Now I Know That ‘Amber Gambling’ Is Only Dangerous When Cars Do It

Background Reading


personal family

personal family

On a recent bike commute, I took Chicago Avenue from Oak Park to the Active Trans office in River North. Chicago Ave. through the West Side has relatively light traffic during the morning, and many of the traffic lights are timed for me to cruise at 20 mph, which was literally a breeze because of a strong tail wind.

But you might think I was doing 40 mph since I was able to keep pace with motorists, some racing to the next red light at 40 mph or more down Chicago Ave.’s wide, uncongested streets. Their sprint-stop-wait-sprint-stop-wait pattern would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.

On average, car crashes injure 111 people per day in metropolitan Chicago, with more than one fatality per day. Excessive speed is often a major contributor.

Sign our Vision Zero petition to support a comprehensive strategy to reduce and ulitimately eliminate serious traffic injuries and fatalities. 

I am also able to walk in downtown Chicago during rush hour nearly as fast as some motorists going 30 mph between red lights when they find a gap in the congestion.

Once again, we see the sprint-stop-wait pattern that exemplifies a “race to the red” delusion that this will get you somewhere significantly faster. But it won’t.

Race to the red is so common that I think a lot of us simply follow the leader.  

Perhaps psychologists can tell us why we compulsively join in this useless, dangerous behavior, but in the meantime I’ll appeal to our sense of reason: the average vehicle speed on Chicago city streets is well under 20 mph. In fact, Chicago’s Traffic Tracker web site shows only 3 speed ranges: under 10 mph, 10 – 20 mph, and 20+ mph, and most of the streets are under 20 mph, even outside of rush hour.

You can Race to the Red at 40 mph or cruise at a slower, more consistent “Green Light” speed and get to your destination more safely and in about the same amount of time.

Either way, my trusty single speed and I will see you along the way!


Nothing said in this piece is untrue. But since this was delivered by the local Cardinal of the Church of Urban Cycling one might wonder what was left out? Plenty!

For one thing it is impossible to get across town as fast as the rest of traffic unless you are disobeying some traffic controls along the way. Bicyclists like to call what they do when congestion builds up as ‘filtering‘.

They simply ride between cars that are themselves only 3 feet apart and dare drivers to step out. They know that this behavior puts them in prime position to enjoy a sweet afternoon Door Zone Collision (only outside the parked car ‘Door Zone‘).

If these same cyclists decide that traffic is picking up a bit in terms of speed they often grasp a door handle or more discreetly the underside of the wheel well and allow themselves to be dragged along. This is the favorite of the ‘single speed‘ crowd.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

And after having filtered up to and most often through the crosswalk which if the red light is showing is sure to be loaded with pedestrians (a breaking of the law if ever there was one) they proceed through the red light altogether using a clever two-step maneuver.

That is how bicyclists behave each and every day of the year when plying the streets of Chicago and probably most other similarly large metropolitan areas. And of course there is no end to the number of stop signs that they magically perceive as yield signs so that as one lady cyclist put it ‘they don’t have to lose their momentum‘.

Like The GOP We Never Speak Ill Of Ourselves

Make no mistake you cannot keep your job as the main spokesperson for the Urban Cycling Movement in your area if you ‘tell tales out of school‘.

The pedestrian knocked down in the video highlighted in the link above is not faking her having been left unconscious. That is ironic however is that the cyclist who perpetrates this callous activity is more concerned about his bike than her condition. He picks it up and leaves her lying there. He stares dumbly down is if willing his victim to come to life and exonerate him of being ‘a motorist on a bicycle‘.

This kind of discussion will never appear on the ATA website. Their blog will blithely leave you with the impression that the fault of traffic conditions is all on the tally sheet of motorists. Cyclists are blameless. That lie only works for a while before as a motorist you begin to see that something is horribly wrong if we do not acknowledge our shared responsibilities.

Cyclists certainly ‘amber gamble‘. They do it often enough that when they get a chance on the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum they acknowledge that another cyclist nearly killed or seriously injured them, all because like their motoring cousins they are impatient and willful.

‘Vision Zero’ Is Not A Me Too Activity

The newest ‘fad‘ for fetching memberships is the announcement that you too have a Vision Zero Statement. But that sort of thing wears out pretty fast. Before long you have to begin to answer the harder question of why cyclists and motorists alike think that everyone else but them is responsible for obeying the laws.

If automobiles were are narrow as bicycles they would act pretty much like the motorcyclists and motor scooter operators I see. They would ‘filter‘. And they too might begin to attempt the Idaho Two-Step Maneuver. What deters all of these non-bicycling groups from that kind of activity on as extensive a basis as you find it among cyclists is one simple thing, a license plate.

If every gang member in every city had to carry around a copy of their pertinent personal information on a sandwich board placard you probably would see very few ‘drive-by shootings‘. After all if your SSN were visible at 25 feet it would be very hard to do something illegal and scurry away from the scene of your crime with your anonymity intact. And yet that is the very cover we provide for bicyclists.

That is in essence why the bicycle advocacy groups are happy to keep painting ‘the others‘ as the bad guys. They keep asking that the others be given field sobriety tests and breathalyzer measurements made, because motorists of all sorts are easy to identify.

If you are a bicyclist you can simply ride away from a hit-and-run as was done on the Chicago Lakefront Trail and never have to suffer the indignity of a line-up photo. In fact you are seldom if ever subjected to any tests to deter if your sobriety was in question when you managed to clobber a pedestrian walking home on a Friday evening.

You just ride away. And ATA will have your back if someone should even suggest that cyclists be licensed and required to register their vehicles the same as everyone else.

We cyclists live a charmed life. We hope you motorists keep getting tickets for running red lights and speeding. We on the other hand can do both with impunity. I can ride right through an intersection at the height of the Rush Hour and aside from my ethnicity anyone seeing me has no other way to establish my identity than to perhaps say I was riding a funny looking bicycle.

But put me on an upright bike and riding with a hooded sweatshirt and I am anonymous. I can speed as much as I like and do this with impunity not only on the streets of the city but through the crosswalks at each and every corner and then after hitting a few of the slower moving pedestrians for sport, I could go and hunt down others on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

And oddly enough the only ones complaining about our behavior is a few of the more sensitive souls who ride bikes that are subjected to the same terror of a close pass that the 3-Feet Law is supposed to have made obsolete. But instead it is cyclists who do this sort of thing more often than not to people on foot and even other cyclists.

But hey, it is not kosher to tell anybody about this other than as part of a rant. It would be unthinkable to expect our bicycle advocacy leaders to stage a demonstration in Daley Plaza to decry this sort of behavior on the part of fellow cyclists. It simply is not done.

The only people we can criticize with impunity are motorists. And when we do exactly what we are accusing them of doing, we ‘look the other way‘.

So the lesson to be learned from the fact that Ron Burke decided to take umbrage with ‘amber gambling‘ is that in his world, this is only a problem when done by motorists.

Bicyclists are unable to kill, only cars do that sort of thing.