Solzhenitsyn Would Recognize This Gulag

Background Reading

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander

(1918–2008), Russian novelist; Russian name Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn. After spending eight years in a labor camp, he began writing. He was exiled in 1974 and eventually returned in 1994. Notable works: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), Cancer Ward (1968), and The Gulag Archipelago (1973). Nobel Prize for Literature (1970).


Once again a cyclist has succumbed to injuries that were entirely preventable. But for some reason the Urban Cycling Movement and its puppet masters have managed to cast Door Zone Collisions and Right Hooks as the fault of motorists. And to cap this all off to a ‘fare thee well‘ bicycling advocacy groups have stood in solidarity over the question of whether cyclists need to be licensed and as the case with cars, motorcycles and scooters trained both in the classroom and in traffic. There is no solid rationale (from my perspective) for why this is being done. After all when these groups can get somebody in with an LCI certification they glad split the fee for the training sessions held under their auspices.

But the problem is that neither the Chicago Whine and Jeez Club Cycling Forum or the Church of Urban Cycling are recognized by newbies as the places to turn for Holy Communion in the case of the latter or radicalization by the former. So those poor schlubs who wander around all day going to work, feeding their families, studiously avoiding the injection of heavy metals under their skin or the insertion of heavy metals objects into their nasal cavities or private parts are doomed to ignorance.


We have time and energy as a movement to drink ourselves into oblivion enough to wind up paralyzed from the chest down following an all night drunk fest to celebrate our graduation from college, but no time to take a simple test that might save our lives.

Neither of the two types of collisions I mentioned are unavoidable. Yes, you can find motorists exiting their vehicles without being able to detect the presence of a cyclist or not bothering to even think about looking for one. But as with STDs you have to take the responsibility to practice the use of barriers when hooking up. Ranting about that person who gave you a disease during a ‘one night stand‘ is a sign that you have not been proactive.

Getting into a situation in which you become the first BikeShare rider in the nation to die from a Right Hook is evidence that the ‘programs‘ which our local bicycle advocacy groups have in place are in a word, pathetic.

The LOOK Campaign has merit but...

The LOOK Campaign has merit but…

It’s been a couple of years since stickers were passed out to warn the wrong group about the dangers of the ‘Door Zone’. This is akin to having a automotive group pass out leaflets warning you that you should check the accuracy of their vehicle mileage and pollution data because it might be wrong.

Why would the guys who placed on street parking beside a bike lane want to warn only the motorists? After all there should be lots of money coming the way of cyclists who get involved in ‘Door Zone Collisions‘ caused by the improper installation of bicycle lane infrastructure. Why not pass out a similar sticker to the folks in the various departments of CDOT warning them that they are in danger of losing their jobs if injury results from the poor placement of ‘Sharrows‘?

The Fix Is In

Everybody in the CDOT/IDOT Community knows about the fact that buses, delivery trucks, vans and even fire engines have a different turning radius for the front as compared with the rear. Everyone also knows that once a truck has begun a turn ‘the driver cannot see‘ vehicles coming along side of him. This is not a matter of negligence, but rather a limitation of the design of rear view mirrors. In fact having a rear view mirror on your bicycle handle or even your helmet is only useful if you can turn it. For that reason alone most touring cyclists use helmet mounted mirrors to watch what is happening from the rear.

Right Turn and Right Hook Illustration

Right Turn and Right Hook Illustration

Some bicycle advocacy groups take time off from counting the monies they raked in by getting their local municipality to take cars off heavily used scenic drives for a few hours so that bicyclists can get a view of the city that they might not otherwise be afforded.

But instead of turning some of that money into a pamphlet or a sticker or anything other than a flyer to invite you to another alcohol-themed fundraiser some of these groups actually serve as sources of information. Information that can save your life.

"Right Hook" Fatalities Graphic

“Right Hook” Fatalities Graphic

But here in Chicago our notion of effective cycling advocacy is to wait until you have been crushed under a truck or bus and then hold a Critical Mass Ride with its share of vitriol and angst while continuing to try to convince you that this was avoidable but the nasty driver who gave you the Right Hook Treatment was the only one responsible for your safety.

Ain’t life in Chicago, grand? Where else in the world (other than a war zone) can you have perfectly insane rantings about the need for more bicycle infrastructure through areas where bullets are flying faster than idiots can possibly reload. What the heck does anybody need with a bike lane if they have no job or for that matter a local green grocer to ride to?

Yet we keep telling ourselves that bicycle advocacy is all about pointing the finger at somebody other than ourselves. We can run red lights and gloat about our freedom to do this, but then turn around and get steamed when someone dies from this ill-advised practice and journalists state the obvious. Only here in Chicago is stupidity a source of income for ambulance chasers who will gladly take a third of your awarded settlement and the spread the news of its size (despite the fact you might be dead).

And where else do you find journalists who have monthly drunk-fests to help you open your wallet so as to fund more drivel about the need for infrastructure that places you in the ‘Door Zone‘ along parked cars. You gotta love the fact that we are as gullible as we seem to be when it comes to being told by the folks who know that riding in The Loop is a ‘deathtrap‘. Oops! That cannot be right. Heck we spent a lot of money on the 606 Trail and that boondoggle on Dearborn. Don’t these combined budget buster make riding in The Loop safe?

There is a sucker born every minute. Maybe we should resurrect W. C. Fields and have him run our local bicycle advocacy scams.

BTW, did you notice that one of our own made the news? You go boy! Keep on “shuckin’ and jivvin’” But then again what works here might not play as well in the ‘real world‘.