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It may have been the most law-abiding bike ride D.C. has ever seen. Cyclists walked their bikes on sidewalks, stopped completely for red lights, and even offered a wave of appreciation to city officials directing traffic. The bikers were doing everything they could to prove to Washington Post columnist Courtland Millloy that they weren’t bike terrorists.
Milloy penned a column this week lambasting D.C. cyclists as terrorists and bullies, even suggesting that some drivers probably think it’s worth it to pay a $500 fine to hit these pesky cyclists. The column spurred a number of responses (including one from City Paper), angry tweets, and a homegrown bike protest that started at Dupont Circle today and rode to the Post’s downtown headquarters in the hopes of talking to Milloy or some of his editors.
“The whole point of this is to show how law-abiding we can be. How well-behaved we can be,” said the protest’s organizer, Michael Forster, standing on the Dupont Circle fountain to deliver a locker-room speech before the 40 or so protesters took off for the Post.
Forster said he emailed Milloy twice to see if he would meet with the group to talk about the issues he raised in the column, but Milloy did not respond. He also emailed an editor whose name he could not remember.
Bike-riding protesters included a toddler, a Washington Post photographer riding in a peddie cab she paid for, and at-large D.C. Council candidate Kishan Putta, who gave what sounded like a stump speech before the ride.
“It’s actually ironic that the article came right from the epicenter of bike safety in D.C.,” he said, referring to the fact that the Post building is situated right next to the 15th street NW cycle track, whose creation and maintenance Putta says he helped push as an advisoriy neighborhood commissioner.
When the crew arrived downtown, Milloy wasn’t there to greet them. Instead, perhaps even preferably for the protesters, the sidewalk was filled with news cameras and reporters. A member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association directed people to the sides of the walkway to ensure that no one was blocking the pedestrian sidewalk. Protesters lifted signs with messages like “I’m a heart nurse. Not a terrorist” and “I’m a person that rides a bike.”
At one point, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson walked through the middle of the protest as he was walking to his car from an unrelated meeting nearby. He said he hadn’t read the column yet, but that from what he’s heard, does not agree with the sentiment of it.
“There is friction [between drivers and bikers] but the answer is not to say it’s OK to hit people,” Mendelson said. “It’s not OK to hit people.”
Eventually, the protesters had to get back to work. Milloy did not immediately respond to request for comment on this article.
Photo by Perry Stein.