Washington Post transportation troll and Rick Scott impersonator Fredrick Kunkle wrote an article that piggy-backed on the NBC4 report that cyclists were running lights, triggering the red light cameras and not being ticketed for it. Now for something that has no element of shock or news to it (I mean didn't WJLA already break this story in 2014?), this story sure has had some legs. After all I wasn't positive that bikes triggered the red-light cameras, but I figured they probably were - and so did everybody else. Still, the mere transition of this speculation into fact seems to be newsworthy. Kunkle's story is in part about the story itself and the reaction to it and in part about how cyclists who run red lights are, in his opinion, children.
On the story front he wants this to be a cyclist-vs-drivers* "war" story, but really that's not the case in DC. Sure there is some animosity and among a few older, angry commentators it runs pretty deep, but mostly people get along on the roads.
Anyway, to that extent, he interviews the inexplicable stat-memorizer John B. Townsend (the "B" stands for "Parking")
Townsend said he had little patience for the defense raised by some bicyclists that their traffic infractions aren’t hurting anybody but themselves, or that the more than 1,500 red light violations pale in comparison to the number of summonses issued to vehicles.
“Anybody who runs a red light with traffic going through it is not only putting his life in jeopardy, he’s putting others at risk too,” Townsend said.
True. But the vast majority of cyclists who run red lights - and those shown in the NBC video - do it when traffic is not going through. But it is rich to hear him talk of his lack of patience for bicycle scofflaws when he has unlimited patience for their brethren in cars.
He takes especially strong exception to arguments from bicyclists that it’s so tricky to stop – on uphills, for example – that it’s okay to sort of just pause before pedaling into an intersection.
“It’s a lie that it’s hard to stop at a stop sign,” he said.
It's not hard, in that I can do it 100% of the time if I choose to, unlike, let's say, cooking bacon without burning it; but it's easier to not stop at the stop sign. Which is the actual argument cyclists who support the Idaho Stop make.
"Most motorists have agreed to share the road. Yet you have a warring faction that doesn’t want to obey the rules and excuses away everything.”
I don't know which faction is obeying the law, but it clearly isn't the drivers. They got 84,000 red light tickets in 2013 for goodness sake. That's a pace 70x faster than cyclists are triggering the lights [and (1) not every trigger gets a ticket (2) some triggers are likely for legally using the LPI (3) some triggerings are likely cyclists who entered on a green but couldn't clear the intersection before the red.] For every cyclist out there triggering a red light camera, there are probably a half dozen drivers sitting at a green light because they haven't looked up from their cell phone yet.
During last summer's Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act working group, the BAC proposed banning all phone use by drivers - both handheld and hands-free. Townsend was among those most strongly against it, in part because he thought drivers wouldn't obey it and it would just become a way for the District to make more money.
So which faction doesn't want to obey the law? I might nominate the group that includes thousands of people who've installed illegal license plate covers in the hope that they will keep the enforcement cameras from accurately photographing their plate during a violation? That's some nice hypocrisy there.
Anyway, Kunkle then interrupts his interview of Townsend to add his signature flourish of made up facts and hack jokes from the late 1990's.
What bugs Townsend and a lot of other people about bicyclists most of all is their militancy, a sense of aggressive entitlement in flouting traffic laws. There’s a perception that for these Sons of Anarchy on Konas, sharing the road is passé, a holdover from the days when bicyclists were rare. Now these Lycra-clad hordes want to own the road. And the sidewalks, too.
Without any polling data about what bugs a lot of people about bicyclists, this is a pretty specific claim. Even Townsend doesn't say that. Methinks this is Kunkle's feelings.
The idea that cyclists don't share the road or want to own all of it is a little ridiculous; it's not like a cyclist can intimidate a car off the road like cars can. Cyclist only want the part of the road or the sidewalk that they're legally using, and a few feet around them to keep them safe. Finally, most cyclists I see in DC these days are not wearing lycra. The lycra-clad hordes are all the pedestrians in yoga pants.
Earlier he'd thrown this out there
D.C. police spokesman appeared on camera to huff and puff about how running red lights on a bicycle is a safety issue. He said officers issue citations when they see this happening. (Show of hands — how often have you seen this happen?)
I've never seen an MPD police officer issue anyone a citation for ignoring a traffic control device, but that's not evidence that it's not happening. I've never seen squirrels make sweet love, but I'm pretty sure that based on the number of squirrels in this town that they are. A better way to assess if this happens or not is to go to MPD and ask them, but that would take time.
Time that Kunkle could be writing beauties like this...
Despite all the bike lanes and new bike-friendly infrastructure that have transformed D.C. and other cities, bicyclists seem to act – actually, sometimes proclaim aloud – that they should be allowed to do as they please. They also say that if anybody’s going to get hurt, it’s them.
In short, some bicyclists sound like children.
No cyclist I know of thinks they should be allowed to do as they please, not even at the link that Kunkle provides. That link is to someone speculating as to why cyclists run red lights. First the author of that piece talks to an authority who says it's physics (which is what a lot of people claim. This makes sense since the whole Idaho Stop movement was kicked off by Joel Fajans, a physics professor at UC Berkeley, making that very case).
At the typical riding speed of 10 mph to 12 mph, one stop-start is equivalent to biking an additional 300 feet. In that sense, if a bicycle rider commuting to work comes to a complete stop, say 15 times, he has “added” about a mile to the ride. Which makes it no surprise that some may try to cut that by running wisely selected lights.
That doesn't sound childish to me.
But then the author uses a study showing that men do it more often and young men more often than old and people who see others doing it and then people alone to jump to the "real answer" which we learn is (emphasis mine)
for a determined subset of cyclists, such violations are a form of payback for the way they feel marginalized by a transportation system created for and dominated by motorized vehicles. For them, running a red light is an injudicious act of defiance,
OK, you can't say you're going to give the real answer to why a group does something and then claim it is true of a "determined subset," especially when it is total horse-malarkey. Which it is, because there is nothing in the article backing up the claim that such a subset exists.
Still, it is because of this poorly-researched, hare-brained theory that Kunkle decides that some cyclists are behaving like children. Because they are saying things that none of them say for reasons that no one claims.
The article then ends with a pretty good interview with Greg Billing who makes all the reasonable points about different risks, how WABA supports lawfulness (but also the Idaho Stop, I'll note. I see Billing as Eliot Ness at the end of The Untouchables. What will he do when alcohol is legal? He'll probably have a drink.) and how we can find common ground supporting better engineered roads.
*Kunkle uses the word "biker" which I don't really feel like the bike-riding public uses. It's technically correct, but bikers ride motorcyclists in my opinion.