Trees, Urban Cyclists and Luncheon at the Updated Native Foods Cafe

Background Reading

Summary

The weather today was a mixture of cold and windy with a few snow flakes towards the end of the day. The sky was overcast for much of the time but there was some sunshine. Lots of the bike rides today that our club members were planning got cancelled due to the nature of the weather.

We arose early and grabbed breakfast before heading over to the Morton Arboretum to see what sorts of images might be “lurking“. There were a few but for the most part the sky was not interesting enough to make for many images.

Native Foods Cafe

Later in the afternoon we ventured into the city to the Wicker Park Native Foods Cafe. It turns out that the parking that late in the afternoon was non-existent. So rather than wait for a spot to open up we headed south into the Loop and visited their Clark Street location across from the Loop Post Office (adjacent to the Caulder sculpture).

As we approached we were delighted to find that parking here was not only plentiful but a spot lay waiting just outside the front door. It appears that even a handful of Chicago’s Finest had come to dine at the establishment. And lo and behold we were very delighted to see that there had been a sizable renovation of the premises!

Damen “High Jinks”

Let me preface my next remarks with the observation that as a rule it would appear that Urban Cyclists are all about making everyone aware of their “vulnerability” when riding in the Urban Landscape. I get that! In fact I often find that it seems just a bit too much of a protest. And though I do not always express it here, there are times when I really do “feel their pain“. And just when I am beginning to “soften” a bit along comes another Urban Cyclist whose behavior simply appalls. It might be easy to see this sort of thing as the activity of an “outlier“. But I have witnessed this sort of thing too often to not think it is characteristic of Urban Cyclist behavior.

Here is what happened:

Damen-Hijinks-2

Southbound Damen “High Jinks”

On the way to the Wicker Park Native Foods Cafe we decided to enter the city limits along Irving Park Road. Eventually we landed on Addison and made our way past Lane Tech turning southbound onto Damen. We bike this route a good deal so are familiar with it and while it is only two lanes with parking on both sides, the traffic is reasonably tame and the cyclists are a good deal less frantic on this street than say on Milwaukee.

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We driving a few block north of the intersection where Damen crosses Clybourn when traffic slowed. I sat waiting at the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection at about Damen and George streets. The traffic ahead started to move forward so I waited until I had a car length of empty space behind the vehicle on the other side of the intersection (I was trying to avoid blocking that intersection by having to wait out in the middle).

I pulled forward watching the next vehicle and determined that he was going to be moving ahead enough to allow me to fill the space behind him without blocking that pedestrian crosswalk. I was traveling at about 10 MPH or less and was within about 5 feet or less of his rear bumper when suddenly:

  • The first of three cyclists (also southbound on Damen) passed me on the right and then then did a sharp turn into the area between my front bumper and the rear bumper of the car ahead of me and then began a panic stop using a “skid maneuver” before crossing the middle of the roadway and heading directly into oncoming traffic in the northbound lane!
  • The next two cyclists behind him flew by my passenger window but did not attempt to enter the space in front of me since by that time it had closed to less than 3 feet.

My Perspective As A Driver and Cyclist

I can only imagine what a non-cyclist would make of this kind of behavior. But as a long time cyclist I was frankly furious! The first problem is that when someone passes you on the right moving at 15 MPH and does a “hockey style” stop in front of you with him wedged between your vehicle and another you have virtually no time to react. It happened so fast that had it not been for my very slow speed I probably would have hit him and he would have been pinned between my front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front.

I can just imagine the kind of tale he would have spun for the ChainLink Faithful about another reckless motorist who was not watching out for cyclists. There would have been another cupcake fundraiser to help him with his medical expenses while one of the “Ambulance Chasers” he would have contacted would have been busy taking the testimonies of his two cohorts and swearing that they were within their rights to be passing on the right of traffic and that had I been more careful none of this would have happened.

But as with “Door Zone Collisions” cyclists are moving fast enough that even a careful checking of your rear view mirror might not reveal their presence (especially if they have zipped between moving cars as did this fellow and suddenly entered the “Door Zone” area to find an open car door.

What is really amazing is that I sitting as high as I do in my vehicle could not tell if when he exited my lane and heading into oncoming northbound traffic he was going to encounter cars that like me would not have been expecting him!

Clearly “Safety” Appears to Be the Last Thing Urban Cyclists Desire

As I said earlier this sort of reckless cycling is pretty much run-of-the-mill on Milwaukee just south of North Avenue. Along that stretch bicyclist act as if there is no traffic but them and weave in and out of traffic crossing the middle line of the street and whizzing along in the “Door Zone” at speeds that make me cringe. Why?

I can only imagine that the riders are either ignorant of the recklessness they are demonstrating or are hoping to “cash in” from an insurance claim. “Dooring” appears to be about as daunting to these daredevils as drinking beer for a few hours and hopping onto Lake Shore Drive to frighten the tourists during the running of a Chicago Critical Mass Ride. And while they may be having “fun” it can turn the life of a hapless driver upside down.

No one should have to have their lives disrupted because someone on a fixed gear bicycle (at least the type of stop he attempted leads me to believe his was of that type) dressed in a pea green parka (I think with a hood) decides to lead an impromptu “Alley Cat” down Damen.

If You Are Not A Cyclist, Here Is My Warning!

Forget the blather that cyclists and their advocacy organizations spew. There is really no interest in being “safe” while plying the roadways of the city. If that were the case nobody riding a bicycle would ever run stoplights or blow through stop signs without even bothering to slow down. But what they will do is try and take every dime you have during a legal proceeding that develops because despite their being in the wrong, they managed to convince a judge that you were negligent.

In fact in many instances it is a “common truth” amongst cyclists that they are never in the wrong, by definition. They are always “vulnerable users“. If you hit one of them, it is only evidence that their conjectures about motorists is confirmed. And had there been a pedestrian in the street as this cyclist rode in front of my vehicle whom he hit and struck he would probably have denied that he was wrong in crossing my path to hit that pedestrian.

Riders like this are a scourge on the roadways and unfortunately the Cycling Movement is more than willing to “back their play” no matter their behavior. So be careful of these cyclists. They are attempting more often than not to “game the system” with these kinds of maneuvers. And there are more than a few lawyers willing to assist them in this practice. Do not give them a chance to make your life a “living hell“.