Urban Commuting: the Invisible Cyclist
Today I decided to take a post-work commute home through the White House Plaza across 17th Street and over to Georgetown.
Those of you familiar with this area know that, for drivers traveling east-bound, Pennsylvania Avenue T’s into 17th and the White House Plaza. The only traffic crossing drivers’ paths at 17th and Pennsylvania is either pedestrian or cyclist.
As I exited the plaza and made my entry to cross 17th Street and continue onto Pennsylvania, a car approached from the opposite direction (at the T) to make a left. We both had the green light to go and the pedestrian signal indicated at least 10 seconds before the light change.
Something about the speed of the car gave me pause, and I touched my brakes as a cautionary measure. The car never saw me and bulldozed its way through the intersection right in front of me. I stood eyeball to eyeball with the passenger, and just shook my head as they zipped past.
This situation recalled a piece of advice someone had shared with me once. I think many cyclists have heard it. “Act like you’re invisible.” I don’t really agree with it, but I get the point that it’s trying to make.
I don’t think cyclists should act like they’re invisible, as this mentality has the potential to put a cyclist in a vulnerable situation. There are times to take the lane and act as visible as possible.
However, it’s also important to be cognizant that some people (particularly, people who are driving cars and SUVs and other vehicles that can possibly kill you) simply do not see people on bikes.
Today’s traffic scare wasn’t a super-close call, but close enough that it amped up my heart rate for the next hour or so. I rode extra-cautiously and burned in anger toward the driver. I had the green light and just as much of the right of way as did this driver. They should have been looking out for cyclists. GRRR!
Don’t they know the White House Plaza area is a main thoroughfare for cyclists? That we have rights to the road, too? Does this person have no respect for my life? I was ticked.
Whatever. Ultimately, I know I did the right thing by being aware of the driver, sensing that they wouldn’t stop, and grabbing the brakes. Infuriating? Yes, but I avoided getting hit and nothing bad happened.
The ride ended up being one of those reminder-type rides.
- Remember commute trouble spots.
- Remember that drivers don’t always yield to cyclists, even when it is supposedly the law.
- Remember what’s important, i.e., my personal safety.
Sure, I could have pressed through the intersection, but it would have ended up with me being struck and who knows what else. I have no interest in my epitaph reading “She had the right of way.” I much prefer one that says something like “She was a good friend to people (and zombies).”