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Bikes and Scooters Out in Force

Accompanying images can be viewed starting on page 1 of the May 2019 issue pdf

By William G. Schulz

Tensions are rising as warm weather brings more pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter riders out on city streets and sidewalks.

The InTowner, after reviewing the video footage of the raucous “bicycle wilding” incident as reported by that took place on April 11th in which a parade of hundreds of cyclists and scooter riders filled 21st Street, NW, began contacting city officials about the growing tensions and hostility between longtime residents, pedestrians, and bike and scooter riders.

A frequent complaint from residents and pedestrians is that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is not enforcing laws on the books that say cyclists and scooter riders must obey the same traffic laws as automobile drivers. Elderly and disabled people and those with small children and dogs face particular dangers from the increasingly wanton behavior of the two-wheelers buzzing about the neighborhoods.

Third District Police Commander Stuart Emerman told The InTowner that “MPD enforces bike laws through education as well as enforcement. DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] handles all of the notices of infraction once they are written. We do not keep stats on how many people we educate versus issue tickets to.”

“What we do have is an increase in non-traditional vehicles and pedestrians using our roadways,” Emerman continued. “Cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists all need to work within the laws and exhibit patience and safe operating practices to make sure that everyone gets home without injury. It is a collective effort of all that use the roadway.”

The InTowner later observed an MPD officer issuing a traffic citation to a cyclist who entered a marked sidewalk crossing while a pedestrian was still making her way to the other side of the street.

Bicyclists and scooter riders do not have to obtain licenses to operate two-wheeled vehicles in DC. The InTowner is awaiting a response from DMV officials as to how traffic laws can be enforced when there is no license for the vehicle or the operator.

Cyclists and scooter riders insist that they are the endangered parties in the growing dispute, both by reckless automobile drivers and city officials lackadaisical about efforts to protect them and make the city more bicycle-friendly.

The wilding incident occurred just before an April 13th Department of Transportation (DDOT) public meeting on a controversial bike lane proposal for Dupont Circle. The protected lane would traverse north and south on   either 21st or 20th Street. Neighbors have been vocal in urging DDOT to choose 20th Street to avoid the congestion and impact on parking the route would have if it were to be on 21st Street.

[Editor’s Note:] The InTowner encourages residents of Dupont Circle and surrounding neighborhoods who have photos or short videos of bicyclists and scooter riders on sidewalks or in the streets breaking the law to send them to [email protected]. Please give us as much information as possible, including your contact information.

Copyright © 2019 InTowner Publishing Corp. & William G. Schulz. All rights reserved.


Reader Comment

Channel 9 did not cover the Dupont bike issue in a completely balanced way. I appreciated that they quoted from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) as well as from the neighbor who complained about bikes. Their coverage could have been better, of course, if they balanced the neighbor’s fear of someone possibly getting hurt by a bicycle with statistics about how many people actually get hurt or killed by cars.

The InTowner’s article, unfortunately, made the coverage even worse. The journalist chose to drop the quote from WABA and to introduce the world “wilding,” which has an inflammatory tone and a racist history.

I would encourage you please to strive for more balanced coverage in the future. The “wilding” term is racially harmful, and neglecting quotes from WABA and any proportional facts about injuries from cars sends the public a dangerously misleading message about the greatest threats to pedestrians.

Jonathan Fichter