Is There Any Part of the Landscape That Urban Cyclists Do Not Own Exclusively?

Background Reading


After bitching and moaning about Dearborn Streets bridge plates (which are now done) the grumps of this Forum have decided to find another target for their pent-up anger:

Early Lakefront Trail Review

Posted by Haddon on April 2, 2013 at 9:09pm

The lake front trail is notable for all the things it DOESN’T have yet

  • those retarded quad-barges
  • Segways
  • rent-a-bike bikers
  • Strollers
  • Tourists
  • Kids

All it did have was people who knew what they were doing: thermals, layers, covering distance.  All the rest of the trail cloggers will show in time but for a bit here just serious business at decent speeds and it’s beautiful.


Several of the ChainLinkers have multiple handles they use. This one appears to be another of the many owned by Howard. I am never certain why anyone would need more than one handle but I am guessing that in the period where the participation on the forum was being “inflated” people felt the need to help out by grabbing extra accounts to make the place look more popular than it otherwise might have been. Knowing that this is Chicago you would not be surprised that our motto “vote early and often” is reflected in how we count bike commuters each year. So I guess the logic behind multiple handles seems reasonable by those standards.

Liberals Are Not Always Progressive In Their Thinking

One of the new “no-no’s” in Liberal Thought is to avoid defining things negatively with labels used as negative attributes. For instance you are no longer supposed to say things like “that is so gay” when you are referring to something that is overly fussy by your standards. And of course you do not make references to people with cognitive disabilities by calling them “retards“. So why on earth would our thread starter being by calling the quad pedal bikes “retard quad-barges“? I am guessing that he is showing his disdain in a truly teenage manner that is consistent with that demonstrated on most forums today.

In a recent blog entry I tried to deal with this phenomenon as it manifests itself on the ChainLink. But let’s take a listen to what is going on today:

Reply by S 11 hours ago
The flintstone mobiles are already on the trail. I ran across one of those by Monroe Harbor last weekend. Also lots of people with dogs on (and some off) leashes.

Reply by kiltedcelt 11 hours ago
I concur. I gotta say I’m not going to appreciate the return of all those unfortunate things you mentioned.

Reply by John Osborn 52 minutes ago
Cheer up, Grandads! Nothing wrong with people enjoying the outdoors on the lakefront.

Reply by Lizzy M. 44 minutes ago
Yes, the seasonal users were out in droves this morning. Can’t blame them–it’s gorgeous out there. I just wish my alternate route weren’t Wells street. That pavement is horrible.

Commuters on bicycles are never quite as relaxed as they claim to be in conversation or in threads on the ChainLink Forum. They are mostly people who are all about “quickness“. If they were runners they would be madly dashing about and stopping on occasion to check their pulse before hurrying off again before repeating the process. It is a wonder than any of them actually notice the weather outside because they rush from intersection to intersection in the inland areas of the city trying to find a route across that intersection on a red light before sprinting past it on the other side.

In fact I honest wonder what will happen if there should be a renaissance of urban commuting which brings out more “plodders“? I would bet that there will be friction between these two groups. The “quickness” types will be in their usual hurry-hurry mode while the plodders will be on more upright Dutch-style bikes gawking at the sun rise or sun set and clearly de-stressing on their way home or to work. Streets like Dearborn will not be pleasant to ride for the “quickness” group especially if those two narrow lanes are clogged with slower moving “plodders“.

If most of the “quickness” bicycle commuters were drivers it is my guess that they would be the “Type A” ranters and honkers that they themselves detest. The kind that get outraged because they are “stuck in traffic” and taking out their frustrations on cyclists and pedestrians.

Who Do We Cyclist Think Pays For Our Infrastructure?

Have you noticed how often these days this or that study done by cyclists is all about the “business-friendly” aspects of bike lanes and trails? In fact the newly released report “Making Trails Count in Illinois” opens with these words:

Why Measure Trail Use

Quite simply, we need the numbers: the numbers of people using the trails in Illinois, and the numbers that help explain the benefits that trails provide.

In Illinois, competition for investment in public infrastructure and economic development is fierce. Proposed projects must build a returns-based case to convince Illinois officials, private funders, and the tax-paying public to invest.

The mission of Trails for Illinois is to advocate for a statewide network of connected, non-motorized trails and to encourage their use. To make trails count in the minds of the people, agencies, and businesses of Illinois, we had to start counting the benefits of trails.

We launched this project, Making Trails Count, to begin building arguments for trail development and promotion in Illinois on a foundation of empirical data and user experiences. We believe that measuring trails’ impact on the Triple Bottom Line—economic activity, the environment, and health—will encourage agencies and communities in Illinois to expand and promote trail systems state-wide. This will benefit our fellow Illinoisans and the ecology and economy of our state.

We want to move people’s perceptions of trails from “ nice to have” amenities toward a more prominent role as load-bearing support beams for our state’s economic vitality and quality of life.

So we are attempting to seeking to establish the “impact on the Triple Bottom Line—economic activity, the environment, and health“. Trails and bicycle infrastructure are more than just “nice to have” they are essential to the state’s (and of course the city’s) “economic vitality and quality of life“.

So if we go back and look at this thread we note that its author and most of its participants are not focused on the Triple Bottom Line. Like most “quickness” commuters their aims are fairly selfish. The faster they can get from Point A to Point B the better. For them having the benefit of a “Green Wave” is more important than what we might think of as “safety“.

On Monday of this week I drove into the city to pick up my wife. A motorcyclist drove between my lane (the middle) and the right turn lane to reach the front of the line of cars. Once there he was able to take off (when the light turned green) at a high rate of speed and proceed up Cermak Road. This was clearly a dangerous and illegal maneuver. But that is the sort of thing that happens multiple times a day on the way into and from work on Chicago city streets. The differences are that most of these scofflaws are cyclists. They often pass on the right, but when that option is not convenient they pass on the left (even if that means riding between cars) to reach a point beyond the white line and then proceed through the intersection on a red light.

To most of the “quickness” commuters safety takes a backseat to their person gratification at getting quickly through traffic to reach their destination. And that is why the presence of “plodders” can be so frustrating.

We Need To Chance The Minds of Cyclists

Our cycling advocates step out front and tell the world that the reason for increased bicycle infrastructure is that it will bring “safety” to our streets. The idea is that putting streets on “road diets” serves as a variant of “traffic calming“. “Traffic Calming” is a polite way of indicating that we wish to “slow down the rate of speed” usually experienced on our streets. When traffic slows down everyone has more reaction time to avoid collisions. But for many cyclists the idea that they too should be “slowing down” is anathema.

Commuters with bicycles, electric bikes and mopeds move across the street, Friday, May 23, 2008 in Shanghai, China. While two-wheelers have long since yielded the roads to sedans in this increasingly affluent society, the bicycle is far from dead. In fact, its numbers are growing. For many, if not most Chinese, pedal power remains a mainstay, for commuting, sending children to school or making a living. (AP Photo)

Commuters with bicycles, electric bikes and mopeds move across the street, Friday, May 23, 2008 in Shanghai, China. While two-wheelers have long since yielded the roads to sedans in this increasingly affluent society, the bicycle is far from dead. In fact, its numbers are growing. For many, if not most Chinese, pedal power remains a mainstay, for commuting, sending children to school or making a living. (AP Photo)

Even if we were to remove every single car from the streets of the city today and replace them with bicycles what we would get would be more like what appears to the right than anything resembling a “green wave“. In fact the infrastructure we are building would simply not handle this kind of ridership.

Bike Boxes” are a cobbled together means of allowing riders in Protected Bike Lanes to make two-stage turns. Assuming that the infrastructure would still be in place (and that the automobile lanes would still handle cabs, trucks and buses) cyclist in great numbers would be “forced” to ride in a lane build for far fewer users.

And even if cyclists were to “break free” and use auto lanes (which they are legally allowed to do) that does not ensure that “quickness” riders would be any happier. After all they would be confronted with hundreds of other cyclists clogging intersections because they did not want to wait their turn. Like cars they would be stranded in mid-intersection on red lights.

If and only if cyclists take a more “plodder” view of bicycle travel will they be happier when commuting in greater numbers. Only when they come to the realization that increased use of trails and streets by other “plodders” is a sign of economic vitality will they understand how these amenities get funded.

Imagine that on Milwaukee Avenue the number of cars has dwindled to a precious few and that every individual on foot has parked their bikes along the main thoroughfare. They will have used either “bike corrals” or sign posts to secure their bikes. And make no mistake the average person locking up a rented bike or one of those heavy Dutch-style frames will take no special care for the high end “plastic” bikes that road racers love. Bikes will in this environment be more like appliances than “objects of worship“.

Are the current crop of cyclists really ready for that level of ridership? Anyone who is used to board a bus today after having secured their bike to the front of the bus, will no doubt have more than enough competition for the precious few racks on buses. It will probably mean that unless you are there first you will either have to wait or perhaps stay on your bike for a longer portion of your commute or ride it in its entirety.

What About The Children?

I am used to seeing kids on bikes on the weekends when I ride the Chicago Lakefront Trail. But if cycling has a renaissance it will mean that children will be biking to and from school in greater numbers and will inevitably be accompanied to parents. Cargo bikes will be plentiful for the youngest child riders and that will mean that long slow bikes that are difficult to maneuver will suddenly be “in your way” if you are a “quickness” rider. In fact you will be happiest when a cargo bike instead of a kid on a child’s bike is the one out in front. The kids will no doubt be slower and more erratic as they struggle to learn balance and steering on streets and trails.

Quickness” riders are going to find that “blowing stop signs” and “running red lights” will no longer be done solely with an audience of frustrated motorist but will instead occur under the gaze of watchful parents with kids in tow who do not appreciate the example you are setting. And that is a good thing. Among the more important reasons for bicyclists to remain lawful at all times is because it is “safer“. The few cyclists behaving in unpredictable fashion the better it is for all of us.