For a horde of so-called “biker terrorists” and “bike ninjas,” the 40 or so cyclists who rode up to the Washington Post on Thursday afternoon to protest an incendiary, anti-bike column by Metro section curmudgeon Courtland Milloy were decidedly polite.
There were no bullhorns or loud chants, and the demonstrators stayed neatly inside the lines as they pedaled down the 15th Street, Northwest, cycle track. They even abided a Metropolitan Police Department officer’s request to maintain a wide berth on the sidewalk as they loitered outside the Post; hardly the behavior worth of a “broomstick through the spokes of their wheels,” as Milloy suggested yesterday.
But the courteous behavior displayed did not mean there were no angry feelings. District cyclists are still steamed at being branded terrorists and brigands in the city’s newspaper of record.
Katherine Fuchs, who said she uses the L Street, Northwest, bike lane on a daily basis, is none to pleased with being called a “terrorist” simply for commuting. She also suggested that Milloy’s desire to remove cyclists and the 74 miles of demarcated bike lanes from DC’s streets in favor of more car traffic might be self-defeating.
“Does he want more cars competing with him for parking?” she said.
Mixed in Milloy’s anti-bike spewing was an accusation that cycling is the province of DC’s newer, wealthier, and mostly white residents, with no roads in Ward 8 striped with bike lanes. And while the anti- Post demonstration was almost entirely Caucasian, the lack of bike facilities in the city’s less-affluent neighborhoods was not forgotten. Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which did not organize the Post protest, noted the coincidence that Milloy’s column landed the same day the District Department of Transportation announced it will finally start putting in bike lanes in the District’s poorest, most underserved ward later this summer.
Milloy did not appear before his detractors, who started rolling up about 1 PM, but a knot of curious Posties gathered outside the building, some with notebooks in hand, others just taking in the sight of seeing their workplace protested. DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who was in the neighborhood for another engagement, walked over to tell reporters that cyclists and motorists “need to learn to get along.”
The scene’s most energized moment came when Julie Sibbing, an environmental policy analyst, darted into the company’s lobby to hang a sign reading “I want an apology, Wash Post,” though it was quickly yanked out by a security guard.
“I really want an apology,” said Sibbing, who rides in from Alexandria. “I’m a middle-aged bike commuter, not a terrorist. I was a Peace Corps volunteer, for God’s sake.”
Sibbing also said Milloy’s suggestion that “some drivers might think it’s worth paying” the city’s $500 for hitting a cyclist with a car could expose the Post to unwanted litigation. “The Post should be liable for accidents in the next week,” she said. “There’s an exception to the free speech clause for incendiary speech. I think this is an exception.”
Don’t expect any comment from the Post on the protest Milloy sparked. But cyclists of all modes—commuters, bike messengers, pedicab operators—felt targeted by his high dudgeon. Pedicab operator Joe Brophy, whose cohort Milloy spanked for “laughing at motorists who want them to get out of the way,” defended his profession, which mostly serves tourists who want to be ferried around downtown.
“We have a hard job, but we love our job,” he said, handing over a sweat-drenched business card. “I get honked at, but no evil laughing. I’m a nice Jewish boy.”