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In 2014, pedestrians and cyclists were struck by drivers of vehicles at least 515 times in D.C. That number is already 29 in 2015, according to Struck in D.C., a Twitter account that compiles tweets from D.C. fire and police, as well as affected parties. (A few of last year’s incidents, it’s worth noting, involved cyclists hitting pedestrians.) Jeff Wetzel became No. 5 on Jan. 11 when he was was struck in the 1800 block of Q Street NW.
Wetzel was heading home on Q Street from the Dupont Circle farmers market when he was hit by a woman driving in the bike lane. The woman made contact with Wetzel on the passenger side of her car. “She centered herself between the parked cars and assumed it was all for her,” he says.
He was sent over his bike’s handlebars and onto the hood of a parked car after being struck, finally landing underneath a parked truck on the side of the road. The driver did not see Wetzel or his bike until after he was hit, he says.
“My bike was unrideable. Thankfully, her insurance took care of that. My back is all messed up though,” says Wetzel, who will need to receive further medical treatment and physical therapy in the future. The consequence of driving in the bike lane and hitting a cyclist was a ticket, served to the driver by the police officers called by two bystanders.
Wetzel, an avid cyclist, says he bikes the way many drive—as a commuter; he bikes to work on Rhode Island Avenue NE daily. “I can go 25 miles per hour down the road, no problem. But people get so upset if I delay them and get in their way on the road, when I actually am where I am supposed to be,” he says. “I would love to have a separate place to avoid that.” Wetzel, like other cyclists, faces constant provocations while riding, including honking and flying objects tossed out vehicle windows by irritable drivers.
Of the many problems pedestrians and cyclists face on the streets of D.C., Wetzel believes a big part of the issue is that drivers use bike lanes without regard for their intended purpose and don’t bother to look for other people. “There are great examples elsewhere that [D.C.] could copy or learn from,” says Wetzel. “Look to the Netherlands and Copenhagen: They have done years of developing and learning. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.”
Wetzel says he appreciates that steps are being taken toward making travel by foot and bike safer in D.C. But, as the people involved in the 29 incidents this year can attest to, there’s still a long way to go.
Building off the work of Struck in D.C., a project run by Geoffrey Hatchard, Kim Shults, and Stephen Miller, Washington City Paper will compile reports of pedestrian and cyclist incidents this year for a map and interview project. Submit an incident using the form below.