WASHINGTON — For Kyle Hepner, a bike ride to bring his two-year-old daughter to daycare began last Friday morning like many others. The two began by leaving their home, with the little girl seated behind dad, before they came to the intersection of 17th St NW and Blagden Terrace NW.
Hepner says three cars were near the intersection, each one facing a stop sign on the street they drove down.
However, after first seeing two of the cars through, Hepner said the bike ride suddenly turned treacherous when the third driver allegedly failed to stop at the stop sign.
"Once I realized the car wasn’t going to stop I was just trying to yell to get their attention," he said. "He just didn’t stop and kept rolling through. I tried to position the bike as best I could so she wouldn’t take a direct hit.”
Hepner was quick to point out "there wasn't a lot of force" but the collision led to the bike getting knocked over.
At first, he believed his daughter avoided serious injury after seeing her reaction.
"She was very shaken up crying right away, which was a good sign I knew she didn’t blackout," he said.
However, the hit from the car led to both of them later spending the weekend in the hospital. According to Hepner, his young daughter suffered a minor skull fracture.
Days later, he said both are recovering well. Despite her young age, his daughter has shown she remembers what happened at the intersection.
"She’s almost three but she’s very cognizant of what happened," he said. "She will tell us all the time, 'We were going by the corner and I was on dad's bike and a car hit us.'”
Hepner added that the driver who hit them stayed at the scene and offered apologies for what happened.
"I just kept telling him I don’t want to hear you’re sorry," Hepner said. "I want to hear this will never happen again.”
The collision that injured Hepner and his daughter shows some of the danger cyclists and pedestrians seem to often face when out in the District.
Hepner believes driving habits have only gotten worse during the pandemic since he frequently sees dangerous behavior on the roads.
"Everywhere you go there is an issue," he said. "With fewer cars on the road during the pandemic, that almost made it so people felt like they could drive faster. You have to really develop this intuition of thinking and knowing when this car is going to blow through this red light or stop sign.”
"We watch people blow through the intersection all the time so we know to be careful there and we’re always being as careful as possible," he added. "I wish I could say I’m shocked by this or I’m surprised but this is something I think is going to happen every day.”
Efforts to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety have been a focus for DC Council. Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau put forward the Walk Without Worry Amendment Act of 2021 following the tragic death of five-year-old Allison Hart last September.
According to police, Hart was hit by a Royal Cab Transit van after she was unable to stop her bike and entered the intersection of 14th & Irving Streets in Northeast.
Nadeau said the bill she has proposed would standardize raised crosswalks in D.C.
Months after the tragedy, Nadeau told WUSA9 on Tuesday that the plan has received support from the District Department of Transportation.
"It’s really just about safer design, better design, and standardizing it," Nadeau said. "You shouldn’t have to worry that your kid might wander. Making intersections safer prevents accidents from happening.”
Nadeau said a hearing on the bill was held last week and a vote on the measure could come later this year.
Moving forward, Hepner told WUSA9 that he supported tougher laws that would hopefully prevent similar incidents like the one he experienced last week from happening.
"We call it an accident and we act like these things just happen when they don’t have to happen," he said.
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