Building A ‘Sustainable Future’ For Cycling

Background Reading

This letter came across my desk regarding the South Chicago Velodrome Project:

Hi All

The links below will lead you to the effort to save the velodrome in South
Chicago. The track has been there for 3 years, the previous owner/manager
had lots of enthusiasm but not much financial success.

The manufacturer of the track is still owed money and if not paid the track
will be torn down. There is also pressure from the owner of the land (US
Steel former south Chicago works) to get the velodrome paid for by the end
of March or the land will no longer be avail. to use.

This is a unique bicycling facility. Even though I have not ridden on it
and most of us will not, I would like to see it preserved, promoted.and
expanded. Just as I like to see all forms of bicycling preserved, promoted
and expanded.

So look at the links below and if you believe, then please donate. I
already have. The funding goal is $150,000 which sounds like a lot but is
really only 3000 people at $50 apiece (or however else you want to do the
math. They already (as of this email) have $2300 from 33 people or $69

John Loesch
Villa Park, IL

South Chicago Velodrome Association

So grateful for everyone helping spread the word! If you have not heard yet
we have hoodies, T-shirts, and spoke cards available for purchase at:

More designs to come! ‪#‎savethevelodrome‬

Save The South Chicago Velodrome –



Save the South Chicago Velodrome – more complete story


At the end of the day this is what ‘responsible citizenship‘ looks like in any movement worth being a part of. And frankly this is delightful, because it is how a ‘maturing‘ takes root.


Movements like ours attract all sorts of people. But there is often one defining characteristic of note, ‘a tendency to want room service‘. That is not how things really are or even should be. It is the essential characteristic of a person or group of people who feel that they are ‘owed‘. And that is hardly what will keep any movement going.



We often act as if we were invited to a party and are surprised when someone suggests that we bring a ‘dish to pass‘. We thought it was going to be a gathering where someone else was going to put down bowls of salsa, and bags of chips for dipping. And that someone else would have the beer on ice and we would grace the gathering with our presence and pose for ‘selfies‘. Obviously the Urban Cycling Movement is far less like the Civil Rights Movement than might be imagined.

Both Movements Have A ‘Victimhood Narrative’

Urban Cyclists have long wallowed in a ‘victimhood narrative‘ that would make the little girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing seem like a Disney story. We spend so much time trying to demonize automobiles (our version of the KKK) that we forget to include ourselves in the narrative as aggressors when it comes to the safety of pedestrians.

We have court watchers who attend the trials of motorists to bear witness to what they have done. But when it comes to providing the same service to the families of pedestrians kills by our own hands we shy away as if doing the same for them would somehow be a ‘betrayal of the movement‘. We are like loyal parishioners who know that a child is being abused in a school run by our Faith but are unwilling to even entertain the horror of knowing what is being done for fear it would make us ‘look bad‘.

We are not victims. We make choices and sometimes they end badly. When we choose to ride a bicycle in the dead of night we know that it is precisely the time that both drivers and perhaps even ourselves are out and about inebriated. We should have taken the bus or the train home but we did not. True, we should hope that everyone is safe no matter the time of day, but even motorists and their passengers are taking a risk when driving about at night. So knowing this we should be doubly circumspect about taking a bicycle.

Being The Change We Wish To See

Every person who rode a bus in the Deep South during Freedom Summer knew the risks. Every religious worker who ventures into  countries in conflict knows there are risks. It does not matter who you are when anarchy is afoot things happen.

We as cyclists know that the major contributing factor in all categories of accidents on roadways is alcohol. This is not something that is open for debate. Ask any cop or dig through any organizations records and you will find over and over again that the driver or the cyclist or the pedestrian was impaired. And frankly whether you are the person who is killed or injured or the fool who is trying to control a vehicle at speed while unable to exercise good judgment the results are seldom very good.

We know too that there are actions like ‘distracted driving‘ or ‘Strava-Idiot-Mode Cycling‘ that end badly for ourselves and others. Cyclists and motorist alike seem to want either to ‘text on their SmartPhones‘ or isolate themselves from the noise and confusion of the city by turning up their music. People even walk the sidewalks with earbuds inserted and music blasting. They get confused and worse yet they are unaware of their surroundings.

The bottom line is we have to stop pointing fingers at each other. Yes, we have a problem but it is not about fingering the driver. The real problem is that in our society we want to always be free to ‘do our thing‘ with the responsibility for our safety being someone else’s problem. Sorry, that is not how the world works.

The Velodrome As A Metaphor

Imagine for a moment that the velodrome is not in trouble, financially. It is a thriving business that provides a service to its customers. In essence it is no different than say a bike shop. For a bike shop to stay in business it has to make money. That is turn means that it must have paying customers.

We have decided that in the case of Bicycle Infrastructure we are ‘owed‘ it. But like the Freedom Marchers in  Selma, Alabama nothing comes without a price tag. The real struggle is to convince others that what we want we both deserve and into the bargain it makes society better for everyone. That was how the Urban Cycling Movement began. But it came off the rails, quickly.

We went from making a plea to be accepted and intended users of the roadway to suddenly deciding that it was our right to ‘not obey traffic signals‘. It was as if we were standing at the doors to a school in Little Rock, Arkansas demanding our right to an education and then once allowed in we decided that we did not like the curriculum or the grading system so we simply refused to be governed by the same rules as the other students.

My guess is that the state of the Velodrome is something that few cyclists ever pondered on their way to their favorite pub to drink themselves blind on a Friday. Groups like ‘Bike-n-Roses‘ were not very high on anyone’s radar since they were being funded by the government. Everything was cool. But we are about to get a cold splash of the waters of reality.

The Velodrome is going to require some personal financial sacrifice to keep from ‘going under‘. And there are likely to be folks who will give a bit and then pat themselves on the back for having been ‘good citizens‘. But even after the velodrome is saved it will require on-going efforts to keep it afloat. That is where the glamor of being an Urban Cyclists ceases to have a sound track playing beautiful music. It begins to be true that like the local grocery store if we want to keep it in the neighborhood, then we will have to frequent it.

The same is going to be true of places like Big Marsh. Everyone is going to want to be included in the documentaries that lead up to its ‘grand opening‘. But it will need volunteers long after the opening day festivities.

We need to think like parents and less like lovers. Romance is great. That is what most Urban Cyclists are into just now, romance. But when the romance results in offspring, then that is where reality and fiction part ways. Walking the floor with a baby that is sick is not romantic. We need to picture the aftermath of the romance of being part of the Urban Cycling Movement and decide now that we are as committed to the relationship as we need to be.

Sooner or later someone is going to ask that we be licensed and trained, just like motorists and motorcyclists. We are going to resist for as long as possible. We are right now all about the Romance. But eventually it will be come obvious that like every other vehicle on the roads we need to be subject to rules and regulations that govern how our are equipped and more importantly maintained. If we want to have our stolen bikes recovered there will need to be an simple and easy way to catalog them. That comes with vehicle registration. That in essence is the part of romance that results in walking the baby with a fever late at night.

We are going to have to face the problems (if we are lucky) that Amsterdam is facing right now. They are out of parking space for their bicycles. That will mean building structures that are going to have to be used to keep bicycles from overtaking the sidewalks. That is going to mean having to pay a monthly fee to park the bike. That is going to mean less money for beer. And just wait until it becomes clear that vehicle insurance to replace or repair the bike and to pay for hospital trips if injured is needed.

Our current romance with cycling is going to reach the stage when the object of our desire is standing in front of us with stretch marks and we are desperate to figure out how we are going to be able to pay for all the children we have created. Welcome to the real world.

The Velodrome is the start of something beautiful. But eventually we will have to buy braces for its teeth and pay for a wedding. That is certain.