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Police Suspect a Shipwreck Filled With Tons of Gold Was a Cryptocurrency Scam


Last month, a South Korean company known as the Shinil Group announced it had discovered the wreckage of a 100-year old Russian warship, which the company said held 200 tons of gold bullion worth roughly $130 billion USD. Now, South Korean police are investigating the company on the suspicion that the story of sunken treasure was an elaborate cryptocurrency scam.

The Dmitrii Donskoi was a Russian armored cruiser that sunk one mile off the coast of South Korea in 1905 during the Battle of Tsushima. According to the Shinil Group, it was discovered over 1,400 feet below the surface using two single-person submarines.

The initial announcement of the discovery was accompanied by footage allegedly showing the submarines exploring the wreck.

Shortly before the Shinil Group announced its discovery of the Donskoi, a “Singapore-based affiliate” of the company, according to South Korean outlet Yonhap News Agency, created a cryptocurrency called Shinil Gold Coin that was tied to the shipwreck’s discovery. Shinil Group previously denied any affiliation with the entity promoting the cryptocurrency, and Motherboard hasn’t confirmed any connection. The scheme tried to attract investors to the cryptocurrency by promising that it would pay dividends worth 10 percent of the value of the gold it alleged was on the ship—about $13 billion—in the first half of 2019. This resulted in over 120,000 Korean investors sinking over $53 million into the Shinil cryptocurrency, according to The Korea Herald.

Yet less than a month after the Shinil Group’s initial announcement, according to the Herald, the company announced that it had failed to identify the gold it had previously believed to be aboard the sunken ship. The underwater footage of the ship was deleted from YouTube, the cryptocurrency website is offline, and the company’s former executives are being investigated for fraud.

On Thursday, Korean police questioned two former executives of the Shinil Group about their activities related to the sunken ship. According to Yonhap, the law enforcement officers suspect that the entire operation may be “a scam by a fraudster family.”

The company’s CEO Choi Yong-seok stepped down earlier this month after Korean officials began investigating whether the Shinil Group was a scam. Now law enforcement officials are looking into his ties to Rhu Seung-jin and Rhu Sang-mi, two siblings who were also involved in the Shinil Group. According to Yonhap, Rhu Seung-jin fled to Vietnam after he was implicated in a separate fraud case from 2014.

At least one part of the saga appears to be true, however. Phil Nuytten, owner of Nuytco Research, a Canadian marine exploration company, says the company found the Dmitrii Donskoi while working under contract with Shinil Group. “We were hired to do some very specific things, which is to locate the vessel, positively identify it as the Donskoi, and do a detailed high def video survey of the ship,” Nuytten told Motherboard over the phone. “And we did all three of those, and that’s all we were contracted to do. As far as the claim for gold and whatever other claims were made, I have no idea.”

This wouldn’t be the first time the Dmitrii Donskoi has been used for fraud. In 2000, after Dong-Ah, a Korean company facing bankruptcy, claimed to have found the ship, the company’s stock soared by over 40 percent. Although the company never claimed to have found gold on the ship, that didn’t stop rumors about its existence. , the rumor was contested by a Russian naval expert.

According to The New York Times, which reported on the alleged Dong-Ah discovery at the time, that much gold was an “impossible weight” for the ship to carry. At the time, the amount of gold on board was rumored to be worth $125 billion. Gold was a fifth of today’s price in 2000 so this would have meant that the ship held 14,000 tons of gold. According to the Times, this would have represented a full one-tenth of all the gold mined in the world at the time.

Read More: The Heyday of Treasure Hunting May Be At Hand

Given the past history of the ship, the Shinil Group’s claims about finding gold on the ship were immediately met with skepticism in Korea.

"Investors should beware because it's uncertain whether the ship is salvageable and whether Shinil would be able to gain ownership of the assets even if it gets permission to raise it," an official from South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service said after the Shinil Group announced its discovery. "Dong-Ah Construction made similar claims over the same ship but failed to deliver on its promises and went bankrupt, causing huge losses for investors."

In retrospect, this was sound financial advice. Only a week after the Shinil Group announced its discovery of over $100 billion worth of gold on the Donskoi, then-CEO Choi Yong-seok held a press conference and told reporters “there’s no way for us to figure out whether there would be gold coins or bars on the Donskoi.”

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3 days ago
Oakland, CA
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webshit weekly


An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the second week of August, 2018.

Google AMP – A 70% drop in our conversion rate
August 08, 2018 (comments)
A webshit is nervous about Google's shared-hosting free tier. Hackernews explains to one another that Google's AMP program is not a cynical consolidation of adtech power, but is in fact a deftly-engineered substitute for courage, since webshits apparently can't stand up for themselves or their work. Some Googles show up in the comments to defend their land grab beneficent community-empowerment tool, and to reassure everyone that despite the direct personal experience of literally every single person who has tried, Google is totally open to feedback and willing to care about bug reports from their tenants users.

Julia 1.0
August 09, 2018 (comments)
Some academics promise to try to hold it steady. Hackernews is cranky that the brochure doesn't look like other brochures and slightly afraid because people seem to be using the language to perform arcane rites with impenetrable magical symbols. The academics show up to reassure people that math is a normal, healthy hobby and anyway the language can also be used to do retarded things with garbage hardware if you want. Most of the comments are people complaining that languages don't provide enough handholding for people who failed to design their programs properly, or that languages don't provide enough handholding for people who failed to select their operating systems properly.

I don't trust Signal
August 09, 2018 (comments)
An asshole is pissed at some other asshole. None of the reasons are interesting. Hackernews draws lots to decide which asshole to defend unto death; the basic argument seems to be the set of Hackernews given to hero worship versus the set of Hackernews who thinks the world owes them (for free) flawlessly-implemented, perfectly-intuitive software capable of resisting concerted attack by advanced persistent threats. Nearly five hundred comments are posted, all of which stridently proclaim The Correct Opinions about software nobody uses except DEF CON cosplayers and journalists who followed bad advice on social media.

1/0 = 0
August 10, 2018 (comments)
A webshit gets wound up by a tweet. Hackernews does too. Most of the arguments involve the difference between mathematics and ALU design, but none of the discussion is interesting because none of the participants are meaningfully engaged with either topic. It doesn't help that the entire context of the debate is some webshit's disused toy langauge.

Worst Computer Bugs in History: Therac-25 (2017)
August 11, 2018 (comments)
An internet describes a time that bad software directly led to the deaths of actual human beings. Several "takeaways" are provided, absolutely none of which involve recommending anyone be held responsible in any way. Hackernews is gratified that so few deaths were all that was needed to distract people from all the other ways that software developers are failing civilization on a regular basis. Other Hackernews suspects the kill count is so low because only someone completely unhinged would put their safety directly in the hands of a computer programmer. When highlighting other, less severe failure stories turns out not to be fun, Hackernews explores ways they might blame someone else for the deaths.

Thank you HN
August 12, 2018 (comments)
A Hackernews thanks the rest of Hackernews for not advocating suicide. Hackernews lists all the terrible shit they did and/or had happen to them and, as usual, catalogs every single real or perceived solution to mental health issues they've ever tried or read about. The consensus is that exercise helps. No technology is discussed. An asshole violates the Prime Directive.

Using FOIA Data and Unix to halve major source of parking tickets
August 13, 2018 (comments)
An internet is trying to help. With awk. Hackernews squabbles over whether or not it's even possible for most people to help, given the baseline requirement of "noticing things." The Hackernews contingent of Critical Mass shows up to bitch about cars standing in bike lanes. Inadvertently, the Hackernewsest possible sentence appears in the comments: "If it's not technically criminal then that's all that matters."

Serverless Docker Beta
August 14, 2018 (comments)
Some webshits celebrate minutiae. Hackernews is excited about the minutiae, except for the ones who actually do things with computers once in a while. A long discussion breaks out about the proper method to embed auto-playing video containing nothing but text. After a while Hackernews gets bored with the actual limitations of the garbage software described in the article and starts running thought experiments about what even worse software might look like. They don't reach consensus, but I'm pretty sure they're accidentally describing Sun software.

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3 days ago
so jaded. subscribing
Oakland, CA
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1 public comment
4 days ago
'Inadvertently, the Hackernewsest possible sentence appears in the comments: "If it's not technically criminal then that's all that matters."'

Fast Pix2PixProject from Zaid Alyafeai presents a faster...

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Fast Pix2Pix

Project from Zaid Alyafeai presents a faster interactive verson of familiar image translation demos which presents instant renderings after each drawn input:

A simple implementation of the pix2pix paper on the browser using TensorFlow.js. The code runs in real time after you draw some edges. Make sure you run the model in your laptop as mobile devices cannot handle the current models. Use the mouse to draw. 

Try it out here

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5 days ago
Oakland, CA
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A review of the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic keyboard

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I came across this image on Twitter about five or six months ago and my heart basically skipped a beat.

Microsoft Surface Ergonomic keyboard

I’ve scoured my databanks and can’t find where this setup originated. I do know the gentleman was a reporter who spent most of his time behind the keyboard putting together his next column. (If you know where this image came from, let me know!)

The main actor in this show is the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic keyboard, of course. I’ve had some friends who swore by the Surface Ergonomic keyboard before I came across this photo, but it was this photo that pushed me over the edge. Whether it was the perceived ergonomic benefits, the smooth Alcantara wrist pad built right in, or the notion that a keyboard can be comfortable to use, the Surface Ergonomic keyboard became the backbone of my “Office Gear Wishlist.”

A few anecdotes from friends did give me pause, however:

  • This keyboard is a Microsoft product, and as such doesn’t have direct compatibility with macOS.
  • This keyboard is powered by AAA batteries rather than having a built-in rechargeable battery.
  • This keyboard has had connectivity issues with (what appears to be) specific Macs.

I’ll touch on each of these in a bit.


I say this partially in jest: A keyboard should be inviting and comfortable to use. From my chair, every keyboard coming out of Cupertino is designed with two purposes in mind:

  • Pleasing aesthetics.
  • Minute tolerances.

What do those two purposes sum up to? The result is a keyboard that looks great in setup photographs but gums up the moment it leaves the studio.

The Surface Ergonomic keyboard pins neither of these goals to the top of the list. This keyboard is built for comfort, ergonomics, and speed. A dash of aesthetics are thrown in, but comfort and ergonomics rise to the forefront.

The Surface Ergonomic keyboard is the successor to the original Microsoft Sculpt keyboard. Where the Sculpt cut out the section between the “T, G, B” and “Y, H, N” sections of the keyboard, the Surface Ergonomic fills it in with aluminum-colored plastic material used throughout the rest of the keyboard. The Sculpt generation included a standalone number pad, whereas the Surface Ergonomic includes a built-in number pad. Some folks preferred the cut out and standalone number pad in the Sculpt generation, but I think the larger, bulkier Surface Ergonomic is better suited for most people’s needs.

Where the Sculpt generation got things right was in the wrist riser (if that’s what you want to call it). The Surface Ergonomic includes a wrist base made of its now ubiquitous Alcantara material. This material is soft to the touch, but dense enough to provide proper support when typing. It also has a particular fashion to it that only Microsoft can pull off these days.

The Sculpt keyboard, on the other hand, had optional accessories for raising the bottom of the keyboard, thereby positioning your hands down and away from your body as you typed. For ergonomists out there, this is the ultimate form of typing — hands and wrists curved to the middle of the keyboard and positioned down and away from your chest. It may appear a tad wonky when explained in words, but I’ve been reassured this is quite the comfortable typing method.

This may be the one area where Microsoft cast aside comfort and ergonomics in favor of pleasing aesthetics and minute tolerances. I have no experience with the first generation Sculpt, so I speak from a third-person perspective: I’m happy with the aesthetic trade-offs between the two ergonomic keyboard generations and I greatly appreciate a built-in number pad.


My major complaints (and I have been doing a lot of complaining recently) with any of Apple’s recent keyboards is the resounding lack of feel. I chalk this up directly to the minute tolerances of that butterfly switch — there is no forgiveness in any part of any key, resulting in a keystroke no matter the amount of pressure applied. Apple labels this is a selling feature. I label it a failure.

Microsoft doesn’t comment on what type of switches are used, but it certainly isn’t butterfly and it certainly isn’t mechanical. (Microsoft claims the Surface Ergonomics switches can last 10 million actuations, which is only a third of the life of a mechanical switch.)

Regardless, each key has considerable key travel when compared to any Apple keyboard and has an inviting feel. Each keystroke has great depth and resistance, as though the key kind-of-sort-of wants to be pressed, provides a little resistance, then quickly returns to its home position after being fired. Apple’s keyboards have such limited travel that heavy typists will almost certainly feel their fingers bottom out when they really get going. Microsoft’s improved depth, great key travel, and perfected resistance give it a tremendous feel and has considerably reduced the strain on my fingertips after long periods of writing.

Despite the larger key travel, the Surface Ergonomic is orders of magnitude quieter than the MacBook Pro keyboards. The keystroke sound comes in at a lower octave than any Magic Keyboard actuation and better blends into the background of the noises reverberating throughout my house.

Of course, this is somewhat of a split keyboard, so it’s not meant for all types of typists. My wife gave it a shot and immediately became infuriated with the placement of the keys. For touch typists or for those who have to look down on occasion when inserting punctuation from the numeral row, a little transition period is in order before becoming comfortable with the layout.

The Alcantara wrist base is also worth mentioning. When I really get going, my wrists tend to get a bit sweaty and the outside bone on my wrist often gets tired of the friction with the desk. In both cases, the smooth, foam wrist base of the Surface Ergonomic eliminates any stress points and keeps my fingers and wrists aligned in a comfortable format.

I won’t lie, either: the Alcantara wrist base looks plain cool. It has such an inviting look to it.


Pitching a Microsoft keyboard to a predominantly Apple crowd may come with a few raised eyebrows, particularly due to compatibility concerns. Function keys don’t align with Apple’s built-in functions while command keys are labelled and function differently between OSes.

Out of the box, the Surface Ergonomic’s “Windows” key in the bottom left command row is mapped to the “Command” key on Apple keyboards. “Alt” is “Alt” and “Ctrl” is “Option.” If you can somehow get around this and retrain your muscle memory, you won’t have to do any remapping.

I jump between Windows and Mac every day, so I have quickly grown tired of trying to retrain muscle memory. As a result, I quickly downloaded Karabiner to remap keys on the Surface Ergonomic to approximate each key’s location on a regular Apple keyboard. “Alt” is now “Command” and the Windows key is now “Alt/Option”. This brings the experience fairly close to Apple’s own keyboards.

The function row can also be remapped, depending on which functions you normally use. On macOS, the default “ScrlLk” and “Pause” function keys change screen brightness, while the audio controls on the left side of the Surface Ergonomic’s function row function as advertised. These are the only function keys I use regularly, so I haven’t bothered remapping.


A friend of mine who purchased the Surface Ergonomic in the days around its launch complained heavily about the Surface Ergonomic’s connectivity to macOS. His frustration resulted in his returning the Surface Ergonomic keyboard, despite the fact that he loved the keyboard’s feel. He wasn’t alone either — there are numerous reports online that highlight the Surface Ergonomic’s connectivity issues in its early days.

So far, I haven’t experienced anything that should raise eyebrows. I have noticed general Bluetooth drops as a whole, but this isn’t directly attributable to the keyboard. These Bluetooth drops also take place with a Magic Keyboard, so I won’t be pointing fingers at anything.

On the plus side, the Surface Ergonomic does have one connectivity trick up its sleeve, which I think Apple should adopt immediately: When you fire up your sleeping computer with the keyboard, any keystrokes you input are saved and then inserted after the lagged Bluetooth connectivity period. This means you can instantly type your password and not have to wait for macOS and the keyboard to connect before inputting your password. This is a lovely touch and one which seemed so natural, I didn’t realize it was working until someone pointed it out to me.

Battery Life

Microsoft ships the Surface Ergonomic with two standard AAA batteries, which it advertises have a life of 12 months of use. I’ve had my Surface Ergonomic for a month, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on its long-term lifespan. It’s nice not having to tie up a USB port to charge the keyboard every month or two, but having to go out and purchase a pack of AAAs just for my keyboard is a bit of a bummer.

Most desktop keyboards don’t seem to be backlit these days and neither is the Surface Ergonomic. I use mine in front of an LG 27-inch UltraFine display, so the brightness of the display lights up the keys at all times of the day. This will surely allow those AAA batteries to last a little longer as well.


Remapping keys aside, I have finally found the keyboard to end all keyboards. The Surface Ergonomic keyboard spent an hour on my desk before I re-boxxed the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad to be sold.

I’ve hammered out this review in less than 45 minutes and not once have I felt sore fingertips from bottoming out at the bottom of a keystroke or sore wrists from them rubbing on the desk on awkward pressure points. I also don’t have any sweat on my wrists, as I assume they’ve been whisked dry by the Alcantara base.

With the help of Karabiner, I’ve found a keyboard that feels great, works like an Apple keyboard, and looks as good on my desk as any prior keyboard. Although it’s expensive, the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic keyboard is a worthy option for those who are tired of Apple’s endless war on its once-treasured keyboard performance.

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5 days ago
Oakland, CA
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How a $20 tip cost an immigrant her job at Dulles Airport and severed a lifeline to Sierra Leone - The Washington Post

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Isata Jalloh didn’t stop to take off the yellow rubber glove she used for cleaning.

The Dulles International Airport maintenance worker had heard children were flying in from Sierra Leone, the country she had left years earlier, and she needed to see them. When they arrived, their bodies spoke of the brutality she had escaped: A 4-year-old girl was missing her right arm below the elbow. A 4-year-old boy had lost his left leg beyond his knee. A 15-year-old girl’s left arm stopped at her wrist.

Jalloh didn’t know any of them, but she rushed in their direction, pulled them into a hug and sobbed.

That emotional embrace was captured by a Washington Post reporter and photographer who were at the airport to cover the children’s arrival in 2000. Jalloh’s impromptu reaction is detailed in the last few paragraphs of the article, and a photo shows her pained face. Jalloh never saw either. Not that she needed a newspaper clip to remind her of that day.

Nearly 18 years later, she recalls in vivid detail what airline brought the group, Air France, and why she cried so hard when she saw them.

The tears were for the children in front of her, she said. But they were also for four children who weren't there — her own. She had left them in Sierra Leone and during the country’s civil war, she couldn’t easily reach them by phone.

Isata Jollah cries at her Herndon apartment as she talks about the job she lost at Dulles International Airport. (Theresa Vargas/The Washington Post)

“Where are my kids?” she recalled thinking often. “At that time, I felt so confused, crying and crying.”

Jalloh came to the United States in 1996 when her children were 14, 12, 10 and 9, with the promise that she would send her mother enough money to give them a better life until Jalloh could secure visas for them to join her in the United States. For nearly two decades, her work at Dulles Airport helped her keep that promise, and in recent years, she has sent them as much as $500 a month.

Then last month, she had to tell them she couldn’t send anything.

This month, she will also have nothing to spare.

People rally July 26 at Dulles International Aiport against airline contractor Huntleigh USA for firing immigrant women. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

For 20 years, Jalloh has worked at Dulles, and for the last 14 of those, she had held two jobs there, cleaning the airport at night and pushing people in wheelchairs through its terminals during the day. Both jobs have meant spending all but 7½ hours most days at the airport. But it also meant she could afford to pay the rent for an apartment in Herndon she shares with three people and still send money to Sierra Leone.

That changed in May, when she was fired from the wheelchair job.

Her supposed offense: Asking for a tip.

Jalloh denies doing so but said it doesn’t matter because she was not allowed to defend herself and no investigation was done. She showed up to work one day, she said, and was told she no longer had a job. The ease in which that happened speaks to the vulnerability of low-wage immigrant workers who can stand on seemingly steady ground for years, or even decades, and with the slightest kick, feel it crumble beneath them.

Wheelchair agents, unknown to many in the public, are paid based on the assumption that they will earn tips, and yet they are not allowed to let passengers know that. Many of these workers were earning as little as $7.25 an hour before the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s board in January started requiring companies that do business at the Dulles and Reagan National airports to pay contract workers a base hourly wage of $11.55. Jalloh said even so, she was earning $10.45 an hour, with the understanding that $1.10 was being deducted because of tips.

These workers are also not protected by a union, despite a nearly three-year push to organize and multiple worker strikes, the most recent occurring in December. Jalloh believes her activism in support of a union is the real reason for her firing.

At least four immigrant women have been fired at the airport in recent months, according to union organizers. They all worked for the same Texas-based company, Huntleigh USA, and they all claim they were not given a chance to defend themselves. One woman was left unable to pay her rent in the D.C. area or her mother’s hospital fees in her native Ethi­o­pia. She and her mother were both facing eviction when co-workers pulled together funds to help, one union organizer said.

“Immigrant women already struggle more than most to support their families,” said Jaime Contreras, a vice president for 32BJ SEIU, which has been working to negotiate on behalf of the airport workers. “We will not stand by idly as Huntleigh cuts a lifeline to these women who are barely hanging on.”

A call to Huntleigh, which employs hundreds of workers at Dulles and Reagan, was not returned. The company as of Wednesday also had not responded to a letter sent to it by clergy members, elected officials and others on behalf of Jalloh and other women.

“We believe that the circumstances under which these women were fired are arbitrary and unfair,” the letter reads. “Today community members, clergy men and women, and elected officials are all joining together in asking that your company do the right thing and give these women their jobs back.”

That’s the only right move in this situation. By discarding these employees for such petty violations — if there is even proof they asked for tips — the company is hurting some of region’s most vulnerable workers, some with long histories at an airport that serves as the first introduction for many visitors to the nation’s capital.

The company is also severing crucial lifelines, because we know this: When these women lose their footing, their fall is felt not only in the Washington region but also in countries with long histories of brutal acts taken against the defenseless.

“They have nothing,” Jalloh, 54, said of her children, crying. They are now grown but can’t find employment in their country that will allow them to even afford the $800 a year they need to pay rent, she said. She filed the paperwork years ago for them to receive U.S. visas, but none have yet come through.

She said she needs to find a way to send them money again.

“Nobody helps them,” she said. “Only I help them.”

Jalloh insists that she has never asked for a tip, even when she has been handed nothing, or a single quarter, which happens.

The tip that led to her firing she said came from a couple from Saudi Arabia flying first class. She said her managers never spoke to them or they would have known that the only discussion that occurred about money took place between the couple and in Arabic. Jalloh said she and another wheelchair worker had taken the couple to where they needed to go and once they stopped, the man pulled out a $20 bill for them to split. Jalloh said she would have been grateful for that amount but that the man’s wife then said something to him in Arabic, and he pulled out two $20 bills, one for each worker.

Jalloh said she walked away from the encounter happy, thinking it was a lucky day.

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5 days ago
I did not know they were paid a "tipped" wage !!
Oakland, CA
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What’s wrong with parking in bike lanes? A lot, actually

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The Washington Post recently published a letter to the editor from someone who parked in a bike lane arguing that blocking a bike lane isn’t really a problem. The writer Claudia Burke describes the incident: she is picking up her child and pulls over into the bike lane to wait. A bicyclist calmly confronts her, and points out that this is a safety hazard.

Burke claims she respects road safety and the diligence of people like the cyclist who demand better biking infrastructure (though she also claims they're the ones making roads more dangerous). But really, what’s the big deal? Burke writes:

“... not every violation is a hazard. We live in a city where things can’t always be orderly. Better to focus on the violators who are making the roads more dangerous (I’d start with the cyclists, but that’s just me.) And once we’ve gotten actual dangers under control, we can turn to everyone else.”

She is correct that not every traffic violation is a hazard, but parking in lanes with moving traffic certainly is one. Though anecdotally common, this sort of blasé attitude towards traffic safety puts bicyclists — and other road users — at risk.

Cyclist Anita Kinney says,

"It is incredibly dangerous when a bike lane is blocked because of the maneuvers that cyclists have to undertake to avoid the parked car, especially when the car stops suddenly as in the case of Uber. Just because I’m able to avoid a car in the bike lane and thus avoid becoming a statistic does not mean this isn’t among the most dangerous situations that I encounter daily.

It’s well-known that the value of bike lanes is in the FEELING of safety that they create in cyclists: although this can be illusory, they nonetheless encourage ridership. A sufficient amount of continuous bicycle lanes then creates a network which has a multiplier effect in encouraging people to use alternative routes of transit."

Canaan Merchant says,

The point about cities not being very orderly has a kernel of truth. But it just means that cars, which need a ton of order and rules to operate safely AND quickly, really prevent cities and neighborhoods from enjoying some of that organized chaos. This is easy to see anywhere you have bikes and pedestrians mixing together without cars, trails, the national mall, Pennsylvania Avenue (when its open), etc.

The author is slick enough to co-opt some of the language which fits in the pattern of anti-bike arguments today that no longer mention a war on cars, but instead invoke a war on pedestrians as a reason not to improve cycling in the city.

Nonetheless, the author seems unconvinced she did anything really wrong. Burke writes,

I pulled over — into a bike lane — so I wouldn’t block traffic on Q Street NW...One cyclist waited behind me. When it was finally time for me to pull into the spot, she came around to my window and told me that there’s a law prohibiting obstruction of the bike lane. I (pretty sternly) told her I was waiting for a spot and it had obviously taken longer than I had anticipated. She suggested I should have circled the block rather than create what was, in her view, a safety hazard. I told her that’s not the way the world works. But what I meant was, that’s not the way cities work.

Although cars and bikes are different in many ways, Burke's "windshield perspective" ignores the fact that they both constitute traffic. If someone was parked in a traffic lane for motor vehicle traffic, would that be a hazard? Most drivers would agree this is the case.

Under ideal conditions, drivers and cyclists alike will see the (illegally) parked vehicle in the lane and stop. But as Burke pointed out, things can’t always be orderly. People make mistakes. Car crashes happen all the time when people don’t spot hazards. Without the protection of a two-ton vehicle, airbags, and seat belts, cyclists are at a particular disadvantage in a collision with a car.

Traffic deaths should not be an inevitable consequence of trying to move automobile traffic efficiently. This is why jurisdictions like DC have committed to road safety initiatives like Vision Zero (even if the seriousness of their commitment is questionable).

Tracy Loh points out:

I am all for focusing on the violators who make the roads dangerous for themselves or others. And the data are crystal clear that is the operators of motor vehicles, much like the author of that piece.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last year that the proportion of people killed “inside the vehicle” has declined from a high of 80% (1996-2000) to 67% (2015-2016), while the proportion of people killed “outside the vehicle” (including pedestrians and cyclists) has increased from a low of 20% (1996-2000) to a high of 33% (2015-2016).

The timing of this letter is particularly tone-deaf, since just blocks away from the incident that Burke describes, a cyclist was killed in a traffic collision a few weeks ago. After that accident, the District government removed dangerous parking spaces from the intersection of M Street and New Hampshire Avenue.

David Cranor says,

This incident really has little to do with cycling, but the driver chose to make it all about cycling because a cyclist was the person who made her feel bad about breaking the law. She stopped in a bike lane and a cyclist confronted her about it. That's it. How cyclists behave in general and who we enforce the law on is a total red herring. She just brings that stuff up to discredit (by proxy) her accuser. "I can't be that bad because the person who accused me is a part of a group of known bad actors."

I imagine this letter would have been much different, and maybe not even sent, if the person who confronted her had been a pedestrian who confronted her from the sidewalk after she parked.

The letter admits that drivers and cyclists need to learn to share the road, but in reality, most of this sharing will be up to drivers. Despite its increasing popularity of biking as a mode of transportation, there are still only 96 miles of bike lanes in the District, compared with over 3,000 miles of road lanes. Cyclists simply don’t have nearly as much infrastructure to ‘share’ as drivers do.

Bike lanes that are wedged in between car lanes and parking spaces, as was the case in Burke’s incident, present a particular problem. To park, cars have to cut across a lane of bike traffic. This is clearly a hazard, but one that street designs, such as protected bike lanes, can alleviate.

Protected bikeways keep car and bike traffic separate, so in theory, this should make everyone happy. The problem? Automobile users must concede road space and parking lots for that bicycle infrastructure. That means until we have Copenhagen or Amsterdam-calibre bike infrastructure, automobile drivers will have to learn to share the road.

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Read the whole story
8 days ago
Oakland, CA
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1 public comment
9 days ago
“the driver chose to make it all about cycling because a cyclist was the person who made her feel bad about breaking the law”
Washington, DC
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