A Slippery Slope…

Background Reading


On July 3, around 9:45 AM, a 21-year-old man was biking north on the 3500 block of North Damen in Roscoe Village, when a female motorist opened her door in the man’s path, causing him to crash. The door edge cut the man’s neck; he was bleeding profusely when off-duty police officer Sean Hayes arrived and performed first aid to stem the hemorrhage until paramedics showed up, possibly saving the man’s life. Although dooring a cyclist in Chicago carries a $1,000 fine, it appears the driver was not ticketed, according to Police News Affairs.

Bike-focused attorney Michael Keating (a Streetsblog sponsor) says his firm has received multiple requests for representation from crash survivors in recent weeks. “A simple would be that with warmer weather there is an increase in the number of bicyclists in Chicago,” he says. Cheap gasoline, and the resulting increase in driving, may be another factor. “But my sense is that many of these crashes involve a lack of respect for the bicyclist and their right to the roadway,” Keating says.

He’s particularly concerned about so-called “right-hook” crashes, like the one that ended Murray’s life. “The reason that these types of crashes are so common is simple: the motorist does not see the bicyclist even though they have the opportunity to do so,” Keating says. “The motorist typically makes the turn without ever checking for other traffic-including bicycles.”


There is a very slippery slope between that lies between attempting to explain the cause of accidents (or more to the point, an increase in their frequency) and taking the opportunity of deflecting blame from yourself onto ‘The Other‘. This is a much bigger problem than just identifying problems between motorists and cyclists. This is where ‘racism‘, ‘sexism‘ and ‘class distinction‘ gets incubated.

You can find all sorts of really mean things said about motorists and their ‘killing ways‘. And if that were not enough we cyclists set aside special days of the year to ‘shame motorists‘. We call them Rides of Silence.

What is truly odd however is that on these days we do not ever seem to make our way to the spots where one of us ran down a pedestrian who succumbed to their injuries. It is as if that death meant nothing.

The problem with all of this is that is reinforces the notion of the ‘The Other‘. Some of my fellow African-Americans are more than eager to rightfully talk about the unjust and even unlawful deaths of Black Males at the hands of police. Out of that justifiable anger came the movement known as Black Lives Matter.

But what is problematic with this movement is the fact that there is no corresponding one (in terms of size and scope) to express outrage at the deaths of our people by the hands of other Black People. A nine-year old boy gets gunned down in an alley and (by comparison) very little outrage is displayed. Why is that?

We Cannot Easily Be Victims And Vengeful Simultaneously

Movements are an admixture of ‘celebration of victimhood‘ and a chance to vent towards ‘The Other‘. People no matter their circumstances, take great comfort in knowing that as a group they are rising up and speaking aloud their resentments and acknowledging their hurt. And in that moment they feel stronger.

What is difficult to do however is acknowledge and embrace the irony of being a victim who is also a victimizer (at worst) or simply a hater. This sort of thing is difficult enough that it makes non-violent movement very unpopular.

Gone are the days when people were willing to submit to being torn apart by dogs, sprayed with pepper spray and pummeled with batons in Selma while praying for the well-being of the perpetrators of that violence. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. are no longer ‘fashionable‘. We are now in the era of ‘The Martyr‘ who does taking out as many of ‘The Other‘ as possible.

Cyclists Believe Tasers Are Meant For Wayward Pedestrians

On the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum sentiments to this effect were uttered in sincerity because cyclists were upset at having joggers and walker violate their ‘bike lanes‘. Those same folks have been chastised by others for locking their bikes to private property (while attending a rock concert) and of course that sort of thing is an embarrassment but nobody offered up the use of Tasers as a suitable punishment.

Instagram photo by Newtown Action Alliance • Jul 8, 2016

Instagram photo by Newtown Action Alliance • Jul 8, 2016

We need (and I include myself in this as well) to get beyond the lame and deadly ‘Us Versus Them‘ mentality that grips us all. Yes there are police and members of society who are as unabashed in their hatred of me for my ethnicity and racial background as some of my fellow cyclists are of people like myself who drive cars.

This is part of the ‘human condition‘. At some point we have to learn that achieving recognition from ‘our enemies‘ will take some self-sacrifice. And too we will have to acknowledge that nobody gets to walk away from a traffic collision without having to admit that it is not always solely the fault of the motorist. Sometimes we cyclists are drunk, distracted, risk-taking people who are too often impatient to slow down or come to a stop when necessary.

And despite our proclamations of a willingness to accept the consequences of our actions, we are seldom willing to do so in reality. There are going to be journalists and lawyers more than willing to try to decouple our behavior from their consequences. This is exactly how ‘racism‘, ‘sexism‘ and ‘class distinction‘ get started.

  • She would not have been raped if she hadn’t gone to that frat party and deliberately gotten drunk.
  • Rich people do not pay their fair share of taxes nor do they deserve to have as much capital.
  • Poor people are that way because they are lazy.

This affliction to blame ‘The Other‘ is not reserved just for Far Right Politicians with bad combovers. It is evidently something that Flaming Liberals can do with equal aplomb. You do not have to be white to be a bigot. You can hate just as competently in black, brown, red or yellow pigmentation.

Cyclists Need To Reexamine Their Attitudes Regarding Pedestrians and Motorists

Being a hater is easier than being a principled person. It is always easier to try and blame a traffic collision on a motorist than it is to admit that we were taking a gamble by cozying up to the side of truck that may or not be making a right turn. And it is nearly impossible for us to admit that we are equally unconscious of our surroundings and the movements of others. How else would you explain running over pedestrians who are right in front of us?

When deaths occur we need to ask the question in terms of all of the users of the transportation landscape. When deaths occur it is not just motorists who bear the blame. We pedestrians and cyclists have to wonder how we could have done better. Are we guilty of taking too many risks?


Do we know what we should know about those markings on the roadway? Are we using the streets in a predictable manner. Why are we still having ‘Door Zone Collisions‘? We know how to prevent them and ‘Right Hooks‘ as well. When do we stop pointing fingers and come to grips with our own lapses.

Finally there is a pretty strong resentment of police with the Urban Cycling Movement. We seem to hate them giving out well-deserved traffic tickets for riding on Michigan Avenue sidewalks while wanting them to leap into action to find our stolen property. And we reward them with photographs of their ‘bike lane parking infractions‘ while whining that ‘we get no respect‘.

Our journalists, lawyers and activist leaders only further encourage our petulant behavior because it suits their pocketbooks. Enough is enough! We do not need snipers who are aiming their weapons into the windows of motorists, police or at pedestrians whose violation of their precious bike lane real estate is no more egregious than using the Crosswalk as an excuse to cross on a red light.

It is past time that we no longer glorify the deeds of bikers here in Chicago, L.A., San Francisco or Germany who wantonly burn down automobiles or attack citizens whose only mistake was to be driving home during a Critical Mass Demonstration.

This applies even to the Urban Cycling Movement.

This applies even to the Urban Cycling Movement.

Deciphering The Racist-Like Messages In Urban Cycling Movement Propaganda

What makes racism and sexism so very insidious is the notion that somehow we can ignore a large segment of the population without ill effects. Jim Crow Law was based on this wrong-headed notion. But the Urban Cycling Movement is going down that same path.

We give lip-service to the notion that by manipulating the Transportation Landscape we can offer increased safety to everyone. But in practice we really have no clue as to how to make a street transportation system better other than to remove the vast majority of it under the guise of offering better air quality or fewer predator-motorists.

This is certainly how racists think whether they be black or white. Someone always comes up with a scenario that works on paper because ‘The Other‘ is not present. You hear it quite often from cyclists who imagine that by preventing the very existence of the automobile we can bring about Nirvana. White Supremacists say the very same thing. Rid the city of people-of-color and all your problems will simply ‘go away‘. You can almost always bet that when a cyclist says such things (whether he/she is a journalist, lawyer or advocacy worker) it derives from two sources.

Fear Is What Keeps Cyclist Going

If you want to explain the plight of Chicago today in terms of the rather obvious lack of a Black Middle Class you only need to look at the practices which were well-meaning but insidious. Discrimination in the housing market and by extension the school system helped to stall advancement of those people who had the income to buy homes in areas of the city that were ‘reserved for whites‘.

Today we have transformed cycling into something of an ‘us-only‘ reservation. We look upon bicycle lanes as ‘reserved for cyclists‘ and fight for their purity with ‘shaming campaigns‘ that involve keeping others out of our ‘community space‘. In essence we have reduced our vision to ourselves alone.

When a local governing body decides that the number of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians is growing at too fast a rate along share facilities we cry foul if we are asked to ‘dismount‘. We have become inured to the very problem that plagues our motorist brethren. We enjoy the speed (versus walkers) and convenience of riding out of our front door and up to a lamp post outside our place of work and never having to pay a dime.

We console ourselves by trying to cast our advocacy organizations as being entities that look out for both us and pedestrians. But we really have very little love for pedestrians for the very same reasons we believe that motorists deny us access to their ‘community space‘.

This approach to the use of public roadways and transportation space has brought about collapse in understanding across the gamut of users. There is a shortage of monies needed to keep supporting infrastructure viable. You cannot help pedestrians unless their multi-modal network of buses and trains are made viable. The same holds true for all of the infrastructure that is claimed for cyclists.

The key to paying for all of this is the automobile gasoline tax. But that is going to perhaps be a very difficult system to keep in balance. Cars are getting more fuel efficient. So much so that any drop in annual mileage is likely to negatively effect budgets for the bicycle and pedestrian segments of the roadway users.

Raising taxes on motorists does in fact, ‘work‘. It brings in short-term funding but erodes the continued use of this method to fund everyone else. Over time manufacturers find ways to make cars more fuel-efficient and even to alternate the kinds of fuels used to run them. That means that eventually we are brought back to the same debate over who is responsible for roadways and transportation systems.

Because we are always struggling to keep the motorists out of the picture where bicycles are concerned it means that over time their input is never captured in a meaningful way and most certainly their interest in providing meaningful changes wanes. Why would a motorist ‘get on board‘ with a system and a plan that exploits his labor wages to the betterment of groups that do not have his/her ‘best interests‘ at heart?

Our Social Fabric Is A Reflection Of Our Transportation Woes

Society cannot progress if everyone is not ‘on board‘ with changes needed. Right now we have a governmental stance that is aimed at reducing carbon emissions as part of a global treaty, but without any understanding from the general public as to whose cow must be gored and why. It is a replay of the School Busing and Open Housing efforts of the past.

A well-meaning judiciary grants access to schools in previously white only neighborhoods and suddenly there is ‘white flight‘. The same thing happens with housing. If whites feel that their neighborhood is being artificially manipulating by politicians they react by simply leaving their communities for the suburbs.

The same sort of reaction from motorists would be disastrous for cyclists and pedestrians. If suddenly cars were no longer being used it would mean that virtually no income would result for the needs of cyclists and pedestrians because the systems they use have no sustainable funding source.

We would have a ‘dream come true‘ in terms of meeting the requirements of a ‘climate change treaty‘ but suddenly goods shipped overland by trucks would costs much more. And eventually as the tax rates creeped up on overland shipped goods like beer, food and clothing we would see a set of diminishing returns that upset even the most stalwart cyclist.

The phrase ‘Beer Is The Answer‘ would describe more aptly why we cannot pay for our transportation dreams as quickly as we might like. Nobody in a Free Society likes to think that his/her labor is going to benefit people that do not even like them. Our society is being segmented with a few folks in mind and the vast majority are being told that you will take and like it at the same time.

That is an essentially unfair plan and one which will be very difficult to implement. That especially holds true if we are to remain a nation capable of providing its citizens with the goodies they have come to expect.

#MotoristsLivesMatter/#PedestrianLivesMatter Will Become A Thing

You cannot hit pedestrians and ignore the carnage for very long, before some enterprising motorists begin to realize that cyclists are as vulnerable as they are. Then the fight will become one to restrict the presence of privately-owned bicyclists to the outer edges of the city.

The city will begin to realize that it cannot fund the constant and necessary maintenance of bike lanes unless it restricts use of those very lanes to bikers who have paid a fee. The era of the Necessary BikeShare Rider will emerge. It will come when BikeShare parking means that elimination of private bicycle parking perquisites. That debate is raging even now in various cities across the country. Money is tight and there simply is no reason to continue to allow bicyclists to ‘Rule The Roost‘.

Imagine how things will be when suddenly the number of deaths per annum in the bicycling world shoots upward as compared with those in the motoring world. And those deaths are of pedestrians killed by cyclists. Imagine the way in which countless cyclists will be viewed by the very same people they managed to force out of their cars onto trains and buses and even onto bicycles.

As the number of cyclists multiplies so do the deaths they cause. The current plan is to never educate and train these people because that would include registration. But even that will be forced upon cyclists. Suddenly legislation will be passed requiring that cyclists have the equivalent of vehicle insurance.

It will be a Brave New World where the final say will go to Libertarians who never saw a sustainable tolling scheme that they did not like. It will mean that with fewer cars on the road, the heavy lifting will move towards the shoulder of the people who either use Mass Transit or bicycles. It simply has to.