Road Rage

What the mayor's new bike advocate should address first.

There's been a lot of grumbling recently about the hiring of David Hiller, a controversial former lobbyist for the Cascade Bicycle Club, to a nearly $90,000-a-year advisory position in Mayor McGinn's office. Some of the talk has translated into general rage at cyclists and the perceived outsized influence that (to borrow an expression from the anti-cycle crowd) "Spandex-wearing road hogs" have in the current administration. It's a rage that was made terrifyingly evident last Friday when I watched one beefy, middle-aged guy, driving his Buick down Alaskan Way, slam a biker against the wall that lines the sidewalk. Mr. Bike Rage, as I'll call him, had just gotten out of his car and was in the process of manhandling the cyclist—a 40-year-old bell captain for the Westin Hotel named Brooks Groves—when I arrived on the scene. After the wall-slamming, Mr. Bike Rage picked up the bike, hurled it at Groves, jumped back in his car where an older man was riding shotgun, and sped off. Groves, who was on his way to catch a ferry to Vashon Island and had planned a day of biking in the sunshine, pronounced himself "OK, but a little shaken" and had a bad scrape on his arm. Later that afternoon, he e-mailed me his version of events. "So I am as close to the side as possible, not taking up a whole lane, like some other cyclists do," he wrote. "The car came close to me once—like six inches away, which was way too close, and clearly unnecessary. Then, at the next light, it changed from red to green, so I passed them on the bike. Then the car sped up, and did the same thing again. Clearly these people have a problem. So at the next light, where we met, I came to a stop, and they were there. There were words exchanged between us, and that's when the driver said, 'That's it—you are done!' " Groves said he reported the attack to a police officer nearby, "who took the information but only seemed vaguely interested." He says he got the impression that this sort of thing is pretty common. So, Hiller—it's time to earn your money. Job #1: a serious public-education campaign that teaches drivers and bikers alike how to share the road. Otherwise, expect more unwelcome cameos from Mr. Bike Rage.

 
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