Last night, the Washington Post printed a piece called Bicyclist bullies try to rule the road in D.C. It’s a boilerplate example of the bikelash genre: driven more by feeling and fear than by fact, rife with internal inconsistencies and name-calling.
Unsurprisingly, it’s doing very well in terms of clicks, with 517 comments and counting as of now. As I’ve written about in depth, the New Journalism trades quality content for eyeballs.
I’ll leave it to others to debunk the blatant mistruths underpinning the piece and to speculate on columnist Courtland Milloy’s motivations for writing it. What concerns me most is the call to physical violence against cyclists.
I’d like to propose a new litmus test for anti-bike writing – well, actually, for writing in general: the Secret Service approach. Let’s look at a couple of passages in a slightly different light.
They’re lucky that someone hasn’t put a broomstick through the spokes of their wheels.
In May, Michael Wilhelm faced the equivalent of this in Prospect Park, after someone placed a trip-wire across the loop. He went flying and suffered several broken ribs and other injuries. (Despite the obvious intent to cause harm, the 78th Precinct declined to pursue a criminal investigation.)
What would happen if Mr. Milloy suggested someone give “bully” Barack Obama the same treatment? He’s probably receive a personal visit from the Secret Service.
Then there’s this gem:
It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.
Yes, because another person’s livelihood plus $500 is worth less than the 5 seconds lost because a cyclist had to maneuver around a double-parked car.
Imagine saying something similar directed at the President of the United States for some trivial problem. If you wouldn’t do it for him, why would you do it for anyone else – particularly someone much less powerful?
Who’s the bully now?