Right Turns and Tailwinds

One thing you don’t have to worry about while riding in the basement is driver behavior. Today I did a 45-mile ride mostly on trails. That didn’t stop me from encountering drivers doing things that could have put me in an ambulance.

I rode 15 miles to Georgetown. To get to the Capital Crescent Trail I had to back track several blocks on busy M Street. I rode like I was driving a car, too the lane (in very slow traffic), and made it to my right turn on Wisconsin Avenue. This is a crazy busy intersection with heavy pedestrian traffic. A few years ago a traffic cop was run over and killed here so my level of caution is always off the charts when I ride here. I was behind a white sedan in the right hand lane. We had a turn arrow but the driver hadn’t put on her turn signal. I was tempted to go by her to the right to turn down Wisconsin when I thought better of it. Sure enough, she turned right. Good thing the pedestrians (and I) were all out of the way.

A couple of blocks later, I followed the white sedan just off its right rear bumper. The driver without signaling pulled over apparently to get her bearings, nearly clipping my front wheel in the process. As I rode by I said, “Use your turn signal, please.” She mouthed “Sorry.”

I managed to ride about 25 more miles without encountering a vehicular threat until I reached South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. I climbed a small incline on the Mount Vernon Trial to get to South Washington. If the pedestrian light was lit, I was going to ride across South Washington and take the on-street route home. The pedestrian light was red so I turned left to continue along the sidewalk on South Washington which is a part of the Mount Vernon Trail. A driver coming out of an apartment access road to my left, blew through the red light and made a right turn, ignoring the No Turn on Red sign. Luckily I was a few seconds too slow to beat him to the crosswalk. Had it not been for way too many Christmas cookies I could have been hit.

About 100 yards later down the trail I came to the access to the Porto Vecchio condominium complex. This is where I was hit by a driver in a hurry to take a right on red without stopping. I complained to the city and, after more than six months, they changed the ambiguous No Turn on Red When Pedestrians Are Present sign to No Turn on Red. Cars leaving the complex are supposed to wait at a stop line behind the trail. This is where the camera mounted above the traffic light will detect them to give them a green light. Today the driver of an SUV was completely blocking the trail as I approached. I could see the driver checking traffic to his left for an opening for his right turn on red.

I rang my bell repeatedly then stopped perpendicular to his passenger side door. “What are you doing?” “Back up” I yelled. He wouldn’t look my way. “Get off the trail.” He then looked my way. I pointed to the No Turn on Red Sign and yelled “I was hit here!” and then told me to eff off before taking a right on red.

I wonder if this man behaves this way in the supermarket. Or in church. Or at the office.

Something about being behind the wheel of a car makes some people feel even more entitled than they already do. In each of these four incidents the drivers could have simply done the right thing. How hard is it to use your turn signal? Is 20 or 30 seconds of your time worth putting someone in the hospital?

For my trouble I was rewarded with two tailwinds. The wind direction changed almost exactly when I arrived in Bethesda. The bike gods were with me today.

3 thoughts on “Right Turns and Tailwinds

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