Here We Go Again…

Background Reading


You would think that the Chicago Urban Cyclists “Whine and Jeez” Club Forum had gone nearly dormant for the winter, but no they are “itching for a fight“. Take for instance this recurrent theme:

What do you all think about the idea of a website where cyclists can report bad drivers like this, those that park in a bike lane, etc? Would it serve a constructive purpose? I’ve toyed with the idea before but I just don’t know.

This was written in response to someone who posted a “near-miss” thread entry complete with license number, no less. But while this might sound like a good idea in the “heat of the moment” it is bound to have unintended consequences. But hey, who am I not to encourage what would serve as a very instructive lesson for the rest of the Cycling Community.

One wag wrote:

Happy to read that your sense of humor and physical well being remained intact. I’m in on the idea of a near-miss web site. If we can link that into some sort of real time police notification system, when we’re all armed with Go-Pro or the hopefully, soon available Google Glasses, we will be a formidable force for truth, justice and the America way. 

No wait, cancel that last clause. The American way means I own the road toad.

Actually, you do own the road. That whole point about “sharing” the road is because no one owns it to the exclusion of everyone else. What is perhaps in need of some serious reconsideration are these notions:

  • Real-time police notification system : Are you friggin out of your mind? I can see this happening if the police initiate the development and pay for the costs, but that ain’t gonna happen. You are certainly unlikely (for security reasons) to be allowed UPDATE access to their database.
  • All armed with GoPro cameras: Again, are you friggin out of your mind? This group is one of the (how should I diplomatically say this) “frugal” ones on the planet. At something approaching $300 for the Hero 2 and $400 for the Hero 3 it is unlikely to ever be the case that the group is armed with them. Besides the ability to mount these cameras on bikes (without having your mounts stolen) in a manner that includes additional battery power is not a simple task. It is an additional cost and pray tell who is going to help all these riders process their videos? Heck, were you folks planning to post these to YouTube™ or some place where you can control the storage?
  • Google Glasses? Yeah, right!

There are times when I read this forum and wonder whether or not I have stumbled into a Junior High School Twitter-fest. It is often a breath-taking experience (and not in a good way). Grow up!

Some Things To Consider

  • Motorists are far better equipped to capture video than ever before. Dashboard cams are “all the rage” in law enforcement circles. In fact the preponderance of street cams that are being used to catch speeders and intersection blockers is merely evidence of this fact and will increase exponentially over the years as the size of the revenues possible become apparent. So by all means suggest to motorists the idea that they might be the target of a cyclists GoPro Hero 3+ assault and watch what happens.I shop regularly at Cabelas. And believe it or not “us Good Ole Boys” just love the GoPro Hero 3. Seriously, they are a big seller even in a store which caters to hunters. It makes perfect sense to buy your next Beretta and at the same time you get that new-fangled camera to capture you one of them pesky cyclists doing one of them there “Idaho Stop Law – Two Steps” at their favorite intersections.
  • What motorists who decide to “record cyclist behavior” will quickly realize is that cyclists are largely unidentifiable unless you manage to capture they faces on camera. So the next move will be to ensure that license plate legislation or some clearly visible means of identifying cyclists will gain strength. And I for one have not problem whatsoever with that passing.It might be just the thing to have everyone on the alert that they are likely to be the subject of a camera-generated ticket. We could in fact use a few monthly episodes of “People Behaving Badly” taped right here in Chicago. I would suggest that motorists and cyclists have a “hotline” they can call. Then let the fun begin. Out in San Francisco cyclists seem awfully shy when having a camera pointed into their faces while receiving tickets. But hey, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander“, right?
  • The Concealed Carry Law is reality. What this means in real terms is that more and more people whom you would never consider “armed and possibly dangerous” will be exactly that. All you have to know is that the gun violence rates are highest in states like Texas because every mother’s son and daughter is armed. When tempers flare so do the bullet trajectories.Now couple with this the fact that if you think Milwaukee Avenue Hipsters like to “drink and drive their bikes” imagine what will happen when one of them brandishes a weapon because he got irked that someone “passed him at less than feet” (or at least he thinks so in his very inebriated state) so he launches a “fixie track down” of a gun-toting motorist who he verbally assaults at the next intersection and in a rage decides to smash his driver side mirror. Only it turns out this driver is a lady who is seriously worried that she is the target of car hijacking (or worse) and shoots first and asks questions later.Understand too that the bicycle rider is a person-of-color and well you get the picture. Things on the nightly news are going to get ugly. But hey, go ahead and launch your website. In fact the fellow who made the suggestion is probably just itching for a chance to mix-it-up with the rest of the world. Fine, have at it. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Knowing Your Place

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

Cyclists in Chicago are mainly “elites” whose ideas of how the system works are sometimes a bit wonky. People of color who ride these mean streets are more than aware of the dangers of letting things get out of hand. So you learn to pick your battles and by all means you do not attempt to act as if the cop or the judge or the motorist is free of all biases. You always keep in mind that George Zimmerman would never have gone free had he looked like you.

Cyclists are perhaps unaware that in becoming transportation cyclist rather than merely recreational they have crossed a line from being “part of the ruler power structure” to just being part of a “nuisance underclass“. People who drive so vastly outnumber cyclists that it is mind-boggling. So when you start poking that giant with a stick in its eye, you risk being squashed like a bug.

Haven’t You Heard That “Share The Road” Mantra Is Outdated?

It's their lane; we'll let you share it for now.

It’s their lane; we’ll let you share it for now.

Evidently some of the more “Hard Line” members of the Cycling Movement have decided that we really should no longer use the “Share The Road” mantra. I try not to spend a lot of time following the latest absurd bit of reasoning that comes out of the Cycling Movement because eventually it all sounds as silly as the one before it and you begin to realize that most of this stuff is just driven by elevated adrenaline levels following what (from the cyclists perspective) was a “near-miss” incident.

And when one of these “near misses” finally get to court as an attempt on one’s life somebody is going to suggest once again that bicycles be fitted with easily identified tags or stickers or plates and that cameras be trained on problem sections of road to help adjudicate the matter.

And of course cyclists are going to resist the attempts to openly identify them in the roadway as a sign that Big Brother is breathing down their necks. But if they ever hope to have “near-misses” taken seriously something other than their impressions is going to have to be submitted in open court and cameras are the best way.

And before long it will be realized that identifying that muffler clad individual dressed in black at 8 PM on a bicycle with no headlight or taillights or reflectors is a bit too difficult for even the jury to accept. So plates will become law.

Get Ready For The Games

If you think that society is indifferent to the deaths of cyclists, just wait until you get the “Irish up” where motorists are concerned. Their sheer numbers dwarf that of all active cyclists by such a great margin that it will take your breath away. And if you have not thought about the impact this will have on future attempts to increase the number of miles of bike lanes not only in the city but outside its limits as well, then understand that what you are doing has consequences.

But hey, I’ve got a big bowl of buttered popcorn at the ready and my GoPro Hero 3 is recharged and already mounted on my dashboard.

Let the games begin.