When Cyclists ‘School’ Cyclists

Background Reading





A curious thing happened ‘on the way to the forum‘. The North Branch Trail is a bit like the Illinois Prairie Path and its connection to the Salt Creek Trail. When the Salt Creek Trail was first proposed there was pushback.

And as usual from us cyclists there is always the taunt that those who actually live in the area are being NIMBYs and not much else. That same thing happened recently when a group of ‘know-it-all‘ cyclists started getting their ‘victimhood‘ gear ready for some sort of activist nonsense.

But ‘low and behold‘ people who actually live in the area along the North Branch Trail spoke up in a forum setting and made their case for why things are not quite ready to be ‘signed off on‘ regarding the connectors from the local neighborhood to the main stem of the trail.

It turns out that many of the locals are also cyclists and like me ride the trail, but they probably do it far more often than I ever could. And among the things they point out are the convoluted and probably unsafe routes from the neighbor back to the trail.

‘Stupid’ Cycling Advocates Have Faulty Logic

I don’t think that cyclists set out to be ‘dense people‘. But what we do set out to be are ‘activists‘. We have never seen a stretch of roadway depicted in an architects rendering that had a separated bike lane that we did not like. We are suckers for ‘more infrastructure‘.

But then the inevitable grumbling begins once the actual infrastructure takes shape and the very same people who donned their cycling togs for the photo op along Dearborn Street in Chicago start their bitching once they get to actually use the goddam boondoggle.

In fact truly egregious construction like the ‘606 Trail‘ are only now being understood as short-sighted in its design. There will not be much time to gather our collective breath before the first lawsuits from cyclists assholes who fly down a ramp of the ‘606 Trail‘ and plow into a pedestrian, family pet, another cyclist, a passing car or an opening car door (at speed) complaining that the steepness of the ramp is a hazard.

Of course we all know that they make brakes for a reason. But getting knuckleheads to apply them is difficult.

Testing Methodology 

I had to laugh when I read the reply of a cyclist who like myself uses the North Branch Trail with regularity attempt to object to the fact that all the safety studies on the connectors to the trail had been done at 10:00 AM on a Saturday. Their reply was that the ‘high traffic‘ times for these trails were on such weekend mornings.

But the problem here is that we are talking about ‘high bike traffic‘. Unless you are attempting to negotiate the trail without hitting other cyclists, that period of time is useless. The primary concern is when two modes of traffic that travel at very different rates of speed are likely to have to negotiate a crossing.

So instead of focusing on weekend traffic, it makes sense to consider the rush hour traffic on weekdays. Why? Well again the problem for riders is that when they are alone they are more vulnerable because the drivers are not as well alerted to the presence of cyclists.

On a weekend morning when 30 bicycles are attempting to cross a busy intersections everyone is aware of the presence of the other. That dynamic changes when only one or two cyclists are waiting at the corner for a light to change.

Cyclists Should Stick To What They Know Best

We are as dumb as stones when it comes to thinking through the design of a piece of bicycle infrastructure or for that matter a suitable test to prove the safety of same. Best to stick with what we know, which is not very much. Far better still to acknowledge our ignorance keep our mouths shut and to learn to handle our bikes in a more efficient and safer manner.