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When cyclists gathered Thursday afternoon to form a human chain down the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, rallying to protest the illegal U-turns made through the cycletrack, they were aided in their cause by some scofflaw drivers.
“It is incredulous that even with people standing here, there are people in cars that think they are so above the law that they think they can do whatever they want,” said Kaya Chatterjee, a D.C. resident and daily biker, after witnessing a driver make an illegal U-turn.
Organized by Biketivist DC, the after-work event sought to highlight the frequency of illegal driving in the area. Passing cyclists rang bells in support of the movement, and At-Large Councilmember David Grosso rolled in for a brief moment of support on his makeshift mountain bike.
The D.C. Department of Transportation began protecting the cycletrack from 3rd to 13th streets NW with barriers earlier this year, but did not finish the stretch with Park-Its in the 1300 and 1400 blocks. Event organizer Sam Wetzel said DDOT is currently “studying” if that is the right choice for these two blocks, although she says the agency has not explained to her or councilmembers what they are studying and what their timeline is for completion.
“You get really down about it sometimes and really angry at drivers putting your safety in danger, but I think the most of us just come to live with it,” Wetzel said. “It takes events like this to remind people that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to be safe here and we do have some power to do something to change that.”
That sentiment was echoed by Rudi Riet, a 12-year D.C. resident and longtime biker.
“I’ve found that ‘studies’ in D.C. government tend to be code for obfuscation and delay,” Riet said. “The blocks that have been left park-it free have been done so very much on purpose to allow the convenience of the occupants of the Wilson Building to continue to do their U-turns and expediently get to their reserved parking spots here on Penn.” He did also note that it was nice to see Grosso and other councilmembers support the rally.
With enough cyclists to form a human chain the length of the two city blocks, all sorts of folks showed up in support. Youth members of the nonprofit Gearin’ Up Bicycles rode down from Eckington, led by staff member Sterling Stone to encourage “the next generation of bike mechanics” that bike safety is important.
Others came by to express frustration with their route to work.
“It’s a little frustrating that a lot of drivers will say, ‘You have a bike lane, you should stay in it.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, we have a bike lane, you should stay out of it,'” D.C. resident and daily cyclist Amy Eagleburger said.
Correction: This post originally misspelled Rudi Riet’s name.