At 10th and Pennsylvania, I was stopped at a red light. There was a woman in front of me, a guy shoaled me to my left, and there were two cyclists behind me. Before the light turned green, the woman started riding and the two guys behind me started riding. They ran the red light. It was then that the guy who shoaled me, now to my front and left, spoke into his iPhone earbuds "Three cyclists. Green pants. Two guys. All ran red light" or something to that effect. I thought "Wow, the police are running stings on cyclists now. In a kind of elaborate fashion, with ear pieces and stings and coordination." The guy didn't look like a cop. At 9th and Penn, I think he said something to the cyclist who rolled through the light at 10th, but I couldn't hear exactly. I followed along behind him for the next few blocks, because I honestly believed I was about to see some sort of undercover police sting and was waiting for squad car to arrive. But this didn't happen. So at one more red light, the one at 3rd and Penn, I decided to talk to him and found out that it wasn't the police at all. It was a citizen volunteer.
I asked "Are you a police officer?" He said no. I asked if he was working with anyone. He said he was part of the "Ward 1 Bicycle Group." I asked "Which one? WABA?" and he said "there's like 4 of them." I asked (paraphrasing) "so, like what's the deal?" and he told me that he and a bunch of other people (maybe 6 or 7) ride the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track and report law-breaking by bicyclists. I asked "do you call 311 or 911 or?" and he said that there was a number. I've learned in a subsequent email that this number is 202-727-9099, which I guess is some kind of police line. I asked if he was working with the police directly and he said that sometimes he tries to flag down scofflaws for passing officers. He gave me the impression that there might be a more coordinated effort with the police in the morning hours. He told me that he took video of lawbreakers. I asked if he was working with anyone at DDOT and he said yeah, but didn't have a name or anything. I think he sensed my general question of "why are you doing this?" (which I'm not totally sure if I actually asked) and he told me that he once got a ticket for running a red light and he didn't want bicyclists to run red lights any more. I asked for more info and sent him an email, to which he's now responded. In it he says that there's a new group starting up to enforce bike safety.
So there you have it. Has anyone else encountered anything like this? Anyone out there a member of this bike safety group who would like to talk about it further? You can email me at email@example.com.