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Share the Road: Tips for Drivers, Cyclists, and Pedestrians

On average, 265 bicycle and 600 pedestrian crashes are reported to the Metropolitan Police Department each year in the District of Columbia. Approximately 2,700 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured every year in the Washington region, and 89 are killed. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities accounted for 23% of the total traffic fatalities in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and northern Virginia from 2004-2008. What’s disappointing is that many of these fatalities could have been avoided. By exercising some caution and extending some common courtesies, future tragedies can be avoided. The following tips should help drivers, bikers and walkers share the road and get where they’re going safely.

Behaviors motorists and walkers should avoid and fines for associated violations.

Tips for Drivers

Drivers are reminded to turn on vehicle headlights at dusk and be vigilant in looking out for cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, drivers should:

  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
  • Yield to pedestrians and cyclists when turning.
  • Look before opening your door.
  • Be careful when passing stopped vehicles.
  • Allow three feet when passing bicyclists.

Tips for Cyclists

When travelling on city streets, cyclists should follow the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles. This means stopping at stop signs; obeying traffic signals and lane markings; and using hand signals to let others know your intention to stop or turn.  Furthermore, cyclists are advised to be aware of their surroundings:

  • Don’t wear headphones; you need to be able to hear if a car is approaching.
  • Slow down and check for oncoming traffic before entering any street or intersection
  • Do your best to anticipate hazards and adjust your position in traffic accordingly.
  • Be predictable: ride with the flow of traffic, on the right, and in a straight line – not in and out of parked cars on the side of the street.

Be visible and wear the proper protective gear. DC law mandates that riders under 16 are required to wear a helmet while cycling in the District of Columbia, but it’s a good idea for bikers of any age. Make eye contact with motorists to let them know you are there (but don’t always expect them to see you). And stay visible by riding where drivers are looking (i.e., do not pass on the right). Bicyclist should be particularly mindful of their visibility to other vehicles in the evening, especially when biking during rush hour or later. Legally, cyclists must have a front white light and a red rear reflector and/or a rear red light.

  • Get more Smart Bicycling Tips from Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA)
  • Get cycling tips and hand signals from the Street Smart Campaign

Tips for Walkers and Runners

Whether you’re going for an afternoon stroll, commuting to work on foot, or getting some exercise, walking and running are great activities. However, it’s importing to pay attention. When walking or exercising, especially in the early morning or at dusk or dark, pedestrians should keep the following tips in mind:

  • MPD encourages walkers to use signaled crosswalks when possible. Use extreme caution when crossing at intersections without signals.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Never run between cars into the street.
  • Wear clothing that allows drivers and people to see you. That means no dark clothes after dark or early in the morning.
  • Exercising outdoors at dusk or at night can be dangerous without some type of reflective device on your clothing. Many athletic shoes have reflective qualities built in, but also consider a vest complete with reflective tape.
  • Keep alert! Dawn and dusk offer convenient shadows for muggers and other crooks.

Runners are also reminded to ALWAYS carry identification with them when they go out. If carrying a license seems too inconvenient, please consider purchasing an identification bracelet or tag for your shoe. New products designed especially for runners, bikers and other athletes have recently come on the market. A simple internet search for “identification bracelet” will provide numerous results.

Report Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is a combination of unsafe and unlawful actions that demonstrate a conscious and willful disregard for safety. The following offenses are included: running red lights and stop signs; following too closely, or tailgating; changing lanes unsafely; failing to yield the right of way; improper passing; and speeding. And aggressive driving is against the law.

Aggressive drivers may target bikers as well as drivers of other motorized vehicles. It’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid an aggressive driver rather than to engage him or her. Bikers can do that by getting out of their way and steering clear of them on the road; staying relaxed – remember, reaching your destination safely and calmly is your goal; not challenging them; avoiding eye contact; and ignoring rude gestures.

Whether you’re on a bicycle or in a car, you should report aggressive driving if you see it. Police will need to know the following information:

  • Description of Vehicle (color, make, model, license plate state, and license plate number).
  • Description of driver (sex, race, age, hair color, height, weight).
  • Location of incident.
  • Date and time of incident.
  • Description of what happened.
  • If you’re willing to be a witness, be sure to provide your name, address and phone number.

Learn more about aggressive driving by visiting the Smooth Operator webpage.