Bicycle clubs in the suburbs have begun to have to deal with acknowledged violations of the Rules of the Road much like their urban counterparts. Among the issues that have come up are:
- Ignoring local municipality rules against riding 2 or more abreast
- Rolling through stop signs when riding as a peloton on ‘faster’ rides
- Failing to signal turns, stops or otherwise convey to others what the group intends
I have accompanied riders from the northern suburbs on their ‘faster rides‘ and they do not roll through traffic controls. At least not in the instances I have been present. In fact at major intersections where traffic lights controlled the flow of things they waited patiently while the lights changed. No one thought to venture out into the intersection to get across without “losing momentum“. Why the difference?
The thing that makes any group “tick” is the integrity of its “leadership“. Leaders, true leaders set a tone that is easier for others to follow. Once that sort of thing has become an established pattern the group operates effortlessly. You cannot run a gender blind military if your leadership has gender issues. The same goes for gender preferences. If the leadership is able to set and keep a tone then the rank and file will follow.
What true leaders do is skip the excuses for things, they lead. One major concern of mine with the Urban Cycling Movement has been the willingness of its “leadership” to cave to the pressures of the “rank and file“. It was as if I was watching the Tea Party with its smallish membership wag the dog (the GOP) and everyone seemed powerless to stop it.
When you have organizations like the Active Transportation Alliance either unwilling or unable to speak truth to its followers until the Mayor of Chicago comes out and lays down the gauntlet, you have a recipe for disaster. Your membership needs to know where you stand and what you stand for. Excuses about this or that “minor infraction” not being important is “lame“. Either your organization follows the law as laid out by the legislature and signed into existence by the Governor or it does not. There really is not a compromise position.
Admitting To Failure Is A Step
If your club is lead by people who are unwilling to enforce the Rules of the Road but members squabble over the fine points of its own internal rules, then you definitely have something of a split personality as a club. Why would you wrangle over how many points are needed for this or that award or whether you get 24 or 36 hours to announce a ride but then turn around and completely ignore the Rules of the Road? And then you turn around and explain that despite these infractions you really are keeping an eye on what is really important. Huh?
The reason that clubs exist is to:
- provide camaraderie for existing members
- grow the club membership and thus its influence in the community
- in order to turn around an bring knowledge to parents and their children about the benefits of cycling
So you decide to advertise the value of your club membership by openly riding through Wheaton at 20 MPH rolling through every single stop sign in sight? And doing so as you pass the single biggest breakfast spot in town, Egg Harbor Cafe? Are you really serious? Did you not think that anyone living in town would not notice as your ride down the biggest street in the business district? Are you crazy or just amazingly stupid?
Rules Are The Rules
If you care enough to hold “knock down drag out battles” over club rules that you eventually change because it suits you, then you had damned well better follow Illinois State, DuPage County and Wheaton Municipal laws whenever you go out riding.
The best way to understand how very self-absorbed racer wannabes can be is to ask yourself this question, “Suppose automobile drivers or motorcyclists decided to mimic my every move?” Would it be OK, if every Sunday AM a pack of small autos or cafe racers decided to ride through town at their cruising speed and roll through every stop sign in sight? What would make you afraid to let that happen?
How about group rides in general. Have we suddenly abandoned the idea that a group ride does not need to regroup when passing through large intersections? Or how about this one, why the heck should anyone listen to your blather about not riding on the dirt surfaces of mountain bike tracks just because you do not want them to? Are you getting the picture here? You cannot have rules that only you can break and everyone else has to follow.
I say the heck with the CAMBA and all other groups that have rules that people are supposed to follow regarding the preservation of the trails. I say the heck with traffic controls of any sort let everybody including the cars, trucks, motorcycles and motor scooters behave as they see fit. After all you have come up with a viable justification for what you want to do, why not everyone else?
I am sad to acknowledge that the Ride Marshal who led that rather horrible experience on The Four Star Bike Tour is someone in my own club. How very sad is that? And like all the others who are a law unto themselves he decides what is to be broken and what is to be obeyed when leading a group on a fundraiser for the Active Transportation Alliance. Evidently since he and the director of that august body live in the same town nothing is likely to ever come of a complaint about his behavior. That too is sad.
I Guess That As I Have Said Before, ‘Vehicular Cycling Is Dead’
We have reached that awkward place in history where we have finally gained status as intended users of the roadway, only to decide to act like asses while on it. We have decided, I guess, that in city situations the novices will use the dreadfully awkward Protected Bike Lanes and will learn to stop at every signal or control. At least they will do this until they realize that the “cool kids” are breaking all the rules and living to tell about it. What they will not be allowed to do however is break any of the rules that the “cool kids” have established for themselves. And most of those rules will actually be for motorists to follow.
This way lies madness.