the Commandments of driving in Washington DC

Twitter user Chelsea Allinger posted the following series of commandments on driving in her home city of Washington DC. They apply in Toronto as well.

I bought a Prius earlier this year, after 8 years of not owning a car by choice. My lifestyle has shifted in various ways and I was spending a fortune on rental cars and rideshares and it didn't make sense. The car is 85% for things outside of the District, however:

In the bit of driving I am now doing in the District in a normal-sized car, as opposed to the tiny car2go vehicles I've had access to over the prior 5-6 years, I'm realizing there are some Commandments when it comes to driving in DC. Yes, capital-C Commandments.

1. If you choose to drive, you are making the worst possible transportation decision for every single person you encounter, whether they are in other cars, on foot, on bikes, on scooters, using wheelchairs, on buses, whatever. You are making the city more congested and less safe.

Sometimes it might be necessary. Maybe you are moving a piece of furniture. Maybe you are transporting a frail relative. Maybe it's not totally necessary but makes the most logistical sense. It's still the worst choice *for everyone else you encounter* even if it's best for you.

Acknowledge that, own it, and have some humility around it.

2. If you choose to drive, your use of the road is NOT the first priority. The most vulnerable user around you is the first priority. You are in a huge, 2,500 lb, metal, climate controlled box, and see Commandment 1. You are fine. You come second.

Your responsibility is to defer defer defer defer defer to every single vulnerable user around you. And since this is DC, there are a lot of bikes, scooters, and pedestrians, so it really is defer-defer-defer-defer constantly. Enjoy your air conditioning, enjoy your NPR, defer.

3. There is a cyclist in your blind spot. Even if there isn't a cyclist in your blind spot, there is a cyclist in your blind spot. Assume this. Always. ALWAYS.

4. You don't have room to pass that cyclist safely. I know you think you do, but you don't. But you know what that means? That means you can follow that cyclist at a safe distance, and prevent them from getting run down by the angry driver behind you.

So now, even though you still made the worst transportation choice *for everyone else around you* you're now making the most of it by trying to protect the vulnerable user in front of you. That's a good thing. Do that.

5. The speed limit is 20 mph, and sometimes it's 15 mph or maybe less. I know the signs say the speed limit is 25 mph, but they're wrong and DDOT is wrong. If you're driving 25mph, you're doing it wrong.

If you're driving 25 mph, you're not going to see that person who is trying to step into the crosswalk until you've already blown past them. You're not going to time things properly as you navigate past a double-parked car with 4 cyclists nearby. The speed limit is 20mph or less.

6. You are a deadly weapon. You are an actual deadly threat to everyone around you. If you take every conceivable precaution and dedicate your whole body and mind to the sole objective of driving safely, you could still mess up, something could go wrong, and you kill someone.

Feel the weight of that. If you ever let go of the weight of that risk, you're doing it wrong, and you're even more likely to hurt or kill someone. Your presence on the road is life-threatening to vulnerable users at all times.

— Chelsea Allinger (@allinsea) September 27, 2019

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