Urban Etiquette: Biking for Dummies

by Borderstan.com October 11, 2011 at 11:00 am 1,283 13 Comments

"Borderstan""14th Street NW""14th Street Bikers"

The 1500 block of 14th Street NW in Logan Circle. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Urban Etiquette runs biweekly with Borderstan contributor Mike Kohn writing about some common-sense rules of etiquette with an urban twist. We welcome your ideas for future columns.

From Mike Kohn. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

One of the best parts about living in Borderstan is that it’s so easy to walk everywhere. Don’t want to walk, or think it’ll be too far? Hope on a bike and ride. With Capital Bikeshare setups all around the ‘hood, you don’t even have to own a bike to do that. The city went out of it’s way to create bike lanes for all of the people who want to ride, which makes it so much safer for bikes to get around places.

So why the hell are all of these bikers nearly running me over on the sidewalk?*

Let me just pause for a second to say this: cyclists get a bad rep. There are a whole lot of people who ride bicycles well, observing traffic laws, being courteous to both car drivers and pedestrians and not interfering with anyone else trying to get places.

That being said, there are a few cyclists who really ruin it for the rest of them by being general pains in the ass. So keep in mind that this article is directed at those people on bicycles, not the large majority, who I do think do a great job (read: don’t attack me by telling me that you’re a good bicyclist — I get it).

Okay, now that that’s out there, here’s what I’m recommending for bikers:

  • Bike in the street. There are bike lanes all over the city (including 15th Street NW, among other places) that you can use. When you can’t use a dedicated lane, stick to the road — just don’t be in the sidewalk interfering with the pedestrian pathways, if you can help it.
  • Obey the traffic signals. That includes lights and stop signs. True story from a reader of mine: “I’ve been hit by a bike in the crosswalk. Bike zoomed through the cars, stopped at the red light and nailed me.” Come on! Don’t be running people down!
  • OK, so that one’s impractical for you? If you’re in so much of a hurry that you really can’t wait 25 seconds for the light to change, be sure you actually look both ways and into the crosswalk ahead when you cross against the signal so you’re not crashing into people because you’re so unobservant.
  • Stop or lock your bikes in a way that doesn’t block everyone else’s path. For example, don’t lock your bike at a staircase so no one can climb the stairs. And don’t stop in front of a building entrance where people have to wait for you to move before getting in and out. Annoying.
  • Use common sense when riding metro and elevators. That sounds dumb, but it would be really helpful. Sense whether it’s too crowded and you should wait for the next one. Don’t knock everyone over to squeeze your bike on. Things like that would be nice.
  • This isn’t etiquette so much as safety, but wear a helmet. Don’t care if you’re riding for 5 seconds or 5 hours, but be safe and put it on.

What else would be helpful for our two-wheeled friends? And any cyclists out there have any comments about some of this stuff?

As always, if you have any other tips, feel free to shoot them to me in an email at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @mike_kohn.

* DC law allows for bicycles on sidewalks in our neighborhood. The cutoff is Massachusetts Avenue NW, with bikes allowed on sidewalks north of Massachusetts.

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