Chicago ‘Bicycle Safety’ Politics (As Usual)

Background Reading


Just after the recent national elections I noted that the Urban Cycling Movement was about to enter an arena for which it was poorly prepared. It was going to have to learn to ‘negotiate‘.

This so-called movement is filled with ‘hard liners‘ whose idea of a ‘rough and tumble political tussle’ is best expressed by their manifesto:

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

But this bit of silliness cost members of the current mayor’s staff their jobs. And now the panting acolytes of the Church of Urban Cycling have no local priests to shield them from the blows they will be receiving in the next few months. They are being tossed to the wolves.

You will read from their Lapdogs that the current administration is planning on completing the 100-mile promise when it comes to laying down bike lanes. But already the lanes are getting less and less ‘fancy‘ and more and more ‘vanilla‘. But this is as it should be.

What they will be hearing despite the protest of the StreetsBlogWar On Cars Crowd‘ are the cold hard facts:

A top challenger to the mayor called for an end to the city’s controversial red-light-camera program Monday.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who is running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in February’s municipal election, said he’d submit an ordinance next month calling for the program to be halted by April 15.

“The majority of red-light cameras do little to create safety,” Fioretti said at a news conference at City Hall, adding that a Texas A&M study showed they might help reduce so-called T-bone crashes of cars crossing in the intersection, only to increase rear-end, same-direction collisions involving cars either speeding up or slowing down at a yellow light.

He also said they were riddled with corruption and cited how the city ended its relationship with the original camera firm, Redflex, in a case that found city and company officials charged with federal crimes, with one already having pled guilty.

“The entire program is fraught with failed oversight, corruption and unfair enforcement,” Fioretti added.

Mark Wallace, host of “The People’s Show” on WVON 1690-AM and director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, said the red-light program “came out of corruption” and is “unfair, unsafe and unjust policy.”

Red-light cameras and speed cameras are nothing more than a private interest to build wealth for private corporations and to balance a budget on the backs of working and poor people,” he said. Wallace added they are “nothing more than a revenue generator” after being adopted “under the disguise of safety.”

John Kass’s words are looking more prophetic every day. The cold hard facts are that bicyclists or all stripes are outnumbered by nearly 100-to-1 when it comes to any measure of power and influence you care to choose.

Nobody takes them seriously other than themselves. They are like the ‘tennis craze‘ of the 1970s. And the ‘recycling craze‘ afterwards. Americans are never truly concerned about the environment or much of anything else so long as they can have luxury.

Pretending that automobiles are going the way of the spat is something that only has traction amongst the reader of The Grist. The only reason that the Danes and the Dutch are essentially neutral on the subject of the automobile is because they don’t make any.

Were it the case that their economy depended on cars (as does that of the Germans) they would probably have a far different public personae where automobiles are concerned. Right now they have mass transit and bicycles to keep the occupied and narrow streets which could not hold very wide vehicles (e.g. Megabuses) so that kind of debate won’t be held.

But here in the United States we have trains, buses, boats, cars, and planes which shape our economy. And every household here is heated and cooled by massive amounts of energy. Yes the usage is becoming more efficient but there is little sign that Americans are ready to give up their creature comforts any time soon.

It is unimaginable to me that 50-year old men and women would decide to sell their cars and live with a reliance on buses, trains and bicycles. The folks who live in the Trump Tower might be able to get around without a personal automobile (they can take taxis or limousines) but never in a million years are they going to give up air conditioning.

Bob Fioretti Is Right

We have overspent for years. We have learned to suckle the teats of the sow that is the Federal Government. But those days are over. Big projects are going to have to be sustainable. Bike lanes are non-essential to some 99-percent of the citizenry of any city. Lots of people ride rentals but not enough to make BikeShare sustainable.

The Urban Cycling Movement is far too wedded to their private bicycle ownership to ever make an impact on the BikeShare solvency of Divvy. So eventually it will become something that will percolate to the top of the list of non-essential services that can be cut without raising too many eyebrows.

Meanwhile the blather about wanting to bring Protected Bike Lanes to the West and South Side of the city will meet with some resistance unless someone can explain how households where $11,000 per year is the average income base can even afford not to have those lanes bring them jobs and or business traffic if they are entrepreneurs.

But in the meantime the city is going to have to find another way to erase its debts and to curb it overspending. Cutting any more schools is going to raise lots of eyebrows. And certainly it makes little sense to have Active Transportation Alliance helping to create Safe Routes to School when the schools have all been boarded up.