Bicyclists breaking the law endanger themselves and others

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To the editor:
On a Tuesday morning, walking from my house to King Street to catch the train to work, I noticed a cyclist pedaling south with a toddler in a car seat mounted on his bicycle to the rear of the bike seat. He approached the intersection of Queen and West streets and did what Jonathan Krall might characterize as a safe rolling stop — but he did not come close to actually stopping at the stop sign.

The bicyclist’s blatant disregard of basic traffic laws — with a toddler on board — appalled me to the point of speechlessness.

In Krall’s recent column (“The bicyclist as a scofflaw is a common misperception,” June 6), he insists witnesses to traffic violations like this should call the police. But by the time the police would get there — when a five-minute response is average — they would be too late to witness the violation or catch up with the violator.

So someone reminding the bicyclist that he is breaking traffic laws by asking, “Isn’t that a stop sign?” hardly strikes me as an assault. This is especially true when the pedestrian is at the curb, and the bicyclist is in the far lane. It certainly isn’t akin to the shenanigan he described where some Old Town pedestrian grabbed and pushed bicyclists who ignored the stop sign.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, our area experienced 264 traffic fatalities last year — 194 motorists, 67 pedestrians and 3 bicyclists. Bicycling, at 0.7 percent of trips, accounted for 1.1 percent of traffic fatalities. Moreover, 579 crashes involved bicyclists — compared to 845 involving pedestrians — even though pedestrians account for 3.2 percent of trips.

Stated differently, less than twice as many crashes involve pedestrians as bicyclists even though there are more than four times as many pedestrians. Bicycling is disproportionately dangerous, yet advocates continue insisting it’s safe for bicyclists to ignore traffic laws.

One might wonder exactly how pro-pedestrian the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is and whether pedestrian-bicyclist conflicts of the kind he describes constitute an inherent conflict of interest for such a committee and whether these conflicts of interest call for splitting the committee between its pedestrian and bicycle blocs.

But I wonder what the toddler, mounted in the car seat on the back of the bicycle, would think about the prudence of his father’s insouciant disregard of traffic laws?

– Dino Drudi
Alexandria