What It Currently Is
The ChainLink Forum is a cringeworthy source of cycling information for Chicagoland. It is replete with rants about this or that ‘issue‘. If you had a ‘near miss‘ or someone ‘shoaled‘ you or a perfectly good bike design somehow offends your sensibilities, this is the place to come to vent. You can call out ‘Section 8‘ residents for bad behavior. You can ruminate about how badass you could be with a Taser when finding someone other than a cyclist in the bike lane. You can wish that anyone you disagreed with could die a slow and painful death, simply because they have a disagreement with your world view. If you need to ride naked or drink yourself silly all in the company of other like-minded folks, this is your place.
In short the ChainLink Forum is just the sort of ‘virtual bathroom wall‘ that you would expect. The denizens are unruly and uncouth and Goodness knows why anyone would have contributed nearly $15,000 to make it more like it is right now. What, you want to organize hatred and misbehavior so that you can reach it effortlessly?
What It Should Be
Take a look at the social sites in both New York and Los Angeles that cater to bicyclists. Big difference. Not a lot of room for the vitriol in either location. These cities evidently have a purpose-driven reason for their sites. They ‘add value‘ to the lives of their users. Why is this not the case for Chicago?
We have lots of small groups on the ChainLink Forum but they tend largely to be announcement areas. No, I am talking about actually getting things done. Collaborating. Take a look at something like Google Plus versus Facebook. Facebook tends to be a good place to park your ‘selfies‘ and to announce that ‘you are here‘. Great stuff for mindless teenagers but what do adults need with that sort of thing?
The ChainLink Forum has made attempts to offer repositories. You know what I mean. There is one that gathers all of the video memorializations of the umpteen Critical Mass Rides. OK, fine. But what about brainstorming in a civil way what that ‘tired old ritual‘ could be? Nada. That is a problem from where I stand. You can only kvetch, bitch or otherwise purge yourself of bile on this site. Even the Active Transportation Alliance site is more useful. And that is not saying very much.
The problem has to do with what people expect of themselves. If you really haven’t got a clue as to how to improve on the Ghost Bike Concept then by all means keep spray painting old heaps and propping them up on street corners and riding around past them once a year. I certainly don’t want to stop you. But surely, there really has to be more than this lame approach?
When a member of the ChainLink Forum announces a new bike design or shows off a piece of street furniture like the Curbee, does it inevitably have to descend into ridicule and name calling? It is as if the Chicagoland Urban Cycling Movement has never come of age. I am reminded of that movie Hook. Peter Pan (Robin Williams) revisits Never Never Land. Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) is also aging. They fight a duel with one another for supremacy.
But what is the fighting all about? The Lost Boys are still lost. Hook still lacks one hand. And Peter Pan is a father with two children and a wife. So to what end is all the fighting?
A Missed Opportunity
Rather than tackling the fundamental problems with this website, there have been contests to design the front page graphic. Yikes! Talk about arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Now my guess is that the usual crowd likes things just as they are. But when even they cannot search and discover past records of bilious rantings disguised as threads simply because their search engine is a POS, then you have to wonder not so much about the technology as the people who are willing ‘to settle‘ for it.
There is no learning center. Why not? Why is there no way to truly collaborate with others to solve problems? All that one finds here is the ready willingness to dump on this or that politician for the umpteenth time or to spew some vile at a suburban community that you have never even visited because they want to control their surroundings in the same way you do when considering changes at Wrigley Field. I really do not get it.
My take on it is that the ChainLink Forum may have at one time been a legitimate attempt to stitch together some sense of community. But this has devolved into the Mean Girls Society. It is now run by a cadre of tired ‘old people‘ who cling to their place in the hierarchy of luminaries (whatever the heck that is supposed to mean) in Urban Cycling. They still seem to be oblivious of anything that is not Urban Cycling (again, whatever the heck that is supposed to mean). There focus is about a narrow as their anal orifices allow. Sad, but true.
I’d suggest selling the account and running a pornography site, but then how would anyone know that anything has changed? They would be confused.
Well, the signature stunt on this site is to ‘go grab some popcorn‘. Nah, there really isn’t anything to see here folks. Just a bunch of tired old people who are bitter about the lanes the already have and angry because there are not more like them tumbling to the pavement every day. They hate bike ideas that their hometown designers offer, they hate traffic furniture, they are shocked at the abuse by other who shoal them, they hate it when someone ‘salmons‘ unless of course it is done on a Critical Mass Ride and then only if the person is an ‘elite‘.
Maybe the signature stunt should be ‘go grab a beer‘. I’d believe that drinking alone in the middle of the night while hunched over your laptop is a more accurate picture of what these folks stand for. And of course one has to acknowledge that the bulk of what they do during the day (on their employer’s dime) is not much different, excepting that it no doubt has something to do with donuts.