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urban cycling in dc

The mild climate of DC this winter means that more people have been cycling to work this winter.

That’s a good – no, a great thing! I love that people are willing to breathe in a little crisp air, turn their pedals, wake up a bit on their way into work.

All the same, you still see some of the same deplorable habits coming to roost: people running stop signs, people wearing headphones that tune out the traffic noise, people riding without helmets, and people not signaling where they intend to go, people riding without lights or reflective elements after dark.

I try to police things where I can, but I’m not official law enforcement (for the stop sign running and lack of signaling). But it does give those of us who do abide by the law (and common sense, and physics) a bad name. I mean, who’s going to lose when a car and a bike try to share the same space?

If you think it’s the bike, well…. I’m not sure who you are.

And I won’t point the finger at “the usual suspects”: folks like bike couriers and hipsters on their fixies or single-speeds; rather, I point the finger at folks who just don’t think when they ride. As a cyclist on the roads of DC, you are a vehicle using the road – the same as any car, motorcycle or scooter that shares the pavement with you and your wheels. So be an active participant in good road stewarship:

  • Obey stop signs and traffic lights. The extra few seconds per intersection won’t cost you – consider it good power or sprint training for your winter-softened legs.
  • Signal your turns, and take the lane when necessary: be assertive, be seen.
  • Invest $20 in a basic set of lights. Dip a little deeper if you want to get a reflective vest or belt, or a light that’ll give you as much presence as a motorcycle or small car.
  • Take off the headphones when you ride. If you must have tunes, then wear one headphone and keep the volume as low as you can.
  • Wear a helmet: it’s the cheapest insurance policy you can buy if you ride a bike.
  • When in doubt, don’t be stupid: pull off the road and let traffic by, take a breath whatever. Let’s face it: it’s not worth the stress, and sometimes you see some cool stuff by slowing down.

Okay, that was a bit of a rant. I still love the fact that people are still riding their bikes during the winter.

I just hope they also will use some common sense when they ride.

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