Urban Cyclists Find New Way To Be ‘Victims’

Background Reading



Urban Cyclists Find New Ways To Be ‘Victims’

Last night was another fun time on Ogden. It reminded me of an analogous situation on Damen a few weeks ago. Evidently the notion of ‘shoaling‘ is more fun than might be imagined.

I watched in horror as once again a cyclist dressed in a ‘full kit‘ on a nice road bike was heading past the Lawndale Fitness Center making his way towards the intersection of Ogden with Cermak.

If you know the area it has a ‘frontage road‘ that parallels the main sections. Evidently the rider moved out of this area and entered the main section when the traffic started slowing.

Had this been a typical red light situation he would have been following the new law that allows him to ‘pass on the right‘ the standing traffic to reach the white line behind the traffic signal. He can then ‘shoal‘ the cars in preparation for the light to change.

Only in this instance he suddenly did a left turn between my vehicle and the large white truck in front of me before riding down the middle of the two lanes for a stretch before then making a left turn in front of another vehicle up ahead to return to the rightmost lane position!

No Harm No Foul?

Now according to the recent wisdom of the ChainLink Forum if you do something utterly stupid and no injury attends it then the appropriate response is a ‘yawn‘.

The logic behind all of this is that traffic signals, signs and for that matter Rules of the Road do not address the needs of Urban Cyclists. So to quote one of these sage mentors:

Reply by Adam Kitzmann 4 hours ago
+2. It’s clear he’s in the friggin’ clear. No harm no foul. This whole cyclist shaming shit needs to stop. Sometimes the rules don’t make sense to obey, when that’s the case feel free to break them, I know I do.

Now rather than argue with this sort of logic, I simply ask whether it is the right of any motorist to do likewise? Sometimes you have to double-down to get your point across. If Urban Cyclists really want to play that game then in the now famous words of Randy Cohen, they are the only ones with ‘skin in the game‘.

All of this blather about really just wanting to have a safer environment for cyclists is notcyclist shaming shit‘. It is a sincere effort by the few remaining folks willing to consider the consequences of ‘all out‘ traffic anarchy on our streets. If you are in a minority in terms of numbers you really do need to take a different tack. No wonder there are so few women who want to brave even the admittedly tame world of BikeShare cycling.

Maybe it is time to revisit the considerations of the effects of stress on behavior where it concerns Urban Cyclists. The kind of cycling tactics I am seeing put me in mind of the suicide bombers our forces faced in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. When cyclists are routinely describing themselves as an ‘oppressed minority‘ then you have all the makings of a traffic landscape where personal recklessness is not a big thing.

Reply by h’ 1.0 6 hours ago
C’mon folks, you know the cyclist has to be doing something wrong. It’s just a matter of figuring out what.
Tom Z, are you familiar with this term:

Urban Cycling Needs ‘Adults’

It is well past time for the ‘grey hairs‘ who should be leaders to step aside.

Yet again someone who is old enough to know better is following in the footsteps of Randy Cohen. This is not about the merits of the Idaho Stop Law itself. Rather it is about the mindset that lies behind the call to use it as a weapon on our streets. We have lied both to ourselves and our fundraising donors about the goal of ‘safety‘ on our streets. We have tried to frame the need for bicycle lanes as a means of providing ‘safety‘ not only for ourselves as cyclists but pedestrians and even motorists alike. But that tack yielded very little.

So instead we are now all about ‘bicycle comfort‘. Supposedly the more ‘dreamy‘ lanes looked the more likely it would encourage females to use them. But once again that narrative has been exposed as a ‘lie‘. We know know with full certainly that only about a quarter of the users of BikeShare are females. And so the race is on to find an acceptable set of excuses for why this too did not pan out as we claimed it would.

Perhaps it is time to admit that we need to find it within ourselves to act like adults both in front of the cameras and on the streets. Right now we are foundering on the very bedrock notions that were used to prompt politicians to give us what we desired. If we botch this we will have only ourselves to blame. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that should the next two election cycles bring in a more conservative mindset, then we are going to have to ‘suck it up‘ and look in the mirror.

Avoidance Strategies

We act as if the world itself really and truly understands us. Out in Seattle a school shooting occurs and how does the Portland Urban Cyclist Community respond to this tragedy? Why, the carry on with their plans for the World Naked Bike Ride.

Abandoned WWII cars in the Ardennes

Abandoned WWII cars in the Ardennes

Really? That was the best response possible? And of course here in Chicago we are still struggling with the need for the Chicago Critical Mass Ride. Is it that difficult to give up a rather meaningless vestige of tradition? The behavior of the Urban Cycling Community is increasingly more like a religion than anything else. There are things we have done for the past 20 years that we simply cannot set aside.

We have all sorts of poorly painted and shabby looking ‘ghost bikes‘ planted all around the city. They are supposed I guess to shame the non-cycling public into seeing us as the ‘victims‘ we so desperately desire to be. It kind of goes along with our collective narrative as the next ‘oppressed minority‘. But all I see are rusting bikes that could easily have been something more eco-friendly. This is not to disrespect those who have died, but rather to question how we could better live up to our ideals.

Look At Bicycles The Way We Do Automobiles

The Bicycle Apple parking facility at the railway station of Alphen aan den Rijn.

The Bicycle Apple parking facility at the railway station of Alphen aan den Rijn.

We claim that cars require too much parking and that these garages need to be torn down. But just the opposite is happening in the Netherlands. There the number of bikes has become something of a problem. And guess how they are trying to address the rather ugly overflow of bikes?

With of all things garages! Are we only trading one set of problems for another set? Will we continue to ignore the facts surrounding the problems that might be lurking when the drivers of bicycles do not protect their noggins?

So far the response to this discovery is outrage by cyclists who find that once again a cherished ‘collective narrative‘ is being challenged. Look folks! The challenge is to find a more meaningful approach to making the case for cycling. It is going to be like getting people to eat better. It will be a struggle. You simply cannot mandate ‘vegetables and fruits‘ in a culture where ‘chicken and waffles‘, ‘Buffalo wings and beer‘ and fresh heroin are the three basic food groups. We are more likely to solve our gun violence problem than we are to find a meaningful narrative for ourselves if we keep screwing up.

We simply cannot abandon the notion of licensing of bicycles and the subsequent willingness on our part to follow the Rules of the Road. We do so at our own peril. Ours is not a position in which we are currently able to argue against the need for order on our streets. It might sound macho to tell the man that we will treat his stop light and signs any way we want, but we all know how that will end should the motorist population decide to follow suit.

In Closing

We need some new leaders. We do not need more data collecting and chart rendering to tell us what to do. This tendency to use lack of data as an excuse for trying something sensible is getting quite tiresome. It exists not only where bike lane infrastructure design is concerned but there are lots of pro-cycling writers who have fallen into this trap as well. They are more comfortable with pretty graphs that show where we are dying than in trying to find ways to end the bloodletting.

Putting up pretty green lanes with planters along the side is probably the most inane thing I can think of. We need Cycle Tracks. DuPage County has plenty of them. They link our forest preserve areas and run alongside streets which are really arterial streets for car traffic. These look more like what we have come to know in the Netherlands. They are not going to prevent all deaths, nothing can. But they are meaningful in two very important ways:

  1. Everyone gets to use them. That means that traffic on these consists of everyone from dog walkers to joggers to moms with kids on trikes. And should you wonder aloud why this is a good thing, think ‘buy-in‘. If a neighborhood is made safer by giving folks a place to walk at night and takes them to meaningful places like parks, forest preserves, swimming pools, libraries and even school, why wouldn’t they want to support them?
  2. They are separated from car traffic. Having seen what DuPage County has been able to do to mimic the design of the Chicago Lakefront Trail without suffering countless, pointless Critical Mass Rides and their World Naked Ride counterparts has made me a believer. When you consider that a person can travel the Illinois Prairie Path to the Salt Creek Trail and then wind up either at the Fox River TrailBrookfield Zoo or the Woodfield Mall or even Bartlett Town Square you have to be impressed. And you can do this with a minimum of interaction with automobile traffic.

So instead of taking the ‘take no prisoners‘ route why not opt for something more sustainable? Housewives and children can always be counted on to attend a rally for a Cycle Track. And you never have to wonder whether upon your arrival if there will be ugly, overweight, hairy-backed naked people there to provide comic relief.