Living With The Consequences Of Our Actions…

Background Reading

Source: ChainLink Forum

Stop Signs As Yields

Stop Signs As Yields

Summary

Every time that I hear an Urban Cyclist speak I keep thinking about the Founding Fathers laboring over the Declaration of Independence and later the United States Constitution all while living as slave owners. How on Earth does one write lines like these and still hold slaves:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

The spirit of our Forefathers is alive and well in the Urban Cycling Community. We can speak glibly about Active Transportation and the re-ordering of society’s transportation landscape while advocating the demise of 90% of it.

It is this disconnect in the minds of the writers and activists who are engaged in trying to bring about ‘change‘ that is the most troubling. Here in Chicago we see members of the Urban Cycling Community decrying the development of large housing projects which have ample parking which they object to while at the same time depicting the residents of Barrington Hills as bigots who hate bicycles.

And of course the problem is most acutely seen in our insistence on being able to do things like ‘treat stop signs as yield signs‘ when it is convenient for us, but decry the situation when someone other than a cyclist tries the same approach. Why is that?

Thinking Jim Crow While Preaching Universal Brotherhood

Nobody ever expects to be called a racist. I know that I don’t. But when I decide that the only really viable candidates for political office or police commissioner are those who are people-of-color that is exactly what I am guilty of.

The biggest problem being faced by the Urban Cycling Movement is how best to integrate cyclists into the Transportation Landscape in a meaningful way.

A rendering of a possible new version of Northeast Broadway. (Image by Owen Waltz)

A rendering of a possible new version of Northeast Broadway.
(Image by Owen Waltz)

What we build on the streets is far different from what we are imagining. For instance take the Protected Bike Lane. It has been evolving here in Chicago over time. We have gone from ‘sharrows‘ that kind of suggest that bikes belong on the street, to plain bike lanes which do little more than firmly put bicycles in harms way by situating them alongside car doors. When it was discovered that this was a colossal mistake we decided to offer the ‘Buffered Protected Bike Lane‘ which is really not protected but does offer a wider area in which cyclists can travel to enable easier avoidance of opening doors.

Now finally the notion of a ‘Segregated Protected Bike Lane‘ is emerging both here in Chicago and out in Portland.

Segregation Revisited

Truly Segregated Bikeways

Truly Segregated Bikeways

Maybe the Jim Crow Era segregationists had it right? The entire purpose of segregation was to keep the races from mixing in normal social contexts. That is apparently the trend towards which bike lanes are headed.

We are struggling in ‘fits and starts‘ with how best to accommodate cyclists while managing to keep motorists, pedestrians and mass transit users happy. The only problem is that most members of the Urban Cycling Community seem to dream in monochrome. Their view of the world is either black or white.

They either want cars to be completely eliminated from the urban landscape in favor of bicycles alone and perhaps a bus, elevated train or even a sidewalk for those hated pedestrians or they imagine a world in which cyclists are on top and everybody else is somehow okay with that.

The old notion of ‘separate but equal‘ is the new mantra of the Urban Cyclist. He has no trouble imagining that his indiscretions while crossing intersections are just fine. If he ignores a stop sign, so what? Cars kill, bicycles don’t is the blather we hear.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

He practices doing version of the Idaho Stop Law whenever he can. This trend is borne less out of necessity than a sense of privilege. And that is the real problem. People who are on foot notice this. Pedestrians are among our greatest detractors. And well they should be.

From our point of view they and electric wheelchair riders and skateboarders and joggers are all in our way. The bike lane we claim as our exclusive territory and we defend it with cameras, Tasers and anything close to hand.

In less than a quarter century we have gone from merely wanting to be allowed to be on the roadways alongside cars to wanting them removed entirely.

And this is a view that is nearly universally held within the Urban Cycling Community. But it is not likely to last. When groups like PeopleForBikes are willing to serve as co-sponsors of the USA Pro Championships alongside Lexus, then you know that something is changing.

This news is problem flying under the radar for most Urban Cyclists who are pretty clueless where professional cycling is concerned. But eventually they will have to learn that when we write that ‘All Men Are Created Equal‘, that includes women and people-of-color too. It means that solutions can only be useful if they manage to satisfy ‘all of the people‘ not just the ‘elites‘.