Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago Tribune Publishes Reader's Anti-Bicycle Rant

In the print edition of today's Chicago Tribune, editors published an anti-bicycle rant by a reader.  The Tribune included the angry letter at the top of the "Voice of the People" section along with a cartoon of a road raging motorist next to a cyclist.  The screed, titled "Dangerous bikers," contained the tired old anti-bicycle rants heard many times before:  Bicyclists are anarchist rogues who do not pay to use the roads that belong to cars and cars only.  Bicyclists are "dangerously selfish" and pretty much deserve whatever abuse they receive from motorists, writes the bitter author.  They should have to buy licenses and city stickers.

The letter contains little thoughtful reflection from a person whom I'm guessing doesn't ride.  City bicyclists face chaos and hostility at nearly every turn.  Illinois law requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right curb as possible, but that is not as simple as it sounds.  The right side of the road often contains potholes, torn-up pavement, parked cars, double parked delivery trucks and disembarking taxi cabs, among other hazards.  Staying out the "traffic lane" isn't always avoidable and bikes sometimes find themselves needing to take the lane.  Apparently, some see this as bikers acting like they "own the road."  This is something Illinois law permits bicyclists to do when circumstances require it.  Even when a bike lane exists, a cyclist utilizing it finds himself or herself in close proximity to parked cars which may at any moment, and without warning, open a door into the cyclist's path, a potentially deadly situation.  While traveling in our city's streets the cyclist must also deal with cars and trucks that turn without signaling; pedestrians who mindlessly choose to cross the street mid-block without looking; and texting, eating, eye make-up applying drivers focused on anything but the road, just to name a few common hazards.  All of this with no protection, but perhaps for a piece of styrofoam upon their heads.  Often, the price paid by cyclists for trying to save money, save the planet, get some exercise and rigorously enjoy life is death or serious injury.  You'll forgive us, dear motorists, if we get a bit . . . frustrated while out riding.  Until we have buffered bike lanes, bike boxes, designated boulevards and a transportation infrastructure that truly takes bicycles seriously, cyclists will be left to ride defensively.  Yes, there are bad cyclists out there, as there are bad motorists.  But what may seem like unnecessarily aggressive cycling may actually be the best and safest approach to a given situation.

As for the notion of taxing bicyclists, it turns out that cyclists already overpay to use city streets "Every time somebody gets on a bicycle instead of in a car, the city saves money," according to a very interesting analysis by the folks over at Grist.  


  1. I agree with the guy. I ride everywhere in the city, and I agree that 90% of cyclists think the rules do not apply to them. They are idiots. This guy's wife got hit and put in the hospital, and I'm not surprised. I have been hit by other cyclists when waiting at a red light because they passed too close to me while blowing through it. If we want all those infrastructure things you asked for, then we should ride like responsible road users.

  2. I've seen a lot of bad behavior from cyclists, but bad behavior from car drivers is far more dangerous. And pedestrians that simply step in front of you, while looking at you, forcing to swerve towards the middle of the lane. Suppose only 10% of cyclists and 10% of car drivers are reckless... that's a lot more reckless drivers than cyclists!

  3. The letter ends with this - "Sorry to all legitimate bikers out there, but how else can we hold the dangerously selfish 10 percent accountable?"

    Sounds perfectly reasonable considering his wife was hurt, he has every right to vent. Let's not assume he is one of the 10% of reckless drivers and instead concern ourselves with those that advocate a more aggressive anti-cycling stance.

  4. I was almost run over, in a cross-walk, at a four-way stop sign, by a reckless cyclist and I am PISSED. It doesn't matter how the drivers are behaving. I could sit on the corner all day and it is a lot more than 10% of the cyclists who run the stop sign - it is 90%. I think it is fair to judge the group by the worst offenders. Everyone should be held accountable. Let the 'good cyclists' put some pressure their brethren to behave appropriately. So for now, I hate you all.

  5. I am wondering if any biking organizations take into account the number of bicyclists who completely disregard the law every single day. They don't stop at stop signs, they don't stop at red lights, they don't care about pedestrians. Here's the story of my morning today:

    I left my place on foot and walked to a stop sign/crosswalk at the corner of my block. A man on a bike went sailing through the intersection without so much as a tap of the brakes, nearly hitting me. I said to him, "YOU HAVE A STOP SIGN." Know what the response was? "Yeah, great, thanks." Very sarcastic. I yelled after him, "Thanks for breaking the law!" This was no spandexed messenger. It was an average guy, on an average bike. WTF??? Really? What is with the attitude? This happens ALL THE TIME where I live, in the South Loop of Chicago. Then, I got up to another corner and a woman on a bike came flying down the SIDEWALK, very nearly hitting me. Seriously. I didn't say anything because by that point I was breathless with fury and shock. I plan to find every biker's group on Facebook and write about this. I also plan to Tweet about it. I'm f-ing sick of this and I want someone to answer for it. I know how to safely ride a bike but I don't anymore because of riders like this. Yes, some drivers are completely irresponsible but in my experience, the attitude, the recklessness and the sense of entitlement of bicyclists in this city and everywhere is unreal. I just can't feel sorry for a group of people who aren't licensed, don't have to register their vehicles, aren't required to answer for breaking the law, and then get hurt riding on roads that were never meant for them and on which they do not obey the posted laws for car drivers. It's dangerous for all of us out there but if bicyclists would actually share some of the responsibility then maybe they wouldn't get hurt so often.


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