In Search of a Consistent Message…

Background Reading


The single biggest weakness within ‘the message‘ being delivered by the Urban Cycling Movement is that nobody appears to be in charge of the campaign strategy.


In the past few weeks we have had numerous deaths on the streets of our fair city. In the days following one of those deaths a fellow messenger told a reporter why he thought most of his colleagues ran red lights. ‘It was safer‘ to do so. He delivered this message with sincerity and that in itself is wonderful to hear.



What it means is that those of us who complain about cyclist behavior are not just being cranky. What we see on an almost daily basis is the result of a rather ‘patchwork notion‘ about how streets work. In fact things have devolved within the community to the point that they have undertaken to ask aloud, ‘what can we do to make streets safer‘? Silly me, I thought that the buildup of bike lanes was because we already knew that they would work and so more of them was ‘the answer‘.

But evidently new legislative pronouncements here in Illinois that gives cyclists ‘the legal right to take the lane‘ are being ignored in favor of some sort of incoherent rambling about being forced to take a lane (rather than ride in the ‘Door Zone‘) is a threat to the safety of cyclists!

There Are Four Types of Deaths Than Should Never Take Place

  1. We already know that cyclists should never ride in the ‘Door Zone‘. Moving out of that region alongside parked cars is exactly the opposite of being placed in danger.
  2. We also know that riding into an intersection against the light is not required and is unsafe. Being hit by a bus while executing an illegal intrusion into the intersection is simply unsafe.
  3. The same logic applies to riding into an intersection while failing to stop at a stop sign is also a bone-headed move.
  4. Riding alongside trucks, vans or buses is tenuous at best. A ‘right-hook‘ cost a cyclist a leg this week. It was like all the other situations here simply avoidable.

Trying to make the case that taking a lane other than the bike lane is dangerous is troublesome. Bicyclists have the nasty habit of arguing that they do not like being ‘stuck in traffic‘. But that is exactly what drives them to do most of the dangerous things they do. Theirs is a pact to never sit in traffic behind cars and be kept from proceeding forward at all costs.

The only way to accomplish this sort of thing is to ‘filter through traffic‘. You’ve seen motorcyclists do it. They ride between the cars standing in traffic because they are narrow enough to do so. And before long they have reached an intersection which is where lots of time gets lost. So they do what they have been practicing on a daily basis they weave their way across the traffic clogging up the intersection (usually during Rush Hour) and after a series of these illegal movements are executed they arrive at work ahead of the general traffic.

So it is clear that moving out of their ‘designated lane‘ does not frighten as many of them as is claimed. And one of the things that signifies that you are a ‘seasoned bicycle commuter‘ is your ability to avoid being ‘stuck in traffic‘. What is painful however is being ‘called out‘ for this behavior.

Displacing Blame Onto Motorists Has Become A National Sport

Cyclists have ‘made a living‘ out of finding ways to deflect criticism of their behavior. Their most consistent approach is to claim that when one of them dies that it can only be because it was the fault of the motorist. That keeps them comforted until one of their own manages to run over a pedestrian in the crosswalk and suddenly their claims that they need ‘3-Feet When Passing‘ looks quite weak. After all you simply cannot hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk and give them the same 3-Feet courtesy that you demand.

Taking photos of license plates and contacting 311 or the press is another favorite game. They have even developed a SmartPhone App to aid them in this charade. But everyone knows that were this tactic taken by the pedestrian public to ‘shame them‘ every time they violated the integrity of the pedestrian crosswalk they would cry foul. After all ‘shaming them‘ is evidence of your anti-bike bias.

There simply is no winning with these folks. They have lanes (and nearly 148 miles of them in Chicago) which they believe don’t keep them safe. But frankly is was never about the lanes keeping anyone safe. Bike lanes were always what politicians offered as a way to do two things:

  • Keep you out of the way of faster moving traffic
  • Allow newbies who feared street travel to have a false sense of safety

Cyclists have to know that riding the wrong way on a One Way Street is not a safe practice. It ranks up their with trying to hitch a ride on a bus or truck by holding onto the wheel well in the rear. And that of course only works because cyclists have learned that there are blind spots where the driver cannot see you. And yet when they tip over and are crushed by the truck that turns right out come the crocodile tears and we all have to sit through a nightly news report on just how dangerous riding in the street can be.

Listen Up Folks! You Cannot Run Your Campaign Like The Combover!

Frankly you have lost the sympathy vote from most people. You are either doing something wrong (as in improper/illegal execution) or more than likely many of the less experienced riders are unaware that certain maneuvers are dangerous. It is more than time that we drop this myth that a bike lane is some sort of touch stone.

Pedestrians die at a higher rate than bicyclists and they have for the most part sidewalks separate by high curbs. And nearly every corner has protected crosswalks. With the exception of motorists who did not get the memo on what a flashing amber signal means most of the actions of pedestrians that involve injury occur in what we can call the ‘middle of the block‘.

Our children are very good at chasing balls into the street or finding holes in fences to scramble across railroad tracks to save walking a few blocks. And when they (like the adults) do something stupid a hundred times and no harm befalls them, they are lulled into believing that they are safer running red lights and the like on their bikes too.

But the fact of the matter is that you do not have spikes in mortality rates for no reason at all. And unless you are prepared to make the case that truck drivers are holding an organized campaign to crush and maim cyclists, you are going to have to examine your own behavior and not just point fingers at the rest of the world.