The one good thing about winter coming? The number of bicycle riders on the sidewalk will diminish. They won’t disappear. They won’t stop posing a danger to us pedestrians. But the cold, the snow and the ice will lower their numbers and reduce the chances of us walkers getting seriously injured.
For those of us who make our homes in and around the Loop, we know the types who ride on our sidewalks. The young guys who get a real thrill riding at race car speed, coming up alongside us and brushing our shirtsleeves as they do.
Then there’s the idiots who get irritated when we’re in their path and just about hit us head-on, but don’t because we get out of their way.
And there are the tourists–sometimes whole families of them–who rent Divvys and ride along the sidewalk, swerving and looking side to side as they sight-see in our commanding city, and who also get irritated that us pedestrians are there, getting in the way of their bikes that have become their private tour buses.
Anyway, there is a complete underuse of the street for bike riding around downtown, not to mention an underuse of the bike lanes that have disrupted and uglified and added dangers to our downtown thoroughfares.
Instead, we have an abundance of rude (maybe even psychotic) bicyclists who protect themselves from cars by ruining our lives on the sidewalk. And they protect themselves with helmets and various joint padding devices, while we pedestrians out for a walk have no protection from them at all.
But wait! There’s an ordinance in our fair city that gives the cops the right to ticket these little monsters, right? Right! There is! And they do! But guess where?
According to an article in the Reader this summer, the highest rate of ticketing for riding on the sidewalk in Chicago is in neighborhoods on the west and south sides. Often on streets barely used by pedestrians. Often on streets where an older man may be riding on a deserted sidewalk for a block or two to avoid myriad potholes.
And the lowest? Neighborhoods like mine in the South Loop. Exactly where ticketing errant bike riders could do some good and help prevent serious injuries. There are plenty of tickets they could be giving downtown, lots of law breakers to choose from, and lots of ticket revenue to collect. But instead they choose to hassle bike riders in poor black neighborhoods.
You know the saying, “driving while black?” Which has come to signify a violation in and of itself, all for the purpose of finding some contraband and making an arrest. Well, apparently the same goes for biking on the sidewalk in a poor neighborhood while black.
And that really stinks.
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