What the Examiner Should Have Written About Capital Bikeshare
Things Examiner reporter Liz Essley could’ve written about in today’s Examiner, based on the statistic that there are more driver-biker crashes given the rising number of cyclists in D.C.:
- Why more cyclists on the road mean more crashes, but also mean roads are safer
- Whether better education is needed for drivers and cyclists
- If there's a critical difference between Capital Bikeshare users and those who ride bikes they own
- Why people ride on sidewalks
- In addition to that sidebar listing "the rules" for cyclists in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, a consideration of whether said rules are practical, need changing, or need enforcing
Essley’s piece is relatively fair, tremendously so when compared to its front page headline: "Motorists fuming as bicyclists pack roads: Everyone angry at clueless Bikeshare riders." And especially when compared to the placement above a photo of an armed protester standing in front of flames (which is meant to illustrate a story on the Middle East, not the 15th Street cycletrack). It's fair enough that David Alpert defends it heartily at Greater Greater Washington.
But it still falls into the tired, broad “drivers hate cyclists hate Bikeshare hate drivers blame cyclists blame Capital Bikeshare” trope:
But neighborhoods still feud about who's to blame — cyclists or cars.
Both drivers and experienced cyclists blame bikers for blowing past stop signs and stoplights, not wearing helmets and weaving through traffic.
Capital Bikeshare users cause the most problems, both groups say.
I have a problem with Essley's piece because it's, at best, boring. The collective brain trust that considers, even casually, how we get around this city has largely moved—at least marginally—past placing blame wholly on all bikers or all drivers. D.C. may not be as bike-friendly as, say, Copenhagen, but it’s made substantial gains in cycling infrastructure and in the number of riders on the road in the past few years. Whether you agree with the presence of cyclists, they’re around in a way that they weren’t a decade ago.
We’re well past the period of time where it’s interesting or useful to write a he-said, she-said finger-pointy piece based on a few choice quotes from token characters (cyclist-driver, pedestrian, bike advocate). Essley’s article is an oblique blame game that tries to illustrate a news peg—hey, look, more people on bikes means more accidents!—but instead comes off as scattered list of things cyclists do that people don’t like.
Photo by Flickr user Angela N., under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license