When Pope Francis arrived in the District on Sep. 23, many locals were pleasantly surprised by empty roads and easy commutes. But not Dane Yocco, a 29-year old Van Ness resident who was struck by a driver around 8 a.m. that morning in a collision that left him fearful of the road for days afterward.
Yocco says he was heading south in the center lane of Connecticut Avenue NW between California Street and Leroy Place when a four-door Lexus sedan tried to merge in from the left turning lane. Yocco tried to move out of the way, he says, but was traveling downhill and picking up speed.
The driver struck Yocco from the side, though not enough to knock him to the ground. This was good, because Yocco’s first move was to bike up to the front of the car to keep the driver from speeding away.“I didn’t want him to kind of just drive off,” Yocco says over the phone. “I’ve had friends who have gotten hit and they assume, oh, I’m fine, and then they find out that they weren’t fine, they were just hopped up on adrenaline.”
Yocco wasn’t hurt, and both his bike and the man’s car seemed fine. Yocco called the Metropolitan Police Department; he says it took about 12 minutes for officers to arrive.
But witnesses of the incident had conflicting stories, according to Yocco: While a woman in a car behind the driver who struck Yocco said the collision was Yocco’s fault, a worker at a nearby hotel pinned the crash on the driver. As a result, MPD said they could either ticket both involved,Yocco says, or the two could make insurance claims.
Both Yocco and the driver decided to walk away. But for Yocco, reporting the incident was enough.
“I feel pretty strongly about Vision Zero and the fact that [collisions don’t] get reported,” he says. “I just wanted to make a point that a car and a cyclist had a collision or a conflict and things need to be done about it.”
Yocco has been biking in D.C. since he moved to the city five years ago. He still rides the same route to work every day, though the collision kept him off the road for a week or so. “I was really freaked out,” he says.
It doesn’t help that traffic often gets muddled at the four-way intersection where Yocco was struck. Yocco recommends that cyclists in the area play it safe by not trying to overtake cars—but then questions that logic.
“I hate the chilling effect that that has,” he says. “I do feel strongly that we should be asserting our right to the road, and if we start to back off, any gains that we get might recede.”