From one cyclist to another: Obey the traffic laws


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.




    • Some of the “trainers” are probably pushing over the speed limit (25mph). But the cars are much worse in that regard.

      And, as with most things, it’s those few interlopers that ruin it for the rest of us. I’ve been called explicatives myself when I called out fellow cyclists for blatantly running red lights (without stopping or even bothering to look).

  1. Can we expect you to call out drivers next letter to the editor? From one driver to another, of course. There are far, far more infractions by drivers than cyclists every day. AND the consequences are far, far greater than that of cyclists. Come with on my daily bike commute and I will count them with you.

  2. Your point is well made, Mrs. Cougrahn. The cyclists are out of control. One only need to sit at an intersection, any intersection, in Old Town to see cyclists flagrantly break the law at the expense of pedestrians and motorists.

    Last week I saw two different cyclists within 5 minutes of each other blow through the three-way stop at Commonwealth and Cameron. Each was nearly hit by a car that had the right-of-way. Both cyclists shouted vile invectives and waved fists at the drivers, and one of the cyclists actually pounded on the car’s front as he raced around in front of it. He also swerved into the cross-walk and nearly toppled a pregnant woman holding the hand of a toddler.

    And, now, we’re being told that we need to add bike lanes on already-congested Prince and Cameron Streets. As ‘traffic calming measures’. What a hoot.

    Thirty years ago, when we first moved to Prince Street, yes, I suppose that it was possible to start up at Gaines and bomb down to Route 1, hitting a speed of 50 or 60 along the way. But now there is a stop sign or stop light at every single intersection of Prince Street, beginning at the top and running to the bottom.

    I don’t know about most folks but I’ve found that it is virtually impossible to go from a dead stop to the speed limit of 25, such as one does in a car going from block to block. But, the cyclists blaze through those intersections without stopping and it certainly seems to me that they are going faster than I am since I’m still sitting at a stop sign or stop light. So I’m not sure what their speed is but they certainly are going faster than the cars. And, yet, we in the cars are told that we need traffic calming.

    We need immediate action. Police officers should be ticketing cyclists when they see violations. I’ve heard from a couple of officers that they stopped writing tickets because the tickets were being tossed out by the judges. That needs to stop. Cyclists need to be held accountable for their actions. The right to ride on the streets is accompanied by a RESPONSIBILITY to ride safely and to obey the traffic laws.