Since When Is Self-Criticism A Cause for Lack of Respect?

Background Reading


The thread began this way:

Who is the most safer-est cyclist?

Who is the most safer-est cyclist?

North Riverside: Harlem & Cermak–Bike Crash This Morning?
Posted by Thunder Snow on April 3, 2013 at 9:52am

As I was getting ready for work around 5:30 this morning, WBBM-AM radio was announcing a car-bike crash at Harlem/Cermak with “a mangled bicycle” at the scene. If anyone lives out that way, do you have any further news? Is the cyclist OK?

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km yesterday
Sun-Times reports that the bicyclist died.…
Thanks to StreetsBlog for their daily headlines, where I first saw this reported

Reply by Crafty Cycling Chick yesterday…

Reply by Thunder Snow yesterday
Thanks, Duppie & Crafty. I had done a search of the Tribune & Google News and found nothing. My worst fears are confirmed with the report of the fatality. RIP, unnamed cyclist.

Reply by h’ 1.0 yesterday
Cyclist name now listed in both stories.
Wouldn’t the driver of “the vehicle” know whether s/he hit a pedestrian or a cyclist?

Reply by Mando yesterday
Something really needs to be done about this intersection. I have lived in the area my entire life and you always hear (at least once a year) of someone getting killed. The bus stops need to be removed, improved (brightness) street lights at night and strict enforcement of pedestrians and cyclists to use the pedestrian crossing sections by the traffic lights.

Reply by h’ 1.0 yesterday
I wouldn’t disagree, having just crossed that intersection on foot about 6 weeks ago (from the NE corner to the SW corner) but it doesn’t seem that the victim was close enough to the intersection for its design to be much of a factor in his death.

At this point nothing that has been exchanged seems out of the ordinary. I too am very familiar with the stretch along Cermak where it intersects with Harlem. The entire area is literally difficult to navigate even in a car. The biggest problem is the collective driving, walking and bicycling culture along this section. Cars take undue chances to attempt crossing at intersections where there are no lights. Pedestrians are among the worst in that they cross between intersections both in daylight and at night. Parked vehicle are constantly backing out of slanted in stalls and attempting to re-enter the traffic flow. The whole area reminds me of New Jersey-style driving. Bicyclists are less frequent along the route although there is a group of cyclists we often pick up near Taylor Street and Ogden before they head into towards Oak Park along Cermak. But bicycling along Cermak is “iffy” and anything attempting to cross Cermak at places other than traffic light intersections is likely to get slammed. The stretch is literally a nightmare.

I have encountered folks in wheelchairs being pushed by friends who are I guess daring automobile traffic to hit them. At least that is the way their body language reads. I have watched people “slow walk” both intersections and middle of the block crossings almost daring traffic to bump them. Some pedestrians like to walk out in the street with traffic along that portion of the roadway which lies behind the parked cars and do so while singing loudly and never bothering to see if traffic is either being impeded or whether cars are nearby.

I liken this approach to riding along a busy thoroughfare like Milwaukee Avenue on a bike with no brakes right down the middle of the “Door Zone“. Sometimes you get the feeling that pedestrians and cyclists are looking for an opportunity for a big payday by getting into a tangle with a vehicle and trying to collect lots of money. I have learned to watch the side view mirrors for pedestrians who purposely approach from oblique enough of an angle that they cannot be seen in the side view mirrors and time their approach so as to be just by your left front bumper as the light turns. It has happened so often that I no longer doubt that this is deliberate. The poor have found a way of “gaming” the system and there are plenty of lawyers who work on contingency fees that are willing to help them in their endeavor.

Remember the hoopla a few decades ago when Clinton “changed welfare as we know it“? Well when states found out that the state’s portion of welfare payments to an individual had gone up they cleverly found ways to move aid recipients to what is now the Social Security Disability rolls. The same sort of thing seems to be going on with respect to automobile collisions. Cyclists and pedestrians are aware of the enormous (from their perspective) amounts of money to be made in litigation if they should win. And if the injuries are easily healed and you can be back to your old haunts in a month or so why not chance it.

The conversation continues:

Reply by Mando yesterday
This happened just south of the Harlem and Cermak intersection at 23rd and Harlem. The best thing the city of North Riverside/Berwyn could do to help prevent this from happening is improving the street lights. That section is just very dark at night. If this happened at 3:25 am, the lack of light was probably a major factor in the cause of the accident. In the video you can see where the accident happened, you can see the bike and a lot of debris (probably groceries); likely the cyclist had just left the 24hr Jewell and was crossing over to Berwyn when he was struck by the car. This is horrible and like I said ever since I was in H.S. you would hear of someone getting hit by a bus or a car in that section of Harlem.

Reply by Manny FU…Really!? 11 hours ago
I feel for the family of the cyclist. R.I.P.

So, the accident happened at 4 am….I just have a few questions…..was the bicyclist running lights (flashing/blinking, steady, etc), was the cyclist cutting through traffic without using hand/arm signals? Was the cyclist wearing reflective safety vest or belt, or any reflective clothing?
I couldn’t see the video, but were the items strewn on the ground in a basket/pannier? front or back? Were they obstructing the cyclist view?
These are all things that we should be thinking about as 2nd nature, especially as cyclists.
I don’t care if your bike is painted white with white rims and tires. We sometimes blend in with the passing background (even me, with all of my flasing lights…I end up being “lost” in the background of certain areas that have a bunch of window displays with neon or blinking lights).
Also, as most of you know, we are almost invisible to people in cars, unless we are showing movement (at night, when this happened, reflectors/lights/etc).
We have to be cognizant of all of this, because we can not even rely on the general public to check their side view mirrors before opening their car doors. How can we expect them to be aware of a cyclist, while they are driving (and usually talking or texting on their cell)?

Again, I am sorry for this cyclist and his family.


Sadly the inability of the human mind to process lots of shapes and sizes while moving varies widely between individuals. The older we get or the more distracted we become the worse our attention to detail. And with vehicle and people moving a right angles to one another things are desperately short in terms of recognition and then reaction to avoid collision.

What bothers me most are the mixed signals that we are sending to one another. Just last week Michelle Stenzel wrote the following:

I believe that the sight of widespread helmet use in a city is detrimental to encouraging bicycling because it sends the message that bicycling is a sport, it’s dangerous, and it requires special equipment. If a bicyclist is killed by a driver, the mainstream media often notes whether she was wearing a helmet or not – especially if she wasn’t – even if an SUV ran her over, and a little plastic on her head wouldn’t have made a shred of difference. The insinuation is: Didn’t wear a helmet? Tsk, tsk, she was asking for it.

I think that advocating for people to wear bright orange safety vests while riding their bike isn’t optimal because it puts the onus on the bicyclist to look clownlike in an attempt to be more visible, when the real responsibility is held by the people maneuvering their enormous motorized vehicles to look where they’re going.

I think it’s unfortunate that bicyclists (not just women, either) might have to ride on a stressful main arterial route and not be able to take quiet side streets because of the criminal element present in the out-of-the-way areas. So, we’re going to let violent people force us to choose between getting attacked in a quiet area, or having to mix it up with 18-wheelers on Western Avenue? And anyway, it doesn’t matter in the end even if you do choose the “safer” option, as proven by Allison Zmuda’s horrible recent experience on Milwaukee.

Obviously she and Manny are on opposite ends of the spectrum insofar as their suggestions for how to dress and equip your bicycle are concerned to avoid collisions. I happen to subscribe to Manny’s position. But the real problem here is that there is not one voice on this. It is basic enough and important enough that we cyclists should be able to come to consensus on the issues. But I fear that the “knucklehead approach” is the one that will win out.

If you doubt this continue on with our discussion:

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 10 hours ago
A bicyclist/pedestrian does get killed, and without waiting the details we conclude that enforcement of crosswalk use need to be increased.
Nice job of putting the blame directly at pedestrians and cyclists. Maybe you should ask whether he was wearing a helmet too and blame him if he wasn’t.
How about enforcing drivers not blowing red lights, drivers not exceeding the speed limit, and drivers not using their cell-phone while driving. You think any of those could have prevented the unnecessary death of this human being?

What is ironic here is how quickly a group that feels comfortable with breaking the law with respect to stop lights and signs suddenly wants to turn up the heat on their motoring counterparts. Why is that? I could understand it if cyclists were hard on themselves and thus expected motorists to live up to their example. But we are seldom introspective where our behavior is concerned. Instead we cry for guys like Ron Burke to step up to defend us against the criticisms leveled by John Kass by placing the blame for our scofflaw behavior on a lack of bicycle infrastructure. Of course that ruse is laughable.

But without getting into the John Kass discussions know that the lawyers for insurance companies will be reading all of the threads that have been written on ChainLink and poring over them line-by-line looking for evidence of a mindset in the cycling community. A mindset that as Steve Vance describes it are mores of a subculture and unlikely to change any time soon.

Reply by Mando 6 hours ago
Did you even read what I said? Or did you just rant to try to get a fight started? In my opinion AND because I LIVE in the area AND both ride my bike and drive through there every day I said the MAIN culprit is the lighting because it’s really dark there at 3-4 in the morning. The city needs to fix this.

I also said it was terrible this poor man was killed. However just because I ride a bike I’m not going to act like a bike fan-boy and say that bike riders are saints. He DID need to use the intersection and drivers do NEED to be careful when they drive through there and they should do all the things you mentioned drivers should do.

See I can acknowledge the good ideas you have. Can you acknowledge that bike riders should be more careful on the streets? That they should follow the rules of the road just like any other vehicle? Apparently not. Anytime a bike rider blows through a red light or breaks the rules of the road it gives us (bike riders) a bad name.

I’ll make it simple for you: everyone involved (the city, the car driver and the bike rider) share the reason as to why this happened. It is terrible the bike rider died and that is a HUGE reason why the suggestions I made would be useful in preventing more accidents. His death should not be in vain.

As with church organizations being unwilling or unable to bring their wayward priests to heel (or simply kick them out) the Cycling Movement is as unable to be self-critical as the GOP. We are more than tone deaf when it comes to sounding our annoyance at being placed under scrutiny for our behavior. We do not mind and in fact encourage having all blame reside with the motorist, even in situations where our presence in the “Door Zone” was of our own choosing. Simply not riding in that area means that we cannot be struck by a haphazard opening of the door by a young child eager to get to their classroom from the rear seat of the family mini-van. Yet we persist in the notion that flogging the motorist is our best option for bringing in those big dollars from a lawsuit.

And to answer your question Mando nobody will be actually reading your reply. The minds of the Trained Seals in the Urban Cycling Movement are indeed intractable. We are beyond reproach and that is a fact.

Reply by Tony Adams 6.6 mi 6 hours ago
You totally undermine your credibility when you spout nonsense like this.

So it is nonsense is it?

Reply by Mando 5 hours ago
Then be my guest and blow through red lights, let me know how my credibility holds up vs. 3000 lbs. traveling at 40 mph.

Nobody but the guys that do the breakdown analysis of the collision are going to have any real idea of exactly what happened. And even they might not come to a definitive resolution since the cyclist cannot speak for himself. But asking cyclists to take unilateral action to preserve their safety is not unreasonable nor nonsensical. What is silly however is making believe that we do not understand the need to be more vigilant and proactive as a cycling community.

History will judge us at some level in the very near future. Sooner rather than later we will have as much cycling infrastructure as we need to know whether its presence reduces the tragic number of deaths that occur each year from collisions with automobiles. Ron Burke claimed that this infrastructure would bring near universal increases in safety. The prevailing notion is that “road diets” bring “traffic calming” and lowered speeds.

The end result in a win-win for pedestrians and cyclists as they find reduced collision rates and thus greater safety. If that does not happen, then what is our next act? Some would say we then need to remove more cars from the streets of the city. But that only means that the initial pronouncements by Mr. Burke were wrong. If we know that removing cars is the real answer why not simply move in that direction to begin with?

But I am guessing that there really is no “magic bullet“. You can affect the safety numbers but you probably cannot eliminate the problem. As with marriage you have lots and lots of “how-to” books, potions, cremes and toys floating around and yet the divorce rate is about 50%. You can bring the numbers down a bit but the crucial “fix” still evades us.

But in the meantime you can bring home flowers, tell your spouse or significant other how much they mean to you, be forgiving and kind and remain faithful. And if you are lucky you too can reach 40 years of marriage. But it takes a bit of work on the part of all the players in a family.

The same thing holds for the players in the transportation picture. Every segment has to do some thoughtful analysis of what kinds of things it is doing to either make safety a greater likelihood or what they are doing to make it less likely. We all know that distracted anything is a bad idea. We also know that operating anything under the influence is also stupid. I cannot expect a motorist to be totally responsible for a pedestrian who gets a full skin under his belt and then wanders aimlessly into traffic from between parked cars on a dark street. I also cannot expect a cyclist to avoid blame if he or she does not observe some common sense rules like, “stay out of the Door Zone“.

The traffic safety situation works best when everyone operates on a unilateral basis.