The ChainLink Has A “Teachable Moment”


Things in the Church of Urban Cycling have gone a bit wonky. The High Priest and has not bothered to step into the fray (wise thing that) because that would mean taking sides and taking sides would mean risking the loss of membership in the Active Transportation Alliance and loss of membership would make it harder to raise the necessary funds to pay salaries and… You get the picture.

It is always best in situations where the “True Believers” come to verbal blows to opt in a more than usual way to abandon being a leader and sip that late afternoon latte in the certain knowledge that your salary is safe. And besides the folks who own the ChainLink Forum will have to shoulder the burden here. All of this mayhem is occurring on their turf and not on the Active Transportation Alliance site, whew!

Our leaders know how to generate enthusiasm within the membership. They find a place into which a wedge can be inserted and then drive it home for as long and as hard as possible. Successful organizations like the NRA (to which I belonged in my Scouting days) have made a fortune for their leaders and literally driven entire sections of Congress into their arms by remaining a “single issue” advocacy group. But the Church of Urban Cycling is not nearly as disciplined. The leadership has in fact tried to broaden their appeal and their money gathering ability by changing their name from the Chicago Bicycle Federation to Active Transportation Alliance.

It is difficult to be a “single issueadvocacy group where cycling is concerned because over time as urban settings change and suburbanites become reluctant to attend your fundraising events revenue streams dry up. So you reach out to the bigger and more lucrative arena of congressional lobbying and urban planning consulting in the hopes of bringing in more money on a more regular basis. But this means that the base of your operations gets a bit muddied.

Urban Cyclists are for the most part less likely to identify with advocacy organizations than they are with social networking groups like the ChainLink Forum. So a powerful organization like the Active Transportation Alliance has to become a member of ChainLink Forum rather than the other way around. But the facts are the facts. They need the volunteer base that the ChainLink provides more than they would like. In fact it is the insistence by ChainLink thread respondents that this or that columnist be reprimanded that sends Ron Buhrke‘s quill and inkwell into action to become the voice of the Urban Cyclist.

You should think about this situation in terms of the GOP and its uneasy alliance with the Tea Party. Or better yet is alliance with the NRA. Both are classic instances (not unlike the ATA and ChainLink) of the “tail wagging the dog“. And what we have today my gentle readers is a situation in which we discover a palpable rift between the pro-gun and anti-gun factions of the Church of Urban Cycling. And it is real and ugly at some level.

Think Motorists And Cyclists

What makes this a potentially “teachable moment” is that unlike the musings of one John Kass these two factions perceive themselves to be in kinship. Think GOP members squabbling about raising taxes on the top 2% versus cutting spending on the bottom 47% and you have the setting for our latest adventure. But all of this will come to naught if the factions do not stop and reflect on what kinds of damage the schism between cyclists and motorists is doing to the transportation scene. And the biggest tragedy of all is that our supposed leadership not only allows it to happen but actually encourages it to the extent that they help us cast ourselves as the “victims” in our group narrative. When they fall prey to the Apostate Teachings of that traveling charlatan Elmer Gantry Randy Cohen the schism is simply reinforced and made stronger.

This all plays into the hands of the “spending cuts crowd” in the GOP. What they want and will no doubt get is a further chance to squeeze cycling out of the mainstream transportation picture. They have already succeeded in removing the earmarked monies from the transportation budget, leaving cyclists to fight for whatever crumbs they can get as the larger and more powerful segments suckle the teats of the Federal Government sow. We are not as large or as strong a piglet as the motorists and transit riders, so our survival depends on being adept at compromise and in the cultivation of alliances with others.

The current narrative being used by cyclists has us living as mortal enemies. Take a read now of the thread that sparked this blog entry:

Don’t Regulate Guns, Do Regulate Bikes
Posted by Brent Cohrs on December 18, 2012

Thanks to all who read, shared, and commented on yesterday’s post on Chicago Now entitled Rahm Dedicates Dearborn Bike Lane to Dozens of “Little Bike People”. That was only the beginning of my efforts to refute the lunacy that goes by the name of John Kass.

Today’s post parodies his demands to register bikes and license riders by comparing it to the gun control debate
Please consider dropping by and adding your comments at Chicago Now or below.…

Reply by Jason 20 hours ago
This is a gun control piece, and off topic for this forum. I would debate you, but I have more respect for the forum rules than that. Take your anti second amendment hit piece elsewhere.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 20 hours ago
Jason, I’m sorry if I offended you and you feel that this violates forum rules.

This is a piece comparing the scrutiny we cyclists are put under with the lack of scrutiny others are put under. I also mention the number of pedestrians killed by motorists and yet the call for our regulation is greater than something that causes more than 1,000 and 10,000 deaths respectively.

There are a lot of comparisons that can be made, especially when it comes to a growing demand for regulation of our activities. I’m specifically looking for comments to use in my follow-up piece with John Kass and his call to register and license our bikes.

Feel free to debate me in the comments section of the post. I don’t offer any personal opinions on guns other than it’s time we had a meaningful discussion.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue fighting Kass’ characterization of us as public enemy number one.

Reply by Jason 19 hours ago
You think one columnist (Kass) and some angry randoms posting in comments sections in online newspapers is more scrutiny then the second amendment and gun issues receive? You can’t actually believe that. I actually liked your article when I thought your point was neither needed regulation. But then it just spiraled into anti-gun lobby rhetoric, where it ended. Perhaps it doesn’t read as you intended.

Reply by h’ 19 hours ago
I can see a lot of work went into this article, but the idea to draw a parallel to anything having to do with gun rights or gun control when the events of last Friday are still front and center on our collective mind should have been briefly considered and rejected.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 19 hours ago
Point well taken. As a writer, you try things and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

I’ll review it and possibly do some editing. I appreciate your feedback.

As for Kass, I am concerned that he will make it more difficult for us out on the street rather than at City Hall. Rahm and Klein have our backs, but the motorist that is incensed with the perceived unfairness issue may actually cause us physical harm. That’s the lunacy of this – cars and guns kill the same amount of people annually – 10,000 times more than we do each – yet we get tagged as the dangerous ones.

If you get a chance to read Bike Snob NYC’s Enlightened Cyclist, you’ll appreciate his point that discrimination by travel mode is the last publicly acceptable form of politically correct bigotry in America

Reply by Tony Adams 18 hours ago
I would argue just the opposite. If we really care as much about innocent human life as one might infer from all the discussion following last week’s terrible events, then isn’t now a perfect time to point out the inconsistency of an outcry about guns while we ignore the carnage of cars?

Reply by Brent Cohrs 18 hours ago
Excellent point. If you listened to the radio interview between Kass and Gabe Klein you’ll notice how Kass remains quiet or quickly deflects when it comes to addressing enforcement of motorists (who clearly cause more damage).

We cyclists have been pointing out the auto issue, but in more subtle ways. Maybe we need to do a better job of drawing out the contrast with bikes and the similarity with guns. All come down to safe operation and taking the responsibility to others more seriously.
Something else for me to work into my followup posts – thanks!

Reply by Manny Fuentes 17 hours ago
So, should we start regulating kitchen knives and other sundry utensils that are used to cause great bodily harm and disfigurement to another human being as well ?

I am just wondering what else we will have to register after some ( I will keep my rude description of those people to myself) jerk decided to use it to hurt someone else. Axes. Chain saws. Sledgehammers. Screwdrivers. Nail guns (Pneumatic & Electric). Hammers. Basebal/Softball bats. etc.

We need to just let Mr. Kass talk his gibberish. If the mayor and such are behind us, there is very little that Kass can do. Let him spout his issues. It’s like letting the grape die on the vine. If no one gives him any added attention, his message will go away. However, if you keep bringing him and what he says up, it will give his words power and he will flare up like a fire being fed wood/fuel.

He has his opinions. It is The United States. He has the right to voice his thoughts. It was guys like myself that have served that have given us all that right. His job is to right about “whatever”. Our bicycling will eventually fall off of his radar, because in all honesty….if he wanted to really pick a topic of greater concern…he should probably have chosen the level of poverty in our city, or how the city wastes God-awful amounts of money through several city departments (just look at the DMV, City Hall, and see how many people are just “getting a coffee”…lol!) or the amount of crime on the south, southwest, and west sides. I bet because it doesn’t affect him immediately, he doesn’t care about those topics.

Some bicycle rider might have cut him off (maybe while avoiding some debris around one of the many “well maintained” manhole covers) on his way to some “lunch/meeting” that he deemed “IMPORTANT”, and that is why he has us in his sights….for now.

Just my 2 cents.

Have a Great Day !



Reply by Brent Cohrs 16 hours ago
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
I know I don’t have the reach that Kass has, but if I can tap into the right formula that will get this post shared and read by more Chicagoans, I hope to mute his uninformed POV. Who knows what motivated him, but he seems like the typical angry white guy that can’t accept anything progressive. He really was a “broken record” on that radio broadcast last week.

You’re right, where he sits, he can do a lot more good going after real taxpayer waste looking elsewhere. We’re just easy targets because of the size of our group.

Hopefully, he will move on to something else…

Reply by Manny Fuentes 16 hours ago
We can only hope. Hope it happens soon, but be prepared to stay the course.

Ignore him. His attention will quickly move on to something else.

It’s the way of our modern society. I call it “Selective ADHD”. It comes from our impatience and modern technologies (internet, apps, “smart-phones, etc.)

I wish you the best of luck with your goal, Brent.

Have a Great Day !



Reply by Joon Kim 16 hours ago
When kitchen knives and other utensils are used to cause 30000+ deaths per year, we’ll want to regulate those too. Just like we regulate cars because of their potential lethality. Just like we regulate poisons and hospitals. Just like we regulate and license anything else that can cause great harm. Hell, if my bike starts offing people left and right, you bet it’ll have to be registered and I’ll have to be licensed to ride it. All these regulations except for guns. And really, guns are the only thing that serve no other useful purpose but to kill. And I know gun laws will not stop all killings and automobile regulations don’t stop all accidents and wall street regulations don’t stop all cheating. But I don’t want my kid to live in a Mad Max world and I don’t think you do either so we should start somewhere. So the argument you present is hollow, and this is a cycling forum and this is off topic but really, I’ve heard your tired argument too many times and it’s still worth about 2 cents and 30000+26 dead per year.

Reply by AM 15 hours ago
John Kass, who could never hold a candle to Mike Royko (irrespective of your agreements or disagreements with Royko) jumped the shark ages ago. I appreciate you reading him so that I don’t have to, but I question whether he has the power to do anything except attract that tiny subset of reactionary people who spend their time writing comments on newspaper articles. He’s a guy who thinks he’s a muckraker but really only represents the establishment. Perhaps Tribune views this as a way to get people to read it, look at the ads and maybe buy a subscription–I don’t know.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 16 hours ago
AM, thanks for bringing up the Royko reference – your comments about Kass are spot on.

After starting this discussion chain and reading the responses, I’m planning on writing one final post where I will implore others not to feed that particular troll.

I am now officially open for topics of interest that any of you may find interesting…

Reply by Manny Fuentes 16 hours ago
And I am sure regulating/banning/etc. weapons (notice, I said weapons, not just guns, to include bows and arrows/etc) will make our society and civilization the safest in the world.

If a person wants to kill people (on purpose or inadvertantly), they will find a way. Whether they go get a gun (usually illegally/stolen/taken from or give to another “friend”/gang member/drug dealer/ peed-off person/etc), or they use a syringe to inject bottles of tylenol, or getting drunk and driving down Milwaukee Ave. It is a choice. That is my point. Nothing further. Regulating alcohol has worked so well, hasn’t it ? Regulating vehicles has work well also ? Regulating our narcotics (legal chems) has worked and have no abusers, right ?

It is always a choice. The first murder was a rock/stone/stick/club by one caveman to another. Let’s start regulating those. The “evil” portion of society will still break the law and use the “regulated/banned/illegal” items to do their stuff. Just like the riders that blow through red lights/stop signs endangering themselves (as well as others – think of the post-traumatic issues of the driver that obeyed the stop sign/light and ran over and killed one of the many “bike ninjas” out there). That is what I am getting at. It’s a choice. Not the right one, yet still a choice.

(and please don’t get on the “So-who-says-what’s-right” soap box)

Mr. Kass is going to find fault in something. We all do. It is human nature to seek what is different and attempt to better it/ignore it/etc. (again, a choice). He is just choosing bicycling. He lumps the few “bike ninjas” (as well as those others that blow stop signs/lights, etc – a.k.a. rule non-followers) with bike messengers (both the ones that follow the rules and those that do not), cyclo/triathalon/century/etc.-training individuals, commuters (like myself), mountain bikers, cruisers, and whatever other sub-tribes that we have (and I have failed to mention – sorry about that). Is it fair for Mr. Kass to blame all of us for the mistakes of the few? I lived that way for over 22 yrs while HONORABLY serving our GREAT COUNTRY in 2 branches of the military. I paid for other’s mistakes. We still do, to a degree. Here is the perfect example. Another is, every law that we have…someone has broken it, and a law was created to punish the individual commiting it. (paid for by all of us via taxes, etc)

Joon, where would it, and how would you suggest we stop this ? Especially concerning our bicycling community….

Reply by Jeff Schneider 14 hours ago
Well stated, Joon. It’s just common sense. And I have the feeling that we have finally reached the tipping point where reasonable people can finally have some success taking on the gun fetishists.

Reply by h’ 14 hours ago
Sure… and while we’re at it let’s see if we can seize the moment to end the senseless drug wars and legalize marijuana nationwide. And has there ever been a better moment to mount a public outcry against the brutal oppression of the Palestinian people? What else?

Reply by Juan Primo 13 hours ago
I love it when white people hate on white people for being white.

Reply by Dragonborn 13 hours ago
I agree. I come to this site, which is dubbed “a chicago bicycling online community” at the top of every page, expecting to read up on and discuss cycling advocacy and not the Second Amendment. A thread like this only divides The Chainlink membership, not unite us.

If the OP is allowed to promote his anti-gun agenda here disguised behind a cycling blog, then I should also be allowed to promote pro-gun advocacy here as long as I include bicycling.

Please consider supporting the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association today and let’s continue to fight for our country’s constitution and our human right to defend liberty, life, and property.

Guns in the hands of honest and good people save more lives than a cop on the phone and two more on the way. Not enough cycling-related content in my promotion? Very well then. We have high crime in the city and a lack of a sufficient police force effectively patrolling the Lakefront Path and the streets of Chicago. With the recent federal court ruling that struck down Illinois’ unconstitutional ban on right to carry, Chicago residents may finally soon have a chance to protect themselves no matter what method of transportation they choose, whether it be on foot, in a car, or while riding a bicycle.

Reply by h’ 12 hours ago
Don’t get me wrong– I savor the thought of being confronted with just out how politically uninformed and or batshit crazy some members of the chainlink membership may be as little as the next guy– but you guys are just making up rules here.

This is a social forum for Chicago cyclists, not a forum about cycling, and it’s natural (and IMO desirable) that a wide variety of topics that affect us be discussed here. If you question someone’s judgement or intent in bringing up a potentially contentious or divisive topic, take it up with that individual, but don’t attack the medium because you don’t like what someone has to say.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 5 hours ago

I tried to separate my blog post into two parts; contrasting the scrutiny that cyclists fall under when we’re branded a safety hazard to society and the lack of scrutiny a another product (that this year has generated 10,000 times the fatalities) doesn’t fall under and my personal opinion about gun control.

It’s possible to agree with part one and not part two, neither, or both. Where the discussion goes – Kass and his unreasonable demands or gun control, I have no control once it’s posted. I’ll try to be a little more discerning with the topics I offer up for discussion in the future.

Much of what we do – or need to do – as cyclists has to be political. We have a lot of great advocacy groups to lobby on our behalf, but our invitation to the table is swayed heavily by which party controls Congress. Yet on the gun side, there is a single organization with membership that barely crosses the threshold of 1% (which I presumed had to be closer to 30%) that holds the only seat at its respective table. There was a post on Commute by Bike entitled Bike Advocacy from the NRA Playbook that was imploring cycling advocates to do a better job of controlling the message. I found it an interesting perspective at the time, but didn’t know quite what to do with it.
I appreciate the opportunity to be on the forum and receive a variety of opinions about cycling topics that affect all of us. There will be disagreement on advocacy approaches within our group. My opinion and my politics will clash with other members – as long as we have civil discourse, it should all be good.

Thanks for reading and joining the discussion.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 5 hours ago
For the last several years I have considered myself a self-loathing white guy…

Reply by dan brown 4 hours ago
sheesh…..yikes…..when did Troll season begin ???

I guess I was so busy waiting on the end of the world that I missed the hunting season schedule (again) ?


Reply by David Barish 4 hours ago
Police responded to a call of mayhem at a neighborhood intersection this morning. Joe Shibilski was found under his bike. He had run a red light plowing into a group of senior citizens taking their morning constitutional. Witnesses heard Shibilski screaming,”take that mom. You never loved me.” as he ran over an elderly woman. Shibilski, after injuring six seniors and killing three others then took his bike to himself. He ran over himself and was found by police with spokes protruding from his chest. Paramedics were unable to stop the bleeding.

Local officials decried this latest evidence of bike violence. Councilman Duffass told members of the press that he will initiate legislation to ban the sale, possession and use of two wheeled vehicles. “How many lives must be lost due to this senseless violence.” Local cycling advocates planned to demonstrate by riding with their children. Duffass commented, “They are teaching their kids to ride. What will come of this world?”

Shibilski’s family refused comment but an unnamed source said that Shibilski had been riding bikes for years and had quite a collection of them. He was often seen running over squirrils and other varmints in his neighborhood. “We always thought he was a little strange, but hey, he rode a bike. What do you expect?” said one neighbor.

Reply by dan brown 4 hours ago
can someone p-u-l-l-l-l-e-e-e-z-e (?) second the nomination to close this thread. please ?

Reply by Joe Guzzardo 4 hours ago
Banning multi speed, high end, lightweight, composite framed bicycles is not the solution. A deranged bicyclist will always find some means to pedal. The only solution is to make bicycles more publicly accessible to all law abiding citizens so that pedestrians have a fighting chance. Pledge whatever you can to the National Bicycle Association in support of these efforts.

Reply by Tony Adams 4 hours ago
I’ll review the constitution later today. I’m still not sure about the intent of the original framers.

Reply by Brent Cohrs 3 hours ago
Thanks to all who read my Chicago Now post and took to the discussion.

I’ve been a supporter of The Chainlink since I started my blog and rely on it for taking the pulse of area cyclists. I have just recently started using the forum for soliciting feedback on what to write about. My hope is that I can reach beyond the cycling community with Chicago Now and start bringing more of our issues to the public.

I apologize if this thread devolved into an off-topic discussion. My intention was to draw a contrast with our scrutiny and the lack of scrutiny for something that has shown to be a bigger problem to society than running a red light and spooking a Tribune columnist. I tried to separate the cycling point from my own view on gun control and was mainly looking to see if anyone else saw the irony in how our group of one-percenters is perceived against another group with similar membership.

Upon request, I’ll close the discussion.
My goal isn’t to divide, it’s to gain consensus on cycling topics to make my posts stronger. I’m always open to discussion and debate about anything I’ve posted whether it’s in the comments section at Chicago Now or via email.


Pogo Earth Day strip[56]John Kass is not the problem. Urban Cyclists are their own worst enemy. We bring an animus to the movement that is sometimes bordering on lethal. We are petulant, entitled, brats who are more easily won over with pretty green bike lanes than we should be. No wonder pedophiles in trench coats hanging around school playgrounds while bearing candy are such a cliche. We are about as easily swayed as a kindergartener. Give us a pretty green lane and a chance to be on the evening news and rub shoulders with the local politicians and read charming articles about how much progress is being made in bringing cycling into the 21st century and we wet ourselves.

All that anyone who wants our money or time has to do is harangue about motorists being the Spawn of Satan and we open our legs and close our eyes. Bachelors of the world take note, if you want to get lucky on a Friday night follow your local Active Transportation Alliance spokesperson around and follow his lead. You can get laid.

The problem is that we deserve better. When all of this stimulus money that is currently being splashed about is nearly gone and there is little if any that will be ensuing anytime soon, we will see whether the Vicar of the Church of Urban Cycling really can perform healing rituals or raise Lazarus from the dead.

What will likely happen is what JohnThe BaptistKass has foretold, we will be licensed and registered to help pay for the ongoing upkeep of all those pretty green lanes. Of course the initial licensing or registration will come under the guise of getting a better handle on our numbers. Think the tollway use of transponders to pay while still moving. Now consider what great fun it would be to get a shiny magnetic transponder for our handlebars which will allow us to trip that shiny new bike counter positioned along key routes into the Loop.

We will be doing our patriotic duty as cycling advocates to purchase one of these things and give out information about the places where we live and the kinds of bikes we ride. And we will be told that by having this level of detailed information we can be better served. In fact it will become a pretty much slam dunk request to have us buy these things when increasing numbers of velomobiles reach the Chicago market. By that time upright cyclists will be in search of someone to listen to their complaints about this car-like bicycles whizzing past them in the bike lanes as silent as ghosts and moving at speeds upwards of 35 MPH. And because many of them are likely to be electrified with e-assist motors that will make their use of the lanes come under close scrutiny by their fellow cyclists. Think the “Range Wars” of the Early West.

We need to get our collective heads out of our asses. Transportation is not based on a Copernican model. The universe does not revolve around the bicycle. Neither are we The Chosen Ones. The Galilean model is a better way of viewing the reality of transportation. Big planets like automobiles and smaller ones like bicycles are going to have their own orbits and be influenced by and influence both the Sun (Chicago’s Citizenry and Government) and each other.

What we are currently trying to do is knock the larger planets out of their orbits without causing a collision in our Solar System. Like the Catholic Church regarding Galileo Galilei we are wrong. Copernicus is not the scientist whose work we wish to follow. We need a new center of reference. Ditch the teachings of the Vicar and his Deacons and Deaconesses before they cause greater harm. Think for yourselves and do not part your legs just for a glimpse of pretty green bike lanes.

Demand diamonds not zirconium.