View Full Version : My first road rage incident

04-15-2011, 05:41 PM
Today was only my second time riding in downtown traffic. I regularly ride/commute through the Pentagon City, Crystal City, L'Enfant Plaza, the Mall, and area trails so am not a complete newbie to cycling. I have a hybrid and do about 50 miles/week.

I was heading southbound on 21 St. south of K Street. This is a one way street and where there were two lanes, I always stayed to the right so as to allow cars to pass me easily (but far enough away from the parked cars to prevent being doored). After an intersection, the road narrowed to one lane so I "took the lane" and didn't think too much about it till a van pulled up behind me and kept blaring on the horn, esp at a couple of intersections. I didn't even realize she was bleeping at me till she got right up on my back wheel at one point; if I had suddenly stopped I'm sure she would have hit me.

I then pulled over as far to the right as possible next to the parked cars in order to let her pass. When she did, she screamed out the window that I should get off the road because it is dangerous. I guess she was really in a hurry but the irony is that I fully caught up to her at the next light (at Constitution Ave). **Should I have stopped in the road to block her and called the cops? If I had, I would have been blocking all of the southbound traffic.**

The incident left me so rattled that I didn't feel confident traveling east bound on Constitution (my ultimate destination being L'Enfant Plaza) so I went on to the sidewalk that runs parallel to Constitution (not sure if sidewalk riding is legal there). That was a less than ideal situation because of the sheer crush of tourists along the way and I'm sure I got a few evil looks.

I really don't like riding on busy sidewalks but the streets of downtown seem incredibly dangerous/unfriendly to cyclists (I also experienced a taxi driver almost hitting me when he moved into my lane without looking). I can't believe people use the CaBi bikes in these parts (because they are so slow and hard to go up hills).

I've lived in the area for 12 years so know my way around and found travelling by bike to be unnerving and unsafe. What about all the out of towners who are renting CaBi and Bike & Roll?! I did see some of the latter folks looking completely bewildered around the Foggy Bottom roundabout.

I'm planning on taking some of WABA's safe driving classes but think I'll stay out of downtown till proper infrastructure is implemented. A real shame though since I prefer biking over all other modes. It's so frustrating not to "belong" on the roads nor the sidewalks. We really need our own infrastructure. :(

04-15-2011, 09:01 PM
I'm sorry to hear about this, but don't give up, we've all been there, unfortunately.

Do take the WABA Confident City Cycling class. It sounds like you have all the right instincts, but I'm sure the instructors can respond to your concerns and make suggestions for negotiating these hairy spots.

Another suggestion is to look at the bike map of DC -- usually there are multiple ways to get from one place to another, and maybe you can find an alternative that will be quieter and less stressful. The bike map notes which streets have bike lanes, which are okay for cycling and on which cycling is not recommended.

My similar incident was very early in my bike commuting days -- I was riding around Thomas Circle and the car behind me kept his (or her, I never looked back) hand on the horn the entire time it took to negotiate the circle -- at least three or four minutes because traffic was at a complete stop and I couldn't have moved any faster because I was going exactly as fast as the car in front of me. I got to work shaking and freaked out. Over the years since then, I have decided not to let someone else foist their problems and stress off on me.

I do agree we need more biking infrastructure! I think it would encourage even more people to try pedaling around.

Good luck and don't give up.


04-16-2011, 08:29 PM
Sorry to hear that I suggest you get your phone and "snap" a picture of their car, and then try and get one of the driver.

And you don't really need to take a picture, just make them THINK you are taking a picture. They will think twice about pulling that crap again in the future. I've done this trick before with just PRETENDING I had a camera and it made the driver turn their head away.

Be careful doing this, you don't want to get them so pissed at you that they try to run you over. However if you do want to make them mad, shake your phone at them like you are saying "Can't you see I'm trying to have a private conversation!!!!"

04-17-2011, 04:05 PM
Unfortunately there are some aggressive drivers in the area. But not all of them are. The aggressive ones tend to stand out and make it seem like all the drivers are loose cannons.

The DC bike map is a good idea. You can also try out new routes on the weekends so you learn which streets are better to ride on than others. The DC bike map indicates that you can ride on the Constitution Ave. sidewalk from 23rd St. to 15th St. NW. If you're going further east, you can ride on the paths next to Madison and Jefferson Drive.

If it's not too far a detour, the 15th St. cycletrack is a good alternative for north-south travel. There are also east-west cycletracks or there will be soon. I don't remember which streets.

It is confounding when a driver gets impatient like that and passes you, only to beat you to the next red light by just 30 seconds. And then you catch up to the stopped car.

That driver was clearly in the wrong by trying to force you aside and screaming like that. Bikes are allowed on almost all roads in D.C., other than the high-speed limited access roads and highways, and some other exceptions. You have to take care with confrontations because the other person is armed with 2 tons of steel and aluminum, and you aren't.

There have been a lot of new bike infrastructure additions over the past few years, but they aren't located in every neighborhood. The cycletracks and bike lanes can help you avoid some of the areas of potential conflict. Scouting out good side roads can help too. I tend to avoid the traffic circles because there are too many drivers who weave and move multiple lanes at a time.

I've encountered a couple obnoxious drivers but I've managed to limit the frequency of those situations by avoiding certain streets, circles and intersections. Riding a little before or after the peak of rush hour can help a little. There will also be fewer tourists in the area as the cherry blossoms disappear. (Well, at least until Independence Day.)

04-17-2011, 09:45 PM
I have experienced a couple times with these drivers in DC but it doesn't bother me much anymore. On the positive note, they horned then it means they see you. I'm afraid the most is the drivers didn't see you because they're distracted with texting and driving. Sometimes, I'm happy they blow their horn then I would wave and say"Have a nice day!"

It would be every help if you ride on the routes with a lot bikers.

Good Luck