How The Infrastructure Battle Will ‘Shape Up’

Background Reading


You might have wondered why the lapdogs at StreetsBlog and Grid Chicago have along with governmental agencies like CDOT been feverishly trying to convince each other than their pet projects need to be put into place, ‘now!‘. We are about to enter the John Kass Era of #IToldYouSoTinyPeopleWithTinyMinds. And here is why.

Communities like Oak Park and Evanston may have waited too long to see whether they should get on board with BikeShare. The problem is that the ‘funny money‘ coming out of DC is about to encounter the presidential aspirations of Cruz and Paul. To that end the Tea Party will be attempting to flex its muscle in support of these candidates who have offered their futures to it in exchange for money. By way of ‘flexing muscle‘ we really mean that the next few months before Obama leaves office every trick in the book to effective disembowel the Affordable Care Act will have been tried. States that are dragging their feet regarding this legislation will have to decide which way they think the wind will be blowing. If they judge that ObamaCare can survive then they will have to try and grab a slice of the pie to get their insurance exchanges going. Places like Texas are worried about their future regarding health insurance.

In Wisconsin we now see that Minnesota has gotten off its political hind end and decided that high speed rail is viable. If Illinois comes through with its portion of the network that will mean that Wisconsin will have greater pressure placed upon it to decide whether to opt in or out on high speed rail. That could affect business for years to come if the plans are allowed to lapse and the money for measures dries up. There’s that word again money.

‘If It Pays It Stays’

Wrigley Field will never look the same again. It is going to have Jumbotrons and advertising on every square inch of its surface. I even expect that eventually the outfield grasses of MLB franchises will be painted with advertisement. Already out Metra elevated cars are being wrapped in advertisements, literally wrapped. That goes also for buses here and in Wisconsin. Every municipality along the Fox River is scrambling to get those last few dregs of ‘Funny Money‘ before the hog trough is closed down, perhaps for good.

Folks the developed countries have a combined GDP that is less than that of the developing countries for the first time in recorded history.

Jobs, growth and the future are moving out of the various areas where it once was into those areas where emerging economies are supported by very low wages. Any place around the world where unionized labor is virtually non-existent and workers have no idea what workman’s compensation is or how to even spell it will see growth. This will be the last generation in the West where luxury of having your child attend college can be expected. Two year institutions will be the only growth areas in the education industry. Note that I said industry. I had a discussion with an educator on the Wright Ride a few weeks ago.

I said then and still believe that education is a business now not a calling or a service in the old school sense. Two year colleges have a leg up on the four year versions because they cost less. That puts downward pressure on the wages of the instructors at these places. In fact our four year institutions will become the breeding grounds for foreign nationals who will come to our shores to earn a BS, MS or PhD and then leave to find work back home. Notice that I said back home. That is because if you are Chinese and want to earn a living making ‘real money‘ there is a greater chance of that taking place there than here going forward.

Bicycle Infrastructure will be examine and kept or discarded based on its income possibilities. BikeShare has a very good chance of remaining, unless of course the downtimes enforced by weather here in the Midwest kill things. After all you have employees who will have to be furloughed this winter in order to keep the system alive. Bikes will be sitting outside and rusting or otherwise being ravaged by the elements, making them less enticing in the Spring.

Storing these bikes indoors is costly. So keeping the system going year round will be the aim of everyone who has invested in them. But look on the bright side bike parking is likely to take off. Anyone silly enough to try and ride through a Chicago winter on his own bicycle will need to consider parking. The double-whammy of paid parking and bicycle protection will cure a lot of ills. Bike theft will plummet because now the bikes will be stored either indoors or underground or both. Municipalities are going to be weighing the value of on-street bicycle parking stands versus taking these things away and forcing folks to ride their BikeShare bikes and pay their BikeParking fees. Guess who wins out.

Your Next Bike Will Look A Great Deal More Like Divvy Than A Fixie

I hope you are truly onboard with Divvy and BikeShare in general. This is not just a nice program that makes you wet between the legs. This is the actual future of cycling in urban areas. Get used to that fact. Municipalities want a share of the money that these services can bring in. They are going to pitch the loveliness and ease of use to females until their fingertips bleed. Why, women?

Well because in bicycling, women are the growth market. Men have been supporting the Urban Cycling Community virtually single-handedly for decades. But they represent a threat to undoing all the good that everyone is scurrying about trying to do. Men are far more likely to drive their bikes recklessly, while inexperienced females are going to need the pretty green lanes to even get them out and about. Men have the potential to keep guys like John Kass in walking around money for years. Their antics are what give the term scofflaw traction.

If you can supplant the cowboy attitude of males for the more docile less aggressive approach of females you get a system that has far less wear and tear and far more good will from the public. Women will also represent the future of the accessories industry in cycling. I know they have been told that you can ride a bike dressed in just about anything or nothing at all. Well come on folks! What that means is that clothing is going to become a stealth income industry in the cycling world.

Designers will find ways for skirts and dresses to be constructed so that you are not merely able to ride a bike in them, but they make the experience safer and more comfortable. Already there have been aims to create bicycle saddles that vibrate and now women’s panties with special absorbent patches that double as cushioning. I even suspect that some sort of serious high heel bike shoe will emerge. But certainly no self-respecting females is going to live her life merely with messengers bags and flip flops as her only riding options.

Bloomingdale Trail Is Going To Get Monetized

As I said earlier nothing will remain that cannot be shown to be able to pay its way. Systems like the Bloomingdale Trail will bring business that provide services to trail users. In fact all across the US trail will either die or thrive based on how easily a municipality can monetize it. For instance expect to see governments leasing space along trails for food concessions like the ones on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

Low income areas are poised to make some money if they can get their crime act under control. Imagine how much business could be made if a covered trail stretched from Oak Park to Chicago which made winter bicycle travel easier. Imagine shops that serve food, fix flats and provide internet access are strategically positioned along that trail. Imagine that the same thing exists for Evanston.

What would it take to build a bicycle network underground alongside subway trains? And yes you would have to charge something for the privilege of riding this network of trails. That is because they would be climate controlled year round. That costs money and the governments would be betting that in exchange for protected parking at each terminus and patrolled stretches by rent-a-cops you would be more than willing to pay for the chance to burn a few calories on a Divvy bike each day.

Expect that the John Kass vision of a transponder-controlled bicycle highway is not a pipe dream. The person bicycle will become costlier to use in these situations than the BikeShare options. Why?

Well first off if public parking for bicycles becomes privatized you would have to pay at both ends to keep a bike ready for your use. With a service like Divvy the parking issues are assumed by the service provider. Think too about the way in which Divvy will impact bike design. Bikes in this scheme of things will need to be tracked. Where you get onto the system will dictate what you will pay for its use. Hence the transponders. It will mean that bikes of all sorts will have to be equipped in ways that make them more uniform with the Divvy fleet.

If you make hub generators get ready to become very wealthy. If you have a private bike without one get ready to buy one. These will power any transponder systems or GPS systems needed to allow the rent-a-cops to come to your aid inside tunnels or covered systems in the same way that SmartPhones do today for those trying to get assistance.

In fact the services you might use along the way will be paid for by your bicycle. Your bike will have information associated with your name and identity. If you rent the bike your FOB information will make it possible to collect fees from you rather than force you to drag along a credit card. You will park your personal bike in a bike corral. And that will mean that personal bikes will need transponders and such and that will mean hub generators and the like.

Use of special Downtown bike lanes will require a fee. Some of these lanes will be elevated and allow you to ride far over the city and ride into buildings to get do business or even get to work. Such bikes will need to be identified and riders will need to be charged for the use of these special lanes. Having ticket takers will be outmoded design. In this world of bicycling theft is essentially eliminated because the chances of anyone buying a used bike that does not have all the necessary bells and whistles is nada.

Bicycling Will Face A Bit Of Decline Overseas

Automobile purchases have skyrocketed in emerging economies. They represent success to people all over the world and with all the new money flowing to these markets human egos will have to be stroked. Meanwhile the West will get a chance to return to a slightly simpler and perhaps healthier way of living, so long of course as it pays.

Leitra Velomobile

Leitra Velomobile

Cars and bicycles will eventually merge in design. The bicycle of the future will look a good deal more like a Leitra than anything else. This bicycle is actually a tricycle. What makes it suitable for widespread use is the fact that you walk into it rather than slouching down in it. That means that females in skirts can ride it without losing their modesty. Old farts who have lost flexibility can still use them.

These will allow the wealthier commuters to have music, heating and cooling and electric assist as they wind their way to work. And because these are enclosed it means that you do not have to stay inside a tunnel to make it work for you. It is the answer to Midwest usage for bicyclists who want a year round vehicle.

With electric assist you can envision being able to pedal through snow and over ice more easily. And because it is a trike it is safer under conditions where traction is iffy. And because it is enclosed helmet are not really required. The seating side can provide enough protection against head injury to make this sort of thing a best seller.

Think too that bicycles will become cars in virtual trains. The less affluent will continue to ride the Divvy. But the commuters from as far away as Elburn will need a way to pedal the 50 miles into the city. Electric assist can make that a breeze. This kind of vehicle will be rented by Metra and others like it. And yes there will be all sorts of advertisement wrapped around its outer surface.

Bicycle Advocacy Will Enter A ‘Grown Up’ Phase

The level of advocacy will inch upward. No longer will the great unwashed of the Urban Cycling Community be able to be counted on to arrive smelly, unshaven and tattooed to help with ‘photo ops‘. These pioneers will be increasingly replaced by females in business attire who have come over in a Leitra-style bicycle to kick back with the other females who have adopted a healthier lifestyle and save money.

The scruffy males who have been sniffing around the females in the Urban Cycling Movement will become supplanted by a more urbane male who is slightly fleshier and much better dressed and everyone will be riding in vehicles that require the operator to obey traffic rules or be fined in real-time. No more quibbles about Idaho Stop Laws or bullshit arguments about registration and such. Bikes will become the automobiles for urban areas and will be treated as such. And that means ‘growing up‘. Leave the messenger bags at home. Shave off the chin bears and get your ear loops plugged or shrunk. Fixed gear bikes are already ‘over!’.

Cycling as we know it will creep past monetization to commercialization and will no longer represent (if it ever truly did) a counter-culture mentality. Those who can afford to ride a bicycle, especially one of their own will be an elite few. Everyone else will pay for the privilege of schlepping around on a 50-75 lb. behemoth of a bike that cannot be ridden very fast without losing a testicle.

In exchange for that loss of speed and the accompanying cowboy attitude you will get to ride alongside a better class of people. Folks who actually can and will be reading their newspaper while riding that Leitra-style trike as part of a ‘train‘. Having lost all that speed you will gain a chance to ride through corridors of safety where the former drug dealers now own bicycle concessions and provide security to passengers on their covered trails.

Merrell Evera Amp Cycling Boots

Merrell Evera Amp Cycling Boots

Sorry ladies the Bike Dyke era will pass over into one where women once again shave their legs and wear perfume or cologne and enjoy vibrating seats on tandems shared by their significant others. Anybody trying to ride a bike along one of these routes topless will be removed and asked to drive their car if they want that freedom. And those of us with more pounds than we should be carrying will no longer be able to rail against impossibly thin women with gorgeous figures that are more lean than curvy will have to suck it up. Stop worrying about your bleeding eyes.

If things go as I think they will vegans of the world will enjoy soy quarter pounders along the trails and fatties stuffed into Bike Dyke outfits will be off in search of Smash Burgers which are going to be #ohsoyesterday. The world is going to be much more homogenized than it ever was before. People will be less concerned about your gender-orientation and certainly not impressed with an in-your-face approach to gender-equality and instead by wondering where to get those ‘biking heels‘.

By the time the current generation of Urban Cyclists reaches retirement age they will be viewed as anachronistic as they really have been all along. These are people who will sit around wondering whatever happened on the way to the inner city on their electric-assist trikes. They will mention the word ‘fixie‘ and the youth of that day will look at one another blankly. Most of these codgers will be sporting SmartPhones from the 2010s and trying to use 4G technology to show their movies of back when they were young and trying to fight foreign oil usage by driving their bikes naked. And the eyes of these youths will immediately show the dismay at something so primitive.

But hey in the meantime we have out as yet unfinished 100+ miles of protected bike lanes which will never get built if we cannot find a way to pay for them. Oh and did I mention that everyone will sooner or later be taking classes on how to ‘drive their bikes‘. What the Dutch never quite got us to see is that the infrastructure if a piece of the pie, not the entire meal. That discarded relic Vehicular Cycling will get dusted off and brought into grade school classrooms across the country as a way of preparing youth for the futures as both cyclists and drivers of cars. But of course the cars they are destined to own will be electric and clean. And where oh where will the Urban Bicycle Community turn to demonstrate?

My suggestion is to simply ride around naked with no real cause in mind using the current Critical Mass Ride approach. You know, where you have a protest ride but do not acknowledge it as such. Where you come together to bitch about people of color who ride against traffic just before this pasty-faced group goes out and tries to ride against car traffic along their route. Surely there has to be a better and more philosophical consistent and satisfying way to spend a Friday afternoon each month trying to get a member of the opposite (or same ) sex in bed?

Peace out! And remember that fixies are over. I suppose that means tight jeans too, thank God!

Chicago ChainLink Forum Is Broken!

Chicago ChainLink Forum Is Broken!