It had been some time since the BikeDC world heard from hater of bicycles in the road and WaPo columnist Courtland Milloy, but it appears he has lost nothing during his long slumber in the sewers beneath Derry, Maine.
If you've been around awhile you remember that back in 2014 he called cyclist "bullies", "ninjas" and "terrorists" in a rambling, pointless and poorly researched article in DC's paper of record. For this, he earned much flack leading him to - shockingly - go on a bike ride from which he learned nothing. In the follow up article he wrote "in this bike-friendly city, the driver is always wrong" and he called "taking the lane" "impeding traffic". So, yeah that worked. He called for courtesy from cyclists, which he defined as getting out of the way of cars, but none from drivers. And his friend Colbert King got in on it, complaining that cyclists can't take a joke, and then also calling us terrorists - get it?
But his complaining about bicyclists goes back well before 2014. Back in 1988, in an article about the driving test in DC, he was complaining about bicyclists in the road and that they don't pay registration or need to be inspected.
There is a bike path alongside the roadway, yet there is a cyclist in front of you using the road instead of the path. You should: (a) honk at the cyclist and point to the path; (b) notify a policeman; (c) treat the cyclist as you would any other vehicle, since a cyclist is allowed to use either the roadway or the bike path.
The answer is (c), although there is some disagreement as to whether this means you can take your pickup truck onto the bike path.
Ten years later, after he had his license suspended for speeding (How does one even do that?), he wrote an article about bike commuting and how bad he was at it because he constantly broke the law - and rode dangerously - on his bike. You'd think his experience would result in some empathy.
One of the downsides of bicycling, however, is safety. Nationally, about 500,000 bicyclists crash their way into hospital emergency rooms each year. Some end up losing feet, hands and other body parts. There are roughly 500 to 1,000 fatalities each year, almost all of them involving bicyclists and automobiles.
Instructed by the police officer to get off the sidewalk and into the street, I took a deep breath and began to look for an opening in the traffic. The closer I got to the curb, however, the faster the cars and trucks seemed to be going. Not one driver acted like he even saw me.
But, it didn't.
In 2001, the source of his ire were environmental activists who used bicycles to block his entry to a gas station as part of a protest (which is a fair, even if his reaction was over the top).
I had never come so close to deliberately running over somebody before.
I couldn't wholeheartedly endorse a group that rides bicycles in front of cars headed for a gas pump. Especially my car.
And in 2012 he complained about speed cameras because he likes to speed and also because cyclists get away with running stop signs.
But in 2014 he wasn't done. The following January he weighed in again after a pair of cyclist fatalities, arguing not that the problem wasn't bad drivers (the first cyclist was killed by a repeat drunk driver) but rather the very presence of bikes in the road. [If there's one theme, it's that he thinks bikes don't belong in the road]. The thing about that article, that cyclists need their own space, is not TOO far from what bike advocates want,
What cyclists need is a separate network of biking roads, not bike lanes. Give them trails through wooded areas, away from cars and trucks. Once they enter high-traffic areas in the city, it’s off the bicycle and onto alternative transportation. Like two feet.
So he's calling for a ban on bicycles from cities and not supporting the building of new bicycle facilities along roads, because what he really wants - still - is for cyclists to get out of his fucking way.
Which brings us to his latest essay. For this one he uses an extreme example of bad cyclists behavior, perhaps the worst since Alejandro Jose Grant shot and killed a driver after she bumped him with her car.
According to D.C. police, the motorist — Kethezo Paho, 34, of Bethesda — was heading west on M Street NW in Georgetown last week when he came upon the bicyclist — Maxim Smith, 24, of Northwest. D.C. police said Paho became angry that Smith was riding slowly and blew his horn to get the cyclist to move over. But Smith apparently stayed his course.
when Paho tried to pass Smith on M Street. According to police, the cyclist reached out and hit the car. He was charged with destruction of property.
Paho then stopped his car and threatened to call police to report the damage. As Smith tried to pedal away, Paho grabbed the bike. Smith then repeatedly called the driver the racial slur, police said, and struck him in the head with a heavy metal U-shaped bicycle lock.
Yep. That's some illegal and reprehensible behavior no doubt. There were a lot of mistakes made and most of them, and the worst of them, by Smith.
At last report, Smith had been released into home detention. We'll see if he gets charged with a hate crime, but even if not, he's in some serious legal trouble and for good reason. If you want my advice, don't escalate things with drivers. And don't call anyone racial slurs. And don't hit anyone or their car with your bike lock unless your life is at risk. End advice.
But Milloy's not really interested in the violence or the racial aspects. He wants to talk about what started this all, and that's the damn cyclist being in the road in the first place. What's up with that?
Paho became angry that Smith was riding slowly and blew his horn to get the cyclist to move over. But Smith apparently stayed his course.
This is a common scenario, and the cause of considerable aggravation for both motorist and cyclist.
Yes. Having drivers blow their horns at me for riding in the road does aggravate me.
At issue is a D.C. law that says: “A bicyclist riding on a highway shall not unduly or unnecessarily impede or obstruct traffic.”
Problem is, the meaning of “unduly” and “unnecessarily” seems to depend on whether you are behind a steering wheel or a set of handlebars.
No, it literally doesn't. Perspective is irrelevant. And riding in the road at the normal speed of a bike is not unduly or unnecessarily impeding. Blocking someone from a gas station is.
"If a bicyclist is going 10 to 12 miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour zone, that’s not obstruction,” Billing said. “They are just moving a bit slower.”
More like a whole lot slower from where I sit behind a steering wheel.
OK, but be a grown up, and just deal with it.
Driving through Rock Creek Park recently, I came upon a caravan of cars creeping behind a bicyclist who was riding in the middle of the lane. My speedometer fluctuated between zero and 5 miles an hour, stop and go.
My BS detector is going off. Between 0 and 5? Stop and go? That doesn't sound like a cyclist-caused slow down.
Why do some cyclists refuse to move out of the way and allow cars to pass?
One possible answer is that the law doesn’t require them to move over. No more than the law prohibits motorists from hanging out in the left hand lane of a major highway, while traffic backs up for miles. But moving would be the considerate thing to do.
Sigh. On Beach Drive, where exactly does one go to "Get out of the way"?
The average traffic lane in the District is about 11 feet wide. The average car is less than six feet wide. All a cyclist needs to do is move over a few feet, and a motorist could pass with plenty of room to spare.
Moving over to the right can be more dangerous. He said so himself back in 1998. Remember? "The closer I got to the curb, however, the faster the cars and trucks seemed to be going. Not one driver acted like he even saw me." So that's why cyclists don't move over, because there are enough drivers who suck to make it dangerous.
In other words, don’t use your horn to warn the wayward cyclist that you are about to pass. Wait until he comes after you with a bicycle lock?
Yes, because those are the only two options. We all know that any driver who passes a cyclist without honking their horn gets a taste of the business end of a bike lock. And why is he "wayward"?
Billing pointed out that it’s against the law for a motorist to pass within three feet of a cyclist. He questioned whether Smith would have been able to reach out and hit the car if Paho had been the required distance away. But cyclists are notorious for passing within inches of a car, especially when rushing to get in front of cars stopped at a red light.
You have to wonder: With so many convoluted laws and hazardous conditions, maybe bicycles just don’t belong on the streets with cars.
Only Milloy has to wonder that. You know what I wonder? How can someone be thinking about this - bikes in the street - for so long and yet never get any smarter about it?
And when does he retire?