Again With The Conflicting Messages

Background Reading


Reply by Mike Zumwalt 7 hours ago
“The rage may have hit a peak last week after a prominent Washington Post columnist suggested some motorists might think it worth paying a fine to hit bicyclists.”

Hitting a pedestrian carries these fines so what are drivers thinking?

Hit and Run of an injured person is a Class 2 Felony which carries a possible sentence of up to 7 years in a state penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

If the accident causes the death of a person, Hit and Run becomes a Class 1 Felony which carries a possible sentence of up to 15 years in a state penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

The bike lanes in Chicago seem to be experiments and they’re inconsistent through out the city still the law provides that a bike can take the lane regardless but since that’s nearly suicide bike lanes at least won’t get the response from drivers to “get the hell out of the road/my way…”.

“We’ve had six cyclists (ride) by in the last hour,” said John Garrido, the Chicago police officer who helped coordinate the petition drive against the bike lanes while off-duty. “Really? You are going to reduce lanes of traffic and create more congestion for a few bikes?”

Maybe on the far reaches of the city not a lot of people bike, it certainly isn’t convenient or possibly even pleasurable to ride downtown from Jefferson Park, or Austin but in places like Wicker,Logan Sq the loop, Lakeview,Andersonville it’s more like 6 cyclists every few minutes.

Last check was 30,000 people rode their bike to work in the loop that’s hardly a few.

Now compare this description of AlleyCat racing:

Here’s the thing though: Alleycat races are dangerous and illegal. Under Illinois law bike races must be approved by state or local authorities before they may take place on public streets. Generally, approval will not be granted unless accommodations are made so that the event does not interfere with traffic. 625 ILCS 5/11-1514. The point of alleycat racing is to test one’s ability to travel by bike in the city under the kinds of conditions faced daily by bike messengers, in traffic. Obviously, no governmental authority would sanction a race in moving traffic. One significant downside to these races operating outside the law is that they are uninsurable. If a racer is hurt due to a poorly designed or designated course, or some other negligent act or omission by the race organizer, he or she will likely be out of luck with regard to receiving compensation.

Bad things can and do sometimes happen in alleycat racing. In March, 2008 a racer was killed during what used to be the biggest and most important such race in the city, the Tour Da Chicago. During the race, several racers ahead of the main pack approached the six-way intersection of Lincoln-Damen-and Irving Park. As they did, the pace, which had been high, slowed because the light was red. However, one of the racers, Matt Lynch, apparently tried to take advantage of everyone else slowing and shot into the intersection. When he did he was struck and killed by an SUV traveling at full speed. Matt made a mistake and it cost him his life. When deciding whether to enter an alleycat race, the prospective participate should consider the stakes and carefully take stock of his or her ability and experience. Recently, there has been a trend of alleycat races being organized and participated in by bicyclists who are not messengers, riders who may not have the kind of ability and smarts that someone who rides for hours every day on crowded city streets does. Several weeks ago I asked Ben Fietz of the Chicago Couriers Union to offer his insight about alleycat races. He graciously did so. Here is what he wrote to me:

Alleycat races are pretty much always illegal, and can be very dangerous. That said, they can also be a very important part of the messenger community and the biking community in general. It sounds crazy, but I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t participated in alleycat races. In their purest form, alleycat races are a way for messengers to compete against each other and find out who is actually the fastest and who knows the city the best. I have the top spot at one of the best messenger companies in Chicago, and the truth of it is that I got into the company that I work for by racing in alley cats and proving myself about four years ago.

That used to be the main purpose of alleycats. They were races put on by messengers for messengers. But a few years ago, alleycats started to get really popular with city cyclists, and they started entering alleycats, and eventually throwing their own. It got to the point in Chicago where there were more non-messenger thrown races than messenger ones. Of course companies with hip marketing departments became aware of this scene, and sponsorship for the races grew. The early alleycat races usually didn’t have any sponsors at all, they would just be a cash race, winner takes all. It has gotten to the point where people are having alleycat races in cities which don’t even have any messengers in them. I heard about a race in St. Augustine Florida, which seems kind of silly. A couple of years ago, Velocity wheels sponsored and threw an alleycat in the city in Michigan which their headquarters are located. Once again, there were no messengers in the city, but they had an alleycat with a huge prize list, and people came from all over to race.

There aren’t as many alleycat races in Chicago as there used to be. The Sadie Hawkins race in the fall is a yearly race, which has very little involvement by messengers, but it’s a fun race and usually has a huge turnout. A messenger has been throwing a race about once a month downtown. These races are short and fast, and are set up to favor messengers. There are usually a couple of stops in each race that are very hard to find unless you are a messenger. The biggest race used to be the Tour Da Chicago, until Matt’s death.

* * * * *

As far as the safety of alleycats, it is pretty much up to the individual racer to race within your limits. There isn’t really any way to make a completely safe alleycat race. The whole point is that you are racing on city streets with traffic. The difference between a good alleycat race and a bad one is the level of organization and how well the race flows. But how well the race is organized really doesn’t have any bearing on how safe that race will be to enter, just how much fun it will be.

Alleycat racing, if it is to be done at all, should be left to folks who know what they are doing. A group of riders racing through city streets pretending to be something they are not, professional bicycle couriers, is a recipe for disaster. Before deciding to participate in an alleycat understand what you are getting into.

Reply by peter moormann on Sunday
I always assume the sensor is bad when I come upon a red light.

The Problem As I See It

In conversations on the ChainLink and elsewhere on the Internet cyclists seem to be fairly cavalier about their willingness to break laws they know are meant to be followed. Yet if a motorist decides to say something similar we get our panties in a wad. And yes, cars have the potential to be more dangerous for the cyclist when there is a collision but Goodness knows that the three foot rule that we clamored for is made meaningless when we willingly hitch rides on vehicles during AlleyCat races.

Why is there no consistent message from the Urban Cycling Movement? We get severely bent out of shape if a journalist suggests that motorists behave in a manner consistent with that demonstrated by cyclists. Why? We throw into the faces of critics that when we run red lights and blow through stop signs, ‘we are the only ones with skin in the game‘. Why?

Either the Movement has some ideals or it does not. What I see is a willingness to bury our heads when AlleyCats are run and never complaining very loudly when their videos are posted. But let someone outside the Movement suggested equally bizarre behavior and we suddenly want to hold a press conference to show our displeasure. Why?

Does it not seem odd that we should ask for a three foot rule and then turn around and ignore the reasons behind that rule to in fact record that unlawful behavior on camera? Why?

We have articles published by reputable magazines in which female riders complain about males making unwanted sexual advances towards them because of the clothing they wear while riding. And yet we continue to hold a World Naked Bike Ride each year. Why?

You really cannot find a more absurd set of situations coexisting than those surrounding the Urban Cycling Movement. We seem (at least to me) absurdly manic and conflicted about what we mean and where we stand. And unfortunately the older and supposedly wiser heads in the movement are either lazy louts or simply unable to demonstrate leadership beyond the occasional photo-op or pothole filling stunt. Why?

We Are Neither Fish Nor Fowl

Imagine my surprise at reading this abstract for a recent article on cycling behavior in the Netherlands:

The road behaviour of cyclists and specifically Amsterdam cyclists, is a recurring theme in the public debate. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchic attitude. Although everyone can provide anecdotal evidence to confirm this allegation, there is precious little structural insight into the actual behaviour of Amsterdam’s cyclists.

My question is again why? If bicycle infrastructure is supposed to bring some coherency to the traffic landscape then why would this question of reckless behavior among cyclists even exist in of all places the Netherlands?

Keep in mind that they have a nearly half century head start on us. And if that much of a lead brings so very little expectation of change, then why are we spending ourselves into possible bankruptcy (assuming the Highway Trust Fund issues are not resolved) without the expectation of actually achieving Vision Zero?

Why at this very late date has the Netherlands not resolved the problems that we are dealing with in a nascent bicycling movement? One would think that if bringing cycling online was a powerful and endearing as we are led to believe that all would be sweetness and light where cyclist behavior is concerned. Clearly it is not. Why?

Are we literally accepting a promise to deliver but there is nothing in the package. Imagine my surprise to learn that in the whole of the Netherlands you are less safe in terms of cycling mortality rates than you would be in the city limits of Chicago! How could this be?

Please Tell The Public What Is Real

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

I know that politicians have a great deal of difficulty in giving people the straight poop. They want to be returned to their jobs until retirement age is reached. So their propensity to prevaricate is legendary. But why should the Urban Cycling Movement follow suit? Can’t we just say that we really hate cars and wish them buried and covered over?

Oh wait! We did. But it seems that no one in the Urban Cycling Movement is willing to even acknowledge this toxic Manifesto. It is almost like watching the pastor of a church engaged in sexual intercourse with the church organist behind what they think is an opaque screen while the Sunday School teacher and his pupils look on in horror.

He is afraid to acknowledge the obvious and continues to look away and blather about the Ten Commandments while the children try to continue listen to his meaningless drivel.

This is the predicament we find ourselves in when we complain about journalists who call our bluff and suggest that they act as wantonly as we do. Why should we ever get angry with someone whose words only hint at what we do openly and on camera?

I Still Say We Are Drama Queens

We know no other role to play than that of Blanche Dubois. We allow our fellow Urban Cycling Movement members to make a mockery of everything we say that we stand for and yet are afraid to ‘call them out‘. We ride naked through the city and yet are horrified when we think someone might be peeking up our skirt while we ride in a billowy dress that is far to short for the purpose of covering our nakedness.

We are irate when a fellow cyclists dies but unwilling to submit to a tradition of training that might actually save lives. We make token stabs at looking as if we do not behave in wanton ways but our words in conversation on the ChainLink tell a very different story.

We scratch and claw at every change the Chicago Cubs try to make to keep the second most popular tourist attraction in the state on a viable financial footing. And yet we feel that we have the perfect ride to tell others in an entirely different county that they are being obstructionist for not allowing ‘bike lanes‘ in their midst.

Those same ‘bikes lanes‘ which have not proven to solve the problem of reckless behavior for the Dutch. Yep, we want more of those and dammit we expect to get them. And to what purpose?

Why to keep us from riding recklessly. At least that was the bit of blather one Ron Burke let loose a couple of years ago in an editorial reply as to why we need ‘bike lanes‘. Well, if the Dutch cannot claim to have solved their scofflaw problem why would we be claiming that victory for ourselves?