War On Cars and The Cycling Ego

Cycling – city cycling in specific – can certainly stir up the emotions.

My last post, War On Cars: Don’t Sweat Emissions or Congestion was a direct rebuttal to John Mc Carron’s Tribune op-ed entitled Chicago’s War on Cars.  I was quite surprised at a recurring theme among commenters; cyclists have an attitude problem.

This purported attitude problem extended beyond the public’s general conception that cyclists are “Evel Knievel in city traffic”.  It was far worse; cyclists have an inflated ego.

I had to stop and think about that for quite awhile.

I’m accustomed to being asked to defend cycling and cyclists.  Whether it’s those cyclists that run red lights in city traffic, ride two abreast on back country roads, are accused of doping in the Tour de France, wear Lycra long after a ride is over – you name it – I seem to be asked to answer for the behavior of every cyclist everywhere.

Now I have to answer for every cyclist who thinks he or she is better than everyone who doesn’t ride.

I can’t answer why certain cyclists feel a certain way about bicycling or their own perceived place in the world.  I can only speak for myself.

I ride for me.

When I decide to pull on a pair of padded cycling shorts, throw on a moisture-wicking jersey, and tighten the straps of the special shoes that clip into my special pedals, I’m not doing it for the environment.

I ride for me.

When I slip on a cycling cap, strap on my helmet, and pull on my fingerless gloves, I’m not doing it for the the long-term benefit of society.

I ride for me.

While it is true that I’m not burning gas, emitting harmful fluorocarbons, or contributing to traffic congestion, it’s not my primary purpose for riding a bicycle.

I ride for me.

I like getting my blood pumping, drawing oxygen into my lungs, and sweating out toxins as my legs spin the pedals.  I like the endorphin high and the adrenaline rush (or at least I used to before taking heart medications that now prevent that).  I like the way cycling makes my body feel.

I ride for me.

While it is true that I’m enjoying a great cardio workout, strengthening my heart, conditioning my lungs, and toning my muscles, it’s not always my purpose for riding a bicycle.

I ride for me.

I enjoy riding a bike.  I like the feel of the air against my skin as I propel myself forward entirely under my own power.  I like the feel of the outdoors.  I like the outside smells.  I like taking in the scenery.

I ride for me.

I like the sense of freedom I feel while riding my bike.  I can go somewhere or I can go nowhere.  I can park my car and run errands or I can just ride circles around the forest preserve.  I can ride hard and redline my heart rate or I can slow down, sit up, and enjoy a warm summer day.  I can explore new places that can only be seen from the saddle of my bike.

I ride for me.

I ride for me and I write about it.

Hopefully, I can encourage you to ride, too.  At the very least, I’d like to encourage you to share the road with cyclists.

We cyclists are people, just like you.  We just dress funnier at times…


For a followup to this post, click here for The Bicycle and The Reusable Shopping Bag.   You can like my Facebook Fan Page by clicking on the box below my bio.

I appreciate all of your comments!


Leave a comment
  • Great article!

    I, like you, ride for me, too!

    This past year, there were a few times that I commuted to work on my trusty Speacialized Crosstrail Sport. It's a great workout and when I get to work, I'm full of energy.

    Unfortunately, the area I'm in does not have very many friendly bike lanes, and on occasion I had to endure the one lane road, hugging the shoulder as tight as I can without getting smacked off to the side by some stupid driver.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Thanks for taking time to comment!

    Know those feelings all too well myself...

    Keep riding and be safe!

  • In reply to lokeey:

    ....on occasion I had to endure the one lane road, hugging the shoulder as tight as I can without getting smacked off to the side by some stupid driver.

    The road is obviously designed for cars and trucks but you decide to ride your bike on it anyway and it's the drivers that are stupid?

  • In reply to ChicagoAl2:

    As long as the road is not designated "bicycles prohibited", a bike has every right to be on it. Drivers are required, by law, to yield right of way and allow three feet of clearance when it is deemed safe to pass.

    I have about a 1/2 mile of a well-traveled, 45mph two-lane road with no paved shoulder that I must ride on to get between my street and the next bike friendly street in the area. Yes, it's nerve-racking to ride, but I have a right to ride on it. I try to avoid doing so during rush hour, but sometimes, I have no choice.

    You can bet I'll be at the meetings when they talk about repaving it!

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Heh. Ever stop at a red light and the car behind you honks because he wants to do his right turn on red and you're in the way? If a CAR in front of him wasn't turning, he wouldn't think of honking but if a BIKE should be in the way ...

    In such situations I avoid the right line if possible, but it isn't always.

  • I would just please beg all cyclists riding after 5pm to ride the right way along our streets and wear something other than black. It's dangerous enough out there without adding needlessly.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Thanks for the comment.

    I think I may have to do a blog about reflective clothing and lights.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    You must be referring to the "bike ninjas" zooming along at night with no lights and wearing all black. I've been given a good scare on the lakefront trail as they pop out of nowhere in dark areas. They must be on a secret mission of some sort, or maybe they have excellent night vision and assume that everyone else does too.

  • In reply to John Rice:

    They don't realize it, but they're not Ninjas, they're Kamikaze riders...

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    the law requires bikes to have lights if they are ridden after sun set. heaven forbid a bike rider should obey the law

  • What do you think of the idea that was floated around city hall about cyclists being ticketed for running red lights?

  • In reply to Evan Moore:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Evan!

    I'm ok with ticketing as long as the enforcement isn't selective. If it's a stop sign that both cars and bikes run and the cops are ticketing everyone who blows it, that's fair. If it's a sting just for bikes on a neighborhood side street with little traffic, I thinks that's a little unfair.

    I've stated before that a big part of cycling is maintaining momentum. With an elevated view and a slow speed, it's very easy for a cyclist to evaluate an intersection as he/she approaches. If it's clear, a yield is sufficient. Making a full and complete stop with a foot touching the ground isn't always necessary - even though that is the letter of the law - and it can actually put the cyclist at risk when restarting.

    Bottom line, each cyclist is responsible for his or her own safety and following the rules of the road. I cringe whenever I see a fellow rider weaving in and out of traffic, rolling through stops without even attempting to yield, and doing the pause and pedal at red lights. I guess I would rather see these riders learn about safety by getting ticketed than getting hit...

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Have you written about the logic behind asking bicycles to follow rules of the road as though they are cars? Because, simply put, they are not. We need a logical set of rules clearly outlining how bikes should behave on the road. However, asking them to follow the same rules as cars only seems to satisfy the drivers who are, more often than not, simply antagonistic about having to share their lanes.

    As you mentioned, cars can weigh 5000 pounds, travel at with high velocity, and have serious blind spots. Furthermore, cars often include distracting passengers and loud music. Rules of the road for cars take into account these factors, and more.

    However, assuming that the cyclist isn't engaging in the very dangerous behavior of riding with head phones on, none of the aforementioned factors apply to bicycles as they do to cars. Asking a 200 pound bicycle plus rider, traveling with low velocity and great visibility to obey rules designed for automobiles is simply illogical, and a sign that we have not given the proper thought to appropriate laws.

    These anachronistic, motor-vehicle inspired laws are not the case everywhere. While we shouldn't defend poor cycling behavior, like middle fingers and weaving, if we had more appropriate laws, then maybe we could all be a little less antagonistic on the road.

  • In reply to KyrgyCarl:

    Carl, excellent reply!

    That's a great topic for another blog. Let me do some research with the ATA and LAB to see what position they're taking on new cycling law initiatives.


  • In reply to KyrgyCarl:

    I would not mind if police ticketed anyone riding (or rollerblading or even walking on bike paths with head phones). These people are failing to take their own safety seriously yet expect others to watch out for them. Better yet - take the head phones and make them come into the police station to pick them up. Something needs to be done to spread the idea that this is not "cool".

  • In reply to KyrgyCarl:

    Horrible idea devoid of logic. You cannot have people sharing the same path of travel following different rules. So cars have to conduct themselves one way and bikes another? Let's throw in different rules for motorcycles while you're at it. Then everyone on the road will have to consider three different sets of guidelines at all times. Heck, let's make another set of rules for trucks, another distinctly different group.

    Just another example of cyclists creating resentment through an attitude of entitlement.

    I don't have an axe to grind with cyclists just because they are cyclists. I have an axe to grind because they sem to think it is o.k. to flaunt the rules while expecting everyone else to follow the rules.

  • In reply to Pike68:

    There certainly is a perceived attitude of entitlement, but it's no more prevalent than that of a motorist.

    There is a pecking order of vulnerability; pedestrian, cyclist, personal motorist, taxi, bus, delivery truck, semi. Every user has a responsibility for himself. Every user is responsible for respecting the rights of all the other users.

    There are different classes of licenses. You can't drive a semi, a bus, or even ride a motorcycle without a special endorsement on your driver's license. So technically, there are different laws for different users and the one with the highest endorsement (greatest liability) is responsible for obeying them all.

    Hypothetically, would it be any big deal to allow bicycles to yield right of way at stop signs versus coming to a full and complete stop? Motorists already have to yield to pedestrians regardless if they arrived at the stop sign first. How hard would this be for the average motorist to comprehend and obey?

    There is a new law - I'm not sure if Quinn signed it - that allows non-city cyclists to come to a complete stop at a red light and continue on through the red light if there are no cars coming through. This was done because bicycles cannot trip the light sensors to register their presence.

    It can be done. Should it be done is another question.

    I would just settle for motorists acknowledging a cyclist's right to occupy the lane of traffic and respecting the three foot passing rule.

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Again, I salute you for clearly and logically taking a position that you know will be unpopular and sticking to logic. And no, it's not out of some "sense of entitlement", it's out of a desire for laws that make sense.

    I favor laws like the one you mention about expanding the rights of cyclists at non-city redlights and I would strongly favor laws that would reduce the rights of cyclists to ride on public thoroughfares with earbuds, though nobody seems to be proposing such laws.

  • In reply to sTiVo:

    Thanks again for your reply.

    Cycling in traffic with two earbuds in place is dangerous. You need to hear the traffic around you.

    I haven't checked what the vehicle law is regarding this. I wear one bud in my ear to speak hands-free on my phone when I'm driving (in compliance with the city ordinance). If there is a hands-free restriction for all motorists, there should be one for cyclists (by default). Under those circumstances, I'm not sure how one earbud would fit into the equation. It's worth checking into.

  • In reply to Pike68:

    As Brent mentioned below, the various classes of drivers licenses show that there are different rules for different kinds of vehicles, especially trucks. But the distinction doesn't just stop at obtaining licenses.

    In California, lane splitting is legal for motorcycles, under the logic that warm weather and congestion can overheat air-cooled engines; in Idaho bicycles are only required to yield at stop signs, and stop at red lights; highways often have lanes designated for trucks and high occupancy vehicles; speeding is restricted in school zones; public buses can often make turns where other vehicles can't; the list goes on and on. These are all examples of the same path, but different rules for different users.

    Laws, in general, are designed to clarify safe behaviors while curtailing unsafe ones. Some cyclist behaviors are unsafe, like the many mentioned in this thread, and these should be clarified and punished. But many others are unnerving simply because people are not expecting them, not because they are inherently dangerous.

    If we can sit down and try to differentiate between the two, we will likely all come out ahead.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KyrgyCarl:

    having been hit by bike riders 3 different times as i was on a bus side walk it can hurt a lot, in fact one older woman in evanston was killed by a bike rider that hit her. the rules of the road apply to bikes as well as cars. obey them and stop whinning about it. when you cross at the light on a one way street you have to watch the cars and bikes that cross the cross walk you shouldn't have to watch the guy ridding the wrong way on a one way street,

  • In reply to John Center:

    First off, I don't think asking for appropriate regulations should be considered whining.

    Second, I also don't think anyone advocates for adults to ride bikes on the side walk, or traveling the wrong direction on one-way streets.

    Finally, I think we see these behaviors because cyclists feel threatened while riding in their designated, though often unsafe, area. (Not because they want to gleefully flout the law.)

    If we had a set of laws appropriate for bicycles, then cyclists could feel more confident in their safety while on the road.

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    I blogged about the in september. Check it out. http://www.chicagonow.com/fanning-flames-since-1978/2011/09/the-rivalry-that-might-be-bigger-than-bears-v-packers/

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    BS. This is the exact attitude that alienates so many people. Cyclists assert their legal rights (refer to your post above re: your "right" to ride on roads and the requirement for cars to provide certain clearance) then selectively follow other laws. Cyclists have elevated views? Really? I have yet to see a cyclist with a view equal to that of any SUV/truck. So can all SUVs and trucks also use discretion when deciding whether or not stop signs and traffic controls should be followed? And please please please explain how coming to a stop and re-starting is unsafe for a cyclist. It might be inconvenient, but it is not unsafe. If you come to a stop, you are giving everyone the opportunity to see you, and you are giving yourself the best opportunity to gauge what everyone else is going to do.

    When cyclists quit riding the wrong way down one-way streets (very common behavior) and quit disregarding traffic controls (very common behavior) and quit treating the lakefront path between Fullerton and Oak Street Beach like it is part of the Tour de France course (very common behavior), then they can start complaining about cars not following the rules. Until then, they will be perceived as a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Pike68:

    amen, a bike blowing through a stop light is very dangerous to the person walking in the cross walk. broken bones hurt, and if you have the weak bones that come with old age it can kill you as it did one older women in evanston

  • In reply to Pike68:

    I'm certainly not advocating blowing stop signs because a cyclist has a better vantage point than most cars. I'm just explaining it. As for vulnerability, the moments that a cyclist overcomes inertia and seeks balance puts him or her at risk of falling due to road debris and obstructions, as well as being bumped from behind by faster accelerating vehicles.

    As for the SUV or truck equivalence, a bike is easier to stop or maneuver safely out of the intersection and has about 2% of the mass to inflict injury. This only applies to a textbook yield, not a "run it and gun it" approach. But, technically, that's a violation. I've already admitted to the hypocrisy.

    I agree with you that cyclists shouldn't ride the wrong way on one-way streets, disregard traffic controls, and ride above the posted speed limit on shared paths. I'm sure you'll agree that motorists shouldn't exceed the speed limit, should yield at yellow lights rather than risk running a red, make full and complete stops at every stop sign, and signal every turn.

    In reality, we know these traffic laws are violated by both motorists and cyclists regularly. When motorists selectively choose which laws they obey, they aren't required to forfeit their right to be protected from other drivers who violate laws. But that's EXACTLY what you're asking cyclists to accept.

    If a semi forced your car or SUV off the road and into the curb or a parked car, the police officer responding to your complaint wouldn't say "the truck driver said you were exceeding the speed limit back there, so he was perfectly justified when he ran you off the road. If you don't want to killed, stop speeding."

    In your words, laws are absolute and everyone must obey them. Rights are also absolute. You can't deny someone their right by disobeying a law you don't agree with. The hypocrisy runs both ways. I hope you can see yours, as well.

    I can only control how I obey the rules of the road in my car or on my bike. The same goes with you. You have to give us 3 feet of clearance and wait patiently behind us as we take our rightful place in the lane of traffic. We have to stop at stop signs and red lights. The police have to enforce all laws as they see fit.

    I ride and drive defensively and predictably.

  • In reply to Evan Moore:

    As a resident, cyclist, and motorist, I wholeheartedly support ticketing ANYONE who runs red lights. Chicago's biggest cycling-advocacy group, Active Transportation Alliance, also agrees.

    Similarly, I also think motorists should actually be ticketed when they park their cars in the bike lane (I'd never dream of parking my bike in the roadway) or drive dangerously close to bike riders (the law says 3').

  • In reply to johnOi:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Excellent points.

    I'm a strong proponent for education about the 3' rule. I would love to see the day when every motorist is required to take an open book test about the rules of the road that have changed since the last time he/she was tested. Requiring motorists to learn about and formally acknowledge the existence of the 3' rule would go a long way in keeping cyclists safe.

    Keep riding and be safe!

  • I ride my bike too and respect bikers' safety.

    But I guess that doesn't matter to all of the cyclists whose ethic tells them it's ok to flip off everyone in a car as if we're trying to insult them personally by say, passing them safely, while in a car.

    To the idiots who think it's ok to flip drivers off at-will, I suggest you try that the same thing in a bar or at a Chicago cop, and see if the reaction tells you whether or not your behavior is acceptable.

  • In reply to Andy Frye:

    Good point, Andy. No one likes to show courtesy to anyone that flips them off.

    I guess some cyclists resort to that because they don't have a horn on the handlebar...

    I look at the single-fingered salute as a priceless artifact you must keep hidden. If you go showing it off, sooner or later, someone's going to take it from you forcibly. 170# me and my 17# bike are no match for the 280# dude in the 5000# urban assault vehicle...

  • fb_avatar

    Some cyclists do have inflated (good pun, btw) egos, but I think the real problem is how many of them rationalize or dismiss bad riding habits based on the notion that "at least they're not tooling around in big energy-consuming and polluting motor vehicles." As such, many pedestrians and motorists have to suffer their middle-finger insults when we remind them that its rude when they jackhammer on shared recreational paths and sidewalk, ride the wrong way down a one-way street, ride on roads where signs prohibit cycling, and blow off stop signs (especially when motor vehicles are present) at four-way intersections.

  • In reply to billyjoe:

    Thanks for commenting and pointing out the unintentional pun!

    I commented about this exact thing on my last blog. Bikes are the semi truck on the bike path. We can inflict the most damage to the roller bladers, runners, stroller pushers, and dog walkers, so it is our responsibility to watch out, slow down, yield, and stop - even when they veer into our paths.

    Riding on the wrong side of the street or in the wrong direction, on the sidewalk, and on limited access roadways (I once saw a guy biking the shoulder of an Interstate in Missouri), is just bad cycling. See my comment above about stop signs.

    If cyclists want to gain respect, we've got to show respect. See my comment above about the single-fingered salute, as well.

    It's all about sharing the road.

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Yes but - other users of the bike path need to take some responsibility for their own safety. Certain practices need to disappear - wearing earbuds on the bike path, bikers or rollerbladers holding their dog on a leash while moving, sunbathers who step onto the bike path without looking. Come on! And the bike path at rush hour is NO PLACE to bring a 5-year old kid just learning to ride. What are such parents thinking?

    That said, if you're going to ride the lakefront path, you've got to expect this clueless behavior at all times. A bike commute can never be thought of as a race. Ride no faster than conditions allow and be ultra-attentive.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to sTiVo:

    riding on a side walk is only legal if your under 12 and it is a residental side walk no one is legally allowed to ride a bike on a commerical side walk.

  • I ride my bike to and from work when I can and when I'm up for it because of my selfless altruism; to decrease my carbon footprint and be a part of a great social movement, but mostly I do it for for same reasons Brent mentioned.

  • In reply to Joe6Pack:

    Thanks, Joe!

  • If you want to see how bicyclists don't obey traffic signals--ride down Kinzie with those new dedicated bike lanes. Those cyclists think they are invincible. There is one particular "T" intersection near the East Bank Club where cyclists are supposed to stop at the stop sign with the cars. Do they--nah. Not one week goes by that I don't see a bicyclist almost get killed because they think they don't have to stop at that stop sign.

  • In reply to cmjr2003:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I think typewriter No 10's reply below goes a long way in explaining the rationale for that behavior...

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to cmjr2003:

    I nearly hit an eastbound cyclist who didn't stop because the wall at the SW corner of that intersection creates a blind spot. The only way you can see a bicyclist is if they stop, and many of them do not.

  • Brendt,

    Good article. Couple comments. For the past 6 years, I have logged over 90K miles driving on Chicago streets. What drivers may term "attitude" is actually, I feel, a sense that many cyclists have of being empowered. A sense of empowerment to less mature individuals lends itself to the further sense of immortality, like there is a magic shield protecting the person from the slings and arrows that a lesser person would fall wounded to.
    But let me stop the intellectualism there. The issues we drivers have are:
    -lack of some cyclists to wear reflective or at least bright clothing, so a driver can see them.
    -lack of cycling at night without lights or reflectors.
    -riding too close to traffic and weaving between automobiles.
    -not cycling defensively
    -riding bicycles not equipped to handle road conditions ( i.e. a road bike in chicago ice and snow.

    I truly belive that some small fraction of cyclists have a death wish. There is no other conclusion I can arrive at when I see near suicidal risks some cyclists take.

    Lastly, I also ride and am saddened by the number of white bikes I see. Deadly accidents which never should have happened.

    Again, thanks for your article.

  • In reply to typewriter No 10:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply - excellent comments!

    In all of the discussion this topic generates, no one has been able to hit the nail on the head of bad cycling behavior until your comment. Could it be that a disproportionate number of the bad cyclists everyone complains about are young men who have yet to learn "that we're only immortal for a limited time" as Geddy Lee so eloquently put it?

    Cycling is empowering. So is moving to the city when you're 18 years old after a life in suburbia. Maybe we older guys should mentor these young pups?

    I ran into a nice, young suburban kid at a city shop who obviously spent some time tracking down a vintage 10-speed converted to a fixie to commute from his apartment to school. No lights. No reflectors. He'd never even heard of a reflective velcro strap to keep his pant leg out of the chain. He had suffered some broken spokes in his rear wheel. The mechanic determined the cause when he found a set of earbuds wrapped around the inside of the cog!

    I have a son this age. I know how their minds work (or don't). Every day that they escape harm from careless and dangerous behavior only emboldens them to keep doing it. Hopefully, they'll live to outgrow it.

    Great points, too, about reflective clothing, lighting, and having the right bike for the road conditions. If you're going to expect other people to look out for you on the road, you have to be able to be seen!

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Heh, heh! Speaking of youngsters thinking they're immortal! The worst example I ever saw was a rolleblader one afternoon riding north on the Chicago River bridge on the lakefront path. This lunatic was rollerblading all over this narrow path, weaving in and out at a high rate of speed. I yelled at him to slow down and he flipped me the bird.

    He continued to skate like a bat out of hell down the hill down to the Navy Pier turnoff, where he bumped into a pedestrian and knocked him down. As I caught up to him, he pointed at ME and said "Ya see? Ya see?"

    "See what?" I replied. "I just saw you knock an innocent pedestrian on his ass. That's what I see."

    "Yeah, but he remained civil!"

    Speechless, I just rode on.

  • fb_avatar

    We do have a huge problem in Chicago with suburban kids who don't know the first thing about vehicular cycling. Once upon a time...long ago...when I was a child, we learned rules of the road in elementary school, and rode our bikes to school by age 10 or so. In contrast, in most suburbs today, kids ride a bike in a park or up and down the driveway, but that's all. Anyplace else is too dangerous for kids, since suburban streets were not designed with human powered transportation in mind. Now we have a couple of generations of suburban people who have reached adulthood without knowing the first thing about riding safely in traffic. It's really pathetic, and sad...

  • In reply to Uptown Biker:

    Thanks for the reply!

    I live in the 'burbs and am one of the brave few who attempt vehicular cycling in a world of SUVs and distracted drivers. I'm actually relieved when I ride in city traffic half a dozen times a year!

    I'm a firm believer in education - both for the cyclist and the motorist. If we all know what is expected from us, we can share the road.

  • "As long as the road is not designated "bicycles prohibited", a bike has every right to be on it. Drivers are required, by law, to yield right of way and allow three feet of clearance when it is deemed safe to pass."

    "I've stated before that a big part of cycling is maintaining momentum. With an elevated view and a slow speed, it's very easy for a cyclist to evaluate an intersection as he/she approaches. If it's clear, a yield is sufficient. Making a full and complete stop with a foot touching the ground isn't always necessary - even though that is the letter of the law - and it can actually put the cyclist at risk when restarting."

    Speaking of selective enforcement of the law, we have...Brent! On one hand we have his need for vehicles to be absolute in following the law. On the other hand, we have excuses on why bikes should not. Can't have it both ways Brent. You're a vehicle, the rules of the roads apply. Your "momentum" arguement? I've heard that from the hypermilling crowd trying to get additional city mileage. It sounds stupid from them, pretty much the same here. "At risk when stopped" is the same for cars, if the idiot behind you isn't paying attention. "Elevated view" position? A full-sized truck and SUVs both have drivers sitting higher, so your logic would indicate they would have an easier time deducing if they should stop or simply slow down when they get to a traffic light or any other type of controlled intersection.

    At the end of the day, this is what bothers drivers when they see bikes around. Are we going to see somebody slow and stop, or just blow through even though we're on the green? And to head off the "I've never seen bicyclists do this, so you must be making things up!" posts, I challenge people to go to the intersection of Adams and Clinton (northwest exit to Union Station) between 7:00AM and 8:30AM. Watch the bicyclists and the bad pedestrians. You'll be amazed what you see.

  • In reply to Peter Smith:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply and adding to the discussion.

    I won't deny the hypocrisy in that statement about yields versus full stops. We cyclists can rationalize the fact that an individual's total mass is about 250 pounds with a footprint of less than 2 1/2 square feet with the ability to swerve out of harms way or stop in inches rather than feet. We're not equivalent vehicles that don't inflict proportional harm should we err in judgment.

    But, we shouldn't be able to pick and choose which rules to follow - pedestrian or motor vehicle - if we want to be respected on the road. It's not acceptable to cop to the George Carlin "if a cop didn't see it, I didn't do it" defense.

    Perception is, and will continue to be the problem with sharing the road. On end of the spectrum you have cars that don't believe bikes belong and will only show contempt. On the other, you have people that are willing to show respect, but become infuriated when the letter of the law isn't followed every time by every rider. Forget that motorists treat stops as yields, and yellow lights as greens, and greens as yellows - two wrongs don't make a right.

    Just as trucks are held to more stringent compliance standards - inspections, weighs, fuel tax reporting - and cars are granted greater leeway, maybe bicycles need to have some leeway granted, as well. In reality, we all know that traffic enforcement is arbitrary anyway, why not make it official?

    Cops use judgment all the time. Which is more dangerous missing a stop sign or running a red light - a semi, a delivery truck, a car, a bicycle, or a scurrying pedestrian? All violated the law. All are subject to citation.

    I was honest in my response. I come as close to making a full stop as I possibly can without having to put my foot down and lose all momentum. There is a difference between this and not slowing down at all and just ignoring a stop sign as a suggestion. If I have to put a foot down and wait, I can do it easily and will do it. I don't flip the bird and speed away...

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    I agree with you, Brent. I applaud your honesty in saying so. If we are going to be ticketing cyclists, the laws should make as much sense as possible.

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Rationalization is something a person uses to justify their behavor, right or wrong. But I do give you a lot of credit for admitting to the hypocrisy, it's a lot more than I expect these days. For what it's worth, a random person on the Internet now has more respect for you.

    However: "We're not equivalent vehicles that don't inflict proportional harm should we err in judgment." I typed "cyclist kills pedestrian" into Google and was less than thrilled to find a good number of articles. Just as a car is very capable of killing a cyclist, cyclists are very capable of killing a pedestrian. So to answer your question, which is more dangerous? To the victim, they are equally dangerous. Does that mean a police officer should be citing all of the violations you listed? Yes, they should.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Peter Smith:

    100% agreement peter an older woman in evanstan was killed by a bike rider that hit her on the side walk. i got a bad black and blue mark all down my left leg when i got hit on a evanston side walk that was posted no bike riding.

  • In reply to John Center:

    John, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Unless a designated bike path converges into a sidewalk, there is no reason for an adult on a bicycle to ever ride on one.

    The same goes for riding against oncoming vehicle traffic. True cyclists just don't do this.

  • In reply to Peter Smith:

    True, bicyclists are capable of killing pedestrians, but the likelihood is less than 1% of the chance of being killed by a motor vehicle. You're right, pedestrians are the most vulnerable users and everyone should be looking out for them (even when they don't look out for themselves).

    Thanks for the respect comment. Personal respect has to be earned, but respect for cyclists is codified. Motorists are responsible for showing respect to cyclists as equally as fellow motorists and pedestrians. Driving a car is the most dangerous thing most people do and that responsibility is often taken very lightly.

    Ultimately, it's up to law enforcement to decide when and if to ticket pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists who violate the law. Disobeying one statute doesn't mean you surrender your right to protection from others who violate the law. Or as some long-haired, unemployed guy who hung out all day with his twelve buddies once said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    Judging by a lot of online comments here and elsewhere on the interwebs, that guy would have been stoned to death if he ever placed his sandal on a bike pedal...

  • fb_avatar

    I confess to rolling through stop signs on my bike when nobody is around. I don't really think this harms anybody. But your larger point, that drivers and cyclists need to behave predictably, is right on. I often see cyclists blow through stop lights, expecting that everyone else will have the time/reflexes to avoid hitting them. And both cyclists and drivers typically eschew signaling turns, leaving us to guess by their eye movements/wheel position/phase of the moon which way they intend to go.

    I think the big problem is that in America, few people cycle, so they don't understand the challenges (e.g., simultaneously avoiding drivers talking on the phone, giant potholes, broken beer bottles). Similarly, a lot of the young people biking in Chicago (I would guess) don't have a lot of driving experience, and consequently don't understand the challenges drivers face (e.g., signaling a right turn but being unable to make one because of cyclists filtering on the right). In places where most people both drive and cycle a lot (think NW Europe), my experience is that the behavior of both drivers and cyclists is quite a bit more considerate and intelligent.

  • In reply to Uptown Biker:

    Great comments and astute observation.

    Being consistent and predictable is what good driving and bicycling is all about. Not just signaling turns, but signaling intentions. If I am encountering an obstacle in my path, I point to my left to let anyone behind me know that I'm moving to the left. It's a habit you pick up from group riding where you are constantly pointing out road debris and signaling when you are slowing, stopping, or turning.

    You're right, the more cyclists there are, the easier it will be to share the road.

  • fb_avatar

    Hi everyone,
    All great comments. Though I'm a little concerned about the context of comparing bicycling and driving. Bicyclists represent such a small percentage of road users. So it seems then that every story written and comments shared about bicycling is very personal. You know what I mean? Simply put, bicycle riding is an alternative means of transportation. There are all different reasons why we bike or not. While I'm a proactive advocate of bicycling, I do have a difference of opinion about the article's tag line, "I ride for me." To me, that sounds like a similar reason from the entire SOV driving force out there. I know what Brent means by the line, I ride for me, in the context of his article, but that is only part of the equation. I would like to hear Brent talk more about the collective effort of bicycling.

  • Tom, great comment!

    I was a little worried that that phrase might be taken out of context, almost creating an irony about the cyclist's ego...

    Given the previous post, it was more to tamp down the perception that we cyclists don't feel we're superior for our choice, we just do it because we're passionate about it.

    I've been a cyclist since I was 5 and an enthusiast for the past 11 years. When I had a heart attack two years ago, I was shocked as to how this could happen to me, a fit cyclist. Turns out it was all the sugar in my diet! Long story short, NOBODY wants to hear me talk about the need to eliminate high fructose corn syrup and overly processed foods from their diets. I might just be a tad bit oversensitive to the "holier than thou" criticism...

    That said, I will continue to write about this topic and will work in the collective effort of bicycling. In fact, please send me your suggestions for what you'd like me to focus on - I'd really appreciate your input!

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Re health:
    I have very well developed leg muscles. These come from years of riding while overweight. While the riding no doubt helped me keep the weight from being even worse, it wasn't until I stopped acting as if a good ride meant I could eat whatever I wanted and in whatever quantity I wanted, that the pounds came off.

  • Yes, I ride for me. The exercise does me good. I like the way it makes me feel (usually). My health issues would be worse if I didn't do it. It's cheaper than parking in the loop. It's also doing a favor for the environment, but that shouldn't and doesn't excuse or empower any unsafe riding behaviors on my part.

  • In reply to sTiVo:

    sTiVo, all excellent comments! Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks for the feedback. I would say, I ride for my health. Now, that's a campaign a regular auto driver couldn't compete with. When people ask me why I bike, or why I eat vegan, for instance, I always say I love the adventure, or I love the food. I don't think a lot of people simply understand that us bicyclists like the fact of getting our bike ready to go every morning or the challenge and adventure of bicycling to work. Then people say, well, it takes so long to get ready in the morning to bike, so I would rather easily just hop in my car, parked in the garage, turn on the ac, and not even step outside between home and work. Now that's real air quality:)

    As a bicyclist, I have gotten efficient at prepping the bike in the morning before work. Last month, I biked downtown and made it there faster, door-to-door, then taking the brown line train from the Lincoln Square area. I bike for myself; I bike my for my health; I bike because it's as easy as I want to make it.

  • fb_avatar

    i walk for me, i obey the walk lights at the corner, i wish bike riders would obey them, when the sign says no bikes on the side walk like it does all over down town evanston i was bike riders would obey them it doesn't feel good to be hit by a mad bike rider on a busy side walk.

    i wonder if roofing nails on a bike lane would slow them down because so far i have been hit 3 times on evanston's side walks if i get hit again i will spread um on the bike lanes

  • In reply to John Center:

    John, I can understand the frustration, but revenge or sabotage isn't the answer.

    I'm not from Evanston, but it sounds like there is a problem with younger riders who don't quite understand the rules of the road. I'm suspecting college students on this one.

    You should contact the police department to see what they might be doing to make citizens more aware of not riding on the sidewalk. Obviously, more needs to be done. Bikes belong on bike paths, designated bike lanes, and lighter trafficked roads. NEVER sidewalks.

Leave a comment