The ‘Flip Side’

Background Reading


Sarah Goodyear makes some interesting points in her piece in the Atlantic Cities. But among the ones that caught my eye was this:

The cyclist as outsider, maverick, or outlaw – that has been the image. But now, bicycling is becoming mainstream.

Now you might say, “duh”. But becoming mainstream has some implications:

When bike-share hits New York City later this month, biking is only going to get more quotidian, as it has in other bike-share cities such as D.C. or Minneapolis. Sorry, haters, but that’s reality now.

Riding a bike in the United States has long been perceived as a statement. Being a bicyclist has been an identity, burdened with its own identity politics. The cyclist as renegade, outsider, maverick, or outlaw – that has been the image, or self-image, depending on where you stand on the “issue” of cycling.

But in the last couple of years, we have been moving at an almost imperceptible pace toward a different kind of reality – one in which American cities, from Chicago to Miami to Los Angeles to Boston and back around again — have been building bike infrastructure, implementing bike-share systems, passing laws protecting bicyclists, and the like.

And biking is slowly, slowly becoming just another way to get around.

The flip side is that in places like Chicago, they have also been ticketing bicyclists for violating laws. In New York, the Department of Transportation has deployed safety officers on busy bike routes to remind people of the right way to ride. Ticketing blitzes seem to be happening more regularly.

This is what has to happen for things to get to the next level.

It is that last sentence that speaks volumes. The “flip side” to achieving respectability and simply “becoming just another way to get around” is that the activist crowd will have to find another cause in which to bury their angst and frustration with life and “the man“. In essence in a few years bicycles will be something that “old people” do. It will not be something that is “cool” because it means you can frustrate the heck out of your parents the way you could by getting a nose ring or a tattoo.

All the riders who are now on fixed gear brakeless bikes will have turned those in for geared bikes that help them stay in the saddles a few more years rather than blow out their knees. And most of these folks will by that time be in search of a place to have unsightly tattoos removed and will have no further use of ear lobe distenders and the like. In fact fixes and brakeless bikes will be the StingRays of this generation. People will be writing about them in the same nostalgic tones that accompanied the obituaries of its inventor, Al Fritz.

Inertia Is About To Grab Cycling By the Hub Nuts

Years from now someone will recall the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Urban Cyclists (and by extension the suburban racer wannabes as well) that there is a new protocol for getting along in this town. You either behave yourself or you find your wallet a little lighter than before. And that dictum will be accompanied by a boat load of old farts on Divvy bikes riding around in droves as they will be shortly in New York City.

Nothing kills that “bad boy cache” more quickly than having your mom and her friends spend a day in the Loop on bikes that weigh 40 pounds or more and enjoying the Chicago Lakefront Trail in summer. What will really put the cooler on your enthusiasm for cycling is when the biggest Lesbian bars start seeing these same female patrons waltz in and order Cosmopolitans. That should send all the leather and butch crowd scurrying to someones home to figure out what to do next.

With hundreds if not thousands of folks clogging the newly minted bike lanes it will mean that speeding across town by bicycle got just that much harder. In place of the sidewalk bike racks of yore will be bike stations for the Divvy masses. And to keep things on an even economic footing the Divvy lobby will win the argument over whether free on-street parking for bicycles is “fair” when they have customers who must pay for the privilege.

I want to be around for that day. John Kass and I will have a toast of sorts at the near total transformation of a “renegade culture” into one that is more reflective of “Ozzie and Harriet“. And that my friends will bring a tear to my eyes and a smile to my face. Cycling will have entered its dotage.

One More Thing, ChainLinkers Be On Notice

ChainLinkers are about to notice that there are more “eyes” prying into your sycophantic outbursts meant to make you “fit right in” with the other sociopaths. When Ms. Goodyear put you “on the map” by linking to your musings she let the rest of the sad bored world know that you are there for their amusement. You will suddenly find out that folks all over the planet are watching what you write and forming judgments in the process.

These are things that will affect your future job options if you true identities become known. So guard that portion of your life with great care if you do not want to have to pay someone later to remove every dumb-ass thing you might have written in a drunken stupor and now regret. Karma is a bitch.

Becoming mainstream is so very boring. Get over yourselves.

ChainLinkers Discover Their ‘Celebrity’

Evidently the ChainLink crowd is either backed up in their reading chores or just slower than I expected in finding out that they have been cited in Atlantic Cities. But here is what they had to say:

We Made “The Atlantic”… Some Interesting Press
Posted by Julie Hochstadter on May 21, 2013 at 10:39pm

I just stumbled upon this article as I was searching out any recent media mentions of The Chainlink.

Here is an article from The Atlantic from May 17th:
Cyclists Aren’t ‘Special,’ and They Shouldn’t Play by Their Own Rules

Read the full article here

What is surprising is that there was such a quick response to this announcement:

Reply by Zoetrope 5 hours ago
Joanne Kass needs to be ignored. Humorless, self-serving, fascist BS.

For those of you who do not know of the long-running feud between Ron Burke (Active Transportation Alliance) and one John Kass (Tribune Reporter) the response by Zoetrope will seem a bit odd. The author of the article is Sarah Goodyear but this respondent is attempting to smear her by association with John Kass. What this group fears most is anything resembling a far-ranging discourse. They are Fascists at heart. You either buy their logic or you are “ignored“. And if that does not work they have a “Final Solution” for anyone who will not obey. Quite an odd way to approach life since the ancestors of this group would have known firsthand how intolerable the ways of Fascism really were.

But while deciding to “ignoreSarah Goodyear this same respondent begins a thread of their own on much weightier matters. And honest to good people I did not make this us:

Latest on the Lance saga
Posted by Zoetrope on May 21, 2013 at 5:07pm

Comedian says Lance asked her to eat his butt

This is a clear indication that monies being poured into the Active Transportation Alliance to make life better for cyclists like this is a “fools errand“. Find a better place to donate your funds. This crowd neither understands nor cares about “cycling“. What they do care about is some vague and angst-ridden search for activism to save a planet in which their views are uppermost. I will have none of that. It’s enough to make me want to vote Republican.

Another Sad Bit To Reveal

After Zoetrope made (his or her) remarks above another ChainLinker came forth to confront them:

Reply by Luke Hannafin 2 hours ago
Please don’t blow red lights and salmon up one way streets. Here’s you brown shirt and armband!

Reply by Zoetrope 1 hour ago
In case anyone else here has a similarly depraved intellect as Luke: “The idea of authoritarian personalities prone to fascist attachments may be one reason why fascism is used as an epithet for the same kind of people who might be called “anal-retentive“. On An(Archy) and Schizoanalysis by Rolando Perez uses the word fascist in an analytically informed way that is similar to the usage of epithet, showing that such usage is not necessarily ill-informed or unsystematic. One basic point of these perspectives is that a libertarian or emancipatory outlook requires openness of social space, tolerance or celebration of difference, and opposition to arbitrary authority; an absence of such an outlook contributes to social closure and exclusion…”
One of the many problems of that stupid article is that she has no remorse for equating salmoners, sidewalk riders and red light runners to motorists who are capable of and regularly (and without remorse) commit more serious road “mistakes”. Think dooring, side-swiping, brake-checking, and any other forms of vehicular abuse. “They want more law enforcement for that stuff? Well tough cookies, I saw a salmoner just the other day.” She is just another neurotic tight-ass with a bully pulpit who thinks that by getting cyclists to “stop being so cool and special” out there we will start to see more rapid “progress” in the cycling community. She has zero proof for the garbage she spews.

Reply by Luke Hannafin 1 hour ago
I admit I don’t get your response. Are you suggesting that I don’t understand what a fascist is? Or that it’s ok to use the term to describe someone with a different political agenda from your own? To me, that’s not very good example of fascism, but it is an excellent example of hyperbole.
The tickets described in the article for cyclists run from 50-200$ for cyclists and are $1000 for a dooring incident. I don’t think this is a case of one being equated with the other, I think it’s a case of someone saying “Hey, we don’t get immunity from being responsible citizens because we’re riding bike.”
I love bikes. I try to ride to work every day. I ride (occasionally) in Critical Mass. I volunteer for the Chainlink and for ATA. I’m not here to be a troll. But there are people who are out there who give bikes a bad name. I’m not ok with that and I’m not ok with people being called “fascist” for calling them out and suggesting that they be penalized for it.
Also, your hyperlinks are kind of messy; they don’t lead anywhere.

I’m with you Luke. This individual is playing at being someone else or is truly a “sick” person. One of the pitfalls of being on the ChainLink is that the sociopaths in the crowd are allowed to have more than one alias. They love to play mind game with their readers and often have two of the alter-egos argue with one another. Running their prose through a diagnostic tool often used by law enforcement to help determine which hate mails are from the same individual shows that this is a trend on the site.

But Zoetrope ( is a special case of this sort of thing. I guess the ChainLink Forum owners need to decide whether numbers are more important than camaraderie on this site or not. But this session goes on:

Reply by Luke Hannafin 41 minutes ago
Oh. For a second there I was beating myself up for my own trollish impulses. Now I get it. Well played.

Reply by Zoetrope 31 minutes ago
Oh my…
There is nothing to “get”, dude. I am happy to see you beating yourself up, though. Less work for me.
“I’m not here to be a troll.” 2 minutes later… “I was beating myself up for my trollish impulses.”
Whatever, Luke. Just stop now so you don’t keep confusing yourself.

Now can anyone possibly justify this kind of discourse on a site which bills itself as:

The Chainlink is the one-stop Chicagoland resource for connecting cyclists to share info on bikes, routes, rides, and events.

When we speak of connecting is this the sort of thing we envisioned?

And Now For Something Completely Different Silly

Alex Jones would be quite proud of this group sometimes. The conversation went on a bit more until it started sounding more like Alice In Wonderland than should  even been possible. Several of the voices here are from the same individual, you can easily guess which. But the ideas being argued are interesting:

Reply by Barry Niel Stuart 13 hours ago
I find that when I as a cyclist follow the same rules as others with whom I share the road, I’m more likely to get where I wish to go safely. Why give a militant motorist the ammo to shoot you?

This is the sane approach to any human activity. Every single human endeavor (including war) has “rules“. Imagine for instance that the intellectual activity we call Chess was being played by two individuals in a tournament for the World Championship. Now suppose that one of the participants insisted that his pawns should be allowed to move sideways at any point in the game (without benefit of capture). That would make things decidedly confusing and unfair. But it is because of this kind of behavior that people the world over are wondering what exactly is the agenda of the Cycling Movement.

On the one hand we do what every movement does and offer up the saccharin notion that when we ride bicycles we will become healthier, save money our small businesses will flourish and the world will experience less smog and pollution. We have anecdotal and some statistical proof to offer but every great movement has its shortcoming in the the anticipated outcomes.

A scant 50 years ago the Civil Rights movement had people longing for a Promised Land where their hopes would be possible if given the chance to succeed based on merit instead of being denied even a seat at the table. Barack Obama is evidence of progress in the same way that the candidacy of Hillary Clinton was and hopefully her successful bid will be. But World Peace has on the table for quite a long time as an aim of the Peace Movement and while some of the really great wars are perhaps behind us, there is still much work to be done on that front and with respect to racial and gender equality.

But “playing by the rules” is always what makes social progress possible. The trick is to play well enough and perhaps better than the detractors to move ahead. What is not very helpful is to suddenly begin “cheating“. Once found out the lofty ideals of any movement become overshadowed by a sense that hypocrisy lies rather than integrity lies at the core of that movement.

Reply by Haddon 9 hours ago
Merits of the article and it’s name calling aside (here and the article) being in The Atlantic is pretty cool. It is one of the better magazines (along with The New Yorker) that I will grab if someone leaves an issue laying around.
Has Rachel Maddow called yet?
PS. the chanlink does get a tad of the cheap swipe, faux indignant thing to the point that perhaps that all could get toned down a bit.

The problem with notoriety is that it brings the spotlight on behavior. You can say all manner of things and do them as well while laboring in the shadows. But when you get that first bit of notoriety and reporters come looking for a reading of the central thinking of a movement and begin to dissect your conversations, you can only hope that they come away with a positive image of what you are about.

The ChainLink on its very best days is banal. But on its worst days it is downright poisonous. I keep wondering if there are not “agents of change” who are either misreading the tea leaves of society or have a very solid understanding but are hell bent on wrecking the movement from within. Perhaps you remember the infamous tapes of Martin Luther King Jr. released by the FBI in an effort to discredit the Civil Rights Movement by going after its most public personae? If not you should take the time to reread your history.

Anyone who had even an inkling that they could bring down a movement would find the one place where the activity of that movement was deemed to be most representative and find ways to infiltrate and then destroy its integrity from within. It was this very scenario that ended the Critical Mass Rides of Portland. It was discovered that they had informants in their midst whose primary aim was to offering up “radical left ideas” that often times led to violent behavior or at least hinted at the same.

And of course you have to go back no further in time to the recent court proceedings against young activists here in Chicago who were evidently targeted by an informant. To my knowledge they are or will be serving a sentence.

Reply by Daniel G 8 hours ago
I don’t really care for it because their economics editor, an Objectivist far right-libertarian, has no education or background in economics (only an English degree, an MBA, and a sincere hatred of any future healthcare reform). I can’t really recommend reading the mag cover to cover. Too much thinktank-style radical centrism; you’ll just get spun round in circles and wind up right back where you started feeling dumb and disoriented. I do like theatlanticcites though.

One of the alter-egos of our main author decides to play “coy“. He is needling the group over the use of the name Atlantic. The actual internet entity is “theAtlanticCities“. But perhaps the joke is on the jokester, who manages not to be able to spell the name correctly. Not very well played was it?

Reply by Zoetrope 7 hours ago
Not a fan of it, and if this latest example is not reason enough for you I don’t know what is.
Anyone like me and mostly stay informed via this site, Men’s Health mags and various MMA fighting blogs? I don’t mind The Atlantic Cities, however. They have good ad pages.
Any thoughts on the article Julie linked, Daniel? Haddon? h’?

Well at least he gets the name spelled right. But not much more about this reply is really worth commenting upon.

Reply by OLB 0.1 7 hours ago
Radical centrism?
Color me ignorant, wtf is that?
Is that like the political version of extreme vanilla?
Not trying to be a smartass. Any explanation that doesn’t require a poli sci degree would be appreciated.

Methinks someone is trying too hard to be clever.

Reply by Zoetrope 7 hours ago
Use your imagination. Let’s work this out together OLB 1.0. C’mon!

Geez, this crowd is having a difficult day with spellings and identifications. Reminds me of that old joke about the Dyslexia Movement banner that read, “Workers of the World Untie“.

Reply by Daniel G 6 hours ago
It’s taking the average of every single idea and declaring the truth to be in the exact center. Usually incoherent and always irrelevant, because ideas are not numbers and you can’t take their arithmetic mean. One is always a bit closer to the truth than the other, and centrism abandons the quest for truth and declares all voices to be equally valid. Centrism is, in practice, a reactionary ideology because it is a complete and aggressive absence of an ideology, which suits the actual reactionaries just fine.

I Vacuum Copenhagen

I Vacuum Copenhagen

Gosh, this is one big yawn. Centrism is what you get when two or more  ideologies compete and what remains after the struggle is some sort of compromise position. That becomes the “New Normal“. There is nothing radical about Centrism unless of course you have a Tea Party mentality. The struggle that the GOP is having with itself is over the notion of compromise. There are elements of that party which view compromise as a “four-letter word“. I have the very real fear that this sort of philosophy is gripping the hearts and minds of some of the activists in the Urban Cycling Movement.

Eventually when the numbers of folks on bikes has reached stasis there will be a shift in the demographics of the ridership. When that happens it will be much like every other movement. There will be people who are too young to remember the struggle and those who are too old to care. The situation will have reached the point that Mikael Colville-Andersen writes about.

He calls it the “I Vaccum Copenhagen” moment. It is that point in time when it becomes clear that the movement has blended into the background. He writes:

I’ve been saying for years that we don’t have bicycle culture in Copenhagen. We just have vacuum cleaner culture. We all have one, we all have learned to use it, we use it. End of story.

We don’t buy vacuum cleaning clothes at a specialty store, we don’t wave at other vacuum cleaning enthusiasts on the street, we don’t keep 7 vacuum cleaners polished in our shed. It’s not a hobby or a fetish or a sub-cultural membership card.

Our vacuums, like our bicycles, are just tools that make everyday life easier.

So I figured I needed a logo.

For many activists this period is anathema. They know it is coming and when it does they will have to try and move on to something else to provide a reason for getting up in the morning. But frankly it sounds just fine to me. It is a time when the question of whether one must follow the rules will have become passé. In fact no one will remember what the fight over “obeying the rules” was all about.

Reply by OLB 0.1 6 hours ago
That makes a lot more sense (no sarcasm). Thanks.

Anyway, Julie – congrats on the publicity.

Reply by Haddon 6 hours ago
The article is fair (a bit of cherry picking by the author to make points) and I really can’t argue with any of it. She’s probably right, at some point here there are going to be enough of us (bikers) on the road that we’ll start to get tickets otherwise the roads will become a mess for everyone. Rush hour going up Milwaukee Avenue to Wicker part and points North East there are so many bikers globbing up the street and plowing through intersections you’d think there would be white painted bikes on every corner.
For as many drivers who are a-holes there is a cyclist who is just as bad. The other day I saw a cyclist cut off a bus (seriously, he didn’t even look) But thats how it is -none of us obeys stop signs if there are no cars around, I just went from one end of Pilsen to the other and back and didn’t stop once. I think we do, on average, have a tad of holier-than-thou mixed with rebellion attitude. This might just be built into the identity of most bikers.
And bikers don’t corner civility, there are countless posts right in this message board with pointless name calling and insults, if cyclists can’t even be polite to each other, of course we are going to look down on cars. In the end I’m agreeing with the author 95%
As for The Atlantic it’s a great magazine and can lay around on a coffee table with the Economist and the Paris Review and not look out of place.
Video is slow paced but somewhat relevant:

The Mark of Maturity

In the end all the blather will have very little effect on the outcome. I have friends my age who have done bicycle tours of the very rice paddies they fought in during the Vietnam War. People committed some awful atrocities on both side to what end? Today Vietnam is a trading partner with the West. Lots of clothing items are constructed there. Some would say that Capitalism has won out. In fact the Cold War has ended and the two biggest economic engines on the planet are the US and China.

Two avowed enemies have now become reliant upon one another in strategic financial ways. It makes you wonder what the struggle was all about all those years ago? But smaller countries like North Korea are still caught up in the posturing that was so very reminiscent of the 1960s. Eventually an agreement will be reached and everyone will settle down and make babies, drink beer when they get home from work and die fat and happy all over the globe.

The struggle of any movement is more often the prelude to a very Centrist position for the former combatants. The trick is to keep the “hot heads” from dragging the movement into something violent or anarchist before it gets to grow up and grow gray hair.