The Washington Post

Two legs bad; two wheels bad; four wheels bad

Reed Martin of Cabin John stands by a utility pole installed recently in a bike path that runs along MacArthur Boulevard. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

I believe it was Plato who said, “Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.”

No? Not Plato? Rodgers and Hammerstein in the musical “Oklahoma!”?

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Fine. If you say so. Whoever it was, I think of the farmers and the cowmen every time I go for a walk in Washington. Or ride a bike. Or drive a car. And that’s because every time I adopt one of those roles — pedestrian, cyclist, driver — I feel like I’m pitted against the other two, locked in a fight as rancorous as that between a fence-building Oklahoma corn planter and a fence-destroying Oklahoma cattle rancher.

It’s an odd transformation we undergo every time we switch modes of transportation. When you’re a driver you hate cyclists and pedestrians. When you’re a pedestrian you hate cyclists and drivers. When you’re a cyclist you hate drivers and pedestrians. Is our empathy really so evaporative?

Remember when bicycle messengers were everyone’s favorite downtown scourge? Well, there aren’t any more bicycle messengers in Washington. Or hardly any, anyway. What there are are cyclists who ride on the sidewalk, ignore stop signs, breeze through red lights.

I’m happy that Washington is embracing the bicycle, what with all the new bike lanes and bike-share programs. I just wish more Washingtonians actually knew how to ride a bike.

That’s what I think when I’m walking or driving, anyway. When I’m cycling, I curse the cars that want to run me off the road — their drivers busily texting — and the pedestrians who step into my path.

When I’m a driver, I get impatient with pedestrians who stand in the street as they wait for the light to change or who just cross against the light. I also get irritated when they cross after the little walking man has been replaced by the blinking red hand. I think rush hour downtown could be noticeably improved if pedestrians gave cars a few extra seconds to make their right and left turns.

I guess what I’m saying is, let’s all be mindful of each other out there. Or to quote Plato again: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Collision course?

Reed Martin is a devoted cyclist. He’s ridden the length of the C&O Canal nearly a dozen times. Even when he’s walking on the streets near his Cabin John home he thinks like a cyclist. Thus he was irritated to discover that among the replacement utility poles put up along MacArthur Boulevard a few months ago is one in the bike path that runs along that road.

“I just couldn’t believe they could be so moronic,” Reed said. “Can you imagine being on a bicycle in the middle of the night and going head on into a telephone pole?”

Or a power pole. I couldn’t tell who drilled into the bike path to put up Pole No. 749415-810710. The old pole was well clear of the path. The new one isn’t in the middle, but it does stick a couple of feet into the path. Since Reed first noticed it, someone — presumably the power or telephone company — has wrapped it in yellow caution tape.

I’m sure that installing a utility pole is not simple, but surely someone could have figured out a way to do it without encroaching on cyclists. They never would have put it a few feet in the road.

Good for you

Thank you to the many readers who wrote in after my Monday column with suggestions on what I could do with the root vegetables I receive every week. While not all the advice was medically advisable, there were a few fine recipes. Further, I learned that a parsnip is basically a white carrot. Now, what is a rutabaga?

Speaking of vegetables, Beth Stucker of Fairfax said that when her husband, Jim, was in the hospital, the admitting nurse asked if he had any allergies. Jim doesn’t have any, but he joked: “Only broccoli. I hate it.”

Wrote Beth: “Sure enough when I looked later he had a red allergy wrist band that said ‘broccoli.’ ”

Children’s Hospital

My recent plea for donations to Children’s National Medical Center had some quick results. We went from $32,191 to $49,628. We’re still a ways from $400,000, but the momentum is picking up. Remember that all donations to this annual drive go to pay the medical bills of poor children.

You can make a tax-deductible donation by going to or sending a check (payable to Children’s Hospital) to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

For previous columns, go to


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
In search of the Delmarva fox squirrel
The most interesting woman you've never heard of
Play Videos
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Play Videos
Philadelphia's real signature sandwich
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.