyclist of other risks. Still, you have to ride slower on the sidewalk to be as safe as you are on the street - and I usually equate "have to go slower" as "less safe". On the other side you CAN go slower on the sidewalk than in the street, so a cyclist who feels more comfortable going slow might find the sidewalk a good option. It's the reason I use sidewalks to go up steep hills on the suburban parts of my commute.

@dayglo
Thank goodness that beliefs aren't always right. Remember to take the lane when you can and never trust anyone on the road to know that you're there. (Sorry other cyclists, I distrust you as much as I distrust drivers... you're just about 1950lbs lighter) If you want to feel safer in the lane, try riding in it everyday for a week. And keep your head on a swivel.

@dayglo,

I feel safe, to me, means I believe I'm safest.

Sure, but that's tautological. You are objectively less safe riding on the sidewalk. Even less so riding in a crosswalk. Why is that different advice than what I'd give a pedestrian? Simple: speed. You are as safe as a pedestrian if you're proceeding across the crosswalk at a moderate walking pace. Anything greater than that and you're increasing your risk.

This stuff's been studied to death.

It's the reason I use sidewalks to go up steep hills on the suburban parts of my commute.

Exactly, so long as you're cycling at no more than a walking pace, you don't increase your risk.

@David,

Thanks for the advice, but I do what I feel is safe, for me and others around me. By all means do what you think is safe when you're on your bike.

@oboe

Not a tautology, just explaining what I meant by the word the first time.

I don't believe that, in that particular intersection, I'm objectively less safe on the sidewalk. But we'll never know until we do a safety study of that particular intersection.

And yes, I mentioned speed. If you go roughly the same speed as a pedestrian, you are pretty much the same as a ped. And I doubt you'd tell a ped to "take the lane," huh?

Brendan wrote:

"The safety issue for bikes in crosswalks is that they're (likely) traveling at an unexpected speed."

I’m with Brendan on this. I’m a lane-taker and rarely find myself in a crosswalk on my bike. But I walk more often than I ride, and I am constantly appalled at how close turning cars will come to me when I’m on foot, in a crosswalk, crossing with the light. They’ll routinely pass within two or three feet in front of me, and even closer behind me. When drivers are in the habit of cutting it that close to pedestrians in crosswalks, they have that much less time to react to a faster-moving obstacle that suddenly appears in their path.

I don’t know who was primarily at fault in this incident, but given how impatient and careless so many drivers are when turning on green, I’m mainly surprised that people—whether on a bike or on foot—aren’t mowed down in crosswalks more frequently.

I find the sidewalk safety issue to be somewhat dependent on the road in question. Roads that are two lanes in each direction, with no parking and a 35 mph speed limit are fairly common in this area, and are roads where even the most hardened cyclist might feel safer on the sidewalk. Those roads may also have better crosswalk safety (relatively speaking) because turning drivers' views are not obstructed by parked cars.

How fast must someone be going to fully run a person over when making a right turn?

Answer: Too fast for conditions = ILLEGAL.

I won't argue the legality of the cyclist. But the bottom line is that DC is a very dangerous place to cross streets. As a pedestrian I have almost been run over several times while crossing with the light by vehicles turning both left and right. DC needs to change the lights so that the cars stop from all directions and give pedestrians a chance to walk across the streets. I have found New York City to be a much better place to walk.

@Crickey7,
When there's more than one lane in my direction (as in your example) I'm actually MORE comfortable taking a lane. That's because I know that any car that wants to pass me can just change to the other lane. The driver doesn't have to worry about crossing a yellow line like on a one lane road, so it should be easy.

In the city, where's there's two or more lanes in my direction, drivers should be used to the right most lane filling with slower obstructions than me (cabs, double parkers, UPS/FedEx, buses). My presence taking the lane therefore is almost negatable in terms of overall traffic flow.

@bmeyer:

That's my feeling too. A perfect example of this is Independence Ave when riding between the Botanical Gardens and the Holocaust Museum westbound. It's arguably more safe than riding on Jefferson/Madison for that stretch, since it's less chaotic.

I usually ride in the second-to-rightmost lane, since there's usually cars parked in the right-hand lane. Super-high visibility, and very few tantrums from drivers, since there are three other lanes to choose from. I usually merge into the left-most lane somewhere between 12th and 14th, then hang a left on 15th and head south.

I'm a big beleiver in takign the lane. But there are exceptions even for me. I'll do the sidewalk thing on Mass Ave going up toward the Cathedral or on 16th St. past Adams Morgan/Meridian Hill. Between the hills that slow me down to 15 mph and the average (illegal) car speed of 45 mph, the speed differential is just too much. You don't see many cyclists on those kinds of roads.

Mass Ave up to The Cathedral is one of my exceptions too. I'm not crazy.

"I find the sidewalk safety issue to be somewhat dependent on the road in question."

"I'm a big believer in taking the lane. But there are exceptions even for me."

"I'm not crazy."

There you go.

@dayglo:

As I said on the other thread, if you're going at a walking pace, you're probably safer on the sidewalk. Otherwise, not.

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