By John D. Thomas
July 19, 2012
- Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-perspec-0719-biking-20120719,0,5622294.story?dssReturn
- ChainLinker Responses: http://www.thechainlink.org/forum/topics/trip-opinion-piece-crazed-cyclists-run-rampant
- My Response to ChainLink: http://www.beezodogsplace.com/2012/07/20/a-bicycle-is-not-a-nose-ring/
My wife and I love Chicago, and we are always thinking about ways that might improve the city. Lately, we came up with an idea that would not only make where we live safer and less stressful but also could substantially fill our depleted municipal coffers. And, best of all, getting it done would merely require enforcing regulations that are already on the books.
What’s our plan? Start fining the heck out of the city’s insane number of crazed bike riders.
Now don’t get me wrong: I do not hate on cyclists. Actually, quite the opposite.
In 1979, when I saw the amazing cycling-coming-of-age film “Breaking Away,” I became a lifelong fan of the sport. The movie inspired me to pedal my bike across Florida and Iowa in group tours when I was in my early teens; when I was in college, I dabbled in both road- and mountain-bike racing. I also love to sit for hours watching long stages of theTour de France,which is currently taking place.
I have ridden a bike literally thousands and thousands of miles. That much time in the saddle taught me a lot about how to coexist and respect people driving in cars and to expect them to respect me as well.
All of which makes me very attuned to the driving patterns of Chicago cyclists. And I must say, for the most part they are simply awful. It would not be an exaggeration to say that on an average outing in our car to run a few errands, my wife and I see at least half a dozen egregious driving infractions by cyclists.
They range from blithely running through red lights and stop signs to passing on our right just as we are about to turn. And if we ever yell out a complaint about their poor understanding of the rules of the road, we almost always get that sickeningly smug grin that implies that pedal power trumps a gas guzzler every time, no matter what a bike rider does.
In my experience talking with Chicago bike riders, I get the sense that most believe that our traffic laws do not apply to them. Nothing could be less true and, in fact, the part of the Chicago Municipal Code related to riding bicycles is more than 4,000 words long.
This is my favorite portion of the code, and it is a rule that, if vigorously enforced, would give Chicago an enormous budget surplus:
“(c) Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left turn or turn in the opposite direction is permitted, no person operating a bicycle shall disobey the direction of any such sign unless he dismounts from the bicycle to make the turn, in which event he shall then obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians.”
“(d) Every person convicted of a violation of any provision of this chapter regulating bicycles shall be fined $25.00.”
However, not only have I seen literally hundreds of people on bikes pay absolutely no attention to those kinds of road signs, I have also never seen a Chicago cop giving a cyclist a ticket. And, yes, I have been in many, many situations where I have seen police officers witness horrendous and dangerous bike riding and do nothing about it.
In my mind, all great cities embrace cyclists, and more Chicagoans are biking on our city streets all the time. And while bike lanes and more places to park and lock your bike are great advancements, if the people riding bikes don’t do so with a sense of common sense and safety, then what will develop is a vicious car-versus-bike climate that will only end up creating chaos and accidents.
Chicago writer John D. Thomas is currently finishing a book on the cultural history of saliva.