Trump Isn’t The Only One Whose Silence Is Disquieting

Background Reading


I came across one of the many Facebook articles on cycling that cross my desk daily that left me wondering whether the Urban Cycling Movement members here in Chicago are the illegitimate offspring of The Great Combover. I say this because there is a  strong resemblance to the rejection of factual information not unlike his.

When the Anatomy of a Bicycle Accident surfaced this week it was refreshing to learn for once an independent news source (no “unnamed sources” were harmed in this report, smile!) that while a cyclist thought he had the right-of-way during a completely unrehearsed altercation with a taxi there was reasonable doubt that his version of events were correct.

But what took place afterwards was really troubling. A law firm decided to venture into the situation to show that the report was wrong. But what happened afterwards was what really seemed unreal. The law firm posted its own Facebook article.

And as usual they sided instead with the cyclist and then came out with the usual “two truths” that characterize each and every article I can remember where cyclists and motor vehicles are involved. First is the notion that the mass of the bicycle makes any lapse in the judgment of the cyclist a negligible factor in any resultant encounter with a motor vehicle. That part is indeed true (to some extent). And then these articles usually go on to recount the really unbelievable number of accidents that motorists are involved in. And again that is true.

But like The Great Combover cyclists have a narrative that is untrue and disturbing when it comes to cyclist involvement with pedestrians. We cyclists are loathe to even acknowledge that when a Ride of Silence takes place that we too have our victims. But most are pedestrians. Our ride to commemorate the deaths of the innocent does not include our victims.

And that is where this story of mine takes a dark turn. I made a comment on the Facebook page of the law firm to ask that cyclists not be dismissive of the harm they can cause by hurrying to make a light as they pass through crosswalks. A fellow who has use terms like “death trap” to characterize the absence of safety he feels is present when bicycling there, wrote to chide me for my comment.

And to further his point he actually claimed that “the score” between bikes and cars (on an annualized basis) was (bicycles = 0) where pedestrians are concerned. That is patently false! So I made reference to the two cyclists killed in Central Park, NYC a short while ago. I then went on to cite a women killed here in Illinois while on a path in a northern suburban municipal park by an underage teen. And of course the infamous Strada™ related death in the Castro District in SF where a cyclist trying to “beat the best time” of his peers in an app-related workout hit and killed an elderly business owner.

Jason Marshall, the cyclist who struck and killed Jill Tarlov in Central Park, was an avid Strava userPhoto: David McGlynn/Splash News/Corbis

There have been other deaths of cyclists hit and killed by other cyclists. And there have been runners who were hit and injured when a cyclist fled the scene after hitting them from the rear. This last one took place right here on the Chicago Lakefront Trail. Is it really possible that the leadership of the Chicago Urban Cycling Movement was unaware of all this? I cannot speak for his level of understand or his keeping current on situations like this. But I am inclined to think that the more thoughtful people in this movement are indeed aware of this reality.

I should mention that at least one New Yorker‘s death due to an accident with a cyclist caused his wife to enter the fray as an activist trying to get bicyclists activity changed to one which helped ensure the safety of pedestrians.

But knowing  what I do about this group (Urban Cycling Movement) it is quite possible that few of its members are as acutely aware of the wrongdoing of their own as they are of others behind the wheel.


Every group has a “boogey man” that they rail against. For bicyclists it is the “automobile driver“. For the followers of the The Great Combover it would be Radical Islamic Terrorists. So incidents like those in Olathe, Kansas are difficult for many people to swallow. It is something they would rather overlook than address. The idea seems to be that owning up to “your members” doing the same sorts of things as “the others” weakens your argument so you simply avoid talking about or acknowledging any behavior that is “outside your narrative“.

The fact is you do not have to weigh 3,000 pounds and be going 35 mph to kill someone. You can be riding your bicycle while texting or simply trying to avoid coming to a stop at an intersection and literally bump a pedestrian hard enough that it sends them to the pavement where they bump their heads. A few days later the internal bleeding caused by these “bumps” kills them.

So please the next time a crackdown occurs because cyclists are being prevented from entering pedestrian crosswalk to save a few seconds do not react by saying the police could better serve the public by ignoring your flouting of the law by disregarding your duty to protect pedestrians. Come clean over the fact that you fly into a rage when a car “parks” in your “precious bike lane“. But when it comes to using the pedestrian crosswalk for your personal convenience you turn a blind eye.

One last point. To my knowledge not a single moment has been spent behind bars by a cyclist who has managed to kill someone. Let that fact sink in slowly when you start questioning why motorists get such light sentences (at least some of the time) for killing a cyclist although they have been rung up by cops repeated for driving under the influence.

It should also be noted that at least two instances of “injury to self” have occurred here in Chicago. One was to a medical student who got blotto and went for a ride on a Divvy bike. A similar injury took place when a student went out with friends to celebrate a school accomplishment and he ended up riding his bicycle into a construction area where he sustained injuries that left him paralyzed.

My point here is that our society takes drinking very lightly. We have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to being intoxicated. In contrast you really cannot get behind the wheel of a bus, train or airplane after drinking. Why is that? Both individual drinking while driving your own car and drinking while piloting a bus can be dangerous to others as well as self. So why allow either category of vehicle operator (including bicyclists) to be intoxicated at all?