Chicago ChainLinkers Have ‘Hissy Fit’ Over Proposed Hike In Scofflaw Fines

Background Reading


You know how cyclists indicate that what they want most is to be considered an “intended user of the roadways” and “increased safety in every sector of the traffic landscape“? Well it turns out that this is only true for the first part. We want to be intended users of the roadways but only on our own terms. And in fact if the Mayor of Chicago and the Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance are not careful we will:

  1. resist contributing to the bicycle advocacy and
  2. hold our collective breath until we get an “Idaho Stop” Law

Yep, it does sound pretty childish but that is what Urban Cycling has devolved into. We are willing evidently to suck at the teats of the Establishment so long as it does not threaten to make us behave in ways consist with the lanes being installed on our behalf. Wow! Talk about “mixed messages“.

Let’s listen on to the little boys and girls masquerading as grown ups on today’s ChainLink Forum:

Reply by Tony Adams 6.6 mi 12 hours ago
Holy crap! If I’m reading this correctly or if Ron Burke wasn’t mis-quoted I’m not sure I’ll be renewing my ATA membership. I’m all for safety but there are certainly non-reckless ways to go through a red light. It makes no sense to sit at a red light, or come to a complete stop at a stop sign if there is no cross traffic with the right of way.

Reply by Madopal (7.6 mi) 11 hours ago
We need to get the Idaho stop law in Illinois, pronto.

Reply by Chicago Bike Law Firm 11 hours ago…
I wonder how vigorously this will be enforced and what kind of impact it will have– especially the increased fines for dooring. Some of the most serious client injuries we’ve dealt with at our firm have resulted from dooring accidents, and I still don’t think there is a very high level of awareness of the problem.

Reply by Active Transportation Alliance 11 hours ago
We support people getting tickets if they are disobeying the law, whether they are driving or biking. We’re not calling for a crack down on people on bikes.
As an advocacy organization, we simply can’t say “It’s OK for people on bikes to blow red lights”.
Ron’s quotes refer to across the board enforcement. We certainly hope this doesn’t push you to drop your membership, we do greatly value your support and your voice. My conversations with you over the past few years have been great in terms of push back, feedback and insight.
We posted a blog about this and Ron wants to add some language to it to clarify his quotes a bit more. Our position on ticketing is focused on equal enforcement and for the most egregious and reckless offenses.
Thanks so much,
Ethan Spotts, Active Trans

Reply by spencewine 11 hours ago
It would have been nice if the Idaho Stop Law was tucked into this bill…it probably would look more balanced from a cyclist perspective and would be overlooked by the media because of the distractions with the other content of the bill. It seems like trying to pass something like the Idaho Stop Law outright would be met with a lot of attention and objection. The stickers in cabs is great though. Chicago Tribune is running this front page with the Headline “Hike Fines For Bicyclist who Break Traffic Laws” and I’m sure John Kass is/will start pooping out of his mouth again.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 10 hours ago
This is only city ordinance. While it might be nice to include an “Idaho Stop” provision in the ordinance, it would only apply to the City of Chicago.

Reply by Tricolor 10 hours ago
It already applies to the Chicago Police. Why not share it around?
That said I rode home on Dearborn yesterday evening and noticed no one was following the red signal that specifically applies to bikes.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 10 hours ago
I’ve had my differences with ATA lately, but in this case I agree with them. Respect gets respect and especially with the spring thaw there are a lot of people ridding like idiots out there. Unfortunately, the bad apples are the most visible. The guy wearing headphones on a brakeless fixie who weaves around pedestrians to blow a red light at a high traffic intersection just became the most memorable cyclist of the day to a lot of people whom he just endangered. He did something wrong and deserves a ticket. Arguing otherwise is condoning bad ridding. You don’t see many drivers lining up to defend a driver who gets a ticket for running a red light, why should cyclists be different?

Instead of debating whether cyclists are ruining the roads for drivers or drivers are ruining the roads for cyclists, it’s time to talk about bad cyclists and bad drivers who are ruining the road for everyone. There are minorities in both groups that are the source of a lot of conflicts and animosity. Even handed enforcement could improve everyone’s experience.

Cameron is in jeopardy of having his account canceled. He has blasphemed and spoken against the sentiments of group. Woe unto him!

Reply by blair_ 11 hours ago
I am happy to see this. Dooring needs to be taken more seriously and so do cyclists that don’t obey traffic laws. At least twice/week, I wave a pedestrian on that already has the right away only to have a pack of cyclists behind me blow through the intersection.
When you blow through red lights, those angry motorists take it out on ALL of us.

Reply by Michael J Blane 10 hours ago
blah, blah, blah.
Another useless law that will get some press, be enforced a few times and then ignored; just like the stopping for pedestrians in the cross walk on all streets.

Reply by Andrew N 10 hours ago – In reply to Cameron
Stop being reasonable!
I firmly believe that few things engender more goodwill towards cyclists from drivers than seeing someone on a bike stop at a red light when there’s no cross traffic present.

Reply by David Barish 9 hours ago
Whatever your opinion of the Mayor, this may be a good thing. Bad behavior or all kinds is the target. Obviously, enforcement can determine how this proposal would help or hurt all concerned. Stricter rules of the road for both bikes and cars give the authorities greater license to stop, encounter, and perhaps to search. Keep this in mind if you are rolling through or ignoring signs and signals.

Reply by Michael J Blane 9 hours ago
even more blah, blah, blah.
I’m sure that the powers that be will start enforcing/ticketing motorists who violate the 3′ law too.

Reply by Tucker 7 hours ago
This is merely lip service. Does anyone know how to find out how many tickets CPD issued last year to cyclists? The city should enforce the fines on the books first rather than increasing the fines and still not giving out any tickets.

Reply by Jason W 7 hours ago
More fucking hot air and taxes from the mayor’s office and ATA. How about they actually start ENFORCING the laws that protect cyclists before they raise the fines? Why raise fines on cyclists at all? We don’t kill anyone on the street, cars do. Who wants to make a bet that the tickets given for opening doors into the roadway still amount to almost none. I’m sure we’ll see some bike sting operations though. And how about tickets for jaywalking? You could hand out hundreds in one morning on the dearborn path. I’m so fucking sick of these worthless bureaucrats. Fuck your new bike tax ATA.
Oh and in other news they are making a documentary to propagandize our idiot mayor.

Reply by Chi Lowe 12.5+ mi 7 hours ago
Nelson Trautman said:
Bikes are not cars, and they should not be treated like cars.
Amen. Because why? Because PHYSICS. Not that anyone wants to listen to me rant and rant on the internet, but it’s as simple as high school physics:
1,600kg (a car) traveling at 5.3 m/s (12 mph) = 8,480 kgm/s of momentum
75kg (a person) traveling at the same speed = 397 kgm/s of momentum
For those who hate math, that’s a 21-fold increase in momentum for a slow car vs. a moderately fast bicycle commuter.
Because of this FACT, when a cyclist makes an error in judgement and hits a ped, the ped gets… mad. *Maybe* injured. I’d be willing to bet the stats on bike/ped fatalities is effectively zero, though. Hypothetically of course, because I’m sure betting is against both state law *and* city ordinance.
Also because of this FACT: when a driver makes an error in judgement, they kill people. That’s why they there are stop signs and red lights: drivers are steering 3,500 pound machines that kill people. Reaffirming the prior caveat, I’d be willing the bet the stats on car/ped fatalities are actually quite high.
I don’t think the proposed increases in fines (or resulting, hilarious media attention this will bring) has anything to do with facts though. From where I sit, it reads like this: how can you show cyclists you’re serious about protecting them, while appeasing the cagers who think cyclists are reckless.
For a big city Mayor who took a lane out on a major downtown thoroughfare less than six months ago, the whole thing seems kinda… milquetoast.

All the high school physics aside, what we are seeking to control is human behavior and not vehicles of either sort. The simple facts are the cars kill more people than do cyclists, but cyclists kill people as well. Either a cyclist manages to kill a pedestrian by mowing one down while he is in the crosswalk or he manages to needlessly collide with another vehicle resulting in his own death. Clearly this person hiding behind Chi Lowe either has forgotten or perhaps is unaware of the pending court case in California in which a cyclist killed a pedestrian.

Reply by Active Transportation Alliance 6 hours ago
We’ve done several TV interviews about this today (CBS, NBC).
Thankfully some of these reporters are also asking about the doubling of the dooring fine from $500 to $1000, which in addition to the Look sticker campaign, is probably the best news here.
I wish more people were talking about that effort that came from Neil Townsend’s death, the Look group on Chainlink, Minimal Design and CDOT.
Here are dooring and ticketing stats from CDOT:
Dooring crashes
2011 – 309
2012 – 251

Bike crashes
2011 – 1434
2012 – 1398 (Chicago Police Dept. estimates)

Tickets Issued for Cyclists
2011 – 1508
2012 – 1267

Also, here’s our complete blog on the new ordinances, fines and dooring education effort copied/pasted below.

Please note this paragraph:

Like motorists and even pedestrians who use roads recklessly, people who ride bikes recklessly should also be ticketed. We don’t endorse ticketing cyclists and drivers for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters. But if you’re putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving.

Submitted by Rburke on Wed, 05/08/2013 – 9:21am
Anti-dooring stickers, increased traffic fines highlight new bike safety initiatives in Chicago
The back-story behind Chicago’s announcement that anti-dooring stickers will go onto taxi windows (and if all goes well, parking pay boxes) is both tragic and inspiring.

Bike Sticker Taxi Version

Bike Sticker Taxi Version

Last fall, Neil Townsend was killed on his bike when he swerved to avoid an opening car door. Colleagues from his employer Minimal Design, and others from the local bicycle community via, formed the Look! Chicago group to encourage anti-dooring strategies.

Their efforts inspired us to take the message to the commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), Rosemary Krimbel. BACP regulates taxi cabs and is responsible for the training of taxi drivers on how to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians.

We asked Commissioner Krimbel to put dooring warning stickers on taxi windows. After coordinating with Chicago Department of Transportation, she agreed, and also expressed an interest in adding anti-dooring PSAs to the rolling video content for cabs with video screens. That is still being explored.

Minimal designed the sticker that will go into cabs (pictured). Active Trans modified this slightly for the stickers that will hopefully go onto parking pay boxes, assuming an arrangement can be reached with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

Unfortunately, the contractor that manages their pay boxes wants the city to pay them to install, maintain and eventually take down worn stickers. Active Trans has asked them to waive the charge and donate the service.
The city also announced a proposed fine increase for motorists who cause doorings, going from the current $500 fine to $1,000. Active Trans is glad to see these anti-dooring initiatives because, with more and more people riding bikes in Chicago, it is imperative that motorists look for oncoming cyclists before opening car doors. This needs to become habitual for drivers.

The ordinance that would increase motorist fines also increases fines for rogue cyclists, from the current $25 fine to a range of $50 to $200. Too often we see people on foot, on bikes and driving cars traveling recklessly; Active Trans supports increased traffic fines as an important way to improve safety (along with better education and infrastructure).

Like motorists and even pedestrians who use roads recklessly, people who ride bikes recklessly should also be ticketed. We don’t endorse ticketing cyclists and drivers for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters. But if you’re putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving.

There is some other “clean up” language in the ordinance, like clarifying that cyclists don’t have to stay in bike lanes on streets that have them. The ordinance also officially sanctions what many of us already do, “taking the lane.”


Here’s coverage of the ordinance in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Please note: an incorrect version of the sticker was posted initially. The correct version is shown above.

Reply by S 6 hours ago

Chi Lowe 12.5+ mi said:
Because of this FACT, when a cyclist makes an error in judgement and hits a ped, the ped gets… mad. *Maybe* injured. I’d be willing to bet the stats on bike/ped fatalities is effectively zero, though. Hypothetically of course, because I’m sure betting is against both state law *and* city ordinance.

Uh…not quite. Although it’s rare, there are cases where cyclists have killed pedestrians. The ones I’m familiar was a 68 year old women killed about 2 years ago and a 71 year old man killed about a year ago, both in SF. There are probably other instances where peds have gotten injured. Frankly, if the ped just gets knocked down or breaks a bone, that’s not going to engender much good will to cyclists.

Frankly, I think it comes down to the perception of fairness for everyone. Drivers are not going to be open to sharing the road if it seems like cyclists are willing to flout the laws and it takes just a few cyclists to tar the broader community at large.

Sometimes the early spring can bring out the “silly season nut cases on the ChainLink“. Let’s listen in:

Reply by Gene Tenner 8 hours ago
Bicycle-pedestrian collisions
In the past two years, cyclists in San Francisco hit and killed two people walking on the street. Both riders ran red lights. Both were charged with varying degrees of vehicular manslaughter.

Orem resident, Emily Bates, knows what it’s like to get hit.
“I was running along…and then the next thing I knew I was on the ground,” she said. “There was blood everywhere.”

The police report said a cyclist “hit her from behind” and that Bates “hit her head on the ground and possibly lost consciousness.” The rider wasn’t hurt.

“The ambulance came, and the police were there. There were a lot of sirens and flashing lights,” Bates said. “I got nine staples in my head from where…his helmet hit me just straight on.”

The gash, she said, looked “like a star shape, like an explosion.” Bates wound up with a severe concussion and memory loss. As for the medical bills, well, they just keep on coming.

“All together, if you count what the insurance paid, it’s close to five thousand or six thousand dollars,” she said. “Out of pocket it was still close to two thousand dollars.”

Bates went to the police for answers and was stunned to read the report— “No charges filed.”

“I was surprised to find there was no citation. He wasn’t considered at fault,” said Bates. “In a car if you hit someone from behind then the person from behind is at fault. So that’s why I thought he would be at fault.”

Had this situation occurred in a place like Chicago with the injured party being a cyclist hit by a car, the ChainLink crowd would have “gone ballistic“. They would have been forming committees to “educate motorists” on a new situation that should be avoided while at the same time “pushing for new legislation” to protect innocent cyclists. And I can just read and hear in my mind the scathing denouncements of the CPD officers who failed to hand out a citation.

But evidently this kind of news does not travel very fast (if at all) along the cyclist networks because it does not further the Cycling Movement Agenda, which by the way is “safety“. When a cyclist is at fault everyone looks the other way and whistles in the dark and decides to “play dumb” (which for some of these yokels is not difficult).

Reply by Active Transportation Alliance 4 hours ago
We just posted a follow-up blog from Ron about the press coverage, unwarranted tickets, our position on ticketing, etc. (copied/pasted below)
Ethan, Active Trans
Submitted by Rburke on Thu, 05/09/2013 – 2:05pm
Press coverage of bike safety ordinance all over the map
The Chicago Tribune presents two very different versions of the city’s proposed bike safety ordinance. John Kass’s column today is titled “Beware, cyclists, the other shoe has just dropped,” where he dreams about the city sticking it to cyclists.

John D

John D

On the other hand, reporter Hal Dardick wrote “Mayor Emanuel would give bikes more leeway on city streets.” Hmmm, John “Little Bike People in Spandex” Kass or reporter Hal Dardick?

We all know Kass is a goof whose job is to stir the pot, facts be damned. If you read the ordinance, you’ll see it does a lot for cyclists, as explained in Dardick’s story, like doubling fines for motorists that cause dooring crashes, clarifying that people on bikes can pass cars on the right, and making it legal to take the lane and ride two abreast at times.

There’s a lot of hand-ringing in cycling circles over the ordinance’s increased fines for cyclists, and bike-haters like Kass are happy to fuel that fear. And it’s worth mentioning that the new, increased fine range for cyclists’ traffic violations ($50 – $200) is still lower than the one motorists face ($90 – $500, unless otherwise defined in the municipal code).

Active Trans believes that if you’re traveling recklessly and putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving (especially when you’re driving.)

At the same time, we don’t endorse ticketing cyclists for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters.

That’s been the police department’s approach, too, because they only issue on average less than four tickets per day citywide to people biking. That number is likely to go up, not so much because the fines are higher but because there are more people cycling and, with those growing numbers, a greater need to reign-in the small percentage of cyclists who ride rudely.

We expect – and demand – that the police remain even-handed and only ticket cyclists who are truly putting others at risk.
Active Trans will continue to keep an eye out for any unwarranted ticketing of cyclists. We also want and expect more traffic tickets for reckless, aggressive driving that is so commonplace it’s become “normal.”
Rburke’s blog

The problem with most anything that comes out of the Active Transportation Alliance offices is that it is slanted towards whatever agenda is currently the most popular in the Urban Cycling Movement. I always envision that Ron Burke is playing the part of John Boehner to Ethan Spotts protrayal of Eric Cantor. Neither man has the balls to really stand up to the loonies that support some of the more radical positions held by ChainLinkers. In fact as you can read above they were doing a bit of “damage control” yesterday as the Tea Party-styled lunatic fringe of this crowd got their knickers in a royal twist.

So I simply take what they have to say as blather. Their jobs (literally, not just figuratively) depend on keeping the troops in line. If they should ever be perceived as not being willing to grovel for the ChainLink Faithful they would lose their “gravy train“. John Kass is someone they cannot afford to be without. He is the Nancy Pelosi that the rabid ChainLinkers love to hate. But John has it right even if his column is actually ghostwritten by a ChainLink favorite. So long as he can be their whipping boy they can generate donations and activist involvement which keeps everyone happy.

Reply by Nelson Trautman 4 hours ago
I’m not so sure I totally agree with the quote below.You should represent the people you are advocating on behalf of. If the cycling community thinks its OK for people to blow red lights, you should be advocating for that to be acknowledged by city hall.
Now, personally I don’t think we should run reds. I don’t do it myself. I DO treat stops as yields, and will continue to. The ATA should be lobbying hard for an “Idaho Stop” law so that some poor guy just trying to make it the 6 miles to work doesn’t get a $200 ticket for rolling through an empty stop-sign intersection.

Active Transportation Alliance said:
As an advocacy organization, we simply can’t say “It’s OK for people on bikes to blow red lights”.

From this one reply you can see what poor John Boehner has to deal with. His party is full of rabid tinfoil hat types who have nothing but contempt from a Black President and will go to any lengths to find “legitimate” reasons to block anything he does. The same sort of mentality is alive and well in the ChainLink Forum. These are people who would never find anything appealing about reining in scofflaw behavior of cyclists but will die trying to do that very thing where it pertains to motorists.

A little bit of irony might go a long way to helping with this nut case:

Reply by David Barish 4 hours ago
OK, big metal vehicle operators, your passengers, your supporters and your columnists- You better pay attention. If you flout the law and hit a little thing like a bicycle, you may receive a bigger fine. If a door opens because you were to busy checking your e-mail to bother to look you will pay a bigger fine. The city is now proposing this. The city does not appear to be taking sides. The other shoe has dropped and somebody’s feet smell.

While we are at it you may notice that operators big and small face larger fines for flouting the law. What does that mean? I know you want to know. I’ll tell ya…it means that the city clearly recognizes that the big metal vehicles that emit carbon and the little ones that emit nothing are all intended users of the road. Don’t tell me that my little bike doesn’t belong on the streets of Chicago. If I blow a red light I will be fined. I am on a vehicle, a slower, smaller and greener one than yours.

Yes, the other shoe has dropped. The shoe that was glued to an accelerator while a hand was glued to a horn has dropped. It must recognize that the shoe with the cleat that snaps onto a pedal belongs to just another vehicle on the road. Not your road. Not my road. Our road. As the kids say these days, “deal.” You and your readers will have to do so. My little bike and the ones that belong to all my friends will be on the streets. That is where they are supposed to be. Dearborn will no longer be an experiment. It will be the norm. Bikes, cars, trucks, etcs all on the same road where they all belong and all being punished when improperly operated to the detriment of others. You will soon realize that we are all better for it. Ok? There, doesn’t that feel better? How ’bout a hug?


We are not in Kansas anymore. We are playing in the major leagues now and with that comes not only “pretty green lanes” and “PVC bollards” but an expectation of adult behavior that exceeds what apparently some ChainLinkers are willing to exhibit. But in the final analysis it will be the case that some sort of licensing will have to be extracted from cyclists to remove that last vestige of anonymity that they scofflaws count on when endeavoring to make up the rules as they go along.

We are being asked to wear “big boy” pants now. Look for someone to connect the dots in the Neil Townsend death and ask deeper questions about the viability of brakeless fixed gear bikes on our city streets. And speaking of physics, be careful what you ask for. Once it becomes clear that cyclists have utter control over whether they are riding in the “Door Zone” someone at an insurance company will ask the question, why then do they use that area of the roadway.

At this point the City of Chicago and every other municipality across the country will have to revisit the placement of bike lanes alongside parked vehicles. And perhaps too we will have a law that is the mirror of the 3-Foot Law for motorists. Cyclists will have to avoid riding closer than 3 feet to either moving, standing or parked automobiles while on the roadway.

The Bluff

One ChainLinker awoke from a stupor and asked:

Reply by spencewine 1 hour ago
Anyone feel like this came out of the blue?
I’m not pointing my finger at any one or any organization, but it seems like there is some information disseminated to the public before it’s getting signed by the Mayor. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m ignorant to the process behind a lot of these things, but shouldn’t there have been some warning so that some collective action could’ve been taken? No offense to Active Trans, but everything they’ve responded to with regards to this legislation seems reactionary.

Active Transportation Alliance is essentially “toothless“. They are like John Boehner trying to control an unruly House of Representatives while attempting to strike deals with the POTUS that the Tea Party-types will not have any part of regardless of whether it hurts or harms their constituents. They are in “cut off your nose to spite your face mode“.

The mindset of the ChainLink Forum memberships reads pretty much like this:

Reply by peter moormann 3 hours ago

Everyone knows that the run-of-the-mill urban rider is not really a scofflaw in the sense that they are determined outlaws. What is really the case is that they have a now highly refined set of mores. And among the things that they covet most highly is the ability to not follow rules or laws that impede their progress. When you are riding a bike (at least for some people) it is all about beating the cars across town. Obviously, lacking the horsepower to ride a bike at 35 MPH you have to “cheat” by never stopping at lights or signs.

These are two things that make this a possibility:

  1. Cars are much better at obeying intersection controls. If that were not true cyclists would be maimed an injured in efforts to cross busy intersections against the light or stop signs.
  2. Cyclists are for all practical intents and purposes anonymous. Out on the roadway this means that you can count on not being stopped or otherwise identified in the same manner than automobiles can. And that is because bicycles have no license plates.

Now if you are a sniveling group like Active Transportation Alliance you cannot even think of going the “nuclear route” and suggesting licensing. That would be as much of a political suicide move as would be suggesting that Southerners in the GOP accept “background checks” for gun ownership. The NRA would be very proud of the resistance to the idea of licensing that runs very deep in the Urban Cycling Movement.

Urban Cyclists want all the benefits of bicycle infrastructure ownership but none of the responsibilities.

The law changes being suggested did not really come out of the blue. Instead this is a calculated attempt to “bully” the Urban Cycling Community into compliance with the Rules of the Road. Like the Mayor and the ATA I think this is important. What it does it throw the weaker less belligerent cyclists “off their game“.

If you recall the “war on drugs” begun under Ronald Reagan, the idea was to offer up such draconian measures that the casual users in frat houses across the country would think twice about going to jail. Only the truly addicted folks would remain and they could be sent off to prisons where they could at least be separated from the general public long enough to get clean.

The whole thing backfired. Peter Moormann is signaling the typical response that most ChainLinkers will give to the idea of increased fines. Unless you put a license plate on me, I am essentially invisible. And that means you will have to spend precious man-hours with crackdowns that cost more money and are as ineffectual here as they have been in San Francisco.

The day is coming however when the politicians will have “seen the handwriting on the wall” and decided to escalate the situation and demand licensing. I hope that the Urban Cycling Community is proud of the job they are doing in making cycling less enjoyable for everyone else. There really is no reason or need to break laws just to beat cars across town. That is simply an anal approach to cycling. But so be it.