As I noted a few days ago, based on personal observationi (and not actually riding) riding a bike in Stockholm is a stress-free pleasure. All road users have their own lane and everybody follows the rules. Nobody rides hell for leather when commuting. The pace is civilized, around 8 -12 miles per hour. I decided to bring Stockholm biking behavior to my DC riding to see if it would work.
- Riding home from the Nats game Sunday night was an adventure to say the least. As I left the bike valet at the ball park, I was waved into a mob of pedestrians by a traffic control person. I complied but had to ride a weird “S” to avoid hitting anybody.
- I rode to I Street to take the bike lane west. I managed to get about a block before cars preparing to make a right turn on South Capitol Street clogged the lane. Blocking the bike lane was unnecessary, of course, because there is a right turn lane to the right of the bike lane and the turn lane was empty. To add to the mess, none of the cars that were turning into and across the bike lane had their turn signals on. I suppose the people on bikes in the bike lane were supposed to read the drivers minds.
- At South Capitol I was about to ride through on the green when I had to stop. A black SUV had intruded on the crosswalk to my left. To allow pedestrians to use the crosswalk, the traffic control person waved the SUV through on a red light without looking to see if there was anyone (like me) in the intersection behind her.
- A few blocks later a car stopped to make a left turn. The car behind swerved into the bike lane without signalling. I managed to avoid getting hit. See why we need protected bike lanes?
- About a half mile further on I came to a red light on Maine Avenue at 9th Street. I moved to the left of the left lane and signalled that I would be taking a left turn. The next left turn was about 100 yards ahead. I managed to get 50 yards before the SUV driver behind me became impatient and roared past within inches of my right arm. Despite trying my best to ride like a calm and courteous Swede, I raised my right hand and gave him the bird. Fail. I must try and be more mindful of my Swedishness. For all the driver’s troubles, he made it about 75 yards before he became stopped in traffic again.
- I turned left and took the sidewalk which is part of the Anacostia River Trail system. The sidewalk was filled with meandering pedestrians. None of them bothered to keep to the right. Toddlers were walking randomly among the adults so it was impossible to pass. Once they finally stepped out of the way I came upon five large young men walking, no, swaggering, five-abreast across the trail. A thought crossed my mind that I might be mugged. At the very last second, they stepped aside. Macho sidewalk men. Not Swedish.
- Once free of the wonderfulness of everyday cycling in DC, I was treated to a tailwind on the Mount Vernon Trail. Just south of the bridges into DC, an attractive young woman was riding toward me. The young man behind her pulled out and rode slowly past her, checking her out in the process. Of course, what he wasn’t checking out was the fact that he was about to be in a head-on collision with me. I yelled. He swerved out of the way.
- On a beautiful spring evening families were hanging out at Gravelley Point. Kids, from three to six, were wandering about, stepping in front of passing bicyclists. Parents paid no attention. A group of four adults stood in the middle of the path watching the planes taking off. Bicyclists were forced to go all over the place to avoid them. The fact that there was ample space on the lawn for them to stand somehow seemed to escape their awareness.
- This morning, on the Mount Vernon Trail, all was calm. I was enjoying the ride as I rode up the second of two fly-over bridges at National Airport when a cyclist in a black t-shirt came zooming by. The bridge is curved so he couldn’t see the oncoming trail traffic. To avoid a collision he swerved to the right as he passed me, nearly clipping my front wheel.
And so it goes. You can try to ride safely around here, but you almost surely will find yourself in harms way. No wonder nobody follows the rules.
I’ll keep trying to be civil like a Swede. Let’s see if it doesn’t put me in the ER.