Friday, October 11, 2013

Advocacy and Construction on the 15th St. Cycletrack

I'm often praised and laughed at for my stubborn adherence to the idea that positive interactions are the best way to make advocacy happen in my daily riding.  As a WABA DC Bike Ambassador, it's my JOB to set a good example and have positive interactions with everyone traveling through our nation's capitol.  This morning my cool was challenged BIGTIME! 

There's a short stretch of the 15th Street Cycletrack that has been under construction for a few weeks and the bollards and paint have been removed. People not familiar with the intersection think that this is now a turn lane.  What makes this extremely dangerous for Northbound cyclists is that this stretch of 15th Street is one-way heading south.  Northbound cyclists are riding against traffic.  In the cycle track, that is completely normal and legal.  Outside of the cycle track that behavior would be dangerous and illegal.  

Blog posts like this are virtually useless without photos… and this one has an amazing photo.  My friend Joe was on the sidewalk with iPhone ready.  I didn't find out until 2 hours later that he was even there.  (Photo by my friend Joe Flood... amazing photographer with a great eye for downtown Washington, DC.  HERE is the original link to his photo.)

I was riding into this section of the bike lane with my friend Lyds… who doesn't do a lot of city riding.  She's a country girl.  As I'm about to enter the construction area, an Audi pulls into it VERY quickly.  He came to a quick stop and so did I with about 12" to spare.  He was angry.  He thought I was a cyclist riding the wrong way on a 1-way street in HIS lane.  It is an easy mistake to make.  I was hot too.  My blood was pumping from almost becoming an Audi hood ornament.  We both started off forcefully… He said I was going the wrong way in his lane.  I said he was driving in the bike lane.  This took him by surprise.  He asked if it was 2-way traffic for bikes.  I said it was.  He said he was sorry.  I said "no problem…. Be safe!"  He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  I told him to have a good day.

He drove off.  We rode on.  It could have been a horrible situation and a completely negative interaction.  It wasn't.  It was the power of positive interactions…  I kept my cool… outwardly at least.   He backed off when he realize that he'd made a mistake… one that was very easy to make.   All ended well.  

3 things to note.  1) I can't believe Joe was at that intersection with phone ready enough to capture that image.  He said the same thing to me in a text message later that afternoon.  

2) My friend BJ said that's the first time he has ever seen me not smiling when I'm on a bike.  I've known Beej for almost 10 years and he's probably right.  

3)  There's a lot of construction going on along the 15th Street Cycletrack.  There are signs up that say we should select a different route.  I do NOT choose another route for the reason that I ride to interact with EVERYONE along that stretch.  I talk to the construction guys to have POSITIVE interactions with them so they see that I'm NOT some law-breaking cyclist that is just in their way.  It gets results.  Many times they've put out cones to help make room for cyclists in the traffic lanes.  They're not legally required to do that!  Having positive interactions with people gives them a more complex view of cyclists.  When we're polite, nice and law-abiding, people notice and respond well in return.  It makes a difference for me EVERY DAY!

Thanks again Joe for that amazing photo.  

Rock on people!  



  1. nice work! great job keeping a cool head!

  2. Great job, Pete! Glad to hear you're having some awesome, positive experiences with people, and keeping DC's streets a safe place to ride.

    Thanks for all you do!