A War Nobody Is ‘Winning’

Background Reading


ottman, who formerly rode professionally, says that bikers can mess up on the road, too.   Photo: John Haynes

ottman, who formerly rode professionally, says that bikers can mess up on the road, too. Photo: John Haynes


At the end of the day, all collisions are caused human failures. Even in situations where a part fails, it is either the fault of lack of diligent maintenance or poor design that lies at the heart of the problem. Vision Zero is something that I consider a worthy but unattainable goal. It does not mean that we should not try, but rather our efforts should be done as a ‘group‘. That is to say motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all share in the success or failure of reaching that goal.

This is not and should never be an issue of waging ‘war on cars‘. Neither should be it a question of ‘active‘ versus ‘motorized‘ transportation. All forms of transportation are legitimate and should be treated as so. Modern society cannot be made workable without the automobile, train and bus. And adding bicycles into the mix only helps to further minimize our dependence on motors.

Motors should be used judiciously. Their use should however not be reserved for situations in which they are the better choice. The same should be true of bicycles. I appreciate PeopleForBikes making a link to this article available in their most recent Facebook posting.



Stop The Duplicity And Whining, Please!

Some of the responses to this article from those visiting the ChainLink Forum have been:

Reply by Reboot Oxnard 23 hours ago

How about we as ‘cyclists’ not accept it as our collective responsibility to charm the socks off ‘motorists’?

Because that’s what communities are supposed to do – it takes a village and all that.
Because it’s in our collective (again, as in community) and individual best interest to do so.

How about we, as individuals (on foot, on bikes, in cars), each take it upon ourselves to treat the people in our path (on foot, on bikes, in cars) with courtesy and in accordance with the law?

Sounds like a plan. How about we, as individuals, encourage others to do the same? Starting with those in the communities we are in closest contact with…

Reply by David Barish 13 hours ago
None of us wants to be defined by the worst behavior of others perceived to be in our same group. There are driver, cyclists, pedestrians…students, teachers, protestants, catholics, Palestinians, Israelis, Democrats, Republicans, White Sox, Cubs etc etc, who act poorly and also who serve as examples of enlightened behavior.

Too often we lump groups together and perceive bad behaviors. I’m no different. I admit I have a prejudice against BMW drivers and am aware that there are plenty of folks who are ultimate driving machine users who are also good citizens. I just have not seen many of them compared to the others in my non-scientific and statistically insignificant experience.

It is not fair that cyclists have to deal with the perceptions of the rest of the world of us as entitled babies who flout the rules of the road until something happens to us. It’s not fair that smart people I know rail about “those #$%& bike riders”. Yet, deal we must. Widely held perceptions are still out there. So, we ride with our heads held high (it’s safer that way both physically and emotionally) and conduct ourselves as Jeff said as individuals. All those individual actions may have a side effect of making a small change in the old perceptions.

My mantra that we are all trying to get home in one piece. Helps. Of course, a rider is much more likely to suffer serious injury than a driver when we simultaneously occupy the same space.

Reply by Andronymous 13 hours ago
Oh so sorry rage fill fire breathing multi-ton murderous metal monsters, for the discourtesy of so very often interrupting your haste and mamon with our bones.

Reply by Bikefreeek 11 hours ago
How about those of us who don’t identify as “cyclists”, who are riding bikes for transportation and don’t necessarily identify “community” with our mode of transportation?


When BikeFreek stood in front of cameras several years ago to complain about the reporting on the death of a participant in the Tour da Chicago the often repeated phrase ‘Cars Kill People, Bicycles Don’t‘ came up. The assumption there is that cars and their drivers have a moral responsibility for the carnage that results from collisions. But if that is the case the same would apply to cyclists. When we manage to murder a pedestrian in the crosswalk because we are far too busy minding out Strava standings than the person in front of us, we all share in that tragedy.

You cannot simply redefine yourself out of complicity with your fellow bicycle riders. That is a bit of ‘hairsplitting‘ that seems facetious. If you use a bicycle you are a ‘cyclist‘. There is no one on the planet who rides a bicycle who is not riding it as transportation. Every member of the Tour de France is riding to get from the start line to the finish for that day. And the cumulative times they rack up over the three weeks of riding constitute the use of their bicycles for transportation.

Now the better and perhaps more precise question would be what is the nature of the purpose of your ride. And again the answer is the same for every single person on the planet. Each person whether he is riding around the block, over to the library or the grocery store, across the state for an extended camping trip or doing RAAM gains the same benefits.

They get somewhere, they feel better and burn a few calories. Nothing changes regardless of why they are riding to their destination. Trying to draw some sort of artificial distinction between hurrying to work on your bicycle or wandering aimlessly along the Chicago Lakefront Trail is pointless. When you turn those pedals you move the bike. As you move along you aim the frame with the handlebars. You stop with the brakes. You expend energy and feel better all in the same instance.

The only people who are confused about this simplicity are the pedantic assholes who worship at the Church of Urban Cycling and have long since determined that wearing of helmets is an exhibition of ‘bad faith‘. Like their Tea Party counterparts who deny climate change, the usefulness of vaccines and the benefits of universal health coverage they need to be coaxed out of their delusions, not encouraged in their mindlessness.