Pedestrians vs. Cyclists : The Impending Collision

Background Reading


Stranger outside Big Star who told me you hoped I would die on my bike – w4m (Wicker Park)

You: Older gentleman in business casual, liquor on breath, sense of self worth fueled by demeaning other people

Me: Diminutive girl (Gillian Wu) with light purple bike, grey helmet, still hopeful, heart hurting

Remember me?

I shouted at you and your friends to get out of the bike lane and was met by a chorus of jeers. I turned around, got off my bike, and politely asked that you and your friends and your wife, who was holding your beautiful, sleepy tow-headed child, if you could move your conversation from the bike lane to the sidewalk so other people on bikes wouldn’t have to swerve around you into traffic, and so you wouldn’t be at risk of getting hit by a less attentive cyclist.

I said please and thank you. I called you sir. You called me an entitled bitch and told me the world would be a better place without me and people like me.

Your friends laughed while tears of shame and anger burned in my eyes.

Your wife smiled and shrugged when you told me you hoped I got hit by a semi and splattered all over the street.

You told me that pedestrians have the right of way no matter what*, and that I was wrong, and that I would get what was coming to me.

Your child looked at me with big, round, curious eyes, and began the lifelong process of learning how to treat other humans like garbage.

I hope you wake up tomorrow in your comfortable bed, a slight hangover creeping into your graying temples. I hope that you feel gravity wearing on your bones, every step to your bathroom sink a shuffling chore, the repetition, the mundanity of your life exhausting from the moment you wake up. I hope you splash your face with cool water and look into the mirror, bleary, and see your reflection, and see yourself as I saw you, your entitlement, your brazen lack of empathy, your inability to consider the implication of your actions. I hope your son clings to your leg, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and begs you to give him a horsey ride even though now he is getting too big. I hope that you feel a pang of regret, even just a twinge, thinking about his bearing silent witness to your verbal abuse of a stranger.

I hope you tell him to try his best to be nice to people, even when they aren’t always nice back, just like my father told me.

I hope he listens.

* Chicago municipal code:
9-60-050 Pedestrian to yield right-of-way when.
(a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

9-60-060 Pedestrian crossing.
(a) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway at any place other than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb except in a marked crosswalk.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

9-60-120 Pedestrians to exercise due care.
Nothing in this chapter shall relieve a pedestrian from the duty of exercising due care [the conduct that a reasonable man or woman will exercise in a particular situation, in looking out for the safety of others].


This story is one that is repeated on a daily basis in Chicago. It is about the nascent dislike by cyclists of pedestrians and ‘the favor‘ returned by them to cyclists. Let me relate two instances that I actually witnesses over the past few days. Both of these occurred at the intersection of Des Plaines and Jackson.

Divvy Cyclist Passes Turning Car


Divvy Rider Executes Improper Pass

So the light changes on the corner and a vehicle (taxi) on Jackson moves into the intersection to make a right turn (southbound) onto Des Plaines. There are two cars in fact waiting to make the right turn. The taxi moves forward and waits while the pedestrians on the east end of the crosswalk begin crossing.

As is usually the case a dozen or so riders on bikes of all sorts pass through this intersection heading eastbound towards the (formerly) Sears Tower. This particular rider was on a Divvy. He rode along in the Door Zone and while the cars were waiting for the pedestrians to complete their crossing he decided to pass the waiting taxi on the right.

This meant that he had to ride in the crosswalk causing pedestrians to veer away from him to avoid a collision. He never ‘broke stride‘ while executing this maneuver. He seemed oblivious of the pedestrians and instead glared menacingly at the driver of the taxi.

I wondered if it ever occurred to him that the proper way for him to proceed was to pass the taxi on the left. I suppose like Gillian he preferred to avoid taking the lane. In fact he could and probably should have either:

  • waited behind the second car waiting to turn (assuming he feared taking the lane) or
  • passed both waiting cars on the left and continued eastbound on Jackson or
  • he could have ridden between the two turning cars, pass the taxi on the left

But perhaps he felt entitled to his glare because the taxi was impeding his forward progress? I cannot say. I only wondered why his need to move forward meant putting pedestrians in ‘harms way‘ so that he did not have to be?

Blowing A Red Light And Scattering Pedestrians

But lest you decide that I am picking on Divvy riders, let me regale you with the next story which took place the following day.

There were four young men crossing at the same intersection as the light was now green. Suddenly a bicyclist on a private bicycle approached the intersection (he entered after the pedestrians had the green and began to cross heading westbound) and proceeded to ‘split the pedestrians‘.

Two guys had been chatting with one another as they walked. I heard one exclaim that he was never surprised by the ‘bone-headed moves of cyclists‘. Evidently Urban Cyclists have a well earned reputation for doing dumb things. Crossing on the red light only pisses off motorists. But riding through the crosswalk while pedestrians are in it is outrageous on at least some level. Oh, and it’s illegal.

I could do what Gillian did and cite the ordinances both state and local which govern this sort of behavior but that would be a waste of both your time and mine.

Cyclists Are In Search Of ‘Victimhood’

SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

It is true that pedestrians standing in the bike lane (especially when drunk) is annoying. But so is nearly mowing down a few crossing the street at the corner in legal fashion, especially given that you (the cyclist) are crossing on a red light. But as in all three of these cases humans are showing the capacity to be ‘entitled‘.

The drunk standing in the bike lane is being an ass. But hey, that sort of thing is repeated on a daily basis along the Chicago Lakefront Trail by cyclists who decide to stop and chat in that ‘bike lane‘. And while going around them is not likely to mean that a car will ‘blindside‘ you it does mean that you could collide with another rider or pedestrian or even a jogger. People are simply impolite. Get over it!

Being a ‘drama queen‘ as was the cyclist who was riding around the cab through the pedestrian crosswalk (full at the time with pedestrians) is precisely why everyone needs to ‘chill‘. He too probably took the time to write a scathing critique of the taxi driver who was ‘blocking his forward progress‘ without even considering he might have been in the wrong.

But so long as we are all eager and willing to be the victim in each and every situation then these sorts of ‘bone-headed scenarios‘ will continue to play out. Cyclists need to do at least two things in my estimation:

  1. Get some training that really teaches you strategies for dealing with right turning vehicles
  2. Be as patient with stupid drunken pedestrians as motorists must be with stupid drunken cyclists who are ‘auditing‘ the L.A.T.E. Ride by crossing the yellow line and riding into oncoming traffic as fast as they can

Why that criticism of that sort of behavior gets ‘no traction‘ on the ChainLink is beyond me. But I am guessing that it runs counter to the ‘victimhood‘ espoused in their collective narrative of the lowly Urban Cyclist. And surely the upcoming ‘crackdown‘ on both motorists and gasp (even cyclists) is going to rub many an ‘entitled‘ cyclist the wrong way.

ChainLink Behavior Is Equally Bad

All that one needs to do is ‘SEARCH‘ the annals of the ChainLink to learn that its inhabitants have said as much or worse than this drunk fellow did. Yet I seldom remember hearing a chorus of folks respond with rebuke. This situation is similar to the ChainLink in that regard. ChainLink has as many bigots in its roster as does the worse hate group of which you might think. They, like those who join hate group do not understand themselves to be haters. Why?

The reason is simple. If you can convince yourself that the beliefs of the other guy are evil, then hating him is in essence ‘doing God’s work‘. And of course when you get a tribe mentality operating things go downhill quickly. So please, please do not try and make more of this guy’s rude and ugly behavior than is warranted. Just remember that Gillian belongs to a group with an equally bad reputation and she seems happy in that role.

And As For Drunken Behavior

No one in the entire world of cycling can hold a candle to the likes of the Midnight Marauders. They know this and are proud of that fact. So if you dislike ugly drunken behavior and think it unbecoming in public, then again stay away from this group on the ChainLink.

Crosswalk Musings

Crosswalk Musings