It’s The Worst Thing In The World…

To be a driver behind a cyclist.

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Today is a bike tour rest day for Felkerino and me, and it coincided perfectly with an op-ed blowup in the Washington Post, which I am disappointed to admit is also my local paper.

Sadly, I’m sort of used to anti-cyclist, get off my road articles. However, my heart jumped when the writer of this particular piece stated that he could see why drivers would be willing to pay a fine of $500 to hit cyclists. Thanks, Washington Post. Thanks a lot.

It is terrifying to read a writer– in the Post, no less– who suggests that deliberately striking a cyclist in an act of vigilante justice or whatever reason is understandable, if not okay. It is not. This is people’s lives we are talking about here. My life. I am crying in anger and fear as I write this.

I am not cycling around to be taught a lesson by a driver who thinks it is a punishable-by-death crime for me to be on the road. Like drivers, I am just trying to get safely where I need to go, be that work, the grocery store, or dinner with friends. 

I ride my bike in Washington, D.C., almost every day and it scares the s#&! out of me that there are drivers who would want to hit me because I am riding my bicycle on the road that, for many years, many drivers believed belonged to them. But times are changing, at least in the District, and while lots of people are still driving, others are turning to bicycles as their primary form of transportation.

Drivers do not own the road. The roads are ours to somehow find a way to share. We all have to figure it out because our lives depend on it.

18 thoughts on “It’s The Worst Thing In The World…”

  1. A really well written, and commendably restrained, piece. You’re right, the attitudes of some drivers towards people riding bicycles, is truly terrifying. Such attitudes are as common here in England as it seems they are in DC. There doesn’t need to be conflict between motorists and cyclists – how much of an impact does it really have on a motorist to be temporarily held up by a bicycle for perhaps 10 or 15 seconds of their journey until it is safe to pass?

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    1. “How much of an impact does it really have on a motorist to be temporarily held up by a bicycle for perhaps 10 or 15 seconds of their journey until it is safe to pass?” Some drivers on our city streets are not looking at this situation rationally. Sometimes I wonder if their being in a vehicle that requires them to be sedentary and removes them from their environment riles them up. I really don’t understand why so many people feel they have to drive to work. Do they really?

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  2. I wish it became easier to brush it off every time one of these idiotic articles gets published or every time some fervent anti-bicyclist talking head says something stupid. But it’s cumulative anger. I have really enjoyed bicycling around a small town, and stuff like this makes me dread coming back to a city.

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  3. i have encountered more hostile drivers than i care to think about: deliberately pulling into the bike lane, swerving to hit me with passenger mirror, abrupt turns in front of me. and i’ve encountered princes/princesses who waited patiently behind me on narrow roads. but i HATE those inflammatory articles.

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  4. This is why I have bought a Fly6 (http://instagram.com/p/pjmYhGnoXg). It is extremely effective. Within a few years motorists will know that many cyclists are likely recording their every move and their license plate. $500? Try $50K civil suit, and your car insurance going up 200% on for size.

    On a more positive note – the Fly6 is also really nice for recording group rides. I’m planning to post some video from a group training ride for the Ride Against Cancer – in rural Maryland and over around historic Monocacy.

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  5. Your frustration and fear are completely understandable and not unfamiliar. Unfortunately, that attitude seems to be pervasive not only in DC but in many places I’ve cycled in the US, including my home state of South Dakota. It’s appalling that a news agency would run such an article and continue to promote such a dangerous attitude. I hope we can all find a way to work to change the current mindset but they say it takes 1-2 generations to change a culture. Guess it’s time to start working on the kids. One more reason to teach our young people to cycle!

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  6. Topic aside, I am really disappointed with what passes for journalism these days. So much of what is written is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, just to get the click count up for the advertising department. This guys commentary plays to “the angry yet entitled drivers”, the backlash from the cycling community, and even raises the race card. Shameful.

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  7. If there is one thing I dislike about biking on shared streets, it is that it is a fundamental truth that my life and lives of other cyclists are in hands of drivers of bigger and more dangerous weapons. It is most definitely an unequal responsibility, and drivers of cars can resent the hell out of that responsibility and power, but they do not have the right to wield it or play God on streets.
    Like you, I ride with that fear, and the only way I get through it is that if I don’t ride, things don’t get better, either for me as a cyclist and person, or for drivers of cars.

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    1. I totally agree, although it is frustrating to ride with this fear. I will continue to ride my bicycle, try to make good ride choices, and hope things continue to get better with people’s tolerances as well as our infrastructure.

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  8. Washington Post, that’s 2 strikes and in my game, you’re out. And people complain about Fox News? I know that piece was an “opinion” column but apparently you don’t need any facts or even solid truths to write for the ComPost.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Mid-Atlantic Bike Commuting and commented:
    “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” So opines Washington Post editorial writer Courtland Milloy. And the Post, fine newspaper that it is, prints this hate-mongering crap and calls it journalism.

    Check out Chasing Mailbox’s to-the-point comments in response. Also scroll through the comments for a link to Bike Snob NY’s well-written thoughts.

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  10. Sadly, it’s not just east coast or west coast or any place in particular. There always seems to be drivers who have no issue with harassing or potentially harming cyclists. My mother recently came out for a visit from California (she lives in a small city there) and she bikes only on a single speed cruiser at the beach where she’s protected from motorists, but when I was telling her some of the stories of things that have happened to me on the roads while riding a bike here in Colorado, she was amazed (and probably a bit scared for my well-being too).

    This article was frustrating to many cyclists, and the saddest part is that nothing seems to happen to motorists who injure or kill cyclists on the roads. A small fine (sometimes not even that much), and someone’s wife/husband/mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/uncle/cousin/friend is potentially gone forever due to careless or even intentional acts.

    I am not even sure where I’m going with this reply, but I suppose it’s just to say that there are many of us who identify with your feelings of frustration/anger/etc. All we can do is stay aware, attempt to be good representatives of cyclists, and offer knowledge when the appropriate times arise.

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