UPDATED : Consensus In The Urban Cycling Community Is Sometimes Hard To Find


A group calling itself Look Chicago created at first a by-invitation-only space and later decided to transition to one which was a bit more open. In fact the really odd thing was the “in your face” attitude displayed upon its inauguration when the created noted that yes it was by invitation only  and if you wanted one you should create your own. Rather juvenile that, but not uncommon on this forum.

So the other day a thread titled:

Tips on Avoiding Dooring

Here are some really good tips on avoiding dooring.

What are some of your own personal tips based on biking here in Chicago?


This was a good beginning after the rather aloof start of the group earlier. (Note: You can read their list of tips by clicking on the thread title.) But as usual on this forum people start laying down patches of piss to mark their territory:

 Reply by Juan 21 hours ago

The Dooring Guide
Click to Enlarge

(Note: To understand the remainder of this exchange you need to know that there is a palpable uneasiness on the part of “real” urban cyclists (that is what they call themselves, everyone else is presumably a “fakes”) with what we normally think of as Vehicular Cycling. The graphic appears to be written in that vein. And to the hipster urban cyclist this is somewhat verboten.)

At this point one of the self-appointed high priests of the urban cyclist movement steps in to deliver a papal slap on the wrist of the offender:

Reply by h’ 13 hours ago

Ironically, several of the cyclists we’ve lost in recent years would probably still be alive if they had adhered to the “no” rather than the “yes” in this image.

One-size-fits-all advice can be as dangerous as no advice at all sometimes.

Cue the “holier than thou” processional. As any good ChainLinker knows it is unlikely that either a black or hispanic (according to the ChainLink’s urban legends lore) could really speak to the right way to do things given their demonstrated propensity to “ride against traffic”.

Cue again the sound track where all the frighten white folks in the audience gasp altogether. But suddenly from the shadows emerges a fellow with flowing cape and matching leotards and a giant “S” on his chest to defend the wayward hispanic or at least the creators of the illustration:

Reply by Jason 9 hours ago

I’m just going to say that while it’s probably not the intention, it’s still really unfair and irresponsible (not to mention in poor taste) to imply that the the people who design, produce and publish safety literature somehow bear some responsibility for the deaths of cyclists.

Especially when, unless one has access to all the details of the fatal crash as well as any eye witness testimony, all speculation about what could have been done differently and how it would or wouldn’t have possibly saved someones life is just that, speculation.

Rather than undermining and second guessing the efforts of advocates and committed professionals, maybe those energies could be spent doing something more productive?

All eyes in the room move towards the papal authority with a look of fear and dread. Cue the sounds of looking down your steep nose and deigning to even bother to answer the riffraff in the audience:

Reply by h’ 16 minutes ago
Hi Jason,
I actually do have access to eyewitness testimony and details of almost every fatal bike crash in Chicago since about 2006, including many details I would never pass along.
But not sure why that level of detail would be necessary for the statement I made.
We’re going to have to disagree on this one, I guess.

Note that what has been done here is to sound civil, but to offer the “I could tell you but then I would have to kill you line” which is now a punch line in common parlance. And we wonder sometimes why anyone would take this crowd seriously.

Update – I just read this reply to the papal authority who wants to keep all the gory details to himself:

Reply by clp 7 hours ago
Why keep details of bike fatalities a secret? And I disagree with your first comment without more information.
My method to avoid dooring is to ride FAR to the LEFT as shown by the “Yes” cyclist, well outside the 4′ door zone. If I feel cars, trucks & SUVs behind me are going to hit me by trying to “squeeze” through the remaining space, why I just ride FURTHER to the left to block them from even thinking about passing me. It’s worked for 35 years of biking these city streets…

Be careful my friend, that kind of talk is likely to get your kicked off this forum. Anything that ‘h has to say is beyond the questioning of mere mortals.

Beware the jabberwocky.

This description sounds suspiciously like something you might learn in a good LCI classroom setting and that of course means your mind would have been filled with the ChainLinkers greatly loathed Vehicular Cycling dogma. You must repent. Go therefore and say , um… 3 Hail Marys and maybe 6 Our Fathers and come back when you are more likely to drink the pretty green lane Kool-Aid that we all love here on the ChainLink. Selah.

Well I guess that Rhymes with Puppie did not get the resume about questioning authority:

Reply by Duppie 15 hours ago
I appreciate you being sensitive about the facts of deadly crashes and making sure the details don’t get back to the families of the victims.

But your statement is confusing to say the least. What was the intent of the statement? Should we all be riding closer too cars? Or just under certain circumstances? If so, what circumstances? Or was it just a statement of fact, not meant to change our behavior?

Without a better explanation as to why you think we are at times better off riding in the “NO” zone, I am going to continue riding in the “YES” zone.

And the papal authority decides to explain himself, again:

Reply by h’ 14 hours ago

It’s kind of amazing how dramatically things can be misinterpreted. Not sure where “making sure details don’t get back to familes” comes from. I was referring to details from familes and witnesses and from sitting through trials that are too gruesome to pass along publicly, or are in some cases confidential. I don’t know who Jason is and I’m going to attribute the whole deal about making the people who came up with that graphic liable for cyclist deaths to some sort of random mood swing at the keyboard.

Overall I think the graphic is pretty good. My comment was to the effect that we’ve had several deaths caused by swerving into motor vehicle traffic to avoid doors and then getting run over, and none that I’ve heard of caused by the rider riding straight into the door as suggested in the article above. I think that might be a productive line of discussion, and that it would benefit all of us to think through frequently how we would handle various situations. To assume I am trying to steer the reader toward a particular course of action suggests you have not made any effort to understand anything I’ve posted on this or related topics.

If it bothers you to watch people deconstruct riding techniques that you just “know” are 100% superior, well, too bad I guess.

Maybe this explanation might help. The Yes zone is indeed where everyone should be riding. What is frustrating is that municipalities is a struggle to get something off the “drawing board” are approving the placement of both sharrow and bicycle lanes immediately to the left of parked cars.

It would not be so problematic if it were not for the fact that the width of the bicycle lanes is usually narrow enough that you cannot right far enough to the left without either leaving the lane or having parts of your messenger bag or camera dangling dangerously out of the lane. That of course makes you a target for passing buses and trucks that can easily grab the offending piece of clothing or equipment and suddenly you are dragged under a set of rear wheels.

Not this is interesting because I do not recall ever having heard the ChainLink Forums “trained seals” ever say anything about deaths from dooring that occur in such lanes, as being partly the fault of the municipality that installed them on too narrow a street. I guess that it does not pay to “bite the hand that feeds you” pretty green bike lanes. Instead there is this knee-jerk reaction to place the entire blame on the motorist.

In actuality besides the motorist and the municipality having a share of the blame for dooring accidents, there is the cyclist himself. You need at least two things to be true to be able to ride in the Yes zone successfully. You need enough width to move far enough to the left to avoid getting doored and you need to be able (in the event that you misjudge the proper location of the Yes zone) to be maneuver in some way or invite the collision.

When I speak of maneuvering here I mean either coming to a complete stop (usually via a panic stop) or a swerve. In the case of the former you need to adjust your speed to match your nominal braking distance. That for instance means that if you are riding a fixed gear which has no brakes that your speed should be such that the drag scrubbing you are forced to perform can be executed before ramming the door.

If you do have brakes it still means traveling at a slow enough speed to stop in the shortest possible distance. If you do swerve you must now account for the traffic conditions to your left otherwise you could find yourself under the wheels of a flatbed truck. Simply pronouncing that the only culprit in these situations is the driver does not take into account all of the shared culpability of the driver, municipality and the cyclist.

If cyclists continue to barrel down streets oblivious of whether they are visible in the side view mirrors of motorists there will be more deaths. Looking into the rear view or side view mirrors does not guarantee that you can see cyclists coming up from behind. And even if they are traveling so as to hit your viewing area the situation can change in a second if the rider is moving rapidly. So riders need to slow down a bit when passing through poorly designed bicycle or sharrow lanes.

It might be instructive for municipalities to continue using sharrow lanes instead of bicycle lanes if the door zone distance cannot be achieved without riding outside the bicycle lane. And it might behoove cycling advocates to bring this to the attention of the municipalities despite the fact that it could slow down the progress of infrastructure development.

Better to save lives than waste paint on a dangerous lane design only to end up mourning an avoidable death.

Papal Authority never expects the “Anti-Inquisition”

Part of the problem with a group that functions pretty much at the level of a Critical Mass Ride (which is never to identify its true purpose other than to give you something that sounds nice, or identify its leaders) is that even the “faithful” can get confused. What would help is a set of Talking Points.

In the early days of the Tea Party there was an attempt to function as a leaderless group and the idea appealed to the same kinds of activist minds that fuel the cycling movement here in Chicago. It seems cool to know that no one can pick off the “top guy” because only the inner circle knows who that might be and everything is kinda “hush-hush” always on a need to know basis.

It is essentially a cult of personality with a tightly knit group who consider themselves the keepers of the flame and will smack down (as we have witnessed here) anyone who steps out of line. Now how does one argue with someone in such a rarified circle as to have “have access to eyewitness testimony and details of almost every fatal bike crash in Chicago since about 2006, including many details I would never pass along”.

Sheesh, do these guys have a secret handshake that they use to identify one another? It sounds all spooky to me. Perhaps what we really have here is a rogue segment of the CIA that is angling to bring cycling to the masses?

I dunno, but I find it all a bit tiresome.