I have seen a number of rogue bicyclists on 16th St sidewalks, right between R and Q, as well as a close call on a Sunday afternoon when one plowed into a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the light to change where no one was seriously injured only because one of them noticed him coming and all of them parted quickly so that only a brushback or two was the result. And this has given me a recurring nightmare because I know that a lot of pre-school children go out walking with their caretakers from the DCJCC, which is just east of the corner of 16th and Q. My nightmare has been that one day a sidewalk bicyclist will run into them causing the kind of tragedy that might get people to demand action, but at a terrible cost.
Well yesterday my nightmare almost came true. I decided at about 11:30 a.m. to exercise at the DCJCC Fitness Center. When I stopped on the Northwest side of Q and 16th, waiting for my ped light, I made my usual check, looking both ways, street and sidewalk, on Q even though it is a one-way street with a bike lane going east, because you never know. I saw only one sidewalk bicyclist on the SW corner but he was stopped leaning against the PETA house fence. So I thought he might be resting and not be a sidewalk bicyclist at all but returning to the bike lane. When I crossed to his side he also did not move, so my concern lessened. Then I saw two DCJCC counselors with a group of twelve of the cutest little kids you could imagine, all holding on to their rope line like they were supposed to. They moved to the corner to and were going my direction. I figured with them in back of me I was in no danger. So when my light came on I started out immediately.
Then within a second the bicyclist sped up behind me using the same ped crosswalk. Luckily my habit is already to walk to the right of that crosswalk too. As he passed me without a word and sped, not to the bike lane going his direction but up to the Q street sidewalk, I finally looked behind me: How had he managed to get around the kids? And why did he decide to use that moment to start up? Was he waiting for a crowd to terrorize? Or did he just not consider the danger? Little kids, especially the energetic ones can dance out of line, or get pushed playfully, or just decide to sit down suddenly. I asked the counsellor how he had gotten around them and had he given any warning. She said no warning and she didn’t see how he got around them. He had to have gone out into the street and suddenly just as the light changed. He was lucky there was no traffic at the light just waiting to turn right. But once in the street, why not use the bike lane that was right there?
We, I suppose, were lucky that he was just starting up and not already in speed mode.
Q and 16th, which looks pretty peaceful, especially in the middle of the day, is actually quietly dangerous because sidewalk bicyclists come from all directions and if you are crossing at one ped crosswalk, 16th is just broad enough as a street that by the time you get to the other side you may be hit by a sidewalk bicyclist coming from either direction on the other side. That almost happened to me last Friday afternoon around 6 when I had come back from the S2 Bus stop on the DCJCC side of Q and 16th, and stopped briefly when I got to my home side to do a good deed and take down the last remaining political sign. In the minute it took me to do that, a sidewalk bicyclist had come up from the south side of Q and one more step by me would have been disaster. He, of course, gave no warning. And in this case, if I had moved that extra step he wouldn’t have been able to react. His attention was not on the sidewalk because HE WAS TALKING ON HIS CELLPHONE!
And one more Q and 16th St. story, from last fall. Remember the day of Hurricane Sandy when the Mayor closed down the city in case we got a direct hit. Even the buses weren’t running until 2 PM if there hadn’t been a direct hit. But in the morning with ZERO street traffic, after WTOP said that there was wind and rain but we’d missed the brunt of the storm, I decided to venture out ever so slightly just across 16th Street. I noted that there was zero street traffic, or people anywhere around. It was a little Twilight Zone post nuclear bomb ish. But the lights were still working so I waiting for the light to cross. And that was almost my undoing—because, you guessed it—out of nowhere came a sidewalk bicyclist speeding up my 16th sidewalk. Him I did yell at–stating the obvious—“you idiot, there’s ZERO traffic on the street”
That’s all for now. STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE!