Do You Ever Get The Feeling You’re ‘Being Played’?

Background Reading


An example of a barrier-protected bike lane from the Chicago Department of Transportation website. This lane was installed on Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street in 2011. © CDOT

An example of a barrier-protected bike lane from the Chicago Department of Transportation website. This lane was installed on Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street in 2011. © CDOT


Did you ever get the feeling that there are people looking for reasons to get your ire to a level that you will:

  • Just ‘say no to rumble strips
  • Fight the closing of this or that bike lane (that you disliked anyway)
  • Get exercised about receiving tickets for things you know to be illegal that you will call your alderman to complain
  • Want to get angry that your local BikeShare is not fairly distributed across the city

It is as if the Bicycle Advocacy Network is working overtime to keep you engaged and more importantly signing in to lodge a complaint via their websites, which afterwards means see a ‘give us money‘ pitch before you log off.

I hate what this has turned into. If you are like me and have been a very long time supporter of lots of organizations you may have noticed that they have all ‘upped their game‘.

The only people doing it with more gusto are the PACs. Get on one list and they sell each other the names and email addresses and suddenly you are swamped. Who thought this was the best approach to activism?

Money Is Tight

The ironic thing is that most of the pleas that cross my desk and reach me via my snail mailbox are ones which want me to go after this or that politician who is trying to ‘cut his way to fiscal solvency‘. And so there are these endless pleas to help this or that organization ‘save our gains‘ from whatever boogeyman they have decided is ‘out to get us‘.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this video where cyclists are admitting that they too:

  • drive distracted
  • are ignorant of basic Rules of the Road
  • and generally are likely to do something which is embarrassing and even dangerous

We Need To Dump ‘Tea Party Tactics’

The Tea Party has made millions of dollars creating the ‘illusion of victimhood‘ to play upon the worst fears of their supporters. They have decided that you should fear LGBT legislation because it will mean that your religious freedoms will be curtailed.

But like them we have decided that if anyone suggests that we use or even gives us something to make us more visible at night, they are coopting our freedom as a group. Evidently trying to ride with colorful flags, bright clothing, even lights at night is a sign of our being asked to ‘gave in to the domination of the automobile‘.

Isn’t this the same reason we are supposed to avoid Obamacare? Don’t we lose our rights as Sovereign Citizens if we allow our medical system to take on people with pre-existing conditions?

There Are Two Great Boogeymen

For the Tea Party types the great boogeyman is the erosion of our Constitutional Rights. To safeguard these we need to make certain that the opposition party (i.e. anybody representing people-of-color) does not steal an election by having millions of unregistered voters flooding the polling booth.

For the Urban Cycling Movement we too have a great boogeyman. He is the Automobile Culture or Automobile Industry. And in place of the people-of-color we are simply told to distrust anyone who drives a car.

Cyclists Are Reliving Their Own Civil War

The bulk of the money gained by the Tea Party mailings is from people living below the Mason-Dixon Line. And as with the Urban Cycling Movement historians they too have a war of which they are constantly reminded. Theirs is the loss of the Civil War to the Yankees.

But like them we cyclists are being told that we too have lost our whole way of life when the Automobile took over the roads intended for our use.

Wasn’t There Someone There Before Us?

Southerners are almost totally devoid of any remembrance of the people who owned the land before their arrival. Native Americans must simply shake their heads when listen to Tea Party lies regarding the War of Aggression by the North. It is as if the land was uninhabited before Europeans colonized the land.

Bicyclists have the same problem. We act as if there were no others using the roads before we rode high wheelers. But there were. Families came and went from the center of town via horse-drawn conveyances of all sorts.

Parking garages of that time were not for cars or bikes but for horses who get fed hay and sheltered overnight in the cold.

Automobiles ‘Took Off’ For A Reason

Speed and distance were the big issues that propelled automobiles forward. Horses were living things that could break a leg or throw a show. Paving roads was not nearly as nice as dirt roads for the animals themselves. The carriages might have rolled easier but the horses slipped on tarmac.

Automobiles were noisy and dirty but they improved over time. Henry Ford made it possible for the first time since the population became less agrarian to bundle up the family and go ‘car camping‘.

People were amazed at the fact that they could do more than walk to the local cemetery for a picnic or take a train for a more distant ride. Instead they could do things and go places that mass transit was not yet capable of going.

It meant too that the families of immigrants could live in less squalid and cramped quarters than the tenements of the city. You could finally raise a family on a lot that meant having a yard and a house all to yourselves. This was a period when freedom to live far enough away from the grime and noise of the city was highly prized.

Cyclists Are Not Obliged To Be Luddites

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that every conveyance will eventually improve. Right now the squabbles within the Urban Cycling Community is over who is welcomed.

Bicycles with three or four wheels are looked upon as somehow not bicycles. Adding motors of any sort are taboo. But we are not obliged to be so shortsighted that we cannot appreciate the fact that with the coming of more people to the party, there will be lots of differences noted.

Did you know that the leaders in velomobile design and production are from Amsterdam? Well it’s true. But we Yanks are just discovering ‘bike lanes‘ and are too busy fighting one another over the efficacy of their present designs.

Let’s Take A More Relaxed Approach

Drop all the drama! We do not need to carry on so much that we begin to look and sound like the Tea Party.

Is it really necessary to hold such a rigid and moralistic stance that we are ever unable to admit to our faults? Would it hurt our movement if we were approachable enough that your average driver might want to know more about commuting?

You realize that if we are stuck in the Reb vs. Yank mode that our Tea Party cohorts use we can never hope to build up a new wave of allies.

We do not have to coerce or convince the rest of the world to commute by bike and to ditch their cars. That is the equivalent of telling a person who is 200 pounds overweight that they have to go on a 30-day fast after which their daily intake will be limited to 800 calories of celery and lettuce.

Maybe the better approach is to get them out and riding for short distances on Sunday afternoons? Doing slow rides that anyone can enjoy is much better than having them decide that bicycling is all about physical domination.

The telling thing is that even amongst ‘dyed-in-the-woolUrban Cycling Movement members it is obvious that the ratio on group rides of women-to-men is as one fellow put it 1:5,000. No doubt it is an exaggeration, but the point he is attempting to make is that we do not have to turn yet another human endeavor into a ‘virtual fist fight‘.

We Are Attracting Sociopaths

There are far too many people who self-identify as Urban Cyclists who are likely to be more comfortable on an Idaho Compound than I am comfortable in acknowledging. Our local Bicycling Advocacy Groups are our virtual Ruby Ridge sites.

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

One day we are writing Leftist Manifestoes to warn the outsiders that we are coming for their parking spaces. We openly acknowledge on the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez’ Club Cycling Forum that digging a whole and shoving these metal contraptions in would be delightful. Why?

I guess before long the Urban Cycling Movement looks and smells like the Tea Party. We develop an insularity that is dangerous. We have managed to conflate all sorts of non-cycling-related practices like Wiccan Worship Ceremonies with our bicycle demonstrations. That is in essence what the World Naked Bike Ride is all about.

The point here is that many of the folks who join in this ride have no idea of its origins. They are told that they are riding naked to ‘protest oil use‘. They simply have no understanding of the historical origins that were used to pick the time and modality of the protest. We are in essence acting out of ignorance.

I Want To See A More Middle of the Road Expression of Cycling

While I think Activism is a healthy thing for any society is can grow to dangerous levels. Our political system is all activism all the time. We have stopped talking to one another as individuals and talking over one another with slogans and trite logic.

That will soon mean the descent of discourse into vulgar action or outright violence. That we cannot afford. Our aim has to be more than fighting legal battles over Door Zone Collisions.

For some of us the prospect of having a $600K payday is inviting. But think about this. Somewhere between 30% – 50% of our settlement will get eaten up in attorney fees. The bulk of the rest will be used to pay for doctor bills to get us back on our feet.

I am Still reminded of how quickly the memory of a cyclist who was hit and badly injured on Cermak Road a year or so ago has faded. I have not read anything about his condition since that time. Is he paralyzed or still unable to return to work? Do we even care?

Our present approach to honoring fallen cyclists is a bit hypocritical. We have something called the Ride of Silence. But it does not stop at the sites where fellow cyclists have managed to run over and kill compatriots who were out walking or jogging.

The message we send out is that Only Cyclists Lives Matter. We make no attempt to honor the dead whom we have killed who were not cyclists at all. They were simply trying to get across the street. Perhaps it is too painful for us to take on the mantle of the motorists who run us down?

But it would be helpful in finding a more compassionate voice for us to consider what led to the collision that caused a cyclist to kill a pedestrian. When we have a handle on the conditions that made such a thing possible perhaps we will better understand what could be done to help distracted motorists avoid doing the same thing as we have done?