From one cyclist to another: Obey the traffic laws

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By Jane Coughran, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

With many readers of Alexandria’s newspapers weighing in on the cars versus bicycles versus pedestrians issue, I’d like to add my two cents.

I’m a 75-year-old longtime resident of South Lee Street and, before that, a veteran of years of biking to and from work in Midtown Manhattan. That’s when it was dangerous rather than fashionable and there were no bike lanes or helmets, but plenty of taxis doing their best to scare us interlopers off the streets. I rode defensively, always stopped at lights and crosswalks and never had an accident. I loved it.

Until recently, I sympathized with cyclists, whether commuters or weekend riders, but now I also agree in large part with the letter that appeared in your August 7 edition (“We must stop the ‘cycling anarchy’”). Many cyclists who blast through Old Town today seem to demonstrate a sense of entitlement that they believe renders them far above such inconveniences as stop signs, cars or people.

I see it constantly on Union Street, and last week was nearly hit by a black Speedo-suited cyclist who, at dusk, sailed through the intersection of Duke and South Lee streets as I was in the crosswalk, bearing a cane and packages. He was traveling far faster than any car would, looking straight ahead, with no lights on his bike. He may not have seen me. However, when I nearly fell and yelled “stop sign,” his only response was a string of four letter expletives.

Obviously, most cyclists are not as irresponsible as that young man. But from what I’ve seen, some of the “through riders” — those traveling on the Mount Vernon Trail from both north and south of Old Town — seem to be the worst offenders. Maybe they think that Union and Lee streets are parts of the path and that there’s no need for them to reduce their speed or obey traffic laws.

This trend raises a question for the future. If and when the new waterfront plan is fully realized, will it include that portion of the bike path that is now on city streets? I certainly hope so. That just might alleviate much of the problem.