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Advocate of murdering cyclists also hypocrite

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Nice catch by Atrios. Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy evidently believes that the appropriate punishment for violating the rules of the road on two wheels is immediate execution by the nearest willing and able automobile-wielding citizen, but attempting to punish violators the rules of the road with four wheels by requiring violators pay a small fine is an appalling act of government overreach.

A couple of other points. While Milloy’s open endorsement of murder is thankfully relatively unusual, some other elements of this column are familiar but misleading and deserve attention. This sort of anti-bicycle crap is usually trotted out in the context of providing grounds for opposition to public investment in infrastructure for cycling. This debate often takes place in cities with a sufficiently liberal population such that sneering at the poors who ride bikes is not likely to work, so it is implied or stated that the cyclist is the dread “hipster” with too much time and disposable income, imposing his hobby on work-a-day motorists. (Milloy attempts to tie his opposition to biking infrastructure to his worries about the effects of gentrification.) But, of course, it’s nonsense: poor people are considerably more likely to use bikes as a form of transportation than rich people. This is should be entirely unsurprising, when you consider the relative costs of the two forms of transportation.

Second, this column uses the tactic trotted out in comment sections everywhere (including here): anecdotal accounts of bad and dangerous behavior by cyclists is used as reasons to not support cycling infrastructure investment. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (I generally oppose most road expansion, and I think drivers who speed and otherwise violate laws that make driving safer are a menace, but I’ve never attempted to use the latter as a reason for the former), and it’s not clear it presents an accurate empirical picture of the situation (bike-car collisions that result in a fatality are far more likely to be the fault of the motorist than the cyclist). Be even if we take this at face value, and stipulate that dangerous bike behavior is presently a scourge on the city, it’s actually a better argument for the building more bike infrastructure. The reason cyclists seem reckless in cities with terrible bicycle infrastructure is that those who would be safer and saner cyclists simply don’t ride. You’re left with only the desperate and the daredevils. But as better cycling infrastructure brings out less reckless cyclists, we begin to see a ‘calming’ effect on the larger cycling community. Measured by intersection or by city, the more cyclists on the road, the fewer accidents and deaths per mile traveled.

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