Teaching Etiquette To ‘Others’ And Failing To Learn Ourselves

Background Reading


Michael Hendricks, a 20-year-old West Humboldt Park resident, is a team leader in the 606 ambassadors program. DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

Michael Hendricks, a 20-year-old West Humboldt Park resident, is a team leader in the 606 ambassadors program. DNAinfo/Paul Biasco


What members of the Urban Cycling Community are likely to do when asked whether 606 Ambassadors are a needed component in the daily life of a MUP, is nod yes. But they will be ‘wary of having the other shoe drop‘. This sort of venture implies to everyone who thoughtfully considers it that education is the key to good infrastructure use.

People who are new to an activity have to learn new skills. What is perhaps not certain in the minds of the Urban Cycling Community is whether they themselves fall into the category users having to undergo any training or education.

Contrary to popular opinion we probably ALL ought to have to sit down in a classroom and get the facts about the rules of the Rules of the Road and then some outdoor training on how to adjust our behavior to fit the new realities that are all around us.

The brief blog entry posted just the other day on BikePortland is evidence of this fact.

What is rather remarkable about this blog is that it has the temerity to deliver to its readers some rather ‘hard news‘. That is to say that they tell the truth about the incompetence and downright indifference of cyclists to almost anyone but themselves.

This news being delivered in an unvarnished fashion seems as if you might be trying to ‘bring down the community‘. But frankly every professional sports team and virtually all of our armed forces combat training teams go through the painful process of debriefing about the successes and failures of their efforts. It is what you do when you are attempting to create cohesiveness within the unit or team.

What distinguishes the Urban Cycling Community from teams and combats units is the lack of such debriefing. We seem more interested in offering foot rubs and cotton candy to our members rather than the honest evaluation of their behaviors.

We Are No Worse Nor Any Better Than Motorists

If our numbers were as great as that of the motorists who ply the streets of Chicago I can almost guarantee you that the number of deaths and injuries of pedestrians either in crosswalks or on MUPs would soar to something in terms of numbers that would have every newspaper reporter licking their lips at the opportunity to take down the arrogance of the Urban Cycling Community.

In many ways we are as arrogant and ugly about our righteousness as some churches are that plague the funerals of soldiers. What we do is plague the trials of motorists who drink too much and end up killing a cyclist.

And yet we have discussion forums in which we gloat over the fact that the ride last night of this or that group of street marauders left us so wasted we could not remember where we parked our bikes!

The problem here is that we are eager to minimize the dangers our excesses represent as compared to those of our motoring cousins. But the fact is that when it comes to killing pedestrians we can do it at speeds under 10 mph. And unfortunately we won’t know that the person is going to succumb to their injuries until a day or so later.

It is the brain bleeding that does the trick in terms of our ability to kill a 70-year old pedestrian from behind as she walks on a MUP. What is quite amazing is the indifference that a cyclist can display.

In the account above he rang his bell and when she did not respond he evidently maintained his speed and tried to weave his way through the targets ahead of him. But he missed! So did he stop. Nope!

He kept going. His excuse was that he had someplace to be.

This Account Is Not A Rarity

This sort of thing happens more often than we actually understand. For one thing it takes an eyewitness who is willing to track down a cyclists who ‘commits a hit and run‘ because cyclists ride around wrapped in anonymity. We have no license plates that must be displayed. So the best anyone can do is to give vague descriptions.

But what really galls me is that these same individuals when they get together to drink their brains silly, spend the bulk of their time swapping stories about drivers who violated the bike lane. And as if they were proud parents sharing pictures of their offspring they trot out photos of the drivers that they plan to send to someone, anyone willing to take up their cause to rid the world of scofflaw motorists.

This is where the real problem lies. We spend countless cycles pulling splinters out of other people’s eyes and never noticing the beams stuck in our own. And if someone were to offer that there was indeed a beam stuck in our eyes we would turn on them as traitors.

Our reasoning is that ‘for the good of the community‘ you ignore bad press and the uncovering of the failings of your fellow scofflaw cyclist. This is sad, but is what really goes on.