Don't get me wrong, there are bike lanes and pedestrian right of way signs in D.C. But drivers, bikers and walkers need to pay attention... Seriously!
I was driving to the Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown D.C.'s early morning rush hour. My meeting started at 7:30 a.m. so traffic was relatively light but for Washington D.C., it was already hectic.
Inbound on 16th Street, there are two lanes of traffic. Buses stay in the right lane so you rarely see drivers staying behind a bus. The left lane is also a turn lane. So with buses to the right and turners to the left, the climate is ripe for what I like to call-
The Bob & Weave Effect
All of us driving inbound, toward downtown Washington D.C., are bobbing and weaving around the buses and the cars turning from the left lane. Of course, all of the drivers are speeding because everyone is in such a hurry.
And now, just to make it more dangerous, cue the bicyclist and pedestrians!
The Bob & Weave is a challenge in a car but for a bicyclist or a walker, it can be deadly. This morning I witnessed two near misses with bicyclist and cars. One bicyclist, trying to avoid a large grate in the road, pulled in front of a car driving 30 mph. Fortunately, the driver moved around the bike.
I watched another driver blow through a red light, barely missing a car in the intersection. Fortunately, the red light runner was immediately caught by a passing Secret Service police truck. Still, it was dumb luck that he didn't broadside a car, on the driver's side.
Before I joined Buyer's Edge as Vice President & Associate Broker, I was a traffic reporter in Washington D.C. Ironically, I never drove in rush hour traffic but I did watch it and report accidents and incidents on local radio and television stations. I learned a lot about human behavior as I watched road rage incidents unfold.
According to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
High speeds make a crash more dangerous because it shortens our time to stop or slow down. Speed also makes a crash more deadly because the crash energy increases as speed goes up. With this in mind, here's my unsolicited safety advice for drivers, walkers, and bicyclist.
- Slow the hell down, please. Where's the fire? What's the hurry? Why speed up to the next traffic light only to join the rest of us who are just behind you? In all seriousness, take some deep breaths and calm down when you are behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound vehicle. You are commanding a metal warrior that can kill, so please drive with this in mind.
- A bicyclist has the right to be in a travel lane. Respect that right- like it or not.
- Plan for your daily drive. If it usually takes 30 minutes to drive to work, give yourself 45 minutes. If you are running late, accept it. Don't take it out on bicyclist or other drivers who are "in your way".
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Take out the ear buds and wear a helmet, just in case you need it.
- Know where you are riding. The first time you ride your bike to work shouldn't be in rush hour traffic. Take a practice drive on a Sunday and learn how to navigate the potholes and construction.
- Use hand signals! I don't know where you want to go unless you tell me and it's rude and dangerous to keep me guessing.
- Look up from your phone. It's fine to be on the phone while on the sidewalk but scary if you've got your head down in a crosswalk.
- Just because you can walk, doesn't mean you should. Look both way and count to five before you walk into the crosswalk. If it saves your life, it's worth the 5-second wait.
Imagine being the bicyclist, walker or the other driver, how would you want to be treated? What if the "other person" was a sister, wife, dad or friend?
This simple practice, imagining being the "other" can be a powerful way to stay in control.