I thought that it would be interesting to reimagine Milloy's column from a different perspective: as rabidly anti-car and anti-driver as he was anti-cyclist. So, with a few tweaks and edits, I present to you my interpretation of how Milloy's column might have read if his hatred of myopic little cyclists hadn't gotten the best of him:
Driver bullies try to rule the road in D.C.
By Courtland Milloy*
I have to hand it to the drivers in the D.C. area. They’ve got more nerve than an L.A. biker gang. And some can be just as nasty.
They fight to have ever-wider roads built throughout the city, leading drivers to speed in front of churches where elderly parishioners have been struck and killed while crossing the street. They block intersections and alleyways downtown during rush hour, laughing at cyclists and pedestrians who want them to get out of the way.
Now, some of them are pushing to have traffic cameras removed along highways and roads throughout the region, allowing them to once again speed and run red lights with abandon.
“There is no advocate for motorists in Maryland,” said AAA’s John Townsend, an opponent of speed cameras, in response to the proliferation of cameras in Montgomery County. “You have to have safeguards in place to protect the rights of motorists.”
Forget about all those pedestrians and cyclists who have to deal with menacing drivers speeding through intersections and placing lives at risk every day. What the region really needs is to dial-back speed enforcement and safety restrictions on drivers, so they won’t have to be inconvenienced by others on the city’s roads.
As my colleague John Kelly pointed out in Tuesday’s newspaper, drivers disobey the law by running red lights, encroaching upon pedestrians in crosswalks and speeding through residential neighborhoods. His column amounted to a gentleman’s request for drivers to give pedestrians and cyclists a break. They’re lucky that someone hasn’t put a brick through the windshield of their vehicles.
Are cycling advocates like the Ku Klux Klan? Townsend raised that comparison in an interview last year with the Washington City Paper. In it, he stated that new urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington founder David Alpert and other writers for the blog were “like the Klan hiding behind the white masks,” and that their pleas for increased awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety were “not worthy” of response.
Actually, the way drivers treat cyclists and pedestrians is much worse than what Townsend would admit to. They don’t just cruise along dense neighborhoods well above the speed limit. Or turn in front of pedestrians in cross walks or across striped, clearly marked bike lanes. If you demand that they show common courtesy and obey the rules of the road, drivers just might give you the finger. Grab your bike and throw it into the bed of their truck. Hit you. Run over your bike. Or run over the cyclist or pedestrian, causing grave bodily harm and even death. And dare you to do anything about it.
It’s a $500 fine for a cyclist to hit a driver in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some cyclists might think it’s worth paying the fine.
Drivers routinely cut across bike lanes, steer into oncoming traffic or turn in front of pedestrians crossing a street in order to avoid waiting at a red light. When the light turns green, they’ll race ahead in their multi-ton vehicles, oblivious to anyone around them and the potential for harm. Then they do the same thing at the next stop light.
I recall in the not-so-distant past when it was much more dangerous to be a cyclist, when the infrastructure was not in place to facilitate this healthy, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable method of transit. I also recall when the city’s drivers weren’t stopped or ticketed at all, no matter how reckless, and when there was practically no enforcement of traffic laws.
Now that cyclists and pedestrians are working to raise awareness of this issue to try to reduce aggressive driving, if not stamp it out altogether, the drivers in the city and their advocates have concocted a fake “war on cars” and allege that the District government wants to eliminate driving in D.C. altogether in order to make Washington a “bike only” city.
So far, thousands of miles of streets and highways have been built that have carved up neighborhoods throughout the city. The roads are in particularly poor shape and lacking any bike lanes whatsoever in Ward 8 by the way, which has the lowest income and highest number of children of any ward in the city.
Striking a more conciliatory tone, Townsend, in the City Paper article, said that he “regrets the rhetoric sometimes, because I think that when you use that type of language, it shuts down communication with people who disagree." As if a few trite, empty words are supposed to make us forget about the driver terrorists out to rule the road.
The AAA Mid-Atlantic Web site features a photograph of a young child with a caption that reads:
“Protect yourself and your loved ones in whatever car you are driving.”
If only their concern extended to non-drivers as well.___________________________
* - Not really