The Chainlink

In todays' Editorial section.

I can't be the only pedestrian hoping for an early snowfall after months of dodging bicycles, Chicago's version of the running of the bulls at Pamplona.

It's an increasingly popular sport, at least with the city's cyclists. It offers the cachet of paying respect to the environment while keeping physically fit. Bicycles don't pollute. Pedaling is good for the cardiovascular system. There is even a small health benefit to walkers. Nothing gets the juices flowing like crossing a street and seeing a two-wheeled vehicle homing in on you like a heat-seeking missile.

That happened to me while crossing Lincoln Avenue this summer. I had a green light, and while conscious of a bicyclist coming down Lincoln, I assumed she would stop for the red light she was facing, or at least slow down. But she kept on coming, and I hate to think of the resulting damage to her bike and my body had I not jumped out of the way. Without so much as looking back over her shoulder, she flipped me the bird. I guess she thought that, even though I had a "walk" light, I should have deferred to her right to go through a red light unimpeded.


cComments
  • Agreed! I often do not see cyclists obey the traffic laws, I almost hit one flying across a street off a sidewalk going the opposite way where trees blocked my vision of the sidewalk. You are so correct they aren't accountable to obeying the law and feel entitled demanding more and more...
    joe22d
    at 1:06 PM October 06, 2014
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That sense of entitlement has been given a municipal stamp of approval, at least to judge from a sidewalk sign at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Randolph streets: "LOOK!" it reads, with a stick figure bicyclist perched between the two O's. "BE SAFE BE ALERT," it cautions, a message carrying the imprimatur of "CDOT," the Chicago Department of Transportation. The warning is repeated just off the curb, where the pedestrian-crossing lane intersects a bicycle lane: "LOOK BIKES."

Logically, a more appropriate warning sign would face the flow of bicycle traffic, reminding bicyclists that they have an obligation to obey the law.

In effect, the CDOT warning signs for pedestrians are disclaimers. To my eye, they are the city's way of saying to its non-cycling citizens: "You are on your own. Don't look to us to protect you by enforcing the traffic laws." It spells out what long has been going on. Think about it: When is the last time you saw a cop write a ticket for a bicyclist who failed to heed a red light or a stop sign? I never have, despite living just around the corner from Wells Street in Old Town. Sitting on my deck, I see dozens and dozens of bicyclists blowing through the stop sign all day long. At rush hours, all the spinning spokes and chains blend into a virtual scofflaw cloud.

I took the CDOT's sign as a personal affront. I've long derived an enormous pleasure in walking the city's streets, It began when, as a pre-adolescent, I made the wondrous discovery that, just the other side of a railroad viaduct, or across a major thoroughfare, there was another neighborhood — in some ways different from mine, in other aspects, comfortingly familiar. Collectively, all those nuances of neighborhood cultures make up a street-level kaleidoscope matched by few other cities.

But it's hard to enjoy when you have to be prepared to evade a bicycle with a quick move worthy of a toreador.

I take some solace from having a second home alongside a lake in a small town, where the wife and I walk along the shore. It's as peaceful as Thoreau's Walden Pond. Yet something is missing. There is no sidewalk. Having concrete under foot is part of my comfort zone. Also, the air is too pure. There are no Chicago smells: onions on a greasy spoon grill; the pungent smoke of a rib joint; a perfume of spices wafting out of an Indian grocery.

Would that I might again walk Chicago streets enveloped in those aromas — without keeping an eye out for bicyclists riding like competitors in the Tour de France. It's not an impossible wish. Cyclists ride civilly elsewhere. The Dutch ride slowly and stately. I've seen New York's police pull over cyclists for weaving dangerously through slow-moving automobile traffic. Why can't our cops do the same? Holding our cyclists to the rules of the road could be a bonanza for city coffers.

Chicago has given cyclists 230 miles of bike lanes and provides rental bicycles at rock-bottom prices. Lake Shore Drive is annually closed to cars so bikers can have it all to themselves for a few hours. Why not give pedestrians a similar holiday by periodically closing the streets to bicycles? Maybe not all of them. But arteries like Milwaukee Avenue, Halsted Street and Devon Avenue that knife through the city's patchwork quilt of ethnic communities.

Streets where walkers can eavesdrop on immigrants gossiping in languages transplanted from dozens of Old World homelands and hear English flavored with an Irish lilt, a Yiddish singsong, or the rolling cadences of the rural South — a joy to the ears, especially if the eyes need not keep watch for approaching bicyclists.

A day without bicyclists on the road could be a boon not just to pedestrians. It also might tempt some riders to walk streets that, perched on bicycle seat, they see as little more than a blur. Strolling down those same blocks, they might just realize that Chicago is like a fine wine: Its streets offer a rare treat that should be leisurely tasted, not rushed through, nonstop.

rgrossman@tribune.com

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Replies to This Discussion

He wrote a good response. This is something that should NOT be behind a paywall, IMO.

BootsyC said:

https://www.google.com/search?q=bicyclists+have+rights+too+chicago&...

Click the first link and no subscription required.

Tom Z said:

Tribune FAIL... Will not let me read without a subscription.

Fran Kondorf said:

I was once told, "Unfortunately, being an asshole isn't illegal, so we'll have find a different approach." I think that might apply (both sides) to all of us who cross the threshold of our domicile, whether on foot, on 2 wheels, or on 4 wheels. 

Hmmm, she's advocating taking resources to ticket cyclists, crowding the streets with MORE cars(cause people who bike don't generally walk the 5-6 or more miles they ride everyday) that would somehow make people want to walk more?

It's too bad she had a bad experience with a cyclist, maybe the cyclist had a bad experience with a motorist running a light or a pedestrian jay walking. Who knows?

Break the cycle (of being rude to each other that is).

A majority of drivers never come to a complete stop at stop signs either.

If I had a balcony to sit on all day with nothing better to do than be outraged at the lawlessness of people in Chicago running stop signs I'd consider that a great life.

I don't know why I read things in the Trib about cycling, all it does it put me on edge for when I ride because then I expect every driver is out to get me.

And then it makes me hate the scofflaw cyclists when I am in a car!!

It's a vicious cycle....

It's why they hate us. "I can't believe that loser on a bicycle is a mile ahead of me now!!"
The bitching about stop signs is more of this jeaslousy -- even though cars doing Hollywood stops are frequently going faster than I am when rolling thru a sign.

Andy Moss 9.5 said:

I had to drive to work today.  As I was sitting in a line of 20 other cars waiting to get through a stoplight on Lake, two cars passed on the right at high speed in a cloud of dust in the bike lane.  Two cycles of the stoplight later, I was still not through the intersection, and a cyclist gently passed the line of cars.  Even though I do know her and could not see her face, that cyclist was obviously feeling extremely smug and entitled.  She's the reason I am stuck waiting here!

There's a lot of truth in that.  I've had mutiple experiences with motorists raging at me while I was riding in a straight line in a bike path, having apparently offended them by not being stuck in traffic and, therefore, proceeding faster than their many-horsepowered vehicle.  I'm such a jerk!

Anyone know whats going on at Clark lately? Between Southport and Lawrence it is bumper to bumper traffic at evening rush hour. i can't help but having a big grin on my face when i pass them all on my bike. I sometimes just sing aloud to annoy them even more.
It makes me feel unbearably smug...

Andy Moss 9.5 said:

I had to drive to work today.  As I was sitting in a line of 20 other cars waiting to get through a stoplight on Lake, two cars passed on the right at high speed in a cloud of dust in the bike lane.  Two cycles of the stoplight later, I was still not through the intersection, and a cyclist gently passed the line of cars.  Even though I do know her and could not see her face, that cyclist was obviously feeling extremely smug and entitled.  She's the reason I am stuck waiting here!

To me, banning bicycles would probably have similar results to banning beer in Milwaukee.  All that was accomplished by the latter was making Al Capone rich.

Would we then have to get our ride jollies at rolleasies?

Barry Niel Stuart said:

To me, banning bicycles would probably have similar results to banning beer in Milwaukee.  All that was accomplished by the latter was making Al Capone rich.

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