I Hope My Memory Is Foggy…

Background Reading


I was waiting on Jackson just west of Des Plaines when a young white woman on a bicycle came riding up the red light from the west. She had a front handlebar bag and two rear panniers on her upright.

There were perhaps two cars waiting at the light. She decided to squeeze between me (waiting at the curb) and the car next to me. She had to carefully pass my driver’s side mirror by turning her body sideways while almost track-standing her bike. She finally made it through by forcing her panniers through the gap between cars.

I felt the front end of my car shake as she finally burst through! Then instead of doing her usual stop in the pedestrians crosswalk she proceeded into the intersection on the red light. She had to track stand there as well before getting past cars heading southbound along Des Plaineswhich either passed in front of her or turned left onto Jackson.

Then she sped off on Jackson eastbound to reach the next intersection.


I watched in horror as the video (see above link) showed a young woman on a Divvy bicycle squeeze past a parked car to enter the space between a flatbed truck and the curb. She was crushed to death a few moments later and it brought to mind a situation I had a few months ago while waiting for my wife to leave work. I recounted the tale in a blog entry above. The summary is exactly what I wrote those months ago. What is horrifying is that on the Chicago Whine and Jeez Club Cycling Forum is that someone posted a picture of the victim.

At the time I wrote the blog entry above I was furious enough at the actions of the cyclist that I thought a picture was in order. Her face came within 6 inches of mine. But today I am thankful that I cannot verify that the face I saw on the forum was the same one that stared through my driver’s side window.

But aside from the foggy memory of the face, I am quite certain that the actions of the cyclist that day were not inconsistent with those of the cyclist in the movie. Evidently this maneuver is legal but it is clearly not expedient.

1 Corinthians 6:12

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

The single biggest problem with urban cycling habits (as I see it) lies in the fact that we spend far more time concentrating on our legal rights than we do our personal safety. This is a mindset that is encouraged because of the ‘movement‘ nature of Urban Cycling.

We simply exult in knowing that we managed to ‘call out’ a driver in the bike lane but have no memory of our own bad behavior when locking our bikes to the handrails on the CTA elevated train platform.

It might be better for everybody is there were some dialogue between cyclists and motorists. Right now it is a case of cyclists being told by their legal representatives that everything they do (whether expedient or not) is legal and thus they can and should continue their current behavior patterns.

The ‘lawyer speak‘ sounds like this:

Illinois law requires bicyclists to ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb in situations like this.

But as was pointed out the rider entered the ‘kill zone‘ long after the driver had come to a halt and were it me I would have simply waited behind the end of the flatbed truck itself. You never, ever want to be anywhere along the length of the truck prior to a turn and that is doubly true for long semis where the rear wheels have an even shorter turning radius than on this vehicle.

The ‘vehicular-cyclist speak‘ sounds like this:

If you cannot see the eyes of the driver in his rear view mirror or through the glass of a transparent door (i.e. you have ‘locked eyes‘ on one another) then assume he does not know you are there because he either cannot see you or has forgotten to look.

Keep in mind that a motorist who is not also a cyclist that has just eased by a parked car is now assuming that no other ‘cars‘ can get between him and his turn. What he is most certainly not aware of is that some cyclist might try to squeeze past that parked car and take up residence in the space between him and the curb.

In fact that was what had me so agitated when I watched this young woman squeeze between my parked car and a CTA bus. What really got my goat was when I realized that she had desired all along to cross that intersection (not make a right turn) and was willing to do this on a ‘red light‘.

I wonder if in the case of the cyclist who was killed on the Divvy bike she too had not been desiring to cross through the intersection but was forced to begin a turn just to avoid the truck’s turn. Should the driver have been looking through the wall of his cab for a bicyclist?

I would have done that (I hope) since I am quite familiar with the antics of the Urban Cyclists in the city. I detest their arrogance and their behavior and wish that rather than be so impatient they could learn to do what they wish drivers would do and that is to ‘chill out‘.

Yes you should ride as far to the right as possible but think about things the way a driver has to. His mirror is essentially aim so as to assure him that cars and other vehicles are not close by his rear end. In fact the moment he begins to turn his mirror can no longer show him what is alongside his truck. That is something that cyclists show be aware of before moving into a narrow space alongside a truck.

Ask yourself whether anyone other than a cyclist would even think that someone would be lurking in a space than narrow. Forget whether it is the responsibility of the driver to avoid making mistakes, instead assume that he/she will. Where does that leave you the bicycle driver?

As is often pointed out you have the least protective surroundings of them all. So should the driver err you may pay for his inattention with your life. Is it worth all that just to do something that you are allowed to do, but probably should not without a great deal of circumspection.

Lawyers make their living on defending either the heirs of a dead client or securing a settlement (of which they usually take a third) to help pay for your likely high medical costs. And should you live, what lasting injuries will you be saddled with? If you for instance do what one cyclists did a few years ago and get bombed on beers to celebrate his graduation from school and on the way home failed to see an open hole, does it really matter how much of a settlement you got if you are paralyzed permanently for life?

Frankly, lawyers and activists and the journalists who support this charade do not have to live your life following the aftermath of a serious collision. It takes an afternoon for a group of your fellow drinking buddies to mourn your passing and to find a street to name after you, but that requires no real sacrifice on their part.

Ask yourself whether the friends of the fellow who ended up paralyzed ever gets visitors from that awful night of drinking? Do they show up every Friday to talk about ‘old times‘? Rather than spending minutes or hours debating just how nasty you think car drivers are why not instead spend that time educating yourself on what truck drivers have to face when executing a right turn.

Do not be misguided into believing that opening your horizons to take in the concerns of the drivers of the vehicles you face each day is somehow capitulation. It is not. It is exactly what ever diplomat and marriage counselor has to do to get past an impasse. Cyclists as caught in a very deadly and ugly bit of denial. They have taught one another to believe that the ‘other guy‘ is the problem.

If a news person dares to point out the obvious about our behavior we fly into a tizzy and want to see heads roll. But is it possible for one moment to consider why that young lady who squeezed past my parked car needed to do that? Was it worth possible injury (should the bus have rolled rearward for a moment) just to be able to run a red light?

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