- The White Missionaries Have Arrived… Cover Your Breasts… (OnLine)
- Chicago Bike Lanes : A Calamity In Progress (OnLine)
- Protected Bike Lanes vs. Convenience and Safety (OnLine)
A thread reply on the ChainLink got me to thinking about the general perspective or lack of it that accompanies the thinking of Urban Cyclists.
Reply by Sarah Lewert yesterday
I’m beginning to think the Dearborn PBL is actually more dangerous than just riding in the street with cars. Just on my ride this morning from Polk to Lake I got hit by a biker behind me when I slammed on my brakes for a pedestrian that jumped out in front of me, had 6 other pedestrians step out in front of me at Monroe, Madison and Washington, then turning right onto Lake almost got hit by a cab doing about 50 mph. What gives? This type of thing, at least for me, is becoming the norm.
It is very difficult for members of a group to ever step back and view themselves in a way that is dissimilar to that used by others in the group. Cyclists think like they do because the have adopted a set of “talking points” about their activity. It makes it difficult for them to ever decide that their point of view could be “off center“.
Take for instance the arrogance of the StreetsBlog folks. A ward through which Independence Boulevard runs began to give “push back” to the idea of a protected bike lane that was implemented in their neighborhood. They complained and the lane design was modified. What is instructive here is how the Bwana Figures at StreetsBlog responded:
For another perspective I contacted Ben Fried, editor-in-chief of the transportation news website Streetsblog, which has documented the famous battle over protected bike lanes on Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West, as well as opposition to protected lanes in low-income communities. He argues that protected lanes are a safety win for all neighborhoods, and says it’s important that underserved areas like Lawndale get their share.
Last year proposed bike lanes on King Drive in Bronzeville were changed to buffered lanes after local clergy voiced concerns about parking. “You really don’t want this to create a precedent where neighborhoods without much bike infrastructure continue to be left behind on street redesigns that make everyone safer,” he says. “That’s not fair to anyone. Church parking can’t take precedence over public safety.”
He adds that it’s key to build local support for the lanes before they are built. “If you have no public process to speak of where people said yes, we want this, then you can just end up with a situation where people are [angry] and will never come around,” he says. “Then there’s no constituency who can stand up for the redesign.”
This is not a case of missionaries responding to the natives of West Africa who are complaining that their women are being asked to cover their breasts. This is a neighborhood that was approached from the outside with the idea of having a bike lane created to run through their neighborhood, presumably for the benefit of folks who do not live there. So yes, despite your arrogant tone, “it is fair to everyone” to reject the lane if it interferes with their parking.
What a community values is paramount in terms of their quality of life. Barring there being something about that particular activity which is illegal it should take precedence over what a bureaucrat thinks is best for the poor natives. This is not about public safety. If that were the case then the lanes created both on Dearborn Street and in other areas which are dangerous to use would not have been allowed to open without those deficiencies being dealt with.
What is truly the case here is that there is an urgent need to push an agenda that benefits a very small segment of the population. This is a classic instance of the tail wagging the dog. If bringing StreetsBlog to Chicago is going to be more of the same then I for one will fight its presence “tooth and nail“.
Viewing The First Thread Response As Might A Pedestrian
Now I apologize to any erstwhile pedestrians if I am not interpreting the thread accurately, but here goes. Sarah is complaining about the functional readiness of the Dearborn Street Protected Bike Lane. It has some structural deficiencies that are holdovers from when the current bike lane was buried under parked cars.
Now the pivotal occurrence here was the fact that Sarah was involved in a collision. From her point of view there were two parties who were in the wrong. The first must surely have been the pedestrians who “jumped out in front” of her. I envision that they merely walked out onto the pedestrian sidewalk area and decided to express their pre-eminence as pedestrians over and against both automobile and bicycle traffic.
Wikipedia describes it this way:
A zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing used in many places around the world. Its distinguishing feature is alternating dark and light stripes on the road surface, from which it derives its name. A zebra crossing typically gives extra rights of way to pedestrians.
I recall driving on I believe North Avenue one Sunday when a fellow ventured out in the middle of the block in one of these crosswalks. At the time I was completely unaware of the fact that they provide the ultimate right of way to the pedestrians and that car traffic must yield to them. Now that I know this I am more aware of their presence in Oak Park and on Damen just west of Wicker Park.
So having said this let’s take a look at a video created by Active Transportation Alliance paying special attention to the kinds of crosswalks established at the end of each block. We are looking to determine if any are “zebra crossings“:
Ok. I saw several instances of what I would have interpreted as “zebra crossings“. If I am a pedestrian and know what that cross hatching means then do I have ultimate right of way when crossing Dearborn? I’ll let the Bwana Figures at Active Transportation Alliance debate that with their counterparts on ChainLink.
But for now I will (again thinking like a pedestrian) move on the second party at fault in this original thread reply, the second cyclist. Now as is usually the case a cyclist is always correct despite the circumstances. Had this been a situation where our intrepid cyclist was plying her way down a “sharrow lane” and slammed on her brakes to avoid pedestrians in the crosswalk and had been struck by an automobile “traveling too close for conditions” she might not have lived to tell the tale. And in that case the “ghost bike brigade” would have been out in force with a group of activists decrying the dangerous presence of automobiles that never ever take care when around cyclists.
There would have been a group on ChainLink that would have debated whether to print up stickers to plaster over the windshields of every automobile in the area and letters to City Hall for greater protection from motor vehicles and urgent calls to the network of journalists who are willing to provide the necessary level of public indignation in the print media about the dangers of automobiles.
But this situation cannot be played that way because the offender was on a bicycle. Obviously traveling too close for conditions or simply not aware of his or her surroundings and because they were probably given no warning (either verbal or via a hand signal) plowed into the rear of this hapless bicycle rider who is the only one without fault in all of this. At least that is how it would get played had she been hit from the rear by a car.
And of course any anti-cycling reporter who dared to use the word “accident” in reporting this situation (again if a car had been involved) would get an earful (as would his editor) until the politically correct descriptions were used as dictated by the cycling community “talking points manual“. But if you read further in the thread you will note that one responder asked the perfectly ordinary question:
Do you use a mirror for riding in traffic? I have them on all my bikes. If someone is following closely and I’m stopping, I loudly call out “Stopping” so the person behind can hear me and have a better chance of avoid a collision. It’s something I learned from years of group riding that can be useful in an on-street lane.
This kind of question would have been roundly bashed had there been a car involved. How dare anyone attempt to throw the onus back onto the bicyclist. But frankly that is quite likely where it belongs. In fact both cyclists are probably more at fault than any of the pedestrians (assuming the presence of a “zebra crossing“).
I am with ‘h on this we not only need no stinking lights but we sure as heck don’t want any mirrors defiling the sleek beauty and functionality of our bicycles. (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek)
Is there any possibility that we are far too bicycle-centric in our thinking? Is it possible that when the only fingers to point land on fellow cyclists that we tend to be unable to call out one another behavior-wise? At least in this instance the right question was asked of the cyclist who actions began this cascade of events. But is it not the case that the knucklehead following was also wrong? Is it really the case that you cannot be outraged at bad behavior on the street unless a motorist is involved?
I leave the reader to mull over their answers to that set of questions. But from my own experience on the ChainLink I think I know the answer. We are far too eager to have the chip on our collective shoulder be knocked off in service of venting on automobiles than not. We find it easy to think about taking pictures of drivers parking in the bike lane and even want to organize bands of deputies to mete out punishment to dastardly drivers.
Of course if a group of police were to organize a red light sting on cyclists, there would be nastier letters crafted than anything written against John Kass. You can bet the farm on that one. So why do we decide to dish out punishment that we are not willing to take ourselves? Riddle me that.
We need in this town someone who armed with a video camera and enough time to spend stalking the corners along Milwaukee to capture our collective behaviors. We need to have our dirty laundry aired.
One more thing. The next time you whine about pedestrians standing in the crosswalk and impeding your progress along Dearborn Street ask yourself this question:
How is the behavior of a cyclist crossing an intersection on a red light any different from the behavior of a pedestrian doing essentially the same thing at a crosswalk?
And then put yourself in the shoes of the pedestrian who like you will argue that his actions are far less harmful than those of a cyclist who is moving faster and thus capable of actually killing him while crossing the street. And that of course is true. Does that argument sound familiar? It is the same one used on behalf of cyclists who complain that what they do has little bearing on the situation when compared to the possibility of severe injury and death associated with the operation of an automobile.
Kinda hurts when the shoe is on the other foot, does it not?