Individual drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders naturally have differing views and observations when their modes of travel intersect. In many cases, those intersections are complicated. Below, two letters from readers, Bradley K. and Steve W., describe contrasting road behaviors from, respectively, the views of a driver and of a cyclist.

Bradley K. writes,

A week or so ago, I was driving down King Street in Alexandria between I-395 and Old Town. There was a cyclist riding down the road, mostly to the right-hand side. He was doing a pretty decent speed, but still worth passing.

This is a two lane road, so passing the cyclist was a game of patience. Once oncoming traffic subsided, I passed the cyclist in the oncoming lane (leaving him an entire lane of room) and thought nothing of it.

Of course knowing King Street, traffic came to a halt, and the cyclist caught up to me. He got in front of my car and started shouting obcenities at me and ended up giving me the finger…

This draws a few questions for me:

  1. What did I do wrong? I left the cyclist the entire lane while I passed.
  2. What do motorists expect of cyclists?
  3. What do cyclists expect of motorists?

What I expect of a cyclist:

  • If you are on the street, obey the rules of the road (including stop signs, stop lights etc.)
  • Stay to the right of the road.  You don’t have to be on the curb, but assist the motorists if they desire to pass you. It creates a safety issue if you are in the middle of the road going 15-20mph.

What I would expect of a motorist:

  • Treat the cyclist as a slow car.
  • Give the cyclist plenty of room if you need to pass.
  • DO NOT PASS if the road is narrow and there is oncoming traffic (see suggestion two)

It seems like Bradley did nothing wrong in this case, but riding in the middle of the lane is often the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, Steve W. writes,

This morning, I picked up a CaBi bike from my local station for the typically relaxing commute to the office. I made my way onto the cycle track on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.  I would typically think of this section as being one of the safer and more segmented parts of my commute with no car doors to open or traffic sharing the same lane with me.

However, as I started through the 11th Street intersection going east, a minivan also going east made an illegal left turn in front of my path and onto 12th Street. Fortunately, I was able to slow down and only tap the minivan as it sped by without any consideration for cyclists.

Not only did the minivan not pay attention as it passed me and then turned in front of me on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it also made an illegal left turn as turns are never allowed at this intersection. Unfortunately, many drivers, especially tourists, are not familiar with having to pay attention to bike lanes that are separate but intersect at cross streets.

Perhaps these no-turn intersections should have some sort of red lights to additionally make drivers aware when and where they should not turn. Alternatively, maybe some sort of double yellow line would provide greater awareness to drivers.

I’m fortunate that no one was injured today, but not everyone is as fortunate.

Turning across the Pennsylvania Avenue lane illegally and without looking is definitely not the right thing to do.

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