Hassled and threatened by police in Logan Square


When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called a Religion.

–Robert M. Pursing
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Inquiry Into Values

Background Reading: ChainLink Thread

Urban Cycling is something of a religion.

A ChainLinker using the handle Anika wrote this today:

Cargo Bike

I am looking for some resources to file complaints against an officer’s treatment of me while biking this morning.  This officer was clearly uninformed about biking rules of the road and made lots of generalizations about bikers in general.

I do believe it is possible that my bike (a cargo bike with kids in it) is being targeted since this is not the first run in I’ve had near the police station at California on Palmer.  This particular officer just took things a bit far threatening me with a ticket and telling me that he could kill a biker with his car.  My son was with me at the time and the altercation took 40 minutes. I need to know what my future course of action can be and if there is a way to file a report against this officer. I do have his name, car number, time of incident and details.

One of the ChainLinkers using the handle notoriousDUG responded with a question:

Can you give some details on the event?

What bike laws did the officer not understand?

This is a very important question, since none of the information we have from the original poster (OP) tells us what misinformation the police officer was using in support of giving him/her a ticket. And though it sounds aggressive “This particular officer just took things a bit far threatening me with a ticket and telling me that he could kill a biker with his car.” perhaps what the officer was indicating was that her behavior could have resulted in him hitting and killing her and her child. It is difficult to know these things from a one-sided report like this.

What does concern me is the overall tone of disrespect for law enforcement officers that crops us on this forum from time-to-time. Take for instance this reply to the OP by an individual using the handle spencewine:

I’m not convinced the police in this city are any better than the criminals that they are supposedly out catching. IMO, I think it’s a waste of time to pursue anything against that POS. Next time, carry a camera and record the incident (the law barring not-recording police was found unconstitutional) and post it to youtube or send it to a news station and embarass the sh*t out the them. That’s about the only way anything gets done.

As is often the case the way to place emphasis in the ChainLink style is to resort to profanity. It has become the new verbal “black outfit” so popular among urban dwellers from a decade ago. What this thread once again indicates is that among the hardcore cycling community in Chicago there is a definite rift where law enforcement is concerned. This is reminiscent of the attitude displayed by black  youth during the 60s. Only this time it has resurfaced in the hipster community of white youth. I guess things never really do change.

Faulty Logic?

What I found most interesting about this thread was the assertion by Anika that:

This officer was clearly uninformed about biking rules of the road and made lots of generalizations about bikers in general.

In fact this one sentence left me scratching my head. Why? The scofflaw tone of this forum and the general riding habits of Chicago cyclists leads one to understand that the very last thing anybody cares about are the Rules of the Road. In fact this subject came up under the guise of cycling mores.

There is a thread in which a respondent using the handle Steven Vance wrote:

A majority of those new cyclists will be people who also drive cars. The reputation will fix itself as drivers become bicyclists and better understands the needs, limitations, mores, and peculiarities, of each transportation domain.

I then responded with this:

Different “mores”? If the same basic set of laws govern motorized vehicles and bicycles then there should have always been some “understanding” between these two groups. I wonder if trying to claim a distinction between them is not problematic. If the common wisdom is that these two modes of transportation require different “mores” to be understood properly, then it begs the question why place them on roadways with “shared” lanes?

Because they are using the same roadways and their operators share the same signs, signals, hand turning signals, it means (at least to me) that the behaviors expected from these groups are essentially the same with the exception of routes where the speed differential is too great to accommodate both simultaneously (e.g. highways and major arteries like LSD).

What would help however if for the two groups to concentrate on the fact of their similarities and perhaps enjoy experiences on the roadways that are devoid of antagonistic behaviors and attempts to usurp control of intersections in ways that are not normally allowed for either transportation mode. True motorcades and funerals have escorts that block intersections, but automobile clubs are not allowed to practice this sort of thing without having gained permission or requested police escorts where needed.

And certainly the notion of a motorist reaching out of their automobile to apply a “safety slap” or better yet a “safety bump” to the person of someone they deem to be a cyclist displaying errant behaviors would raise more than a few eyebrows on this forum, and deservedly so.

I certainly hope that the number of cyclists does increase in number but I would have guessed that the problems between cyclists and motorists would be fewer than between cyclists and cyclists. The fact that the city ordinance requires SINGLE FILE riding on streets may mean that speed differentials between cyclists is likely cause the same kinds of consternation that is experienced on the LFP but with fewer options for immediate resolution.

And in fact Anika’s thread indicates that at hardcore urban cyclists do understand the nature of the Rules of the Road. This manual explains how everyone should behave when operating a vehicle, including cyclists. Stop sign and stop lights are not optional. And perhaps it was on this point that Anika and the police officer had a disagreement.

It seems that Chicago cyclists defend their “right” to be dismissive of these things when it suits them. But when challenged the very first thing they fall back on are the Rules of the Road. Funny thing that.

Now another responder to the OP using the handle David Barish tried to offer a bit of sanity to the discussion:

I find it hard to advise until I have an idea what happened. I take it that you don’t think you were breaking any laws. What laws did he think you were breaking?  If you are certain that you are correct there are two options- 1) write a letter to the officer that does not cc anybody else to let him know why he is wrong.   I suggest this because you live in the area and  may have to deal with him again.  This private insistance may do the trick.  If not, 2)go viral.  Write to the newspaperrs, the chief, your choice of social media outlets. Dan had good advice in that regard.  3) go the official complaint route.You probably will not get far with an official complaint. However, there may be value to setting the table by doing so so you can refer to your complaint if your treatment is repeated.

But before you do anyting, be 100% certain that you are in the right.  From what I have read, I really do not know.  If, after searching your memory and your soul you feel that you may have “techinically” broken a law but the cop was an [insert your adjective here} for enforcing it in your situation,I suggest you move on and take no further action.

But spencewine came back over the top with this gem:

I think regardless if she was or was not breaking any laws, threatening to kill someone with their car would be illegal and outright uncalled for, especially when coming from a police officer

So you see that once again the deeply embedded mistrust of authority makes it very difficult to ever get to the bottom of situations like this. First and foremost the OP should make the following things clear:

  • Did the officer actually threaten to kill you with his/her vehicle?
  • What specifically were the Rules of the Road concerning cycling about which the officer was misinformed?
  • Does bringing up the Rules of the Road indicate a change of culture on the ChainLink which finally ceases this nonsense about cycling mores and admits that the laws are inviolate?

You can never have enough of the ChainLink threads because their convoluted logic continually amazes.


An essential “piece of the puzzle” was finally supplied today. Anika wrote:

I have no issues with sharing additional details but have not had the opportunity to do so until now. Plus, I thought it wise to calm down and revisit the issue over the course of the day after contacting and talking with others. Thank you to those of you willing and able to provide some details on organizations to contact.

I will be following thru with my complaints against the officer thru several different venues. I rode this route a few additional times this afternoon since it is part of my normal day and I did not nor would I do something different.

Basically, I was traveling west bound on Palmer from California with my final destination west of Kedzie. I passed the police station parking lot entrance/exit located on Palmer. The street in this area is a residential one way west bound with parking on either side and enough space for two moving lanes of traffic. A hundred feet or so past the station parking lot a marked SUV pulled up next to my bike, blew his horn and yelled put his window at me before pulling quickly passed. I yelled back “share the road” – nothing else.

After continuing further on Palmer, I saw the officer pulled over talking to a gentleman in the bike lane across from the park. I biked around his car and thru the Kedzie intersection only to have the officer pull up next to me and force my bike into the parked cars there. I asked (actually rather calmly) if there was something he needed. Of course, he said no but did I have a problem. I responded with “yes, I don’t appreciate people blowing their horns at yelling at me”. At this point things escalated with the officer demanding my license and threatening a ticket. When I requested further information, I was told I have no business being on the street. When I asked where I should be instead, I got no response.

I pushed further and the heart of the matter was that the officer believed that I wasn’t biking close enough to the parked cars. On this one way street, I bike on the right approximately 2 feet from the parked cars or the equivalent of where the left line is in a bike lane. My bike is 6 feet long and between 2 1/2 and 3 feet wide. With kids in it,we are also a few hundred pounds. If a car pulls out in front of me suddenly or a door opens, we are at real risk. There is no recovering such a large bike. The officer believed I should be able to touch the parked cars. He also insisted that he was responding to an emergency with his lights and siren and that I should move out of his way. He and I were the only road users as the time. His insistence that I couldn’t bike where I was continued. When I asked what he would do if I were a car, his response was “nothing would happen in a car but I could kill you on a bike”. That comment doesn’t come across well with a child sitting less than a foot behind me. I suggested that he try biking in the community and see where he would chose to safely ride before honking and yelling at a biker next time. I also pointed out that if my 5 year old had been riding with me, his honking and yelling would have only caused her to turn into his car rather than away from it.

Our discussion concluded with him generalizing all bikers as “hipster bikers who are traffic hazards with no business being on the road since they can’t follow the rules”. Several other rude comments commenced but nothing more than this guy generally being a dick and unbelievably disrespectful. He moved on when I noted his name, car number and incident time down and let him know I would be discussing this minimally with Active Trans.

I am fairly knowledgable regarding rules of the road since I have children with me constantly keeping me in check. And with a young rider with me, it is even more necessary to be consistent. It is my understanding that I am entitled to take a lane of traffic, correct?

This may seem minor to some but this is not the first time I’ve had issues with marked cars in the area. Often, they pull out of the lot leaving far less than 3ft of space between us. Also,this particular officer clearly had issues with me as I had a run in again a few hours later when I pulled up to the California/Milwaukee intersection on Milwaukee headed east bound and he pulled from California onto Milwaukee westbound flashing his lights and sitting on the side staring me down until I passed thru the intersection on my way. My bike is far to obvious for him not to notice and there was no reason for that behavior otherwise.

I am concerned that I will continue to have issues with the police while on my bike in this area. It may only be this one officer but regardless some education should take place. I am not certain that anything will come of this but at the very least I want it to be on record in case other bikers in the area have similar issues and then possibly something will be done.

This is the kind of detail that would have been wonderful to have provided at the outset. I know that several of the respondents asked for this. But of course there is always one “nanny” who decided to protect her privacy. He goes by the handle “h’” and wrote the following:

Anika has clearly provided what she chose to provide publicly. There is absolutely no need to know the details in order to provide the advice she requested (Nice work Cam).

Can’t folks get their titilation elsewhere?

I am sure that Howard meant well. But frankly if you are going to ask for guidance on how to proceed with a touchy issue like reporting a police person you really need to give your audience (from whom you hope to get sound advice) all the relevant facts. This was not about “titillation”. It was simply a need to understand and to separate the often heated rhetoric from the facts that seem so often to go submerged on this forum.

Florida Weighs In

Florida Bicycle Association: Cycling Savvy > FAQ: Why Do You Ride Like That?

The Cycling Savvy website has an interesting article on bicycle lane usage.