A couple of weeks ago, Courtland Milloy went on a bike ride with Veronica Davis as a follow up to his much-criticized column about cyclists. And he wrote a column about the ride in which he continues to complain about cyclists, although now for all new reasons.
The City Paper has a couple of good pieces about it. Aaron Wiener writes about how little Milloy's opinions changed as a result of the ride, though he has shifted gears to a concern about the safety of cyclists.
To Milloy, bikes and cars don't mix, at least not in a busy city like D.C. "When you're mixing bikes with cars, I don’t think that there is a feel for how much danger lurks down the road in a place like this," he says. "You’re putting bikers on a street designed for cars, trucks, at a time when you have boom cranes swinging around."
And Jonathon L. Fischer tries to make sense of Milloy's columns, both of which are pretty scatter-shot.
The growth in bicycling in D.C. coincides with (and is certainly related to) the city's profound demographic changes, which is why bicycles and bike laneshave taken on such totemic power. And the perception that bike lanes only benefit D.C.'s mostly white, mostly young, mostly affluent arrivistes isn't helped by the fact that the city's poorest, blackest wards hardly have lanes at all. But the way to ensure better behavior by everyone toward people using other modes of transportation isn't finger-wagging columns, and it certainly isn't making life harder for one mode or another. It's having roads for everyone, with clearer signs and better rules.
But WTOP makes it clear that Milloy's opinions are not changed - not that I'm surprised. He strikes me a little like a 4 year old who has made a scene over not liking guacamole before trying it, and is now hellbent on not liking it - no matter what it tastes like.
Milloy added was asked if the experience of riding through rush hour traffic had changed his perception of cyclists. "Fundamentally no, it has not changed" he said. What about having to dodge car doors being opened into the path of his bike, or having to squeeze past trucks and cars parked in the bike lanes, did he see things from the cyclists point of view? No, he said. "What has changed is that I know for SURE that I don't belong out here on a bicycle" because it's too confusing to move through the different traffic patterns.
Milloy said "I don't know what I'm doing out here, just like most of these bikers out here."
There's plenty in here to find fault with, so let me just pick out a few.
But I’d been too busy fidgeting with the gear shifts on my handlebars to notice. Of course, if I had collided with the car, the driver would have been at fault. That’s because in this bike-friendly city, the driver is always wrong.
This is one of those myths that pops up pretty regularly. Of course, anyone who follows the coverage of bike crashes in DC knows that it isn't true. Cyclists get assaulted and when the police show up, they get ticketed. A cyclist in a bike lane with a green light can get run over and killed by a dump truck and the driver won't even be ticketed. A cyclist can be standing out of the way, get run over by a Humvee and the driver walks away. A cyclist can be run down from behind by a hit-and-run driver, who once caught, doesn't even get a ticket.
And that’s my biggest problem with bikers on D.C. streets. Too many of them bike like me. They are clueless. Wouldn’t know a “cycle track” from an Amtrak.
That's odd, because such a claim never even makes an appearance in the first column. If it's his biggest problem, why leave it out? He threw everything else out there. Furthermore, it's just not true. The average cyclist out there knows very well what they're doing - if they didn't they'd be in more crashes. And he tries to single out CaBi riders, even though the available evidence is that bike share cyclists are pretty safe. [CaBi riders ride around 2 miles per trip. If we assume that to be the average for all bikeshare riders then bikeshare is approaching 46 million miles. There was one automobile fatality every 47 million miles as recently as 1990].
Cyclists are no more clueless than drivers something that Milloy demonstrated when he showed that he had no idea how to merge at a mixing zone,
Milloy asked how it was that cyclists and drivers were supposed to know where to position themselves in and near the green painted bike boxes, or who had the right of way though areas known as "mixing zones", those broken lines that allow cars to slide across the bike lane from the center to make a left turn.
That is something that a driver should know right? If they don't, then they're clueless. Where is the problem-having with such clueless drivers?
To avoid a car door swinging open, bikers are encouraged to ride in the middle of the lane, “so we are completely visible to motorists,” Davis said. Bikers have a name for that. It’s called “taking the lane.” I call it impeding traffic.
Well then, Milloy is not interested in sharing the road. If after being told that taking the lane is the safest option, he still opposes it without contradicting that claim, then what he is saying is that safety is not the primary goal; the unimpeded movement of cars is. How can we have a discussion about sharing the road with someone who's values are so skewed from the norm?
When a biker cuts into a line of bikers, it’s denounced as “shoaling,” but when a biker worms his way to the front of a line of cars waiting at a light, then meanders along without letting anybody pass, it’s a right.
I'm not personally bothered by shoaling, but there are a few differences here. First is that a moving bike takes up more space than a stopped one because the cyclist moves side to side to power it, so while there is space next to a stopped cyclists, there may not be enough next to a moving one, meaning that everyone has to sort themselves out quickly. The same is not true of a car. Second is that by moving ahead of cars, bikes make themselves safer, which is why cities (including DC) are adding bike boxes.
In the other articles he makes more errors.
"Some of the best bikers, the guys who look like they’re part of some racing team, they’re more dangerous than the ones who don’t look like they know what they’re doing," he says. Because motorists "won't run over a crow," he argues, they get "spooked" when they see bikers coming toward them at high speeds in their side-view mirrors. "Bikers, they get away with some good stuff, man," he says. "People don’t know how many fender benders are caused by that thing."
Where is he getting this stuff? Not from any experts or data. It would serve him to learn about this stuff before he talks about it. There is just no evidence that any of this is true - except that people probably do not know how many fender benders are caused by bikes. It's probably not many though. And if drivers are getting spooked by law-abiding cyclists in the side-view mirror and getting into fender benders as a result, perhaps they shouldn't drive.
Among them, Milloy said, is having bikes registered at the local DMV, just like cars. He suggested bikes should have license plates that should be lit so that they could be seen at night.
"If we're going to play 'rules of the road apply to everything' then let's do it," he said.
That's not rules of the road, that's new rules of the road. But, following that out, I guess we should require motorists under 16 to wear helmets. And allow cyclists on interstates. And allow cars on sidewalks. That's ridiculous. Which is why we don't play 'rules of the road apply to everything.' And no cyclist advocates for that.