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Seems like we need harder facts on the accident rates & who was at fault. Have you seen this bike accident tracker from SF?

http://www.baycitizen.org/data/bike-accidents/

http://www.baycitizen.org/bikes/story/san-francisco-bike-accidents/#blame

I think we need to stand down on this one. Aside from the snippy tone it was not really advocating anything all that unreasonable.

It's frustrating that the link titles are mangled online, often adding inaccuracies or losing clarity, just to make them fit on the home page or for search engines.

I think the title to this post says it all.

Jim, I agree that it wasn't advocating anything unreasonable, but it did make the false claim that cyclists are more often to blame in crashes with cars and perpetuate the belief that cyclists fail to follow the law to the level that drivers do - when I would say the opposite is true.

But it wasn't advocating anything useful either. The Post could have stepped up and called for significant things, along the 8 things I listed in my blog entry.

So as a result, they had nothing to say. And as the Talking Heads sing in "Psychokiller", "when I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed."

The editorial was a waste of space. Note that today's Cabi article in Metro section was more positive about bike safety and bike month than the editorial.

It's important to call ineffective writing for what it is.

@Richard +1 The Washington Post, our unedited newspaper.

This was a lazy uninformed editorial from the Post. The Post did a god job summarizing the opinions of people who don't spend much time thinking about cycling in DC. Readers would be better served if the editoral writers took the time to do their homework and summarized informed opinions about bicycling in DC. Its disappointing, but not unexpected since bicycles clearly aren't something Post editors think abut very often. Its also an opportunity to explain to the editors and readers what's wrong with the editorial. I'm sure WABA and others will respond point the Post editors and readers in the right direction.

On the plus side bicling continues to grow dramatically in DC and drivers are becoming much more tolerant of bycyclists. I don't think the Post editorial writers would have seriously considered writing this editorial a few years ago. We are moving in the right direction.

The challenge here, is how does one respond in a way that gets the response published and moves the cause forward? It seems that it was poorly enoough written that we can't congratulate them for recognizing the right to take the lane (something I have never seen in a Post editorial). Yet not really bad enough to make a solid advocacy point in rebuttal.

I tend to think that a letter to the editor would be tough--and it's a hassle to spend a few hours for a letter that does not get published. Contacting the ombudsman and reporters to make sure theu know the facts may be more constructive. Maybe Dr. Gridlock's blog.

Agree this editorial was poorly researched -- a very lame effort. Walking and bike commuting are a fact of life with gas at four dollars and metro fares from the suburbs hitting $15 a day (with parking). A more constructive and well-researched editorial would provide some answers on how best to ensure that drivers don't speed, drive distracted (or drunk), or drive recklessly or threateningly around pedestrians and cyclists, while also making sure that cyclists don't ride recklessly or conflict with pedestrians, and that pedestrians abide by walk signals and refrain from jaywalking or blocking traffic.

The best solution in my opinion is cycletracks, especially as more tourists and less athletic riders getting around on bikes. But the downside is real: less curbside parking. That's a tradeoff worth debating. That this editorial didn't get to that sort of constructive debate is a shame.

You're way overthinking this, especially the headline. Headlines never say it all - you should know that.

As for the WaPo writing an editorial calling for drivers to obey the law, yeah, I'll bet there are lots of them focusing on specific driving issue, like drunk or reckless driving.

They stipulated that drivers are jerks too. They don't call ALL cyclists scofflaws. What more do you want? Cyclists obeying the law is GOOD for cyclists. Let the Post have one editorial where they scold those who don't. Big deal.

I posted comments agreeing with the editorial. It's hard for cyclists to argue we are a constructive part of the answer to our transporation/lifestyle problems when too many in the cycling community either make excuses for lawbreaking or get hyper-defensive about any criticism at all.

Bottom line is that there are no dispensations from traffic laws for any road users. Not because that gives us the right to use the roads, but because using the roads entails that responsibiity.

LeGuy: I agree that cyclists "holier than thou" attitude is counterproductive. At the same time, there is a big difference between the WashPost's editorializing on drunk driving/reckless driving and this item re cyclists. A drunk or reckless driver is a serious hazard. However, most drivers regularly break the law in ways are hazardous to others, yet the Post does not comment. Speeding, not yielding to pedestrians etc.

wow!!

EXCELLENT response WASHCYCLE!!!!

made my day....

thanks!!

I think there are so many ways that drivers break the law that they focus on the big ones. The point is that they do focus on drivers breaking the law too. It's nitpicking to worry about every detail and the exact wording of the headline. It misses the overall message, which is that cyclists need to obey the law too or they can't complain about cars.

I look forward to the Post editorial page's upcoming piece: "Drivers Should Obey The Laws, or Stay the Feck Out Of DC."

Surely this will be utterly uncontroversial, since it's something everyone can agree on. Can't imagine a single driver responding negatively to that one, right?

Bottom line: WaPo editorial page is staffed entirely by chiseling little shit-weasels. This ceased to be "news" in about 2004. Fred Hiatt's the poster-child for speaking flattering untruths to power, comforting the comfortable, and afflicting the afflicted.

Utterly useless.

I agree that it's "welcome, but . . .", but let's not lose sight of the "welcome" part.

For my own part, I'm as p___d off by cyclists breaking the law as I am cars. Obnoxious selfishness is obnoxious selfishness, whether it be on 2 wheels or 4.

As always, I agree with Satan.

LeGuy: its not nitpicking, because the REGULAR rule breaking by drivers causes billions in damage and kills tens of thousands. i.e., motor vehicle accidents are not exclusively caused by "reckless" or drunk driving.

By contrast, rule breaking by cyclists is rude and can cause accidents, but rarely causes the sort of death and costs that are associated with motor vehicles.

Accordingly, while an editorial that encourages cyclists to obey the law is good, it is notable that the bigger cause of death and injury is not addressed. Moreover, implying that their welcome is CONDITIONAL on obeying the law is not helpful for the debate or for public safety.

Yes, I agree - the conditional part of it is absurd. Still, that's not the only way to read it. You can "welcome" someone without it being conditional, i.e. have warm feelings.

Still, this editorial is about cyclists. So it's not surprising they are discussed. It's worth an editorial to point out that we need to obey the law too.

@le guy and krickey7, the headline is the most important part - since it's the only part many people will read.

If you believe the WaPo has written editorials calling on drivers to obey the law, I'd like to see those. And if all you find is an editorial about drunk driving, it only makes my point that as long as you're sober, any kind of driving is pretty much OK.

What more do I want? How about not singling out cyclists? Especially for things that drivers and pedestrians do too. Especially considering that cyclists are orders of magnitude less dangerous than drivers.

If this article were about the census that showed more Asian-Americans living in DC than 10 years ago, would they write an article entitled "Welcome to DC, Asians. You have to obey the law too" and then talk about how even though whites and blacks break the law, "there are too many Asians breaking the law." Would that be cool?

They stipulated that whites and blacks are jerks too. They don't call ALL Asians criminals. What more do you want? Asians obeying the law is GOOD for Asians. Let the Post have one editorial where they scold those who don't. Big deal.

I'm fine with criticism, it's the being singled out that bothers me since we're neither the most dangerous nor most criminal group out there.

cyclists need to obey the law too or they can't complain about cars.

That goes both ways or it doesn't fly at all.

Obnoxious selfishness is obnoxious selfishness, whether it be on 2 wheels or 4.

True, but one group's obnoxious selfish has a nasty habit of leaving dead people in its wake and the other doesn't. Bad behavior in a car is worse than bad behavior on a bike, just as being careless with a gun is worse than being careless with a knife.

t's worth an editorial to point out that we need to obey the law too.

There's that too again. Why not an article that everyone needs to obey the law? Or at least singling out cyclists for something they alone do. In Sarasota there was a letter to the editor about how cyclists need to have lights on their bikes at night. I had no problem with that. There is a reason to single out cyclists for that one.

I think we need to stand down on this one. Aside from the snippy tone it was not really advocating anything all that unreasonable.

The rebuttal to this editorial is not that cyclists don't need to obey the law, it's get your facts straight. It's just chock full of factual mis-statements, to the point where their argument falls apart. Many of these false statements are harmful to cycling and need to be rebutted.

Actually, the other group's selfish and obnoxious behavior does endanger my life, because drivers do "punish" cyclists for rude cyclist behavior they witnessed earlier. Completely boneheaded, but a fact.

So from my perspective--the one that obeys the law and has 27 years of bicycle commuting without a major accident--cyclists who break the law are my enemy just as much as cars who break the law.

Let's not rationalize it by saying auto lawbreaking is "worse". If we're talking about spending law enforcement resources, I agree that dollars spent on autos are better spent. If we're talking about aspirations for what kind of road users we cyclists should be, let's all agree that cyclist lawbreaking is unacceptable--which is what the editorial said.

And if that's called being "fine with criticism", I'd hate to see you when you're angry.

The reason this "singles out cyclists" is because they're a news item now. Bike lanes and CaBi are putting the focus on them.

Re: "cyclists need to obey the law too or they can't complain about cars."

Yes, of course that goes both ways.

I think the appropriate reaction is to just politely agree that bikes must obey the law too - and then come out swinging HARD the next time they don't. That's better than simply getting defensive about every little criticism.

And about the facts:

They write: "Some of that may be attributed to better record keeping by authorities, but those familiar with cycling say there’s no denying that more cyclists on the roads have meant more accidents."

You write: "Sure, better reporting may be one reason for the increase. But is it really so hard to understand that part of the reason for an increase in crashes is that more people are riding."

That's what they just said.

They write: "Before cyclists get off their bikes to e-mail us their complaints about motorists, we’ll stipulate there is plenty of blame to go around."

You write: "We just won't bother to blame anyone but cyclists."

No, they just said they blame everyone.


The reason I wrote what I wrote is that crap writing needs to be countered. I can't claim that they read my blog, but over time I do notice impact on their editorials. And I know area journalists read my blog.

I do think that because more than any area blog I frequently call post articles and editorials into question is probably why I was never asked to participate in their "Post Local" pieces from area blogs, but I'll never know.

I appreciate why you responded. I just think you overreacted. The Post editors had something specific on their minds, and they wrote about it. They made it pretty clear they weren't blaming bikes only.

High gas prices, expansion of the bike lanes, and the incredible success of the CaBi program makes this a pivotal year for cycling in DC. Let's build on success, and not pick fights with people who are largely favorable to us, and who have significant influence in this town.

FYI a recent (two months ago) editorial in the Post that strongly admonishes drivers to obey the law for safety's sake and notes that the victims are usually cyclists and pedestrians:

http://www.trafficsafetycoalition.com/images/2_5_11_Red_light_cameras_get_results.pdf

@krickey7

Actually, the other group's selfish and obnoxious behavior does endanger my life, because drivers do "punish" cyclists for rude cyclist behavior they witnessed earlier. Completely boneheaded, but a fact.

Is it?

cyclists who break the law are my enemy just as much as cars who break the law.

I disagree. Cyclist who break the law may be your enemy, but the risk they pose to you is a trifling compared to that of drivers. That IS a fact.

et's not rationalize it by saying auto lawbreaking is "worse".

I'm not rationalizing. I'm noting that auto lawbreaking is worse, and so they shouldn't be focusing their light solely on cyclists.

let's all agree that cyclist lawbreaking is unacceptable--which is what the editorial said.

Well, I disagree. There are a lot of cyclists like me, who think that sometimes doint something illegal is safer than doing what is legal. I think the focus on legality is poorly placed. The focus should be on safe cycling, not legal cycling.

And if that's called being "fine with criticism", I'd hate to see you when you're angry.

Nowhere in this post do I respond to "criticism."

Let's build on success, and not pick fights with people who are largely favorable to us, and who have significant influence in this town.

Sorry, I'm not going to cower from influential people when their wrong. I didn't "pick" a fight. I'm responding to misleading information and cherry-picked truths.

Let's build on success and stand up for the truth when people who have significant influence in this town twist it.

@le guy

The reason this "singles out cyclists" is because they're a news item now.

That's a cop out. Being complacent about illegal driving isn't an excuse, it's an indictment.

I think the appropriate reaction is to just politely agree that bikes must obey the law too

And I think it's better to say "After you."

That's better than simply getting defensive about every little criticism.

I think setting the record straight is better than rolling over.

You write: "Sure, better reporting may be one reason for the increase. But is it really so hard to understand that part of the reason for an increase in crashes is that more people are riding."

That's what they just said.

No it isn't. They don't take the position that more crashes are the natural result of more cycling, but rather that there is a "disturbing" trend that can't be denied - as though someone would try to deny that more cycling leads to more crashes.

they just said they blame everyone.

Which is like saying "No offense, but your wife is ugly." They don't actually go on to blame everyone. They blame cyclists primarily.

Maybe you're so used to being a victim you don't even know when you're finally winning. Cycling is on the verge of becoming mainstream. Getting a real share of transportation dollars. The outlaw cyclist may be a cool self-image, but as a public face, it sends entirely the wrong message.

I volunteer my gray hair and unscarred legs, should I be called.

Actually le guy, they never ask anyone to obey the law.

krickey7, You follow the law and you've never been in a crash. That is not proof that the two are related. Need I list all the cyclist who are dead who were following the law at the time. My grandfather smoked every day of his life until he was 87. Should I take up smoking?

Also, I don't consider myself a victim.

Look, there are clear facts missing from this article.

Do you believe that cyclists are primarily to blame when they're in crashes?

Do you not think it's relevant that crashes have risen be a lower amount than cycling has?

Maybe you're so used to complaining about scofflaw cyclists that you don't know when you're being insulted.

Pish-posh.

We've having a civilized debate.

You think the Washington Post is on a mission to bash cyclists and absolve drivers, and you'd like the reverse.

I think I'm not so thin-skinned that I can't recognize that there are entirely too many cyclists who treat the motor vehicle code like a cafeteria plan. Without letting drivers off the hook for their actions. You do recall my own well-documented history in the Post on that last point, don't you?

My cycling habits are, frankly, better than yours. When you rack up my record, you come talk to me and we'll compare notes.

I unsubscribed from the Post several months ago. I'm not very political or partisan, but I did get tired of the daily articles about Sarah Palin's tweets. That's about the level of seriousness in this douchy editorial.

Krickey7,

No I don't want to bash drivers and absolve cyclists. Like I said, I'd welcome an article calling for everyone to be safer, but that isn't what we got. So, yes, if we're going to single someone out it should be the drivers who do 77% of the travelling but 99% of the killing.

Sorry, I don't remmeber your history in the Post.

My cycling habits are, frankly, better than yours. When you rack up my record, you come talk to me and we'll compare notes.

Apparently, your arrogance is too. I guess Stan Miller was a bad cyclist, and that's why he's dead and you're not.

Perhaps that was a little over the top. I apologize.

I was the cyclist in Keith Berner's WaPo blog who was reportedly so protective of his own lane that he hurled his bike into Keith's car. Then (and this part is true) got into a fracas on the side of River Road.

I am assertive about my rights. And I do think obeying the law is safer , all things considered, than not (and that my record is evidence of that). I erred in implying you are not a safe rider, when in fact I have no idea.

Apology accepted. No worries. And I do remember you now.

I think obeying the law is generally safer, but that legal cycling and safe cycling do not perfectly overlap.

WASHCYCLE!!!!

Every single counter you make to every single prejudicial claim is right on!!!

I love it!...Im copying this whole essay and your responses and sending them to friends on the San Luis Obispo City Council...and a friend on the board of Nice Ride in Minneapolis...and others.

Thanks again for a day of notable championing...and frankly, what you are doing (have done) here is not advance a bicyclist agenda (which I would find entirely defensible, even if I disagreed in parts), but youve crucially (and apparently thanklessly!) articulated the debate- defining background conditions on which foreground claims in the debate make implicit appeal...that necessary backgrounding is rarely noticed much less brought to the foreground...doing so, as you have done, illuminates clearly the (in this case) motorist- transportation bigotry...

Rock on Washcycle!

krikey7 -- where you say that biking is on the verge of a great amount of take up and funding, well, I am not as optimistic as you.

I look at this editorial (and comparable articles in papers ranging from the New York Times to the Portland Oregonian and the San Francisco Chronicle) about the expansion of bike lanes and the virulent opposition of a sign of a possible serious counterattack, although like you I agree that in general biking is almost at the tipping point for significant increases in take up.

WRT funding, while Sec. LaHood and Pres. Obama remain positive about sustainable transportation, the new Congress does not have the same understanding and appreciation and most sustainable transportation initiatives (walking, biking, and transit, including high speed rail) are likely to be treading water through 2012.

AASHTO's recent request (withdrawn, at least temporarily) to remove requirements for bike and ped accommodations from federally funded transportation projects is an indicator that sustainable transportation principles do not fully engage the nation's more prominent transportation officials (remember that transpo projects are planned and executed at the state level, not at the federal level).

This accounts for my strident response. Then again, it's my business to track the variety of coverage across the country, while it's not likely to be on the radar of others.

Bike sharing programs in DC and other places such as Boston and NYC will only increase the visibility and viability of biking, and further the prominence and reassessment of biking as a legitimate mode of transportation in the U.S.

Maybe you're so used to complaining about scofflaw cyclists that you don't know when you're being insulted.

This is the washcycle guy way. Let no opportunity to seek insult pass.

You know, when I was posting about Reflexively Mocking the Right, there actually was a larger issue lurking in the background. What is bike advocacy for? If the purpose is to expand bike use, increase public subsidies for bike infrastructure, increase public awareness etc., at some point you may actually have to convince people not otherwise inclined to support you that you have a point. The I-am-biking-hear-me-roar approach only goes so far. There is a position somewhere between doormat and insufferable that I think large parts of the bike advocacy world have not exactly mastered.

I mean hey, this is a blog, not WABA itself, knock yourself out. You may not be focused as much on advancing an agenda as just staking out a position for like-minded members of the tribe, there's a place for that too.

But when I was biking on the 15th street cycletrack a while back, I encountered a car parked illegally right in the middle of it. While I was rolling up to it, another biker coming from the other direction was stopped behind it, fuming. He asked me indignantly, apoplectically, if I knew who parked it. I wanted to say "Dude, there are tickets all over the thing, and you just saw me bike up the street so how the heck would I know." Instead, I just said "no." But it was right out of Portlandia.

So it's like that.

Also, "apoplectically" may not be a word.

great post washcycle.

a subtle implication of the headline is that cyclists aren't from/natural to DC, almost as if DC residents were deciding who is welcome and were not sure whether they really want to allow bikes to come into the district. In fact, DC residents (a majority of whom do not use cars as a primary mode, at least not for travel to work), might actually feel that (non-DC) drivers are not welcome.

Christopher, what response would be appropriate to this editorial?

Umm, "Thanks"?

It's incredibly liberating to come at it from a position of moral superiority. I can say, truthfully, yes, there's a problem here, not unique to cyclists. I obey all the traffic laws whenever I'm on my bike, which no driver in DC other than my saintly 76-year old father can say. We're trying to educate riders that traffic laws are important for their safety and for overall acceptance of cycling. Of course, we have no tools stronger than our advice (believe me, I've tried). But when we speak of public safety, honesty demands we address the real issue--drivers.

Consider not just the message, but the source. This opinion piece came from the Washington Post's editorial board. This is the board:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/writers/editorialboard/index.html

I will bet money that Fred Hiatt doesn't bike to work. I think this editorial represents the POV of the car-hugging plutocracy, and not the mainstream view of a DCist.

You should convert this to a formal op-ed and try to get the Post to print it. They actually are reasonably fair about running op-eds in response to their editorials. If they don't, you should send a copy to the ombudsman and argue for a column taking them to task for the many inaccuracies in the editorial.

I agree that the editorial should get the facts straight, and that citing the report is misleading. I wrote a letter to the editors of another local newspaper when they published an editorial based on a factual error and they printed it. Maybe the Post would publish a letter on that point.

I agree that the editorial didn't suggest anything that bad. But Richard Layman is right that they didn't really propose anything good. The editorial was pretty much a waste of space. I read the WaPo every morning, and I pretty much never read the editorials notwithstanding reading pretty much everything else.

I think an objective reading, instead of a defensive one, shows that this isn't a terrible editorial. I speak as a committed cyclist and bike commuter.

I think an objective reading shows that this editorial is rife with factual errors, and that the factual errors support conclusions that are unfavorable to cyclists. I speak as a committed cyclist and bike commuter.

There are some factual errors, however, not as many as TheWashCycle sees.

The factual errors that do exist aren't that relevant. They don't take away from the overall theme.

Quibbling like lawyers over every little detail won't help us be more safe.

Wow, very interesting to read the WaPo articled. I didn't see this in the post, but I wish I had. Of course anyway who is obeying traffic laws is free to use the roads. Ridiculous that they are putting so much blame on bikers

If the conclusion is that many cyclists need to be more careful, which includes obeying the traffic laws, then the factual errors do not result in an incorrect conclusion.

I will say it again. The traffic laws are not optional for cyclists. Anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong, but harmful to cycling advocacy.

My quick summary (as opposed to a painfully-detailed quibble over every word, sometimes missing the point entirely) of the editorial:

“It’s great that there are more bikes.
But this has brought more bike accidents too.
Sometimes bikes are at fault, sometimes drivers.
Everyone needs to follow traffic laws for safety.”

Let it go.

I did submit it as a LTTE, but it was tough trimming it down to 200 words.

"Quibbling like lawyers over every little detail won't help us be more safe."

Nor will it end global warming, which is fine because that isn't the goal. One of the biggest things standing in the way of cycling advocacy is the idea that cyclists are scofflaws on a scale that unique scale. Lawmakers use it as a reason to not support good laws or provide funding. Not only is it untrue, but I'm fairly confident that cyclists break the law far less often than drivers. So we need to push back on this theme. If breaking the law less than drivers doesn't remove the stigma, I'm not convinced that breaking the law less than we do now will do the trick either. So making us safer by pointing out errors isn't the direct result, but pushing back on the accepted myth that cyclists have less respect for the law than drivers might.

The traffic laws are not optional for cyclists. Anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong, but harmful to cycling advocacy.

Krikey7. If you come to a red light and it won't change because it has an induction loop that your bike won't set off, do you wait for a car or just wait for it to be safe? Until recently going would have been illegal in Virginia (I'm unsure about Maryland). In some cases the law is not written well for cyclists.

Here's another question. If Maryland passed a law that forbid cyclists to take the lane under any circumstance would you stop taking the lane? In other words would you do something you felt was less safe just because the safer thing was illegal? Finally, do you have a bell on your bike? Are cyclists in DC who don't have a bell harming cycling advocacy?

I'm glad to read that Washcycle sent a letter to the Post; hopefully Contrarian and a few others did as well. If they publish they may reduce it further but they will probably include the most salient facts.

@Washcycle: I think that the necessity defense applies in the case of the traffic light not working, adn hopefully Krikey7 merely meant we should obey those laws where an impartial judge would uphold a conviction.

The question of a state passing a blatantly unreasonable law is an interesting hypothetical. Less hypotehtical is sidewalk riding where there are no pedestrians and the nearby road is terrorizing.

I think its time for everyone to have a beer.

Are we going for a new record in number of postings?

This op-ed writer writing about cycling seems to me like a eunuch discussing the Kama Sutra.

As many of you undoubtedly know, everyone has a story about a cyclist "breaking the law".

Nobody seems to talk much about the ten times they exceeded the speed limit on the way to work, ran a red light and endangered a pedestrian doing a right on red. I wonder why.

Earlier this week, in the middle of the day, I took the car to go to an appointment with my son. On the short 2-mile drive home, we encountered three cars that ran red lights well after they had turned (i.e. not just entering the intersection on yellow). In one instance, I had stopped already at the red light when a car behind me proceeded through the intersection on the red light.

Based on my observation that day solely relating to red light running I think that cars should be banned from city streets until drivers have shown their ability and desire to comply with traffic laws. I also think it would be a good idea that all drivers sign a pledge to drive reasonably and safely.

I do have a bell. When bicycles were required to be registered in DC, I did that, too. But there is a difference between not having a bell and telling cyclists that we don't need to clean up our act until drivers do. That's bad PR, and worse safety habits.

I think I will have a beer, thanks.

"One of the biggest things standing in the way of cycling advocacy is the idea that cyclists are scofflaws..."

True.

I don't think the Post was saying that. Not even close.

And a big part of making sure we aren't scofflaws is to not be scofflaws, not just complain about editorials.

The Post wrote:

"Before cyclists get off their bikes to e-mail us their complaints about motorists, we’ll stipulate there is plenty of blame to go around."

They anticipated exactly what's happening here.

Who got off their bikes to email? Good for you.

Texting and biking don't mix, kids.

Although I have seen it.

Actually, the other group's selfish and obnoxious behavior does endanger my life, because drivers do "punish" cyclists for rude cyclist behavior they witnessed earlier.

Pulling out of my street this morning, I stopped at a red light on the Hill. There was a little grey sedan at the front of the line. Then an asshole in a giant red pickup truck. Then me. The *instant* the light turned green, the man-child in the red truck started laying on the horn.

The car in front of him started to go, but not fast enough, so he laid on the horn again. Which made the driver of the car in front slow down a tiny bit. Then the pickup truck driver tried to whip around the driver, and they ended up having a drag-race down Constitution. About a block later, the car slowed down and the pickup truck whipped in front of him.

I'm curious, Krickey7, was the red pickup truck "punishing" the driver of the car because he was tired of "rude behavior he witnessed earlier" from 4-door cars? Or maybe it was gray cars.

The idea that road rage--in the case we're discussing, against bicylists--is fueled in any significant part by cyclists who don't come to a full stop at stop signs, or who roll red lights when the coast is clear is--if you'll pardon my French--f*cking ridiculous.

There are a-holes out there. They can find justification for their behavior, regardless of how angelic the behavior of you and every other person who ever rode a bike.

And a big part of making sure we aren't scofflaws is to not be scofflaws, not just complain about editorials.

Right, but the problem is collective punishment, not that "we" need to be better. When I'm out driving, and I see some guy run a red light, my first thought isn't, "We're going to have to behave better if we want to keep our driving privileges."

Thank you for recognizing my imminent canonization, Oboe. It's hard work being perfect. People seem oddly irritated by it.

It's a little difficult to connect cause and effect here directly. Certainly, it would be overly simplistic of me to say incident X prompted response Y. I do believe it is fair to say response Y is prompted in part by reaction to irritants X1-X20, of which X4, X6-9, and X18 were cyclists behaving like jerks.

"the problem is collective punishment"

Absolutely, let's not forget that. The world isn't divided into cyclists vs. drivers.

I can see how the headline is annoying like that, but when you read it with the rest, it's not so bad.

@Krickey7:

I've been driving a bit more in recent weeks (previously I rode almost exclusively), and what I've found is that people in cars seem to be even more whacked out at my behavior than when I was on a bike.

Now obviously, part of that is because incidents are pretty few and far between, but oddly I think part of it is that I actually make and attempt to drive my car in a legal fashion. That means I stop for pedestrians who want to cross at crosswalks, and I drive the speed limit.

These two things taken together are apparently a grievous provocation to a sizable minority of the region's drivers.

Anyway, I'm glad you're out there being virtuous for the both of us. :)

You are correct that the only thing that ticks off drivers more than a lawbreaking cyclist is a law-abidin' driver.

Every time my dad gets on I-270, we have to alert the police that there will be a car driving 50-55 mph, or else total mayhem ensues.

@Eric_W, we won't be able to set a new record until guez gets in here. And w. That's when the comment strings get really long.

@Krickey7 . But there is a difference between not having a bell and telling cyclists that we don't need to clean up our act until drivers do

Who ever said that? But if you're not going to be happy until every cyclist always obeys the law, you have decided to never be happy. If you don't think you'll be safe until every cyclist always follows the law, then you'll never be safe.

The traffic laws are not optional for cyclists. Anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong, but harmful to cycling advocacy.

Well, I don't say they're optional, but I do regularly ride on sidewalks in PG County - which is against the law, and I do regularly ride on Anacostia trails in the winter after dark - which is against the rules. In both cases I do so because I think it's safer. I do think traffic laws should be disobeyed when compliance comes at the cost of reduced safety. To do otherwise is foolish, since a rigorous adherence to the law doesn't seem to do much for us. The average cyclist already obeys the law more than the average driver, but that doesn't seem to assuage drivers. I'm not convinced that 100% compliance will really change anything.

And I think it's a false choice to say one must either take on greater personal risk or harm cycling advocacy. And even if it isn't, you'll forgive me if I choose personal safety.


@le guy I don't think the Post was saying that. Not even close.

I disagree as do others. They follow "there is plenty of blame to go around" by pointing out that some drivers are rude and don't share but that cyclists break the law. "THere is plenty of blame to go around" is a polite way of saying, we're not innocent, but this is mostly your fault. Observe below,


Before drives get out of their cars to e-mail me their complaints about cyclistss, I’ll stipulate there is plenty of blame to go around. There are cyclists who ride in the center of the lane when it would be safe for them to move over or are unaware of the rights of drivers. That said, there are too many instances of drivers who get drunk and then kill people with their cars or think that adhering to laws by travelling the speed limit and not endangering others lives is optional.

Does that sound balanced? Or is one person being blamed more than the other. "That said..." is a prefix for "But the real problem is..." And then to follow it with "Keep in mind that it’s the cyclist who is more apt to come out the loser in a collision with a car" which can have only been placed where it was to point out that cyclists somehow have a greater responsibility to follow the law than drivers do.

You win a little one, Washcycle. Ride the trails ilelgally, with my angelic blessing. Safety trumps adherence to some rules/laws.

But have your beer after you arrive.

I'm more of a gin and tonic person. It feels like vacation.

I thought that the rebuttal letter to the editor that the Post did print was pretty good. To me, pointing out the people that try to honk you off the road is more useful than arguing whether drivers or cyclists are at fault more often.

The letter made me wonder about the state of DC law against harassing cyclists. Maryland has such a law--and abusive honking is illegal anyway. How about DC?

Well, honking is a moving violation unless it's for a permitted purpose, and it's garden variety assault if you fear being hit.

But it's kind of academic because you can't really enforce either yourself like you can, say, the 3 foot rule.

I find the title very offensive.

It sets up the cyclists as the outsiders or "other," which is the fundamental problem to how cyclists are accommodated (or not) in our transportation infrastructure and culture.

Yes, there are fewer bikes on the road than cars. But we are not "welcome" in DC... WE ARE DC. We are not outsiders coming in to "your" turf, Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post Editorial Board. We are just as much a resident and citizen as anyone... to welcome us is as insulting as to welcome you to your own home.

The rebuttal letter entitled "Anti-biking attitudes put District riders at risk" was placed below the last editorial today in the print edition.

Given the importance of other events on Monday, more people may have read the letter than the original editorial, at least among those who buy the print edition.

@Krickey7: You have articulated my concern well. Drivers are frequently committing assault on cyclists. As you probably noticed, I am basically with you that cyclists need to comply with the law and that a few reminders are OK.

Still I think that some cyclists would have found that pill easier to swallow had the editorial added to the stipulation "...and drivers assault cyclists so routinely that no one even thinks of asking the police for protection." I think the rebuttal helped to make that point with a vignette than I am sure we have all experienced: Trying to have a calm conversation with a driver who starts the conversation, and seeing that the driver merely wants to yell and run off.

Part of the problem, as we know, is that both drivers and cyclists don't always know the law. Cyclists may do the wrong thing -- or when they are doing the right thing, motorists think it's wrong and get mad. Alot of motorists think bikes aren't allowed in streets, even today. Some guy yelled at me this morning for legally using a crosswalk.

Then an asshole in a giant red pickup truck. Then me. The *instant* the light turned green, the man-child in the red truck started laying on the horn...

What is it with pickup drivers? What I'm really waiting for is the editorial, "Pickup drivers will be welcome when they start obeying the law."

I'd be willing to bet that pickup drivers are overwhelmingly male, and that men are more likely to be aggressive drivers.

Wash, in Charles Komanoff's groundbreaking study "Killed by Automobile" (www.rightofway.org/research/kba_text.pdf )
he has this to say:

"For the 63 cyclist fatalities in which driver gender was reported, only two, or 3 percent, were women. This is a startling figure. Recall that the male share of street driving in New York City is estimated to be 75 percent. Even though the male driving share in Manhattan, where cycling is concentrated, may be
higher, the fact that 97 percent of cyclist-killers were men strongly suggests that driver aggression (and not just cyclist impulsiveness) plays a significant role in killing bicycle-riders in New York City."

According to the same paper male drivers accounted for 91% of pedestrian fatalities.

Anyone who cares about traffic safety issues should read the whole paper, it's jaw-dropping.

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