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Share the Road...you too Cyclists


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Share The Road

If a livable city is one where cars are not essential, then a livable city is also one where bikes become more the norm.  The bike community is big in Chicago, but some in the current bike community are not helping it to get bigger.  I fully support all the "Share the Road" stickers I see around Chicago, but I do not think those flaunting their stickers always understand the meaning of the word "share."  As we learned in kindergarten, sharing means the desired "thing" is to be fairly used by all parties involved.  Both drivers and cyclists use the city streets, yet both parties act as if they deserve the right of way.  As much as I wish it were different, the angrier the bikers get that the roads aren't shared, and the more they try to disregard the cars, the less likely that their goals of a more bike friendly city will be accomplished.

I am a cyclist.  I ride to work, I have worked with bikes, and I support biking in Chicago.  However, a few things need to take place before this city is truly a great biking city, and that starts with strengthening the rapport between cars and bikes.  Drivers in Chicago hate the cyclists, and vise versa.  The first way to fix this, which won't make me many friends, is to eliminate Critical Mass.  As much fun as it may be, I don't think it's helping the cause.  Every time I've participated in this ride, I see physical fights break out between a cyclist and a driver who is forced to wait fifteen minutes for the "critical mass" to pass.  Cops see these fights and take note, but more importantly the alderman to whom the driver complains, also takes note.  Angering cops is never a good idea, but angering aldermen, who have relationships with Chicago legislators, is even worse.  

The percentage of commuters on bikes is also important to discuss; let's use the example of Portland, OR, voted as one of the top bike cities in the country.  Even in Portland, only about 6 percent of the population commutes by bike (here is an Oregonian article that discusses bike commuting in Portland).  This number grows every year, but even if it quadruples in the next 5 years to 24 percent, cyclists are still the minority.  While this concept might not resonate well with cyclists, it needs to.  The majority always wins, and while I am not suggesting that the bike community backs off and stops fighting for their cause (far from it), I just think they need to pick their battles.  The fight that I speak of needs to be the fight for rights, recognition, more bike lanes, etc., instead of a fight specifically against the drivers.

In addition, if cyclists want to "share the road" and get recognition as a means of transportation, then the city needs to begin regulating bikes like other forms of transportation.  Just as when a car disobeys a traffic law it receives a fine, bikes must be held to the same principle. The ticket prices do not need to equal those of cars, but the threat of a ticket might deter cyclists from their aggressive riding style of running red lights, and weaving in and out of traffic.

I believe that if the cycling community sees more enforcement and regulation, and if we cut Critical Mass, the drivers will not purposely try to hit them.  If bikes no longer play the roll of daredevil on the streets, the drivers will be more understanding, more responsive, and more tolerant of them.  This is a win-win for the bike community.  It's all about relationship building.  The better the relationship between drivers and cyclists, the less often drivers complain, and the greater the likelihood that the roads really will be shared.  Daley is eager to make this a better city for bikes, but until he gets more approval from the driving majority, it's only the cyclists who will suffer. 



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jason said:


agreed, critical mass is stupid. all it accomplishes is to reinforce the notion that cycling is a subculture for drunken louts and not a legitimate transportation mode. i like to get as drunken and as loutish as the next guy every now and then, but i much prefer to get from point a to point b without incident.

one point of contention, if portland's share of cyclists were to rise to 24%, cyclists would not be a majority but non-drivers would have a coalition parliament of sorts...when i lived there several years ago public transit had around a 25-30% mode share.

susiea said:

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I agree. All of the roads would be much safer if everyone (cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, etc.) realized that they were intended to be shared, not solely dominated. I commute on my foldable Montague bicycle and I always feel more comfortable when I work with and around all of the cars on the road, instead of trying to fight against them.


sassr said:

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Agreed, I ride every day and I think the CM is stupid. I have been stuck because of it even though I was on a bike!

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