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Cyclists Cross Anacostia Bridge To Prove It's Unsafe

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To prove the Frederick Douglass Bridge in Southwest D.C.  is unsafe, cyclists cross it during rush hour.
David Schultz
To prove the Frederick Douglass Bridge in Southwest D.C. is unsafe, cyclists cross it during rush hour.

A narrow sidewalk leads across this bridge in Southwest D.C., uneven in spots due to wear and tear. If you want to cross the river here, it's either this sidewalk, or right in the middle of traffic.

Around two dozen cyclists, organized by D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, are gathered at the foot of the bridge. At the tail end of rush hour, they're all going to cross it at once to make a point.

"A lot of us were thinking we would go across in the right hand lane, which can be scary," says council staffer Jonathan Kass. "You'll go over some grates. And you've gotta not be intimidated if you get honked at."

?Kass leads the cyclists over the bridge. Some cars do honk, but everyone makes it across in one piece.

?Given that the bridge serves as a direct connection between lower income neighborhoods in Ward 8 and Nationals Park, one of the cyclists, Alphonso Coles, says it needs to be more user-friendly.

"Most of these are commuters who've probably never seen any bicycles in the street, so they seemed like were giving us a wide berth," he says.

"It should be such that if you're a casual biker, if you're in a motorized wheelchair, if you're a child, you should be able to go across this bridge and go to a baseball game," he adds.

Coles' 91-year-old father moved to the area recently and the bridge could soon be a main way for him to get to the ballpark. "In a few years he'll probably be in an electric wheelchair," he says. "So I want him to be able to go back and forth to the baseball games in safety."

The District has plans to demolish this bridge and build a new one, but not enough funding at the moment to carry them out.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the amount of funding currently available for the bridge's replacement. The District has some funding secured for the bridge project.

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