It’s time to tone down the tirades against bicyclists


Bicyclists on Beach Road in Rock Creek Park. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Editor’s note: Post tranportation reporter and avid bicyclist Ashley Halsey III published this response Wednesday to this column from the Post’s Courtland Milloy.

The very first thing the driver said was that he was sorry. He had been looking for an address on a two-lane road, and when he saw it he turned left toward it.

I was coming the other way on my bike.

He said he wasn’t paying attention to the road.

My neck was broken, my shoulder torn to pieces, my hand had a spiral fracture.


Ashley Halsey III (Marie Marzi)

Six years later, my neck doesn’t turn like yours does. My handwriting has been transformed to that of an 80-year-old.

Stuff like this happens to bike riders all the time. Not everyone is as lucky as me. A lot of cyclists get killed — more than 700 of them a year — including some people I’ve known.

Am I biased? Sure. I ride thousands of miles every year. I also drive a car tens of thousands of miles. I will fly more than 50,000 miles this year. And I cover transportation for The Post. You could say I’m biased about every form of transportation, and you’d be right.

Here’s my bias: No matter how you go — bike, car, bus, train, boat or plane — I want you to get there safely.

I’m sick to death of people who take risks with other people’s lives.

And lately I’ve become disgusted with all the venom aimed at cyclists.

First off, most cyclists aren’t guilty of the sins that impatient drivers charge them all with.

I ride with a group several times a week. We obey traffic laws. In traffic, we stop for lights and stop signs. We don’t do dangerous things like sneaking up the gutter or between lanes of cars stopped at lights.

We don’t ride on sidewalks, John Kelly. And we don’t bang on car hoods, Courtland Milloy, unless, perhaps, a driver has nearly killed us. Bit of an unequal encounter, 3,000- pound vehicle against a 20-pound bike and 150-pound rider, no?

Do some cyclists do those things? No question. We see them too, and we don’t condone bad behavior that ultimately puts us at risk too.

The nastiness of the people who believe that roads are made for cars and nobody else has reached a high pitch not just in Washington, but nationally and internationally.

There are lots of complaints about cyclists ignoring the law and demands that they be licenced or charged user fees. (Most cyclists are licenced drivers, and bicycles are considered vehicles on the road. So they know traffic laws. Most cyclists drive and pay fuel taxes. They pay all those other taxes, too.)

The basic message from the angry voices, however, when the smoke screen blows away, is that they don’t want cyclists on the road.

Well, bike riders are not going to go away, so here’s some advice:

Take a deep breath and get used to it.

Stop drinking and driving. That kills more than 10,000 people a year.

Stop speeding. It causes more than 9,000 deaths a year.

Stop talking and texting on your cellphone while driving. Distracted driving causes more than 3,000 deaths and more than 400,000 injuries a year.

Globally, traffic accidents kill about 1.2 million people each year, and 93 percent of them are caused by driver error.

This might be a good time for everybody to think about getting from here to there more safely, rather than launching tirades.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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