Evolving Along the ‘Hipster Highway’


Background Reading

Along with gun deaths we Chicagoans know how to celebrate with automobile accidents. Our favorite is the “hit and run”:

Cycling crash at 1400 N. Milwaukee this morning

Posted by Chicago Ride of Silence on February 8, 2013 at 4:58pm

I heard on the news this morning that there was a hit and run crash involving a cyclist near 1400 N. Milwaukee.
Last I heard – an ambulance had been called and the motorist had sped off.
Anyone have any updates?

One respondent wrote:

Reply by John Durham yesterday
This was posted today:

Yet another wrote:

Reply by Mike Weez 19 hours ago
There may have been one on division and milwaukee at 6pm ish. I rode by there were fire trucks all about. When I rode by I saw a late model suv with a bike underneath it with an ambulance near by. Hopefully everything is ok!!!

And finally there was this:

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. 5 hours ago
Another reason to hate riding that hipster highway.

I wish him a speedy recovery…

A casual observer would assume that life in Chicago is pretty “cheap”. You can either get run down or shot, your choice.

The flip side of all this is that juveniles are mightily impressed with Hip Hop lyrics and their message. And Hipster (especially messengers and wannabes) cannot wait to get their single speed no brake bikes out on the roadway to mix it up with their comrades on a Sunday afternoon in our local version of the Alley Cat Ride.

You feel torn between being angry that guns are so ubiquitous and that anyone feels the need to own and then to justify that ownership of a bicycle which on the messy, icy streets and bridges of Chicago seem at the least “out of place”. But hey, it’s America and we get to own as many guns as we want and ride any damn bike we choose regardless of the consequences.

What is amazing is the silly response of cyclists who commute when asked how happy they are. They evidently respond with gushing, glowing tidbits that leave the surveyor impressed enough to label Urban Cyclists as the happiest of all. Of course that crap only persists long enough to read through the threads on a forum like ChainLink before you realize there is no end of angst over just how dangerous they feel riding in the city to be.

What seems to comfort quite a few of them is the thought that the “pretty green lanes” have come to save them. In fact in studies designed to analyze the effectiveness of “pretty blue lanesit is revealed that cyclists are so relaxed that they:

  • stop scanning the roadway for traffic situations that might endanger them
  • and they cease using hand signals

This is a recipe for disaster. Couple this “sense of safety” with the sure knowledge that you can ride through red lights and stop signs and still be ethical and no wonder we are still having confrontations between bikes and cars.

Bike Lanes Are A Fool’s Errand

It is becoming clearer that our bicycle advocates and the political leaders who enable their wishes for bicycle infrastructure are all a bit disengaged. Senator Lindsey Graham would be better served in finding out how a $450,000 bike lane could be erected with so little attention to “safety” than running around the country threatening to delay hearings and appointments over the tragedy in Benghazi. That is a situation which we can do nothing about. But new lanes are in the process of being designed and built and are certain to have as many flaws in them as the current ones.

And we will get folks from StreetsBlog trying to aid in the confusion by insisting that the reason Jackson Boulevard is such a “fustercluck” is because the Illinois Department of Transportation is insisting on verifying the safety records of the existing installations. That my friends is not a problem but is rather a wise thing given what has gone on to date.

If you want to see a better design for bike lanes visit the website of a fellow blogger in Holland. You will find a wealth of information there regarding the ways in which the Dutch build their bicycle highways. These are essentially “segregated” bike lanes. Cars are not part of the mix and I am beginning to understand why the Europeans are so disdainful of what we are doing State-Side.

You can examine some of the salient blog entries on this site as well:

Either way the only thing I ask is that you look at what you are seeing with an eye towards imagining how this would work in Chicago. I reiterate that the best examples of this kind of bicycle infrastructure in our area are:

You can ride most of these with the certain knowledge that automobile interactions will be minimal. Holland has set up that same sort of minimalist interaction by building routes that go places people need to travel on business or pleasure and not just recreation. That is essentially what we need here. Real bicycle highways that go places real people need to get to.