Each and every day I see bicyclists speeding through various stop signs on Union Street. If someone challenges them with a honk of the horn, they respond with a rude and vulgar hand gesture. Isn’t it about time that bicyclists also obey our traffic laws? Unfortunately, City Hall is not doing anything about this, which flies not only in the face of bicycle safety but also the safety of our automobiles and pedestrians.
I was recently at a stop sign at a Union Street intersection when a bicyclist suddenly appeared on the driver’s side of my vehicle. He started to roll through the stop sign at the same time that I moved forward. Since he was at full speed, and I was just starting to move, he cut right in front of me. When I honked my horn, he stopped and started to yell at me. Being caught up with the moment, I yelled right back, and moved on to my destination. This scenario (with or without the yelling) goes on multiple times every day as bicyclists coast or speed through all our intersections without stopping.
A few weeks ago, I read in an e-mail that Alexandria police officers had stopped 150 bicyclists over a weekend, but the article did not specify whether or not tickets had been issued. Without enforcement, why stop these people, since no amount of “driver/cyclist education” is going to change the status quo. Since every person enrolled in a Driver Training School learns that stop signs and stop lights are to be obeyed, it is likely that bicyclists understand the purpose of these signs and lights as well, but they choose to ignore them (perhaps because they are not in an automobile). Flaunting the law seems to be a risk worth taking, since punishments do not appear to be forthcoming, and the law may appear to be ambiguous to some.
I am aware that the Alexandria City Council must ask for a legislative change from Richmond in order to obtain the authority to awards points on driving records for bicycle traffic infractions. Although ticketing and awarding points are the only rational solutions for scofflaws, perhaps some reminders are needed that traffic laws apply to pedestrians, cars and bicycles. Perhaps a second sign containing a person, a car and a bicycle can be added underneath certain stop signs. I and my fellow citizens would be more than happy to see the City Council make this happen.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet