Every Struggle Involves “Compromise”


As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

— Benjamin Franklin

In response to an article here, one ChainLinker illustrates the depth of the problems being faced by Bicycle Advocates. The Active Transportation Alliance recently responded to a similar opinion piece in another newspaper. You can read that article here. The respondent below is stating what is probably the clearest example of the attitude of the ChainLink community with respect to following the Rules of the Road:

Reply by Sarah D. 6 hours ago

Once again, I am so glad I have an active ATA membership. Thank you Ron and Lee.

And I will still roll carefully through stop signs when there is no opposing ped, car or bike traffic, no matter who is counting.

Active Transportation Alliance

As with most political and social struggles you have the “hard liners”. If you are talking about taxes in politics you can count on there being those who despite the need for additional revenue will harken back to their promise “never to raise taxes”. Even if their leadership wants to move in that direction, the hard liners are determined to show that they cannot be swayed.

In virtually any struggle between ethnic, social, religious or racial groups there are always the ones who would rather see war continue than ever compromise. We have seen the effects of nearly four years of this kind of behavior from our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. It has resulted in the people of the country getting “caught in the middle”. But despite the fact that it hurts ordinary people, the politicians feel obliged to “stand their ground”.

ChainLink is largely populated by folks with the same hard-liner agenda as you might find in any struggle past or present worldwide. No member of any gun lobby could ever be more strident in their opposition to change that the very core of the ChainLink membership. They like politicians all drink and weekend together and that gives them a cohesiveness that is impressive.

But the real fact is that organizations like the Active Transportation Alliance or Friends of the Park are funded through dollars raised either from governmental sources or through their fundraising efforts with rides like Bike The Drive, or The L.A.T.E. Ride. And despite the protestations of some of the ChainLinkers that those who for instance do the L.A.T.E. Ride are “silly yuppies” it remains the case that the overwhelming number of folks who support such rides comes from outside the city limits. And for their sacrifices in a weak economy they deserve more respect.

But the ChainLinker crowd is more than a little proud of the fact that many of them do not own cars and therefore have little respect for those who do. They even let it be known that they have little respect for professional cyclists as compared to themselves. It would seem that they value above all else commuting to work on a year round basis. Anyone not participating in that experience is considered less worthy.

It should be noted that quite often these urban cyclists are commuting distances of under 10 miles each way. That is nothing to be sniffed at but it certainly is not in the same league as the many suburban riders who log 40-80 miles on weekend rides alone. And that does not count the 25-40 miles they traverse during the week one or more rides each. Most good clubs have riders with year end totals approaching almost 10,000 miles. And that of course is nothing to sniff at either.

If the cycling community is to be successful at getting the dollars needed to transform streets all across Illinois into safer cycling venues it is going to need to jettison the “hard liner” approach. Motorists command a good deal more respect from the politicians whose votes put them into office. And despite it all our economy simply cannot function without the automobile. The City of Chicago simply cannot and will not ever be able to sustain itself as an economic engine without the “human capital” provided by suburbanites.

And that cadre of folks is never going to settle for bicycles as a preferred form of mass transportation over the likes of commuter rails. It would seem that the ChainLink crowd wants to remain ignorant of these facts, preferring instead to tout their experiences and hardships as the ultimate badge of honor among cyclists. It is not, nor should it ever be. That is because every community of cyclists has a reason to expect to be respected for whatever level of participation they can show.

We will probably never reach the level of cyclist participation of the some of the Scandinavian countries simply because our population is too large. But more importantly we live too far removed from our places of work to ever trust a bicycle as the sole form of transportation. That is a luxury only a city dweller whose commute takes a half hour or less on good days to complete.

As long as the Rules of the Road are the law of the transportation sector then cyclists need to get on board with it. If all that we can offer up is strident defiance, we are going to have folks who object to our preferences continue to win most of the budget battles. And if groups like ATA are unwilling or unable to provide pushback to urban cyclist strident defiance it will be as if we have learned nothing from political parties who have signed “no tax increase promises” only to have to eat their hats when the necessity to raise taxes becomes undeniable.

A Welcomed Postscript

Julie Hockstadter is the owner of ChainLink. I applaud her having written this reply to Liz. It would seem that as in most areas of life women have the bigger cajones when it comes to providing “pushback”. We now need the rest of the cycling establishment at Active Transportation Alliance to get off the fence and provide some much needed “pushback”.

Our cousins in NYC seem capable of letting their cyclists know that things are not right when they blow through stop lights and signs and ride on sidewalks. Why cannot ATA take the leadership here and demand that cyclists at least follow the Rules of the Road and stop trying to hide behind some loose sense of cyclist “morés”?

Where predictability is concerned the laws are important. If everyone knows what the other group is supposed to be doing it makes it easier to negotiate the mean streets. When one person is out of line in this regard everyone and I mean everyone should voice their opinions loud and clear and demand of themselves and their overpaid politicians to fix the problem.

Reply by Julie Hochstadter 1 hour ago

Agreed Liz.  In other cities and countries pedestrians don’t jaywalk cause if they do they will get a ticket.   We go through red lights, stop signs, and don’t use lights cause there is no implications for us.  I understand why drivers hate cyclists, we do whatever we want and they have to be extra vigilant in case a cyclists goes through a red light as they are driving to obey the rules of the road.

Liz said:

While I don’t think he should being singling out cyclists, he does have a point. I actually do wish that more laws where actually enforced, be if for cyclists, motorists or pedestrians.  The rate that ALL 3 violate codes is dangerous. I don’t think cyclists should be targeted more heavily than drivers, but it should be targeted at the same rate.  Chicago is pretty bad in terms of compliance for all modes of transportation.

Things like red light running and riding without lights are not just dangerous to that individual, they’re dangerous to the other road users as well.  I’ve had several times this summer I had been nearly hit on my bike by another cyclist blowing a red light.  This is not someone who approaches an empty intersection, stops than proceeds if its clear, this is someone who just never bothered to slow down, look or yield to others.  While a bike wouldn’t do as much damage to me as a car, I’d rather not find out how much damage getting t-boned by a one will do.

Yet Another Welcomed Response

It is never easy to satisfy all of your constituents. You run the risk of alienating the ones you really need while placating the louder whiners. No wonder politicians seem so mealy-mouthed. They are always running for re-election no matter what the calendar says. And of course this applies to the executive directors of any organization with more than a handful of members.

But we elect our leaders because they promise (at least during the election) to act out of principle. Sometimes trying to “do the right thing” ends up with you out of office with nothing to show for it. But you have to take comfort in the fact that you did your very best. In the case of the Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance he has taken the time to spell out what we expect of ourselves as cyclists. That is sometimes a painful thing to do.

If college football coaches were as diligent about the off-field behavior of their players and coaches we would never have had to witness the gut-wrenching application of penalties to the memory of a storied college program and its coaching staff. But here we are watching in disbelief knowing that we might ourselves have been tempted to look the other way in favor of protecting our personal reputations.

At the end of the day, however, it is what you do when it is difficult to act that makes all the difference. Thanks, Ron.

Submitted by Rburke on Wed, 07/25/2012 – 2:38pm

Ride respectfully: Don’t give bike critics ammunition

You may have seen Mark Konkol’s recent rant against “crazed” cyclists in theChicago Sun-Times and my response in today’s paper.

Image courtesy of CDOT

While his tone and broad-brush attack on cyclists is way off base, he raises a legitimate point: Too many people riding bikes are blowing through stop signs on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane.

Yes, these stop signs apply to cyclists, too, the same as if there was no bike lane on Kinzie. This means people on bikes should yield to people driving cars who get to their stop sign first. And, of course, people biking always must yield to pedestrians entering or in the crosswalk.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has taken steps to discourage stop sign disregard on Kinzie by painting the word “STOP” on the bike lane pavement, deploying bike ambassadors to educate cyclists, and working with police to issue warnings. But it’s still pretty common, in part because cyclists are confused.

For example, the lane’s physical separation gives people on bikes the sense that they are not part of the street and, thus, not subject to the same traffic rules. CDOT inadvertently added to the confusion by posting “Bikes Stop for Pedestrians” below the stop signs to emphasize the importance of yielding to pedestrians. You might think that means stop for pedestrians, and ONLY for pedestrians. Incorrect.

With so many cyclists using the Kinzie lane, it’s easy to “follow the herd” and blow through a stop sign because the people in front of you did. Sure, it would be fantastic if the Kinzie lane was a straight shot with no stops signs, but that’s not the case. So set a good example for your fellow cyclists on Kinzie and people riding bikes everywhere: Ride respectfully. Doing so will make cycling more enjoyable and safe, and give bike critics less fodder.

Proud To Know Another Person of Conviction

We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.

— Ian Percy

Lew Worthem of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club published a link to the John Thomas article “Crazed cyclists run rampant”. Just today a letter from one of our members arrived in response to Lew:


I am just getting caught up on my email and wanted to comment on the letter from the Trib that you sent out.  The writer is very correct.  Many cyclists feel that the laws do not apply to them, yet they are incensed when a motorist commits an infraction affecting them, like cutting them off, or not signaling.  As a community, cyclists do themselves a dis-service by not following the rules of the road.  Occasionally a cyclist running a light or stop sign is severely injured or killed but that does not seem to change the behaviors.  We want to have it both ways.  We want the road and we want it our way.

Sooner or later we are going to see more enforcement of the laws with regard to cyclists and it won’t just be warnings; it will be tickets with stiff fines.  I have heard reports of several communities that have already started.

Common sense, road etiquette and a simple wave and smile for a courtesy rendered by a motorist will go a long way to better coexistence.

Bob Hoel
Advocacy Chair
Elmhurst Bicycle Club

I cannot over emphasize how very important it is to stand up to the kind of dysfunctional behavior that is often exhibited by cyclists and too often championed by the members of ChainLink who treat that forum as if it were a “bathroom wall”. The kinds of discussions that go on there reflect the behavior of some cyclists on the roadway. When we become a law unto ourselves it can be a very ugly thing.

One of the things I keep trying to remember is how the neighbors and friends of Jews who were rounded up in the middle of the night and shipped off to concentration camps must have felt. If they were Gentiles it was probably easiest for them to simply keep their heads down and try to convince themselves that the madness going on around them was not quite as bad as it seemed.

I can imagine too that when lynch mobs in this country rounded up blacks to dispense justice at the end of a rope if you were white you simply pulled your family indoors, drew the blinds and tried to fight back the fear.

Nothing short of anarchy is what some of the ChainLink crowd is no so secretly aiming for. What began as an activist movement has suddenly devolved into something lawless at its core. And if I did not know better I would think that the worst offenders on the streets and the forum are doing this to discredit the cycling movement.

If I were still teaching junior high school I could attribute the behavior of these cyclists to being young and impetuous. But the individuals who inhabit our streets and routinely run red lights and then boast about it on the ChainLink forum are well beyond their teens. These are folks who have jobs and should know better, but seem stuck in a perpetual state of Arrested Development.

They have tried to drown out the “pushback” that some on the forum have attempted to provide. And if you were ever in doubt of the existence of cyber-bullying you can get a close up and personal look at it on the ChainLink. The cycling community needs to get off its $80 cycling shorts and dismount its custom made bikes and speak up! Just imagine how the opponents of transportation dollars for cycling must love to read the threads that grow wild on this forum. It must make their jobs a good deal easier when they approach the members of the Senate and Congress if they can see for themselves the open disdain being shown for simply following the Rules of the Road.

We each need to stand up and be counted. If you must join the ChainLink and provide some pushback. If that is not your style then send me an email and I promise you it will be published on this blog. But the most effective thing would be to “stand in the gap” on ChainLink itself and steel yourself for the bumpy ride that can be.