The Cycling Movement : Not Ready for ‘Prime Time’

Background Reading


When I run across threads like “Return of the VIP, and my ‘revenge‘ it makes me cringe. As a cyclist I find it offensive that my group is sometimes so arrogant and has such an extreme sense of ‘Entitlement‘. We think nothing of expressing our disgust when a motorist parks too close to our bike racks but of doing so in such openly read forums. And we are happy and even proud to give evidence of our “revenge“. What makes us act this way? It certainly is not because we were born with dark skin and are denied the right to vote, live where we want or hold a job. We have yet to be hung from trees with the citizens of the area standing around in front of the bodies, grinning for the camera. But we are about as very abusive of our “tormenters” as if those things were true.

Then along comes a thread like No One’s Going To Steal Your Fixie (at Saturday’s Bike Swap) and it again makes me cringe. It is in this one single thread that the sense of ‘Entitlement‘ comes out most strongly. It comes out on two levels:

  • Obviously some bicyclists are as greedy and arrogant as the motorist mentioned in the first thread
  • There are bicyclists who are however prepared to ‘look the other way’ in order to supposedly further the ‘Cycling Movement

It is that second bit of logic that makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. It speaks to that same area of the cyclist brain that Randy Cohen helped to foster when he wrote If Kant Were a New York Cyclist. And of course the Cycling Movement has ‘gone into the tank‘ for what it perceives as the possibility of increased ridership within the movement.

Bullshit! Pardon my French. But nothing makes me angrier than to listen to this drivel.

Chicago Critical Mass tweeted this photo from Saturday’s Chicago Bike Swap that showed how the owner of a fixed-gear bicycle opted to secure it to a bike rack and, in the process, depriving the opportunity for eight other bicyclists (a conservative estimate by our count) from being able to lock up their bikes. We aren’t saying someone should have returned to his bicycle with two flat tires, but we would understand if it happened.

There’s a right and a wrong way to lock up your bike. This is the wrong way, even if the owner of the bike was correct in securing both front and rear wheels. Remember: You aren’t the only cyclist on the road.

— Chicagoist

Every time a person gets gunned down in the Black Community people rationalize their silence when the police come knocking on two levels:

  • They think to themselves that having to testify in ‘open court’ would make me a target of drug dealers and their soldiers.
  • The police represent the ‘enemy‘ because ‘they enforce laws meant to keep us down‘ if we are ever to achieve equality in this society we can never cooperate with the representatives of the people who hate us.

Now with those bits of logic in your mind, let us take a look at this newly minted thread:

No One’s Going To Steal Your Fixie (at Saturday’s Bike Swap)
Posted by Julie Hochstadter on March 11, 2013 at 12:31pm

From Chicagoist:

Fixed Gear Bike Hogging A Rack

Fixed Gear Bike Hogging A Rack

Please be sure to read the article linked to in the thread. The responses come “fast and furious“:

Reply by David Barish 7 hours ago
The bike behind shows how this could have been accomplished with the frame over the rack. I am surprised the bike owner was not more flexible. After all, it takes years of a devoted yoga practice to ride his or her bike. My back hurts just looking at that machine.

Reply by Anne Alt 6 hours ago
+1 I see rack hogs like this in the Loop too often. Not enough rack space, too many rack hogs.

Now the snivelling and prevarication begin:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 6 hours ago
This is a terrible rack design. The “polite” way to lock up a bike here (by placing the front wheel between the vertical posts) is not secure since there is no way to lock up the frame. Locking the front wheel enables anyone to simply pop off the quick release and steal the rest of the bike.

These racks are also called “wheel benders” for a reason. All it takes is for someone to push on the frame for the front wheel to get bent.

Don’t blame the bike rider. He was simply looking for the most secure way to lock up his bike given the poor choice of rack.

When a cyclist is caught with his Lycra™ down the best defense is to blank the circumstances. In this instance it is the fault of the rack designer. The blame resides not with the individual who has made a mistake but rather with a society that produces things that inconvenience a cyclist.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 6 hours ago
In a place with a parking shortage parking like like that is a jerk move, but I can see why the owner did it. Putting the frame over the rack bike the bike in back with a red tire is very difficult to do on like bike with a tight frame clearance and absolutely destroys the paint on the underside of the downtube. That is a terrible rack style except in places where a cable lock is considered security. The ends are really the only good places to park and lock up on that style of rack.

Reply by Tony Adams 6.6 mi 6 hours ago
As Steve notes in the comments on Chicagoist – there are a lot of reasons why the frame over the rack thing can’t always work for all bikes. He mentions fenders and other clearance reasons – but I’ve been reluctant to do the frame over thing with a non-scratched up bike (historically not a much of a problem for me). Depending on the rack and size of the bike it is possible that the bike’s frame can get pretty scratched up by doing the frame over thing.
That being said, I would never hog up a rack like that, unless it was parked too close to a wall to use “properly”.
It turned out that there were plenty of places to lock up at the swap anyway.

Our next reporter decided to include the gender of the offending cyclist, not sure what that had to do with anything:

Reply by John Wilson 6.0 6 hours ago
I once encountered a cyclist chaining her bike to the rack in front of a Jewel in the very same manner. In the process, there was nowhere left to lock up another bike. She looked up at me and my bike and either obliviously or sarcastically (I honestly couldn’t tell which) asked, “Did you need to park here, too?” I curtly told her yes and she moved her bike.

This cyclist is far too representative of the types I encounter on a routine basis riding around the streets of Wicker Park and the North Side in general. I mention this because these are usually the folks who are ready to call people from the West and South Side animals because of their behavior.

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. on February 26, 2013 at 8:26pm
As a last resort when passing through the WEST SIDE. A blast from my airhorn usually frightens off those animals in this URBAN JUNGLE.

My take on this whole thing is that ‘people are people’.

Assholes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. And quite a few of them not only drive automobiles, but ride bikes as well.

David Barish decides to ‘slap down’ the sloppy logic of Adam Herstein:

Reply by David Barish 6 hours ago
I respectfully disagree. I do blame the rider. We are all riders. Once somebody hogs the rack there is no rack for anybody else. We all agree these antiquated designs are not ideal racks. If you get to a location and that is what you see it becomes your reality. The question is how you handle the reality. You can say you are the only person that matters or you can adapt and find the best solution under the circumstances. That solution may include finding a different location. If the rack is perceived to be a threat to your bike, try something else rather than taking that rack entirely out of circulation. I was not at the swap as I was out of town. However, I find it hard to believe that another location was not available within a couple of blocks. Many times these old racks are in small towns or in places where there is rarely a bike. I guess this method is ok if you do not see any other bikes around and you think you are in a low impact area. This was the bike swap. That was not going to be a valid assumption.

It is the general tone of the conversations that go on in the Cycling Movement that leads to this ‘selfish sense of entitlement‘ and ‘sloppy logic‘. Before long cyclists begin to understand that they are a ‘law unto themselves’. Randy Cohen has already supported their notion that despite what the laws may say, they are ethical whenever they choose to violate them. What is very curious however is the lengths they (and the attorneys that ‘ambulance chase‘ in this environment) go to when trying to demonstrate that some motorist is breaking a law by either stopping, standing or parking in the bike lane. They ‘cut the other side no slack‘ it would seem. It is all about obeying laws they like and finding ways to put others into a ‘hurt locker‘ for crossing them.

Reply by Ezra H. 6 hours ago
All the above rebuttals to the original poster’s complaint failed to recognize, or at least failed to mention, the “straw man” in the argument as well. Let’s suppose the bike’s owner has devoted years of practice to some form of yoga, which, I might add, is a fine complement to the physiological stresses of cycling. Is that sufficient reason to invoke the double entendre lambasting the Cinelli owner’s decision to use the poorly designed rack thus?
For once and for all, the last thing Chicago needs is an etiquette posse hunting down every person whose behavior or decisions could possibly be construed as insensitive, oblivious, marginal, or egotistical. There is no “correct” way to use a bike. If there was, we would never have seen the development of mountain bikes, folding bikes, tandems, and any other “non-standard” bike you can think of.
Do we want more bicycles on the road in this town? Yes. Do we need more non-cyclists aware of the difficulties cyclists face in every aspect of our lifestyle choices? Yes. Do we need facilities and infrastructure that better accommodates cyclists of all stripes? Yes.
Blaming only the cyclist every time something mildly irritating happens greases the already slippery slope we’re on to witnessing cyclist-on-cyclist fisticuffs at the bike rack, in the bike lane, and at the bike shop.
Let’s work toward education and not punishment.

This is the one piece of drivel that really set me off enough to write this blog entry. This is pure unadulterated drivel. I am afraid I have heard enough of it to become an ardent opponent of whatever Cycling Movement he and others of his ilk are selling. Where his logic is not only sloppy but downright dangerous is at the same point where people in the Black Community decide keep silent rather than root out the miscreants in their midst, but still feel justified in marching for greater police protection. Where his logic is dangerous is at the same point where Randy Cohen decides to offer us carte blanche to do what makes us feel good, damn the safety costs.

The slippery slope here is the instant myopia that results from putting the Movement ahead of Right and Wrong. When the Kremlin was at the height of its powers we excoriated them for this kind of thinking. It was always about the Communist Movement and seldom about individuals. So men like Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn became the face of Freedom in a repressive world dominated by folks willing to sacrifice individual freedoms for the advancement of a self-serving movement.

To hell with that crap!

Reply by yai danche 1 hour ago
there’s no excuse to lock it this way. the bike is probably featherweight light and hoisting the front wheel over would’ve been easy-peasy. it has no fenders, no racks, so it should work. it drives me nuts when people do this on the n-shaped racks. because of my large basket, i can only lock my bike with the front wheel perpendicular to the rack. i was out of luck at the swap, i locked up at the fence. but there were so many people (families, btw, which is awesome) milling about the entrance, i wasn’t concerned about theft at all. the pedicab guy was out there, too.

If the Cycling Movement is to succeed it has to do so in something other than a self-serving, sycophant ‘bubble‘. I’ll be damned if I help promote a movement that does not respect its own let alone the rest of the Real World.

What got the Catholic Church in their own downward spiral in membership was exactly the kind of thinking that Ezra H. is alluding to. When confronted with pedophile priests they panicked. Their first response was to ignore the problem. Then it was to ship priests out of their parish to more remote areas where they could continue their practices without having to worry about the well-heeled parishioners in the larger cities. But when you subjugate individual human responsibility to the Movement you always run the risk of having it “swamp the boat“.

You end up with the travesty of an organization espousing Family Values while its Cardinals and Archbishops are forced to resign for sexual impropriety on an adult level or for being pedophiles themselves or having covered up such behavior in their midst. Nothing is more vile than a group that has decided that its collective existence supersedes its very Mission Statement.