A Fixation on Furniture : Urban Cycling Movement’s ‘Achilles Heel’

Background Reading


Minions of the Urban Cycling Movement

Minions of the Urban Cycling Movement


It has been quite instructive to listen to the sounds of flailing in the water surrounding Chicago’s Urban Cycling Movement. A few scant years ago everyone seemed elated that yet another stretch of bicycle lanes were being opened and you could hear the cries from the True Believers that ‘now their salvation had come‘.

But a few weeks later when winter struck and showcase pieces of political furniture like the Dearborn Street PBL began to show flaws in both their design and its execution, spirits sank. Even the Divvy BikeShare announcements which were greeted with so much enthusiasm that one wondered why a scant year later the wheels were coming off the entire organization. Suddenly we learn that Divvy is not solvent and that a new revenue source has to be established. Even Citi Bike in NYC had the same problems.

Model efforts like the Berteau Greenway sprang up and once people got a chance to see what the Promised Land looked like enthusiasm turned to disgust.

Smoke And Mirrors

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

It seems obvious that if countries with many decades of experience cannot eradicate deaths on their streets and highways that merely rearranging the furniture is not the solution. We have been so very fixated on trying to arrange our homes to ‘look like the ones we saw on our recent visit to Bicycle Heaven‘ that we have managed to turn our brains off.

The current election of a new mayor in the City of Chicago is quite telling. The pundits had wondered aloud whether bike lanes would have been the stumbling block of the current mayor. But instead the struggle centers around a different set of furniture, street cameras.

The fact is that trying to satisfy the appetites of the Urban Cycling Movement is all about the ‘appearance of something new‘. It is in essence the race of the Me Toos in appropriating new furniture for their streets. It does not really matter whether this new stuff brings any real promise of increased safety because the perception that it does is far more appealing.

Now understand that the Church of Urban Cycling has made it clear that peccadillos on the part of the True Believers having to do with running red lights or totally ignoring stop signs is not cause for great concern.

One of the lessons of the catechism of the Church of Urban Cycling has always been:

Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t

So rather than complaining we should keep our eyes focused on whether we are getting new furniture or not. These street cameras (which, were they aimed at us and we were receiving $250 tickets would be thoroughly hated) are dearly beloved in the pews of the Church of Urban Cycling. Amen.

What is further comforting to the True Believers is that we are not being held to as high a standard as even motorists when we managed to murder a pedestrian on the roadways. The Bishop of Bicycling has managed to find all manner of means to spout gibberish about the sad state of affairs in the United States when a cyclist dies, but has absolutely never raised a keyboard to call out the Church of Urban Cycling for failing to keep its flock from bringing shame on the Movement.

The State Of Affairs In Bicycle Purgatory

So we are thus weighing in on The Movement by reporting that we have managed to break through the threshold of murderous activity in a very big way. We have moved from ‘Not Killing Pedestrians‘ to a virtual pileup of incidents. In fact we have managed to kill nearly as many fellow cyclists on MUPs as we have pedestrians in crosswalks.

What we have not done much about is finding new furniture that will keep us from being our own worst enemy. In Chicago we decided that since cyclists could not be trusted to follow their own rules for passing with 3 Feet to spare when dealing with pedestrians the mayor decided to try and sell us on the idea of installing a ‘separate but equal‘ solution to using the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

And while we will not bow to pressures to become licensed users of the roadway we are more than ready to ‘go to the mat‘ over unlicensed drivers of vehicles. That of course is consistent with our steadfast belief that despite the facts we Do Not Kill, Only Cars Do.

And we are busy in every city in America it would seem trying to find new furniture that will insure that Vision Zero becomes a reality. We tell ourselves that this is the real reason we adore and demand the Speed and Red Light Cameras that are bilking millions of dollars out of citizens who drive. Our tone would be very different it we too had license plates. It would be mayhem if suddenly we were getting fines. In fact when the cops in the City of Chicago started handing out tickets for sidewalk riding, the pews of the Church of Urban Cycling erupted with prayers to the Gods of Cycling to avenge their followers.

Evidently we feel it far easier to justify riding in the Pedestrian Lane than to consider why motorists might pop into a coffee shop by parking in the Bike Lane. Sins it would seem are not equally weighted.

When a cyclist dies from a collision with a motorist, their souls are honored with a Ghost Bike and a Ride of Silence. When we manage to murder a pedestrian in the crosswalk instead of demanding that the cyclist get a stiff sentence, we quietly look the other way. In fact we raise the offensiveness of our behavior to the point of completely ignoring the death of the pedestrians during our Ride of Silence. And we of course could care less about erecting a Ghost Bike or its equivalent to mark their departure.

We do not believe in honoring the dead from another denomination.

After The Election

What awaits us after the mayoral election is a fight for the right to continue running up charges on our Credit Cards. We know for certain that we really do not care on whit about Mass Transit. At best it is a ‘fallback position‘ when it comes to getting around town.

We don’t even really care about Divvy BikeShare. We do defend it when a member of the pedestrian denomination writes about the behavior of its users, but aside from that we are clueless. In fact in most areas of life we are clueless.

We have no real agenda other than getting to appear at photo-ops. When the Bloomingdale ‘606’ Trail opens we will thump our chests and have prayers said at the trailhead and then we will be back to whining amongst ourselves at this or that affront that we were delivered by a motorist who frankly could care less.

Meanwhile we will take umbrage with each and every complaint from pedestrians at being nearly run down while in the crosswalk by an ‘amber gambling‘ cyclist who during business hours when he should be working is writing up a storm about yet another motorist who passed him with on 3 Centimeters to spare rather than the required 3 Feet.

And Heaven help the next journalist who complains openly about our violations of the crosswalks. We know in our hearts and our Beloved ATA Executive Director will attest to the fact that our behavior in riding through the crosswalks with pedestrians in them or riding along them in an effort to avoid stopping for red lights is not really a problem but rather a symptom.

We are after all meant by the Bishop of Bicycling to have more furniture. With more furniture and in the shades and fluffiness we deserve our behavior can be modified. But until we have everything we need we probably won’t. But rest assured it is not our fault. It is probably the fault of the Wicked Governor who is willing to tell us ‘no‘.

And so as to not seem a selfish as we really are we will drag out a trumped up video or two or have one of our lapdog journalists write a piece about the despairs of having to ride a Mass Transit system which is having to raise it fares.

The real affront here is that by making Mass Transit fares more closely adhere to the actual operating costs we expose the ‘lies‘ about its efficiencies. We want driving to be so costly compared to taking the bus or train that no one with an ounce of sense will mind all the inconvenience of mass transit.

When Will We Have Enough?


That is the short answer. If a decade from now the usage of bicycles is still a paltry fraction of one percent we will have an explanation that goes something like, ‘it’s the other guys fault‘.

Despite the facts that the potential users of bicycles come from relatively affluent areas (which are hemorrhaging population) we will hold fast to the notion that we need hundreds of miles more bike lanes or else we’ll burst! Never mind that we Chicago Cyclists may earn our way into the pantheon of cities having managed to murder at least one or two pedestrians in the crosswalk we will never own up to our own responsibilities. It will always be someone else’s fault that the pedestrian was killed.

My guess is that there will be a ‘hue and cry‘ for better countdown timers to assist ‘amber gamblers‘. And someone from ATA will suddenly decide that the fault really lies with unlicensed pedestrians who need training on how to avoid walking through crosswalks while texting and applying makeup. Yeah, that should keep the diversion going long enough for us to find another Messiah in the Mayors Office who will give us what we demand.