It cannot be that difficult to get Ride Marshals for the Four Star Bike Tour who will actually follow the Rules of the Road. But once again we watched as two elderly mixed-gender tandem riders replete with radios, screaming yellow vests and a complete disregard for the fact that we are not in Idaho ran virtually every stop sign on our route. I am not talking about slowing and then proceeding with caution. I am talking about taking the intersection at speed!
Of all the people on a ride like this you would imagine that the Ride Marshals would be willing to model the rules spelled out in the cue sheets handed to each rider on a given route:
Please Ride Safelty!
- Obey all traffic laws; you are a vehicle in traffic.
- Ride to the right, don’t ride recklessly or follow others too closely. Ride no more than two abreast. Leave room for faster riders to pass on your left.
- Don’t use a cell phone or headphones while riding.
- Helmets are required.
- Be alert in traffic and watch for road hazards.
- Give yourself four feet of space next to parked cars; watch for opening doors.
Stop The Hypocrisy
Instead of honoring these rules in the breach, why not simply ignore passing them out in your cue sheet? It would save you space and expense to not have to write them out in the first instance. Then you would not have to hear folks complain that you and your representatives were not following your own rules!
Just come out and say that while we wish we could be honest and actually model the Rules of the Road, we don’t believe in most of them, especially the ones pertaining to traffic controls. Then you could start a long overdue discussion in the cycling community about ‘what it does versus what it says‘.
It is any wonder that people in the media take our hypocrisy (as evidenced by our behavior) to task each and every time they get a chance? We are the very worst ambassadors for cycling safety if we cannot ourselves follow our own rules. But it takes leadership to see this sort of thing through. And at the moment the guy at the top appears (by virtue of the behavior of his underlings and volunteers) to have the least firm grasp on this situation imaginable.
Active Transportation Alliance needs a house cleaning. When we do that we should do some Spring Cleaning as well. Get ride of rules in our own brochures that none of us (let alone our financial backers) observes and become a more transparent organization. Our aim is to raise as much money as possible and along the way appear to be aiding the cause of bicycle safety. But frankly we do not know what that actually means. I say this because we do not follow our own rules.
This is not a matter of having rules imposed upon us from the outside. These are rules which we ourselves hand out for public consumption and then immediately render pointless through our own on-bike behaviors. Why is that?
If we cannot control our workers and contributors then why not simple announce that we do not give a shit about the kind of bicycle safety that we wrote about in the cue sheet. We are far more interested in what color shoes, helmets and jerseys we can coordinate with the plastic road bike of our dreams. We are dilettantes when it comes to anything else. If we look good in our riding kits that is enough.
Why not simply announce this honest truth at the beginning of each ride that we put on as a financial cash source and let riders know that whatever the hell they do on the road is their business. Or if we are worried about liability we could simply say that the lame administrations in Springfield and City Hall have rules which we take issue with but aside from that you can do whatever makes you happy!
No wonder our teenaged children are conflicted about what is right and wrong. We speak crap with the same mouths we use for eating. And they understand this. I watched in horror as a mother and her young son were sprinting through stop signs during the ride this past Sunday. He was a preteen child on an undersized bike. What kind of message is she sending to her son? Does anyone actually think that our children do not see and understand our hypocrisy?
Trust me they do and it will mean that all of the bicycle infrastructure in the world will not be able to save us from ourselves.
It’s No Shame To Admit Defeat
Clearly there is a tidal wave of disregard for traffic laws by riders of all levels, colors, genders and financial means. We do this because we simply do not believe that propaganda that we publish for public consumption. Why not simply say aloud, ‘we are swamped and confused‘. We are currently running a thread on the Chicago ChainLink Forum asking folks who might be interested whether an LCI-level certification class should be held. Why?
The two ride marshals on the tandem this past Sunday are probably LCIs. Why go through the motions of having certification for the purpose of teaching and training individuals regarding the Rules of the Road when driving your bicycle when everyone understands that the elephant in the room is the certainty that none of this makes a bit of difference.
You can preach all day long to as many people on a ride like the Four Star Bike Tour that they are being reckless and are not obeying traffic controls and it will all fall on deaf ears. We are far more interested in hearing about the plight of a cyclist whose cell phone was taken from them while traveling with it at midnight in a sketchy neighborhood. And if that cyclist is female and gets bruised in the course of the theft we are more than willing to open up a $15,000 collection pool for her benefit.
But when it comes to ‘actually behaving in a manner that we ourselves publish as safe‘ we simply fizzle. John Greenfield will never ever write a column about this ‘blatant and obvious lack of correlation between what we say and what we do‘. Doing something like that would cost him contributors and that my friends is why Ron Burke keeps up his charade as well. I take it back, Urban Cyclists do understand Capitalism.
Or perhaps that is giving them too much credit. What they understand is one of the baser instincts of a Capitalist, that is to say Greed. Greed is Good where cycling is concerned. It keeps people who break their own rules (every single day) in dry clothes with a place to stay overnight and that my friend is what everyone wants.
I liken the situation in Cycling Advocacy to being the fellow who oversees Church Doctrine in a religion. Our religion might say something like we believe in Family Values. But in practice we molest children as well as anyone has ever learned to do before in history. The solution to our problem is either to cease the molestations or stop the ineffectual preaching about Family Values. One or the other has to go. You cannot really hope to be taken seriously if you are not willing to become more transparent.
Having John Greenfield write yet another silly piece defending the honor of cyclists whose honor cannot be defended against the likes of John Kass is nothing more than a transparent attempt to get suburbanites to dig yet deeper into their retirement nest eggs to help further this ephemeral notion of Bicycle Safety which is meaningless in reality.
I can almost take more seriously watching a hooker give a lecture on chastity and its benefits than I can read any more of the crap that gets published in handouts from Active Transportation Alliance or listening any more to the pointless blathering of Ron Burke about how to be ‘safe out there‘ when we all know that the Ride Marshals waiting to lead us onto the route are as callous about observing the Rules of the Road as were the Hippies at Woodstock in ’69 when it came to controlled substances.
The equivalent today is our feigned concern about stolen bikes. These stolen bikes are the currency of the Urban Cycling Community. We are outraged at the movies we see of Hispanic youth who are stealing bikes. What we do not see are the white shopkeepers and individual riders who are paying rock bottom prices for these bikes for themselves. The epidemic of stolen bikes is presented as if it is the fault of the thieves. Rather it is the need of the Urban Cycling Community to have access to cheap used bikes in great condition that drives this mess.
And if and when white journalists like John Greenfield get off their untanned asses to investigate the pipeline activity nothing will ever change. The underclass are performing a valuable service to those above them in the economic food chain. Stop blaming the victims. The police would be as ineffectual at stemming this tide of theft and repurchase as they would be in trying to keep a Four Star Bike Tour route clear of riders who fail to obey traffic controls. They would after all have no assistance from the Ride Marshals.