Let’s Get Over Ourselves, Shall We?


Drove my wife to the O’Hare Airport this AM for her sad trip to Charlotte, NC for the funeral of her 92 year old mother. As I was leaving the drop-off point at the United Terminal a series of incidents plagued me all the way into the City of Chicago to the Native Foods Cafe where I ate lunch. It was actually a good thing to have experienced these because it helps to contrast them with what is really important in life. I am certain had I been making that journey by air I would have given just about anything to suffer the indignities of this AM instead of having to bury my mother.

Background Threads

Reply by Chi Lowe 12.5+ mi 1 hour ago

Bad Behavior? I think not!

Bad Behavior?
I think not!

Hi Fedex! Today, one of your drivers risked life and limb to get a package to its destination on time. Trouble is, he risked *my* life and limb, by thwarting use of public infrastructure designed to protect cyclists from vehicles.
I’d be willing to bet that FedEx wouldn’t want the PR or liability that would arise if a cyclist were injured or killed due to your drivers’ use of bicycle infrastructure as parking. Please discourage your drivers from endangering cyclists this way.

Reply by Anne Alt 1 hour ago
To the driver of a silver car northbound on State St. at Monroe around noon – by what stretch of the imagination do you think it’s okay and legal for you to 1) enter the intersection on a red light, 2) do so by nudging your way through a crosswalk full of pedestrians, and 3) continue by plowing through a crosswalk full of pedestrians on the other side of the intersection? Three strikes and you’re out – so far out.

There’s a special place in hell reserved for clueless idiots like you, and for the stupid cyclist who ran over the sidewalk from curb ramp to curb ramp, cutting off pedestrians while turning from Monroe onto State – just before the idiot driver showed up.

Yes, things come in threes, and there probably was a third driver or cyclist who was equally idiotic around that intersection then, but I didn’t feel like sticking around to watch. Seeing two was enough for one brief lunchtime walk.

Both of these threads are talking about the rudeness of people. As I was pulling out of the drop-off lane this AM a limo was pulling in and stopped in front of me with barely room to spare. I was trying to inch my way forward to get into the lane from which he had come. I came around him and suddenly both the driver and passenger side doors opened in a violent movement and I nearly took off both. Yikes! I recovered in time and drove off. I guess if you do not like close calls then stay out of traffic in Chicago or the Airport.

I should note in passing that I ran into a melee of vehicles a bit further on before exiting the airport. There had to have been a half dozen television trucks lines up outside a terminal. I assume they were there to capture President Obama on his way to Hyde Park Academy to speak on gun violence. I guess that the mother of Hadiya Pendelton would have given a king’s ransom to have been irked by some limo driver rather than have to return to an empty home with her daughter no longer there to greet her?

What Else I Saw On The Way In

In no particular order I came across several trucks unloading goods. One was smack dab in the middle of Milwaukee Avenue. All traffic in the lane had to wait and pass over the double yellow line. He was delivering some sort of beverage.

Later I came across several vans and trucks which were equipped to either prune trees or fix electrical lines parked in either the bike lane or the middle of the driving lane. It suddenly dawned on me that Chicago like most cities has no real alleys any more for these sorts of deliveries to take place in. Everyone now delivers to the front door of an establishment and for that we all suffer the indignity of having to wait and pass these vehicles whether it be in the auto lane or the bicycle lane.

Frankly given the usage demand it is far better that the bike lane be blocked than the car lane. I say this because emergency vehicles are less impacted when the lane that is being blocked is for bikes.

We Take Ourselves Far Too Seriously

We cyclists are past masters at showing how indignant we can be when our lanes is “abused”. It is almost comical at how upset we get when someone else is misbehaving. We of course have little to say when the discussion turns to scofflaw cyclists. We turn on our “willful ignorance” in favor of ourselves to maintain our camaraderie with those fellow cyclists who may indeed be scofflaws. This is of course hypocritical, but is also human nature.

Take for instance these comments about bike lanes and ask yourself is having someone parked in them all that bad a thing:

Reply by Clint H 22 hours ago
This illustrates a fundamental problem with the design of these lanes. Proponents talk about using cars to create a physical separation between moving cars and bike. Meanwhile, the el rains down even more debris than you usually get on a roadway, all of which washes to the street’s lowest point … which is where they put the bike lane. On Lake St., the pylons of the el had already created that separation. Before, you could ride in the middle of the zone between the gutter and the el pylons and be just fine most of the way. Now, you’re relegated to the trash zone.

Reply by Pip Potter 20 hours ago
The few times I’ve ridden the new Lake Street bike lane its been a frustrating experience. Aside from all the normal hazards of these protected bike lanes, I’ve all also been forced out of it a few times due to all the black trash bins that get left in the bike lane post-trash collection (esp at the Damen end).
Then you get honked out for riding in the traffic lane. Ah, good times.

Reply by peter moorman 14 hours ago
Fulton between Ashland and GArfield Blvd A- okay
I find the Chicago west side “bikelanes “to be just a statistic for the City of Chicago to add to its mileage of bike lanes in their Green dossier.
” The Greenest City Ever” By Rahm.
I was shocked riding to work a year ago when I saw the bike lane painted on the decrepit potholed excuse of a roadway called Franklin BLVD.
The City spent 25 million for a new school and library on Kedzie and blew off repaving the road for another 20 years.
What a waste of paint. what…..thought that would fix the potholes.
On the other hand Lake St. / South Blvd westbound and Washington east are good out to Harlem and Desplaine River.
I pretty much think bike lanes are nonsense and we would be better off training new drivers of motor vehicles.
Call me old fashioned; but too much government spoils the fun.

While I agree that bike lanes that are created over already decrepit pavement are little more than “window dressing“, I do not wish that bike lanes were altogether gone. I think they have a purpose when properly installed on suitable pavement. What I object to is clamoring for these lanes because of the “safety issues” they are suppose to solve only to be presented with lanes more unsafe than those they replaced. That is “criminal” at some level.

But at the end of the day, none of this really makes much difference if the basics of life are not met. I could care less about pretty green bike lanes if in the process of gaining them we lose our humanity. I think to some degree that is what saddens me most about the ChainLink Forum. There are days and times when the camaraderie on the forum is wonderful. But more often than I would care to admit the mood there is snarky, self-indulgent, arrogant, often racist and most certainly laced with an air of entitlement. Nothing is more tiresome than an activist is an attitude. And we are simply loaded with them.

Our leaders at the Active Transportation Alliance are more than happy to fuel this sense of entitlement and outrage at every perceived insult offered by a truck that parks in the bike lane or workman who shovels snow off the curb in that same area. We are seldom as harsh when we ride on the sidewalks or peddle our bikes down the street on the opposite side of the yellow line. I know this because I complained to the Active Transportation Alliance that one of their Ride Marshals was doing this as well as leading Four Star Bike Tour participants into intersections on red lights. Yikes!

How did this guy get vetted to serve in this capacity? But my complaints were met with silence. Yet this same organization cannot get on the phone fast enough to complain to this or that organization about its vehicles or its workmen clogging the bike lane. What’s up with that sort of sense of priority? I don’t know but it is something that will always stick with me and leaves me very much unable to grant them or their leader much respect for the valuable work they do.

Some Remedies, and Bike Lanes Are “Training Wheels”

I don’t know about your bike but mine has a handlebar. I can steer right and left. When I encounter a truck or a pedestrian or an automobile or even another bicyclist stopped in the bike lane I steer around them. Problem solved. I seldom have cause to feel for one minute that the person who made that necessary “he risked *my* life and limb“. Why?

Well contrary to the prevailing opinion on the ChainLink Forum the Bicycle Lane is a bit like the Randy Cohen stop sign and stop light conundrum. It is a suggestion or perhaps somewhat like a Yield Sign. I am for the moment going to set aside my outrage at the stupidity of this so-called ethicist (who by the way is no longer writing for the New York Times) and instead go with his lead.

Bike Lanes are not sacrosanct. They are suggested places for bikes to ride. They help make clear to motorists that you are both a “permitted and intended” user of the roadway. You have every right to simply ignore the bike lane and ride in the auto lane whenever you choose to. I for one would hate to see a car ride in the bike lane (for obvious safety reasons) but frankly some of the buffered lane designs call for just that. They have cars crossing through the bike lane to get to a proposed left or right turn lane. This is certainly the case at the intersection of Jackson and Morgan, in Chicago.

In a recent Bike Snob NYC thread (Nice Infrastructure, But Bike Lanes Are For “Woosies”) this point is made loud and clear. Bike lanes are really and truly for the uninitiated riders and tourists. For those who need to get places “showcases” like Dearborn Street are more trouble than they are worth. In short bike lanes are “training wheels”.

You should always reserve the right to ditch a crappy bike lane if needs be. The sad fact is that the City of Chicago has gone to great expense and trouble to paint stripes over pavement that they knew from the outset were not worthy of the treatment. And yet the boobs at Active Transportation Alliance said nothing. They are more than willing to complain on behalf of the cycling community for snow in the bike lane or whatever but why would they even think to tolerate the lack of preparation of some of these bike lanes. Who among us believes that this is not a quid pro quo situation?

News alert, Active Transportation Alliance! You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. You cannot have it both ways. Likewise if you are an activist cyclist and cannot bring yourself to criticize the lack of effort put into the creation of bike lanes, but have boundless energy to criticize delivery drivers who block the lane, then rethink your priorities. Get over yourselves!

There are hundreds of thousands of places around the world where not only do they not have bike lanes, but their roads are not even paved. And any bikes they get are delivered to their shores by container shipped from the United States containing old bikes discarded by you and me. Rather than bitching all the time, employ that wonderful handlebar on your bike and go around the guy in the lane. I did that today in my car and was happy to do so.

In fact when out on my bike I am so grateful for the privilege of being healthy enough to ride when others have lost legs and or their sight and cannot, that I forego the “pleasure” of emulation Marie Antoinette and get on with life.

Thanks to my parents and my parents-in-law for having demonstrated the kind of people to be who can deal with life’s ups-and-downs with grace, humor and humility. Would that we all could do that. May they rest in peace.