What ChainLinkers Could Learn From Dennis Hastert

Summary

Dennis Hastert and I are from the same Alma Mater, Wheaton College. He is a Republican and I a Democrat. But we both it would seem share a common belief in the “power of compromise“. Would that the current crop in Washington were so inclined. I note in passing that Peter Roskam son of one of my Wheaton College Sociology professors Swede Roskam is now his successor as House GOP Chief Deputy Whip. I knew Peter when he was still a teenager.

It turns out that Dennis is working as an adjunct professor at Wheaton College along with the University of Chicago where I attended graduate school. It is a very small world indeed. And while many Liberals much younger than I have forgotten or perhaps never knew it, Republicans were once among the most progressive of politicians around. Think of this, Richard Nixon continued the Head Start Program begun under Lyndon Johnson. George H.W. Bush brought us the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are lots more laws I could cite but at my advanced age trying to remember much more than what happened yesterday is a stretch. (grin!)

The point is that there have been periods in recent American history where folks knew how to treat one another well enough to effect change. Today we have succumbed to the Jerry Springer Effect. The level of discourse among folks has sunk to that level typical of guests on the Jerry Springer Show. And even our politicians and cycling advocates subscribe to the notion that little more than demonization of the opposition is all that is ever needed to “keep the troops in line“.

 Two Similar Approaches To Abusive Discussions

Awhile ago a minor flare-up occurred in the motorist-vs-cyclist wars on the ChainLink. (Note: The author of this thread is someone who has in the past said some fairly inflammatory things about African-American communities on the South and West sides of the City of Chicago. So he would no doubt recognize inflammatory speech in others quite readily, since much of it matches his own style. What is comical is that he takes umbrage when it is directed at him rather than the other way ’round.):

Giving Dooring the OK, On ESPN Radio Today
Posted by Gabe on June 7, 2011

While listening to to the Waddle and Silvy Show from 9 to 1 pm on 06/07/11 on ESPN radio I got to hear how fun it would be if they intentionally doored cyclists and how sometimes that would just feel great. This went on for about 20 minutes.

Well I didn’t think that would be great. And as some may know I’m vocal. 😉 So I tried  tweeting with Silvy @WaddleandSilvy for those that tweet and he said that the best course of action would be to send an e-mail to: waddleandsilvy@espnchicago.com

The Apology we got on 06/08/11 was a joke. Happened 45 minutes into the show and was terrible.

At the bottom of Espn.com there is also a Contact Us that goes to corporate vs the address above that is only read by the show hosts. We need to get on this!

If you wanna hear the comments they have a podcast http://espn.go.com/espnradio/player?rd=1#/podcenter/?callsign=WMVPA… . and it happens about 2 hours 14 minutes into the show if memory serves. Started out with making fun of spandex shorts and then went on to murder.

In light of the fact that ESPN already had Tony Kornheiser voice his opinions on cyclists I doubt they are looking for more trouble so it would be a good time to get the message out. Watch out for us! Dooring Can KILL us! etc…

And Here is a list of sponsors of Waddle and Silvy: They should hear about our  displeasure as well!

Performance Bikes!!! Harris Bank, Golfsmith, Jimmy Johns (they do bike deliveries, hello!), John Chico’s Men’s Wear, Triton College, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, Ameristar, Home Depot, Johnsonville, Gerber Collision & Glass, Studio 41 Remodelling,

Waddle and Silvy are crass and sometimes stupid. They are sports guys who delight in saying stupid things on air. I guess it draws ratings. They were wrong to have done this. But the fact is that in our society this kind of hyperbole is all too common. It leads to over the top suggestions like the ones made when a motorist was found to be unloading a water truck in the newly created bike lane on Dearborn Street:

I rode Dearborn today…anyone else?
Posted by Morgan on December 14, 2012

I just missed the press conference and just hung out at lunch to see how it would all work. It seemed easy enough, so I took Dearborn as my starting route home to Roscoe Village. Normally I hit Franklin to Orleans then north to Lincoln.

I have to say, it was pretty easy and relatively safe. The ambassadors were helpful with the the auto traffic. The walkers were easy enough to avoid. I had to chuckle at two riders riding side by side in the lane.

What I didn’t see was any oncoming traffic; southbound riders. I am guessing that will come in time or at other times during the day.

Way to go Mayor RE! This is really making a statement.

Who else rode the new path?

Nothing out of the ordinary here until later in the thread:

Reply by Juan yesterday

Ice mountain delivery man did not care that I was documenting his disregard for cyclist safety.

Ice mountain delivery man did not care that I was documenting his disregard for cyclist safety.

Ok. We have a motorist who is no doubt in violation of some ordinance if not simple courtesy for using the bike lanes to unload his truck. But after a few snarky comments we get this tongue-in-cheek suggestion for how to handle motorists who park in bike lanes:

Reply by h’ yesterday
OK, so if there’s a parking lane and we want the Ice Mountain driver to use it, what’s the next step?

Wait for it… Ok, here it comes…

Reply by Juan 23 hours ago

Tank Crushes Car!

Tank Crushes Car!

And of course the smart ass follow-on to this yuk-yuk moment:

Reply by Joe Guzzardo 6 hours ago
Dang, beats my Hummer H1. Guess now I’m gonna be in the market for an M1A1 Abrams tank. Sure, gas mileage sucks but they’re great fun to drive and you can park ’em anywhere. (If the space is too small, just use the main gun to make it bigger. Works for me).

Looking Under The Hood

The following applies to this ChainLink exchange:

  • It like the Waddle and Silvy on air exchange was meant to draw laughs from the “Trained Seals” in the listening audience. I suppose that the appropriate response from motorists reading this thread would be to write nasty letters to the ChainLink administrators requesting that Juan and Joe have their memberships terminated.
  • And if that did not work, additional pressure could be applied by writing the sponsors of the advertisements on the site to ask that they refrain from supporting the ChainLink.

But the ChainLink folks are never in my lifetime going to even entertain such thoughts. This is an unwritten code that what motorists say in jest about cyclists is verboten and what cyclists intimate be done to motorist is funny. Active Transportation Alliance officials might take seriously the rantings of Waddle and Silvy and lodge a complaint on behalf of the Church of Urban Cycling, but they would never have the cojones to take these cyclists to task.

The response will always be like that of Tea Party members towards Democrats. And especially if that Democrat is Barack Obama. The racist sentiments of Tea Party members is palpable enough remind you of what cyclists think of motorists. And as Dennis Hastert points out this sort of thing is toxic.

A Similar Incursion Problem Exists For Cyclists

ChainLinkers and their Active Transportation Alliance handlers are like motorists in one general respect. They are “tone deaf” when it comes to their own faults. Take for instance this recent fracas:

Western Metra stop (Western Ave/Grand) parked bikes being ticketed
Posted by Reba on September 11, 2012

If you’ve locked your bike to the hand railing at the Western Metra stop at Western and Grand, you might be coming back to a ticket/fine or confiscation if you’re deemed to be a repeat offender. I saw an officer ticketing bikes about 5 mins ago and asked him about it. Bikes are confiscated if they have been seen locked their before (and ticketed?) And to get your bike back you need proof of ownership. He did mention “knowing your serial number or showing purchase receipt”.

But surely none of us would lock our bikes to the railing.

Ouch! That last line was a zinger, folks! It is kind of a thumb in the eye of the self-righteous posture adopted by those complaining over the use of the bike lane by the Ice Mountain driver in the previous thread. But I would bet even money that most of the readers would not realize the glaring sameness of this situation.

At least one respondent said something thoughtful:

Reply by James BlackHeron on September 14, 2012 at 2:56pm
Looks like the bike handlebars are poking through the railing and sticking out into the ramp area on the other side past the handrail.

As someone who was wheelchair-bound for months after serious tib/fib crushing of the lower leg back in ’99 I hated it when people did stuff like that. If you can’t reach the handrail it might as well not be there. When you are sick/weak/physically-challenged every seemingly-little obstacle makes life that much harder.

When you can barely drag your broke ass up the ramp in the best of conditions having inconsiderate folks place even more barriers in your path sometimes makes a merely difficult task into an impossible one.

Now the spirit of compromise demands “seeing things from the respective of the enemy“. Not only is it imperative to grasp what your foe sees when he makes a misstep, it is also imperative that we are able to look at our own behavior and “ask of ourselves the very same things we demand of our foes“.

TakeAways

Most of what frustrates me about the ChainLink group and its Active Transportation Alliance members is their willful ignorance of their tone-deafness when it comes to self-criticism. Anyone who offers any stinging criticism of what they say and do will be either kicked out of the Church of the Urban Cyclist or shunned. There is “no wiggle room” when it comes to denouncing hypocrisy on their part.

As with a religious organization questioning authority is akin to doubting God and that is really not allowed.

The single most defining characteristic of these two groups is their adherence to their “Talking Points“. If someone like John Kass points out that cyclists misbehave the standard response is “so do motorists” or to offer up the big lie that once we get all the lanes we want cyclists will begin behaving better because the infrastructure will support their needs better.

You would have to be nearly comatose or dishonest to believe that a person who runs red lights and stop signs on a regular basis would suddenly adopt a strictly law-abiding posture because the roadway had been painted green.

It is sometimes difficult to tell whether Active Transportation Alliance is being disingenuous in making these claims or is somehow seeing things that are beyond the ken of mere mortals. Either way it leaves me doubting that the discourse between motorists and cyclists will take a turn for the better any faster than we can expect Democrats and Republicans to move to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff“. At present the posture is to try and frame the other side’s movements as being the source of the dysfunctional behavior rather than trying to do something constructive.

Such is life and cycling. I guess that we should all take Joe Guzzardo’s cue and arm ourselves with bigger guns and may the better man win? I secretly wonder if he might not be an NRA member? No harm in that of course. But it would explain a great deal.