Chicago Is Becoming The Leader In Categories It Could Do Without

CHICAGO – Friends family and fellow students gather outside Fenger High School to remember 16-year-old honor roll student Derrion Albert.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

More grim news: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/13455463-418/child-shot-in-austin-neighborhood.html

Some of the ChainLinkers took me to task for making the comment that unfortunately Chicago has become of late the Murder Capital of the Midwest. I pointed this out as one of the justifications for treating any and every visitor from the surrounding counties as very welcomed guests this weekend when they participate in the L.A.T.E. Ride. Instead of calling them “silly yuppies” for being willing to pay upwards of $45 for the privilege of touring our communities at night we should have out the welcome mat.

I feel a sense of urgency about all of this. Having been born and raised in Chicago I still consider it my hometown, despite living in the suburbs. If this continued spike in gun violence begins to grain traction in the minds of visitors it could mean a sharp loss in revenue and that has its own set of headaches. We don’t want the kind of situation that plagued Detroit.

Here is something of one of the exchanges in a forum thread on the L.A.T.E. Ride:

Reply by Dr. Doom yesterday

O, can you explain this Murder Capital of the Midwest talking point? The FBI reports that there were 430 murders in Chicago last year, 344 in Detroit and 113 in St. Louis. If Chicago were as kill-happy as Detroit there would have been over 1,300 murders here last year. Chicago has lots of murders because it’s really, really big, not because it’s particularly unsafe (especially if you don’t live in a dangerous neighborhood.

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/prelimin…

I offered the article written by Huffington Post as an example of the perception of the woes of our city as seen by outsiders:

Reply by O yesterday

This article which is covering the current years data might shed some light:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/chicago-homicide-rate-wor_…

Another respondent wrote:

Reply by marcus

Sigh. Let’s break down the stats offered by that fine piece of Huff Po journalism…

144 of the 63,500 US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan were killed so far this year (2.267 deaths per 1000).

228 of the 2.7 million Chicago residents were killed so far this year (0.084 deaths per 1000).

Thus, US troops in Afghanistan are killed at a rate over 26.8 times greater than that at which Chicagoans are killed.

I call shitty, inflammatory journalism.

I tried to bolster my argument with the listing of these further articles:

Reply by O 21 hours ago

You may wish to criticize Huff Po but this is the gist of what the folks outside the city are reading. The story was big enough that it made a few other outlets:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/26/us-usa-crime-chicago-idUS…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47778690/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/…

http://www.wlfi.com/dpps/news/national/midwest/chicago-homicides-up…

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markbergen/2012/06/26/chicago-summer-cr…

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-14/news/ct-edit-crime-06…

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/06/chicagos-grim-38-mu…

http://thegrio.com/2012/06/12/fractured-gangs-blamed-for-chicago-ho…

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/06/15/061512-news-chicago-murders…

http://source.southuniversity.edu/as-weather-warms-up-so-do-opportu…

Typical of the kind of response to their over-the-top statements about serious issues is this sort of response:

Reply by Joe Sak
That’s just me posting bullshit on the internet, not really making a judgement call one way or the other

I abhor the idea of alienating people who chose one way of riding their bikes over some other way

Doesn’t mean I don’t like having fun and crashing parties & rides with my buds 😎

I wouldn’t condone being mean or rude to anyone

I am beginning to think that many of our younger thread participants are buying into the self-serving ploy used by many Talk Radio hosts who make outrageous statements and then when facing pushback that lapse into a defense that “this is only entertainment” you should not take me seriously. But the real problem is that when typing at the keyboard to an internet audience (many of whom have no personal knowledge of you) there is a reasonable expectation that what you say is what you mean, unless you spend lots of time before making your tongue-in-cheek remarks. The race to be the wittiest, most dismissive and outrageous bad-boy is what drives much of this. Beating up on suburbanites (in a verbal fashion) is one more rite of passage for them. It is cool and shows that you are somehow still true to the spirit of of “sticking it to the man”.

But being clever when we have so very much to lose is really a problem. I recently got a comment (from John Greenfield) to a mention I made of the way in which John Greenfield used this device in his characterizations of various suburbs. And yes he has other articles that were written after a few about which I complained to him. But this is an example of what is the biggest problem facing writers on blogs: you say something in an effort to be witty and then when people take you seriously you end up having to defend your old postings by citing your newer ones. The problem though is that few readers on the internet follow your writings in chronological order or perhaps understand the progression of your thinking on any issue. Trying to remain consistent in your message, helps.

Admittedly for the average young urban northsider who reads your stuff being too staid is less inviting. The more you sound like someone who is sounding the Occupy Wall Street theme or perhaps reported on the latest alcohol fueled Critical Mass incident the better.

Spencer Thayer wrote a reply to me that read this way:

Spencer’s Expresses His Sentiments

Reply by Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer!

Who said this was a protest?  It’s just people getting together and enjoying riding bikes with other people.  Any language concerning or “message” of an audit or class warfare is really just tongue in cheek.

It’s a shame you are completely lacking in any capacity to enjoy things that are fun.  But that isn’t really my problem.  Please stop spamming us with your long winded irrelevant opinion.

OR.  Even better!  How about you meet us at the bar and get drunk with us.  You’ll see how much fun this is.

Spencer is not unlike others on this forum. They are barely a decade away from their college days (assuming that they are college graduates) where beer and girls were all that mattered.

But in its place has come a somewhat less benign life approach. Now the idea is to mix beer and bicycles. In fact the Midnight Marauders are all about that combination. These are many of the folks who plan to join Spencer this coming Sunday Morning in accompanying those “silly yuppies” who will be riding the L.A.T.E. Ride.

Another ChainLink Offering

These riders are disadvantaged in that many are less than superb bike handlers and adding a large crowd of several thousands of people just like them can lead to some crashes like those I saw this past month during the Bike The Drive event. You always hate to see folks lying on the side of the road waiting for the arrival of the EMTs, but that is what comes of having lots of people of varying levels of experience on the same route simultaneously.

But when you have ChainLinkers proudly waving their sentiments about cycling in posters like this you wonder how well things will go when you take an equally large number of people onto streets where cars are being driven and herd them around the city in the dark while riding alongside a group who have began their “audit” of the ride (i.e. they are pirating the ride) with a full complement of beers under their belts. It could be disastrous.

And of course when an old fogey like me comes along and starts being a “wet blanket” I get pushback. They either are dismissive of my suggestion that they not hold this kind of event or get downright rude. But I think that the adults on the forum need to speak up.

Every year our society gets a little bit more tolerate of teenage drinking (parents actually host parties where alcohol is served to minors). But just because you have reached the age of majority and continue to drink excessively does not mean that an element of safety is now part of the mix. It is not the case. More than one report of Critical Mass riders trying to take to the Lake Shore Drive (while cars were on the roadway) leads me to believe that as always youth and alcohol are a more deadly mix because even without the booze a young person thinks themselves to be invincible.

Getting Back To The Original Point

Yes, rides like Bike The Drive, Four Star Tour and LATE Ride are expensive. I believe that these three all have price tags of $40 or more for participants. And yes that means that some less wealthy individuals (especially those with children or unemployed) are going to be left out. But the fact is these are fundraisers. So protesting the pricing is to some degree pointless. The ride organizers will learn what the “market will bear” very quickly if their ridership numbers start to plummet.

Now whether we like to admit this or not these rides are designed to attract folks who can afford the registration and who also want to do something that would otherwise be very difficult for them to achieve. Many riders are likely to be riding their longest distances on the occasion of their participation in an event. Lots of riders are doing rides like Bike The Drive because it provides them the opportunity to ride along the lakefront and see the scenery without a roof over their heads and to feel the wind in their hair. And because they can count on getting food at either halfway of the two main routes it makes them happy.

The shear numbers of participants adds an aura of both respectability and safety to folks who might otherwise be tempted to concentrate on the latest bad news item either heard on the radio or read in the newspaper. And this is where my concerns lie. Chicago’s reputation as an architectural mecca is priceless. But you cannot get people to visit your city if they feel physically threatened or worse yet unwanted and belittled.

Who wants to ride in an event where the locals on ChainLink are describing them as “silly yuppies”? And what would such potential visitors think if they learned that the sponsors of their favorite rides are willing participants in the ChainLink membership and stay silent when their funding source is spoken of in dismissive terms?

Something to think about.

Here is an even more recent article on the problem: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0712-convention-buro-20120712,0,5268150.story