Blocked and Blockhead

The Blocked

After a late night of watching the rain fall down at Nationals Park, I awoke in a bit of a fog. Unfortunately the fog in my brain was accompanied by humidity outside. I rode off into the mugginess officeward.

There was considerable leaf and twig debris on the roads. Somehow this debris was concentrated along the right side where I normally ride. So I boldly moved toward the center of the lane. No drivers’ egos were harmed.

Near Belle Haven Park, a tree had fallen across the trail. According to fellow bike commuter Reba, the tree nearly nailed a passing runner. As a former marathon runner, I can attest that this can ruin your whole day.

Little Nellie was not amused.
Little Nellie was not amused.

I made my way around the tree on foot and proceeded northward-ish. Near the power plant, I came upon a tractor trailer which had fallen across the trail. I rode around it on the grass.

Little Nellie was even less amused
Little Nellie was even less amused

Near the Memorial Bridge, a gaggle of geese formed an occlusion of the trail. I rode through them undaunted. One goose mouth a goose obscenity at Little Nellie,  I am pretty sure this goose is a columnist for the Washington Post. He was probably upset that in years past geese were ticketed for using the trail.

Over the course of the day, it got muggier. Or as the French say, “I’ll fait icky.”

I rode home under ominous skies. Sprinkles turned to light rain. Distant rumbles turned to thunder booms. The tractor trailer was gone but the trail was blocked by a cyclist chatting with a surveyor and a pedestrian. I stopped for the pedestrian almost certainly ruining my credibility as a bike terrorist.

On Union Street in Old Town, the bike lane was blocked twice. The first blockage was by an SUV double parked in the bike lane.  Shortly thereafter the but end of a luxury car was parked so as to preserve the entrance to a townhouse’s garage. It’s butt end blocked the trail.

At King and Union a King Street Trolley (actually a bus) stopped mid-block obstructing my way up Union Street. I was begining to think this was Block the Bicyclists Day, sponsored no doubt by the Washington Post.

The last five miles home were under a steady rain. The distant thunder and lightning suddenly became directly over head. BOOM! CRACK!

Uh oh. Not good. The hairs on my calves (the lower part of my leg, not my baby cows) stood on end. Eek.

Pedal pedal.

Fortunately, that was the worst of it. I arrived home soaked having somehow not terrorized anybody.

The Blockhead

You may have noticed that I have been making oblique references to the Washington Post today. This is because Courtland Milloy, a Post columnist, wrote a column today that expressed his exasperation with having to share the city with cyclists. In addition to some veiled racist remarks, he said that the $500 fine for hitting a cyclist with your car was worth the expense.

Mr. Milloy’s column demonstrated an astounding combination of ignorance, intolerance, and race baiting, quite the trifecta. It also contained many factual errors. Here are some facts for Mr. Milloy to think about:

  • My wife was run over on a crystal clear day by a careless driver in a hurry. She was lucky. She got to spend three months in bed. It took her the better part of a year to get back to something resembling normal. The driver nearly killed her in another way, because the aftermath of the crash left her unable to have surgery for a malignant tumor for one year.
  • My friend Rachel volunteered to ride sweep during a cycling event last December. Her job was to make sure that the very last riders finished safely. She was run over by an inattentive driver near FedEx Field. She was injured but fortunately recovered rather quickly. She is still jittery about riding her bike in the city.
  • My friend Charmaine was run over by a pickup truck while riding to work on Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC. The crash broke her right arm and destroyed her bike. She missed weeks of work and endured months of painful physical therapy. (It was the second time she’d been hit by a car.)
  • I didn’t know Alice Swanson, but six years ago today, she was riding her bike in a bike lane near Dupont Circle when she was run over by a truck and killed.

I could go on with more examples all night.

In my entire life of riding about 100,000 miles I only know of one death by cyclist. This happened when a kid at my grade school lost control of his bike and struck an old lady walking home from church. As bad as we all felt for the victim, we felt equally bad for the kid who was going to have to live with this for the rest of his life.

I hope Mr. Milloy parks his car and his hate. If he rode his bike in the city he might see what I see.

  • Riding through Anacostia on a Sunday morning is a joy. The church goers, dressed in their Sunday best, wave and say hello, even though in Mr. Milloy’s mind I am an evil suburban white guy on a bike and they are black and there are no bike lanes on MLK Boulevard.
  • That riding through all eight wards of the city during six or seven Fifty States Rides has revealed a city that is finally rising from the ashes of the 1968 riots and the farce of a crack head mayor. The restored Union Market and Lincoln Theater, the hundreds of rehabilitated rowhouses, the new buildings springing up everywhere, the resurrection of near Southeast. You miss this driving in and out of the city with a death grip on the steering wheel.
  • And that during those same rides and many, many more in DC, dozens of people have waved, cheered me and my fellow riders on, and made sure we didn’t take a wrong turn. Over and over again.
  • That little kids see me go by on my funny looking recumbent or my equally odd folding bike and say, “COOOL!”

I don’t like  riding my bike in DC during rush hours, but I’ll do it to get where I need to be. That doesn’t mean I am an inherently bad person or anti-car or racist.  It means that I am rational. I dislike driving in the city too. The difference is that in a car I have steel barrier between me and people like Mr. Milloy. On a bike, I am apparently a viable potential target for a pathetic man with a small mind.

Mr. Milloy should be ashamed of himself. As a 30-year subscriber to the Post, I have but one request. Stop running his columns. They are reckless, irresponsible, and hurtful. Find someone with a positive voice to fill the space.

 

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5 thoughts on “Blocked and Blockhead

  1. Indeed. I find it amazing that people think that bicyclists apparently hate their fellow city citizens. Despite people’s bad behavior, I’ve fallen more in love with the places I live and the people I live with on a bike and on foot than I ever would have otherwise.

    1. I agree entirely. I’ve lived and biked in Albany, Boston, Providence, Berkeley, and DC. Having a bike helped me get to know my way around, but more importantly, it helped me understand the vibe of each place. And then there is the sightseeing. Ride to Altamont near Albany and have a cider donut at Indian Ladder Farm. Or get a break from the heat of summer by riding to a kettle pond outside Boston. Use your bike to see the beautiful Rhode Island coast. Ride the ridge of the East Bay or over the Golden Gate Bridge down to Sausalito. In DC ride among the monuments at night.

      1. Oh, you’re making me miss home! My family used to get apples from Indian Ladder Farm. My childhood was filled with bike rides to Lake George and Saratoga.

  2. I mostly knew the area by car until I hit my mid-20s. Then I became a runner and discovered new places I had never noticed. Then with a bike my range expanded considerably. I barely had noticed the Erie Canal. I have ridden most of it from Niagara Falls to Schenectady and run the rest.

  3. Ha, I know the exact car you’re talking about on Union. When I go that way, it’s always parked either blocking the sidewalk or partially onto the street. I’ve thought many times about hitting it since everyone else on the block seems to be able to park without a worry.

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