Updated : Two Articles On Cycling’s Scofflaws – One From Within – Another From Without

Background Reading

The Problem

John Kass - chicagotribune.com

John Kass – chicagotribune.com

John Kass has touched a nerve. You really cannot expect to not see a flare-up on the ChainLink Forum when you say anything that contradicts the Church of Urban Cycling Narrative. The very last thing you could ever do is criticize the behavior of its priests.

They are all for Cycling Values but are happy to call themselves pedalphiles. And among the things that characterizes their behavior is a bit of “group think“. They are always pushing the envelope to try and force the rest of society to bend to their wishes. And like the Tea Party with respect to the GOP they do not mind taking out a few of their own to make their points. In the case of on bike behaviors, they are happy to embrace Randy Cohen because his thinking suits their needs.

Likewise there is a tendency to cite the Idaho “Stop As Yield Law” as the motivation for practicing it here in Illinois. There is ample precedence for doing this sort of thing. But there are lots of wannabe’s who simply cannot be bothered stopping or signaling or using lights or removing earbuds while riding or texting or adjusting their undergarments or drinking their PBR from a can all while driving their bicycle.

What makes it clear that many take advantage of legitimate forms of protest is the knee-jerk way in which they go Medieval on motorists when they break existing laws. It is kind of like being a police officer in either Wisconsin or Michigan and looking at the union members who are losing their clout and failing to realize that the only reason your union has not been terminated is because the politicians are afraid to do so.

Becoming A Change Agent

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

— Mahatma Ghandi

In short these are petulant entitled activists who suffer from a God-Complex when it comes to teaching the rest of society the need to save itself from the evils of petroleum, coal and f-r-a-c-k-ing. Fine. I happen to think we are too car centric for my tastes but I also am a vegan so I suppose I should go Medieval on every meat eating urban cyclist who is reigning death and destruction on farm animals just to satisfy their longing for a Big Mac? My momma, didn’t raise no stupid children. I know that coming off as self-righteous over this point is pointless. Society happens to be as meat-centric as it is car-centric.

I prefer to keep finding new ways to enjoy meals at restaurants that are not specifically vegan and giving the ones that are my business. It is more than time for an intervention in the Church of Urban Cycling. Just as in the reality television shows where interventions are planned the person needing one is the very last to know.

In my town there is a large park where the soccer teams practice and play their games. A few years ago I was walking our dog through the park and noticed a teenage kid throwing rocks at a specific squirrel. He was very accurate and seemed to enjoy tormenting the squirrel. I stopped and asked if he might want to reconsider doing this. He told me to mind my own business. I threatened to call the cops and he left and soon his father came outside.

The family was upper middle class and the father obviously some sort of business person who was not used to having any member of his family questioned by a black guy walking a dog in “their” park. Never mind that I have lived in this town for over 45 years, the color of my skin makes me an outsider to some. He told me that his son was due to get a scholarship to play baseball at a prestigious university and that he was doing nothing more than using the squirrel as target practice.

I guess I should have been glad that he had not taken up his throwing skills practice at any of the blacks in town. But I said what I had to say about the practice and moved on. I have confronted that sense of entitlement again in the shape of urban cyclists who out of all proportion to their numbers, fiscal and voting clout seem to have grabbed City Hall by the cojones and are wringing them for all they are worth.

One of my club members wrote the following:

I listen to John Kass and Jake Hartford on WLS-AM weekdays 9-11am. They
are really miffed about Chicago spending so much money on bike lanes and
such for the benefit of scofflaw bicycyclists. When they leave the studio,
they watch the bicyclists to see how long it takes before they see a
traffic rule infraction. It’s usually about 10 seconds.

We have a PR problem at least.

Lew W.

Now understand that Lew and I do not share the same political philosophy. But on this one point we are in agreement. Urban Cyclists need to get their act together. You just now that when a Conservative Republican and a Liberal Democrat can agree on anything that there must be some truth in it.

Cleaning Up Our Collective Act

I blame the Active Transportation Alliance leaders for not taking a more active stance on things as members of the ChainLink. They have a tough job. The ChainLink crowd is full of ready volunteers for all things activist. But time and again the leadership has tried to do what it does in other similar organizations and that is deflect criticism of bad behavior.

Active Trans has offered that with increased bicycle infrastructure the scofflaw behavior will go down and the safety of riders will go up. I say we hold their feet to the fire on this point. No shucking and jiving on why the national averages for fatalities of cyclists has gone up by some 8.7% over the past year while the same statistic for motorists steadily drops. We can do better but we certainly need to have the cooperation of each and every motorist and cyclist to accomplish a drop in all phases of the fatality landscape here in the United States.

No group in any region of the country needs to be allowed to coddle scofflaw cyclists. And this problem extends even to the point that ride marshals for the Active Transportation Alliance Four Star Bike Tour run red lights, ride against traffic and generally demonstrate the kinds of behavior that are what irk men like John Kass. Writing to Active Trans does not merit a response from them.

I feel certain that they have read the emails and posting I have made to their website and simply chosen to ignore them. Instead they decide to come down heavy on John Kass or any other columnist who dares to write about the egregious behavior exhibited by urban cyclists. They are in essence functioning a bit too much like that father of the rock throwing teenager. It is time that their feet are held to the fire.

If you need to withhold your membership dues to protest what is going on do so in a constructive fashion. Write a letter first and let them know why you are doing this. They will not get the message otherwise because they choose to turn a blind eye to anything that does not uphold their precious narrative of pretty green lanes at all costs.

There. I feel better for getting that off my chest.

Here’s An Example of ChainLink Hypocrisy

This appeared (as if on cue tonight) on ChainLink:

Remember rules of the road CPD bike cops?
Posted by Mollie on December 13, 2012 at 11:05pm

Tonight during rush hour, I was walking up Clark Street, and three bike cops rode right on against the light through the pedestrians crossing Randolph, almost hitting my friend and I among other people in the crosswalk.

Come on.

How are cyclists supposed to gain respect if our own police can’t even handle the rules of the road on a bike (much less considerate cycling)?

I’ve seen bike cops bike the wrong way down one ways (downtown) and bike through the middle of State Street, but this was completely ridiculous.

Where is this sort of outrage when ChainLinkers do the same thing? Is this simply part of the “so’s your old man” narrative that seems so prevalent on this forum?

The complaint is legitimate. But it rings hollow if ChainLinkers are not as outraged at their own behaving in this fashion as they are when a cop or anyone else does it. The problem here is that we try to find excuses for our behavior when someone like John Kass calls us out. We claim that he is being childish in doing so. But that would mean that this is a childish bit of whining and frankly it is not. It is exactly what “adults” on the ChainLink should be doing.

What is childish is nodding assent to this bit of complaining and then ducking for cover or getting snarky when John Kass does the same with respective the average urban cyclist. I’ll know that the urban cycling community respects itself enough that Active Transportation Alliance does not recruit ride marshals who behave in the same manner when leading riders on the Four Star Bike Tour. Until then I will simply assume that what is going on here is selective whining out of willful ignorance about the problems facing the cycling community.

Here is another take on the situation by one of our ChainLink members who has something of a novel idea going for him:

Reply by Manny Fuentes 6 hours ago
Just like the no cellphone use law. You will see CPD Officers using their cells while driving (not using their seat belts, etc). Yet, they will write you a ticket for that same infraction, in a heartbeat.

It’s a hypocritical Catch-22. “Do as I say, not as I do”-type of mentality.

I try to lead by example, for my co-workers, subordinates (both in the military and in civilian life), and especially my kids.

I believe that if we all start doing the right thing (even when no one is looking), that others around us will start doing it as well. I know that it is an extremely difficult thing to do (doing what is right, while everyone around you is doing the wrong thing), but we must continue going forward.

I know that that is an impossibility, but 70% is better than 2%.

Just like a wheel’s rotation, it has to start somewhere. Why not with all of us?

It is one thing to show up for grand openings of stretches of pretty green bike lanes and quite another to be “stand-up people” when there are no cameras rolling and lights on. The Urban Cycling Community is full of people who are far more interested in being on camera than they are in being “change agents” in a city with desperate need for them.

As for Manny Fuentes it really is difficult to believe that this very old-fashioned nonsense could really work, right? If this guy is Hispanic he is one of those people of color we like to chide for “riding against traffic”. How could he have anything to teach a largely Anglo crowd of entitled activists who are dedicated to making the world do what they deem best? I could never really work could it? Nah?

Better to keep poking our fellow citizens in the eye with the sharp stick of disdain and condemnation while decrying the fact that buffoons like John Kass keep pointing out the obvious about our behavior while seeming to ignore the bad behavior of motorists and of course those dreaded cops we all hate so much. Nope, I think we should all sit around a bucket of suds and with our kids a yard (i.e. 3 feet) or so away (working on their apple juice) bemoan our place as the ones who sacrifice for the cause of sustainability and pretty green lanes while others curse our behavior.

Our children will indeed grow up to respect us for fighting the good fight and having won will craft plaques and such in our honor. Yep. Let’s keep being jerks on the roadway and getting rid of anyone who tells us that we are so that our ChainLink Forum can be as devoid of meaningful discussion as it has always been. We have a couple of award winners who are already leading the charge. They can continue to keep up blinded to our hypocrisy and perhaps in the end win yet another award or two. Hurrah!