The Littlest Engine

Background Reading


Over 100 people joined us for last Thursday’s Pedway tour. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

Over 100 people joined us for last Thursday’s Pedway tour. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

I’m pleased to report that we’ve made significant headway in our efforts to revive Streetsblog Chicago through local funding. If we continue at this pace, we will be able to relaunch the site by our April 8 deadline. We owe it all to generous support from readers like you, as well as our advertisers, plus last week’s fantastic Pedway tour and pub stroll, hosted by our friends at Moxie Chicago and the Active Transportation Alliance.

The Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund currently holds $31,700, which is 42 percent of the $75,000 we need for a year of operations. This sum will allow me to resume my role as a full-time employee, and allow Steven Vance to resume his role as a part-time employee, writing one or two posts a week. It will also give us a budget to pay freelancers and cover administrative expenses. Any additional funds we raise will go towards more posts from Steven.

In other organizational news, we recently submitted an application with the IRS to launch a new 501(c)3 nonprofit called the Chicagoland Streets Project, which will serve as the parent organization for Streetsblog Chicago. Forming the nonprofit will allow us to accept grants from charitable foundations, which will be key for making SBC financially sustainable.


Behold: The 501(c)3 application for the Chicagoland Streets Project.

Streetsblog LA editor Damien Newton, who went through a very similar reboot process several years ago, was a huge help in walking me through the application process. Big thanks also to Peter Skosey from the Metropolitan Planning Council, Ron Burke from Active Trans, and Randy Neufeld from the SRAM Cycling Fund, who have provided advice and assistance as we reach out to potential donors.

As part of the process of setting up the 501(c)3, we’ve recruited three important leaders in the local transportation advocacy scene as our charter board members. Anne Alt, a Streetsblog contributor and Beverly resident, works at bicycle law firm FK Law, and helps lead the Chicago Cycling Club, Active Trans, and Friends of the Major Taylor Trail.

Uptown resident Maria Barnes owns the commuter-oriented bike shop Uptown Bikes, and is a former Active Trans board member. Streetsblog contributor Olantunji Oboi Reed, who lives in the South Loop, is the co-leader of Slow Roll ChicagoRed Bike and Green Chicago, and the South Side Critical Mass. We’ll be announcing several other board members in the near future.

Last Thursday’s Pedway pub crawl raised $1,400 for our war chest, which significantly moved the needle towards our goal, and it was a fabulous time as well. Over 100 people turned out for a tour of Chicago’s overlooked system of underground walkways, led by yours truly.

Moxie Meetup - Pedway Tour

We ducked out of the Pedway for a minute to check out an interesting view of the Aqua Building and Lake Shore East’s park. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

They bought raffle tickets for sweet prizes generously provided by DivvyHoulihan’s tavern, and Slow Roll Chicago, and several attendees stepped up to the plate to give an additional $100, which won us a $100 challenge grant from the good people at Alt-Cycle bike shop. Special thanks to Moxie’s Daniel Ronan and Active Trans’ Kevin Dekkinga for their work organizing and promoting this highly successful event.

To date, 124 Streetsblog Chicago readers have contributed more than $7,000 dollars towards the resurrection fund, which has been a huge help in our fundraising efforts. Not only do these gifts account for 22% of our total war chest, the sheer number of supporters is evidence that many Chicagoans view SBC as a crucial source of transportation news and safe streets advocacy, which they want to see back in action ASAP. That fact will greatly influence the decisions of potential grant providers.

If you value Streetsblog’s hard-hitting coverage of walking, biking, transit, development, and public space issues, and haven’t already done so, please consider making a donation to the Streetsblog Resurrection Fundtoday.

Thanks again to all our readers, donors, advertisers, and allies for your ongoing support.


First off, let’s be honest. As happy as I am sure John and Steve are that 100 people turned out for their PedWay PubCrawl, the correct adjective to use of the turnout is ‘pathetic‘. They of course in true ‘activist‘ style decided to go with ‘fantastic‘. But even a seasoned cynic like myself knows that when the really useless ChainLink Forum can haul in contributions from 15K people then despite the differential in giving there is something seriously wrong with the levels of engagement in the future of the Urban Cycling Movement.

But hey, we all know that ‘activist‘ is merely another term for ‘wannabe‘. All you have to do is scratch the surface of the disgruntled and you will find dozens of ‘activists‘. The big problem is that unlike the Opposition from the Right, these clowns haven’t got two coins to rub together.

It isn’t that they are penniless. Nope. They have different uses for their monies. Like beer. If you could somehow open an ambulatory microbrewery that served as the revenue stream for your operations you could haul in real cash money. But until then, you have to limp along until you can convince the Koch Brothers to fund the thing.

Let’s Do The Math

So if you have Resurrection Fund with $31,700 drawn from approximately 100 people (of course there are probably oodles of others who could not make it to the Pedway Crawl) that means an average of close to $3.2K per person. Wow! Now here is some land I have for sale in Florida. I smell a very generous benefactor!

Now ask yourself this question. Is it possible to enlarge that donor base to say several times the 15K who are members of the ChainLink Forum? I would think it possible. But who would they be?

Well for starters you could schlep around to the various bicycle clubs in the area and tug at their heartstrings. That should easily make it possible to get the other few thousands you need.

Then hit up the guys whose bottom lines you most drastically affect, the brewers in the area. They owe you guys big time. But is is possible that you could manage to pull your heads out of your asses long enough to develop a clientele that extends well into the hordes of motorists and pedestrians who right now loathe the very sight and sounds of cyclists?

You might have to tailor your words a bit more when it comes to the ‘War on Cars‘ but I am certain you can find a way to do that. After all even the people who drive cars are sick and tired of the behavior of their peers and would gladly read your words if they did not always swing around to threatening them for the choice of vehicle.

As for pedestrians, they could surprise you. Drop all of the criticisms of them when they wait patiently in the crosswalk where it intersection with the bike lanes on Dearborn Street and you might even learn to see things more clearly (at least where their perspective is concerned). In fact it would be wholly refreshing to find that I was reading something that did not pit one segment of society against another because of their transportation choices. Could that even work?

Thinking Outside the Box

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

The world itself is not as black-and-white as the Urban Cycling Movement thinks it to be. I would judge that about 50% of the bullshit ideas that you folks declare to be part of your catechism are almost as true as the 50% of the bullshit ideas that your cousins in the Tea Party blather on about. The only difference is that they have deeper pockets.

But isn’t it time that we found ways to burrow under the skin of the dragon and to reach out to the other side? We like to complain about the stagnation in Washington D.C. But the fact of the matter is the conversations on Main Street are more entrenched than anything going on there.

What is with that, people? Are we really willing to go down swinging with nothing ever really being resolved? When I was a kid the church folks always pointed to the work of (drum roll, please) Satan as being the Accuser. The idea is still alive and well all over the Middle East and with horrific results.

But it seems that the ‘activists‘ far outnumber the puppeteers. The Koch Brothers have an agenda. Imagine their heartburn if Liberals and Conservatives stopped ‘drawing fire for them‘ and instead talked with one another. Is it even possible for us to get beyond the stupid idea of a ‘ghost bike‘ to something more meaningful, like a ‘memorial for the fallen‘?

Right now it would seem that every time someone dies on our streets we have to first identify what ‘uniform‘ he was wearing. But that is the way ‘lapdogs‘ think and write. Isn’t it time to jettison that shitty notion and realize that when a person dies on our streets, he is a dead person first and represents all of us? Didn’t we all remake awake during high school English class long enough to know For Whom The Bell Tolls?

Stop The Madness!

I know that the powers that be love to organize us into sectors of revenue. Every time Active Transportation Alliance seeks to raise some money they start sending me emails that say in effect ‘Danger, Danger Will Robinson!‘ And they find ever new ways to get me to release the strings of my coin purse and dig deep for them.

But what I keep wondering is whether they even believe their bullshit themselves. They have a natural conflict of interest. They want to get paid wages. So despite the pressing need for lobbying or action, always but always they have to judge what I am willing to hear and then press that button.

But what do they do when a group of cyclists do something egregious? Do they call them out or do they deflect? I am betting the latter. Ron Burke cannot keep his job if he doesn’t. Sarah Palin can’t get paid to ramble like an idiot in front of a group of PAC members if she doesn’t at least attempt to tell them  what they want to hear.

But me, I am pulling for that little kid over there (sitting on his father’s shoulder) who is asking ‘Why is the Emperor walking naked down Main Street?‘ When we all have the courage to ask that question then I will know that activism isn’t really some form of mental and social masturbation.

There Is A Crying Need For Honesty

We need to get people of all stripes together to ‘bounce ideas off of one another‘. Right now all the bullshit is flowing downhill on top of the guys we distrust. But frankly not everyone who drives a BMW is a bastard. There are many times when cyclists are too dumb to be allowed to live. And yes pedestrians are often assholes and walk around streets emerging from between cars and either frightening the crap out of drivers or causing cyclists in the Sharrow Lanes to leap out of their skins.

Now if you really want a fresher look at reality, then read the ongoing thread that the ChainLink Forum has regarding Missed Connections. But read it knowing that every complaint there is probably something that could at one time or another be redirected at the complainant. So the best medicine is to drop the finger pointing act and come together.

We do not need another year of the Ride of Silence! Hell no! We need a ride, drive, walk of outrage at our collective stupidity. We are killing one another and rather than deal with our collective guilt we are more than willing to ‘deflect‘. That currently is what we are paying for when we contribute to StreetsBlog or ATA. We need absolution. We join the KKK because we need to know that the conditions under which the people-of-color live is due to their lack of effort, not something systematic.

We coalesce into groups that represent something called religion. We either behead one another or ban them from public discourse based on their sexual orientation or gender or whatever the hell else comes to mind.

And part of that ‘religion thing‘ is the Urban Cycling Movement‘s other incarnation the Church of Urban Cycling. It’s Pope flies from country to country charging steep fees to have cyclists in each new location be told that they are ‘righteous victims‘ and that they should resist the ‘Wearing of the Helmet‘. And so the bullshit keeps getting flung and we keep having pub crawls for our local lapdogs benefit.

When will The People ever wake up and ask why do I need someone to speak softly in my ear to tell me that the last stupid thing I did was not my fault? Do we really need an Ethicist for the New York Times to tell us that ‘bike lanes‘ are for our ‘safety‘ and oh yeah, ‘fuck, all traffic lights‘? That is the level of lunacy that is currently wafting through the air of the various ‘activist‘ camps.

We Do Not Need A Cycling Pope, We Need My Grandmother!

My grandmother would call all of this ‘foolishness‘. She was the ‘real thing‘ written about in ‘The Help‘. She raised other folks babies and cleaned their homes. That was what you did in the City of Birmingham during the 1960s. She joined the boycott of the bus system that denied people-of-color a right to sit where the wanted on a goddam bus.

But I am equally certain that she would have been appalled at the scenes of downright chaos that surrounded all of the demonstrations of the deaths of young black men who after robbing stores paid the ultimate price. She would have had the courage to call out the behaviors on both sides.

We can keep escalating the barbarism until there comes a time when we start to think of ISIS as timid. I see that happening all over the country just now. We are evidently willing to escalate the violence to ‘make a statement‘. I am more than tired of that crap.

My grandmother would have grabbed everyone by the ear (that was what you did back in the day) and dragged them into a room and not allowed them to leave until they settled their differences. Then of course she would have had sandwiches and sweet tea (a Southern thing) to pass around while every enjoyed them as they sat on her front porch and waited for the sun to set. Then they would walk home to their respective communities to pray on their knees that night for wisdom in their dealings with one another.

We Do Not Need Activism, We Need Understanding!

Riding a bicycle is or at least should be a joyous thing. No toddler on her first trike ever does it to ‘make a statement‘. No driver who ever has to walk once they leave their vehicle or for that matter has a bike at home in the garage really wants to run someone down. At least not the sane ones.

But we are all frenzied. During this recent storm I was heading over to the gas station to refuel. Two ComEd trucks were stopped at the four-way stop intersection along with me. I was just about to cross when a lady ‘with the sun at her back‘ came roaring through the intersection without so much as a pause!

She suddenly looked up and realized she had run a stop sign. And I mean she did it ‘full bore‘. She could not slam on the brakes because that would have meant she lost control of her vehicle in the slushy wet snow. But she motioned her contrition with her hand as she passed through the intersection. Boy, that was a close one!

I have seen pedestrians and cyclist pull the same stunt. They forget where they are or simply are into such a casual routine of running stop signs or crossing without looking both ways that it takes your breath away. They are not the enemy. Carelessness is.

We need to get inside one another’s minds and find out what makes us act the way we do on the roadways and find common ground on how to fix the problem. It is all well and good to have a Vision Zero knowing full well that at the end of the year it will never ever happen. It never has happened in the entirety of the cycling movements in the Netherlands or Denmark. It probably never will.

But rather than holding guns to one another’s throats threatening to blow each other’s brains out or worse yet a well-deserved beheading, ‘can’t we all just get along‘?