Now That We Have Handled The ‘Niggers’ On The West Side, How About Critical Mass Riders?


The folks at StreetsBlog Chicagoblinked‘ overnight. I wrote and asked essentially the question implied by this graphic below. I got a response not from the author John Greenfield but a surrogate. His complaint was that he thought the any discussion of the Critical Mass Ride‘s group behavior was better left for The ChainLink. I would probably agree with that assessment, excepting for the fact that the paragraph below was not published on The ChainLink but rather on StreetsBlog.

Calling Out Critical Mass For Riding Against Traffic?

Calling Out Critical Mass For Riding Against Traffic?

My Response Was…

The testimonies of Mssrs. Ronell Wilson and Mayne Spraggis seemed sufficient to further this narrative even without the additional reflections of the author himself. So my question is in what way does the mention of sidewalk riding or riding against traffic further that same narrative. I submit that it really does not and is in fact gratuitous information. It merely serves to place the residents in an unflattering light. But the wording surrounding these activities are not in themselves negative, only the context you mentioned of previous discussions about the ‘salmoning’ practice.

So I ask again, if it is not anyone’s intention to cast aspersions on these cyclists but rather to note the fact of the practice, one would ask why it is never been mentioned in the context of the most celebrated monthly even in Chicago’s urban cycling scene? By including these references in this blog you have inadvertently introduced bike-advocacy at some level. Would you not agree?

What I find interesting is a contrast in the way in which the Urban Cycling Movement responds to similar attempts to ‘dirty‘ them up when an ‘alleycat‘ racer died after being struck by an SUV during an ‘unofficial race‘. The question (paraphrased) was put to a member of the community ‘Does the fact that these rides break traffic laws in any way seem to have influenced this terrible outcome?

One of two respondents launched into a ‘Don’t blame the victim rebuttal!‘. In essence he was asking whether that information furthered the narrative without being gratuitous. If we assume that his viewpoint is correct, then the information was indeed gratuitous. And that my friends is why I asked what I did.

How does knowing whether someone rides on the sidewalk or against traffic further the discussion of the quality of the bicycle infrastructure on Madison Street?

Normally the fact that such information was proffered would not be offensive save for the fact that in describing a Critical Mass Ride I doubt that John would ever have allowed himself the luxury of the implied criticism of the practices of a group whose activities he feels as worthwhile. I have to wonder however why then would he allow himself that luxury in this discussion of Madison Street?

An Honest and Brutal Assessment of ‘Salmoning’

The very first time I heard a cogent discussion of the practice of ‘salmoning‘ was in a video by StreetsBlog of an interview of the New York Times ethicist Randy Cohen. He went to great lengths to explain that while disobeying stop signs and red lights was unlawful he would consider such behavior ‘ethical‘. Where he drew the line was at ‘riding against traffic‘.

I find this distinction curious. If you have ever watched the progress of a rider running a red light it looks a bit like this:

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

The final leg of this maneuver positions the rider into the ‘left turn lane‘ where he executes a U-Turn while riding against traffic. In essence you have to ‘salmon‘ to be ‘ethical‘. This on the face of seems absurd, but then so very much of the Urban Cyclist narrative is of that ilk.

Salmoning is dangerous and ethically wrong. So is running red lights and blowing stop signs. What is not ethical is to be unwilling to acknowledge the two in concert.

Editing Their Comments Section

I said earlier that the StreetsBlog Chicago crowd blinked. My guess is that they decided anyone questioning their reasoning as to the mention of ‘riding against traffic‘ and ‘sidewalk riding‘ was a bit more than their narrative could sustain without having anything to hide behind. It is naked and unmitigated racism for this sort of criticism to be leveled at one group of people (people of color) while giving what is essentially a nearly all white group a pass on the same behaviors.

Indeed in the StreetsBlog interview with Randy Cohen we see him chastising a fellow rider (traveling against traffic) and lo and behold he appears to be an Asian who might well be an immigrant. In fact most of the people of color who practice ‘salmoning‘ are likely immigrants. It is a practice actually taught here in the United States decades ago. It went out of vogue by the 1960s. But that was before it had managed to be exported overseas. Now that immigrants are returning to our shores in great numbers we are a bit like the fellow who having tossed a bottle into the sea is now confronted with its presence years later lying on the very beach from which it was originally hurled onto the waves.

StreetsBlog Chicago is all but confirming that anything which does not leave their narrative (as the liberators of mankind via pretty green lanes and PVC pipes) intact will not be tolerated. Fine. So long as everyone understands the motivations of such a move. But I for one will not sit idly by and allow the nearly all-white Chicago Critical Mass Ride to enjoy the practice of sidewalk riding and against the traffic travel without comment. To do so would mean that a Double Standard was welcomed. I for one do not welcome such an eventuality.

The Golden Rule of Cycling

The Golden Rule of Cycling

Follow On To This Mornings Update

Looks as if the comment section was ‘restored‘. In fact John Greenfield wrote:

Beezodog, one thing we can agree on: I hate it when Critical Mass riders intentionally bike into oncoming traffic. Totally unnecessary.

What prompted me to even discuss Chicago Critical Mass Rides was the fact that many of the archived YouTube clips by various videographers have in fact documented this very thing, ‘riding against the traffic flow‘. I was a bit appalled to see this but like so much done by knuckleheads the world over (the Nazis documented most of their heinous acts, go figure) there seems to be a compulsion to memorialize the ‘bad stuff‘. Call it simple arrogance of outright ‘hubris‘ I don’t know.

But I certainly will not stand by and have African-Americans on the West Side made to look stupid for something being done in ignorance while a bunch of spoiled white kids (brats) are willfully and knowingly  doing something even they claim to hate. StreetsBlog has a duty to keep the playing field level for all kinds of riders and their faults.