Submission: Cyclist Struck at Van Ness St and 40th Pl NW; Received $150 Ticket

Date: 11/18/10
Approx Time: 3PM
Aaron Z writes:

I was riding my bicycle down Van Ness St. at 3:15 PM. As I was crossing the street at the intersection with 40th Place NW, a driver made a right turn and collided with me. The driver was apologetic and, thanks to his low speed at the time of the collision, I was relatively unhurt. I did go to GWU hospital to make sure I am okay.

However, the police officer at the scene almost immediately told me I was at fault, because I was riding my bike on the sidewalk. Even more strange, he gave me a $150 ticket for “”failure to control speed to avoid collision.”” To me this seems nonsensical – the car hit me in the side as I was crossing the street during his right turn. Shouldn’t it be the driver’s responsibility to check for pedestrians and/or cyclists?

I am just happy to be okay after the incident, though if there is any official rule about this kind of situation I would like to know.

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6 Responses to Submission: Cyclist Struck at Van Ness St and 40th Pl NW; Received $150 Ticket

  1. Laura B says:

    A similar thing happened to me. Earlier this month, I was riding in the 15th St bike lane and a taxi turned left into my path. I was thrown from my bike. The cop gave me a $200 ticket for failure to yield. The cops are not educated on traffic laws as they apply to bikes. Your ticket is non-sensical and improper. You had the right of way. And dc regulations permit bikes to ride on the sidewalks everywhere except the business district. Fight this citation.

  2. sportmac says:

    i was riding on the sidewalk on macarthur blvd. i ride on it for the last two blocks of my commute, otherwise i’m in the street. cop was getting out of his car to go into a store and i slowed to let him cross the sidewalk. he told me it was illegal to ride on the sidewalk. i didn’t say anything but wondered why he didn’t know the law.

    so how can they not know this? isn’t that like their job or something?

    • Aaron Z. says:

      Police officers are not perfect – nobody is. Their job is simply to enforce the law and they are given training on what the law is. That said, there are a lot of laws and a lot of them are really complicated.

      In my case, the officer at the scene was a 17-year veteran with DC police who has received recognition for being an outstanding officer. Would I have liked it if he knew the exact rule in question? Yes. This is why we have the judicial system.

      As for this specific law, I think there is some understandable unclearness – Bicycles are vehicles and obey the rules of the road inside the Central Business District and any other areas the mayor declares. Outside of this area, they revert to being pedestrians. My experience has led me to believe that since this is a Washington DC law, many officers assume it applies across the entire area of Washington DC. A mistake? Yes, but in my opinion an understandable one.

      • 2gb says:

        Even most bicyclists don’t know that sidewalk riding is illegal in certain parts of the city and not in others.

  3. Velvet says:

    It depends, if there is a stop sign at that intersection, and you ran it (like most bikers do) then I believe you are in the wrong. I’m trying to understand though, how a driver making a right turn hit you. Were you next to him and he made the right turn in front of you? Or were you coming down the opposing street?

  4. Aaron Z. says:

    I just wanted to bring in a quick update to this incident, since I did have my court date recently. The ticket was dismissed owing to, among other things, the fact that the wording of the ticket was “failure to adjust speed to avoid a collision” and yet the officer did not have any information about my speed at the time of the collision in his report.

    My interpretation is that the judge saw the ticket as grossly wrong and figured out a way to dismiss it.

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