Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy penned a recent piece that accused bicyclists in the city of having “more nerve than an L.A. biker gang,” and added that “some can be just as nasty.” He went on to detail attitudes and behaviors he has encountered on the city’s streets, and he even commented that paying a $500.00 fine for hitting one of them might be worth it. OUCH.
The Nation’s Capital is increasingly becoming a city that cares about fitness- and the push comes from the top with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Bicycles are a great way to get fit and they are not only being used for sport and leisure time play, but are increasingly replacing cars as a mode of transportation. Special lanes have been carved out, a bike sharing program is in full-swing and there is even talk of having a bike escalator installed on 15th Street NW. In a nation plagued by obesity and health issues that are overwhelming the system, and the increasing concern over global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels- the use of this healthy and alternative mode of transportation should be applauded, not vilified. So what is really going on here?
Perhaps it’s the inevitable extension of road rage- too many overworked and stressed-out people trying to get around on roads that weren’t designed to handle such a large capacity. In other words, the increased use of bikes has led motorists to see them as they see other cars- as competitors that go out of their way to slow them down, accost them with rude gestures- and cheat their way to the front of the line- all of which makes it even harder for anyone trying to follow the rules of the road and common decency- and get where they need to, on time.
The reactions from readers of Mr. Milloy’s column fall into two camps- bicyclists and those who support them and motorists who just want them to get out of their way. The comments made by both sides reflect an attitude of us VS them- and suggest that there can’t be a middle ground somewhere in between. Now that sounds like a familiar theme for D.C. Somehow each side seems to be saying that if they give a little, they will be overwhelmed by greater demands from the other side- and soon their needs will hold second place or have no place at all.
A solution is certainly possible but will require that each side gives the other the benefit of the doubt, agrees to share the road with respect and adheres equally to the rules. Enforcement would also need to be meted out equally as even a hint of favoritism or special treatment would perpetuate the problem.
If D.C. motorists and cyclists could find common ground and create a solution that works for both sides of the issue, it could help set a positive example for a city that has become divided against itself and can’t seem to remember that in the end, no one wins unless everyone wins.