Accidents, Antipathy and Arrogance


My bike club is aging and so are its members. And after a winter’s hiatus getting back into the ‘swing of things‘ requires a sometimes painful transition. Riding a bicycle is dangerous. I know it is not kosher to say this aloud for fear that the Pope of Urban Cycling might deem it time to ex-communicate me. but frankly he and all his minions can take a short (or long trip) to visit the Underworld as far as I’m concerned. I will repeat, bicycling is dangerous!

It is in fact tougher to cycle well than perhaps to drive well. It certainly requires a lot more motor skills to keep up with a group that you could easily ride with last year, but not so much this year. And things like watching the road ahead while trying to maintain your wheel interval (i.e. wheel overlap) is tricky.

One false step and you are flat on your face and wondering how it happened. And in fact if you are not wearing a helmet and suddenly find yourself falling or doing an “endo” you might never had the chance to put out a hand or otherwise counteract that ‘face plant‘.


I know too that according to the ‘know-it-alls‘ at StreetsBlog everyone wants to live in a densely populated area where you can walk to your dentist’s office, and double back for a DQ Blizzard before heading across the street to drink yourself silly at the chicken wings restaurant before finally heading home past the ATM to grab a fist full of cash.

Yeah, it all sounds really cool and trendy until you realize that the generations that lived in this same dumpy neighborhood could not wait to move out of it to someplace with a bit less population density. And if you doubt that this current generation is the same in its mindset just listen to them kvetch on the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum about their experiences trying to ride along the Chicago Lakefront Trail (on the north end).

If it were not so dangerous it would be a hoot to read about. But people are getting hurt. And unlike the southern end of the same trail, they are moving cheek-by-jowl on a rather nasty bit of real estate that was meant for perhaps a quarter of the density.

But hey, when you are trendy (but aging hipster) hanging around with guys half you age it pays to let everyone know that the reason you are still stuck in this hell hole of a place is because it is ‘cool‘.

But what Chicagoans lack is empathy. There is nothing even approaching a cooperative spirit in this city.

I thought it might have arrived last summer when the JR Little League team got some rave reviews. But then like everything else about this city, it was a moment in time that got slimed. Suddenly these guys go from being untainted heroes to having been stripped of their record and finally leaving the Little League arena.

This is a city where the haves are up against the have-nots. The irony is that the Urban Cycling Movement is ‘trying desperately to serve two masters‘. But you cannot be for Red Light Cameras and still be a person wanting fairness and real equity in this city.


Breakfast Parking

Breakfast Parking

I sat eating breakfast this AM and saw a sign that spoke to me like something that dropped down from ‘on high‘. It was what I remembered when I read all the whining this AM on the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum about whether or not cyclists were ‘too preachy‘. In a word, yes.





The problem is not that we ‘tell the truth‘ about someone else’s peccadillos. Nope the problem is that we are arrogant enough to believe that when we execute the same dumb-ass moves on our bikes that drivers do in their cars, it is not the same.

We give hell to ‘black-and-brown riders who ride against traffic (i.e. ‘salmon’). But we say nothing about the fact that when that same maneuver is executed by our Critical Mass Ride it is considered OK.

We can run red lights until our eyes bleed and never see anything wrong with the practice. But we want motorists ‘drawn and quartered‘ for doing the same thing.

What leads to this hypocrisy is one simple fact. We as a class of motorists do not have a license plate on our vehicles. If we could be easily identified by a red light camera we would probably think twice about running red lights. But we don’t, so we do.

In short we are not really against licensing so much as we are against being unable to continue our scofflaw ways with impunity. And if that ever happened we would no longer be the only ones looking to tweet the presence of vehicles parked where they should not be. Instead we would have our bikes confiscated and we would be the ones paying fines for illegal parking.


Retribution Is Not The Answer

We spend far too much time trying to ‘one up‘ the motoring competition (if that is even the right way to look at things). All we can ever seem to come to some agreement on are ways to try and ‘shame‘ motorists and pedestrians for things they do to us.

We even have those trite little pieces of group knowledge that say things like ‘Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t‘. And we still persist in this thinking despite evidence to the contrary.

What we really need to do is think in terms of ‘Vision Zero‘. See that concept puts the lie to the trash that was talked by Randy Cohen:

You cannot be for ‘Vision Zero‘ and still think in terms of ‘being the only one with skin in the game‘. You cannot claim that your life is your own to spend when that one life denies us the goal of ‘Vision Zero‘.

Everyone has to become a zealot for safety.


How We See Ourselves Is Contrary To The Reality Of It All