Old Town needs a lesson in sharing

Alexandria’s known for being bike-friendly, but cyclists worry the city is slowing efforts to add new facilities, like dedicated lanes on busy streets. City officials say the improvements can’t happen overnight. (Photo/Derrick Perkins)

To the editor:

Old Town has been a cycling destination for more than 40 years, and Union Street is the designated bicycle route connecting the north and south end of the Mount Vernon Trail. Residents have accepted this for years, but as of late, there has been an extreme outcry over “aggressive” cyclists.

A few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to see for myself the “bad behavior” of cyclists and residents at the corner of Prince and Union streets on a Saturday afternoon. What I witnessed was quite different from what a previous letter to the editor described as “pigs on wheels.”

A local resident was lurking on the corner, harassing and physically assaulting any cyclist who did not happen to put their foot down and come to a complete stop at the intersection. The resident was jumping out in front of cyclists in a dangerous and aggressive — as well as illegal — manner.

The police arrived, but the resident went into hiding after changing his clothes. Seeing the officer coming, he would not answer his door when the officer knocked.

I also witnessed several motorists not “following the rules” by rolling through the stop signs and pedestrians “jaywalking” mid-street with no regard for drivers or cyclists.

As far as conduct is concerned, motorists far outweigh cyclists statistically. How many road-rage incidents involving cars occur daily in the D.C. area? If I happen to be riding my bike along Union Street at the speed limit and following all of the rules of the road, does that still mean a car is entitled to pass me dangerously and at a greater speed on the left? Why should I have to stick close to the curb if I am riding at the speed limit?

In other cultures — Europe and Asia — bikes co-exist with motorists and pedestrians more peacefully. It is accepted that a bike is a form of transportation, and it could very well be your brother or sister riding in front of you on the road.

Why can’t some Old Town residents accept this and just get on with more important transportation matters, such as parking or vehicle emission issues?
-C.B.Moore, III



  1. I’ve bike-commuted off and on for years, although I admit I’m a fair weather cyclist. I commuted to and from DC 2 or 3 days a week for awhile, and rode to work in Old Town and Del Ray. I ride to shops and out to restaurants sometimes. I wear a helmet, wear plain clothes, don’t ride that fast. I know “cyclists” cause a panic to a lot of old towners (as if all “cyclists” are part of a club. are “drivers” all part of the same tribe? am I part of both? anyhow…). Anyhow, most Alexandrians are pretty considerate. But the only places in the DC area I’ve ever been honked at, yelled at, or gestured to, have been when I was in Old Town! And usually on a side street (I avoid King!) with plenty of room for everyone on the road, and I was not doing anything wrong. I have to say, it all cases it was a senior citizen driver.

  2. Well, I’m not sure vehicle emissions are a real issue, but I agree with the general sentiment. I bike commute into DC from north OT and lov it. When I make runs down into OT, I often use my bicycle rather than deal with the hassle of parking. I’ve found that folks are largely very supportive. I always tell folks who don’t know OT that it’s like Annapolis with the quaint water-bound charm, but that it is also two other big things: dog-friendy and cyclist-friendly.

    My biggest concern cycling in OT is really motorists running red lights on the GWP/Washington St. It’s particularly troublesome up by Slaters lane where folks know there isn’t another light. I’ve seen it cause one traffic (car-to-car) collision and nearly kill a few cyclists, myself included. The Park Police and City Police have been cracking down on it some.

    For those complaining, I suggest they hop on a bike and ride through OT. Honestly, it’s faster than driving, parking and walking for me and barring horrible weather, it’s much more pleasant.