Park Ranger Photo Kerfuffle

With this photo, I have inadvertently started a kerfuffle (love that word).

ranger on bike

It was part of a series of photos I took of the Washington Monument inspection for earthquake damage.

I took the above photo because I thought it was kind of funny – a park ranger in his big hat on a bike. I submitted it to The Wash Cycle, a local blog on bike advocacy. They ran it with the cheeky title, Only You Can Prevent Bicycle Crashes.

Commenters on the site identified the ranger as Bill Line, spokesperson for the National Park Service. He’s infamous among local bike advocates for opposing the expansion of DC’s bikesharing service to the National Mall. And here he is riding a bike.

Not only that, he’s not wearing a helmet and talking on a cellphone. A bag swings from his handlebars, unsafely. Commenters on the site also critiqued his ancient flip-phone and ratty handlebar tape.

Without meaning to, I made news. This simple photo tells a story. Several of them actually, if you want to interpret the image that way. It reveals the hypocrisy of bike opponents riding bikes, as well as a cavalier attitude toward bike safety.

This blog kerfuffle also highlights the fact that public servants are public. What they do is out in the open and possibly recorded by accidental citizen journalists, like myself.

I was on a job interview recently and was asked to define “open government,” the movement to make government transparent and accountable to citizens. This photo is a perfect (though minor) illustration of open government in action, showing what happens when citizens get an unvarnished look at public servants at work.

update: this story was republished on e.politics, a blog that covers digital advocacy. And the photo appeared on Greater Greater Washington.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is the author of The Swamp, a funny new novel that mocks the city America has come to hate.

3 thoughts on “Park Ranger Photo Kerfuffle”

  1. “Not only that, he’s not wearing a helmet and talking on a cellphone. A bag swings from his handlebars, unsafely. Commenters on the site also critiqued his ancient flip-phone and ratty handlebar tape.”

    Some counterpoints:
    *Helmets are not mandatory riding gear in DC. Thus, people are free to wear or not wear them and shouldn’t be criticized for their choice; if they might hurt anyone by this choice, it would only be themselves.
    *The bag, while not a good idea, isn’t “swinging” in the pic; it’s hanging. The choice of “swinging” suggests a great hazard that may or may not be present, depending on a number of factors not perceptible from the pic.
    *His “ancient” phone suggests he isn’t a fool about upgrading something that still functions adequately enough to meet his needs…why is that a negative trait?
    *The “ratty” handlebar tape? Esthetically, it isn’t attractive, but it still seems wrapped well enough to be functional; see the point preceding this one.
    *Public servants being in public; yes, he is, and I see him riding a bicycle instead of driving an SUV. Seems like the proper choice, given the two options.
    *Don’t know anything about this guy’s bike politics, but he’s riding a bike, and doing it in the same way a large number of people choose to do, regardless of whether it’s ideal. That seems to me like a good thing.

    Our differences notwithstanding, you take excellent photographs.

  2. Joe, This picture is actually funny I thought, too! It just goes to show what happens “behind the scenes” when public officials are “off the clock.” Thanks for sharing.

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