Mayor Emanuel and I have something in common: we both took the Brown Line to work yesterday. I took it because threatening thunderstorms kept me off my bike and the Mayor took it to demonstrate how great Chicago’s public transportation system is.
“Got on the train and got to work in 30 minutes, short order. That is a competitive advantage for the city,” he said.
Next he should ride his bike to work. Would that be something? I think so! His people should call my people and we can work it out. (News story here)
Unfortunately, there was also tragic news yesterday.
A 30-year-old man, Fredrick Kobrick, was killed in a hit-and-run crash while riding his bike in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood Sunday night. Based on a photo of the scene, it appears he was riding in a bike lane. The man driving the car was apprehended and has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. (News story here)
Yesterday, an 86-year-old woman, Coral Kier, was killed in my neighborhood while crossing the street in a crosswalk by a left-turning cab driver. No word yet on charges against the driver. (News story here)
My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.
I chose to highlight these stories because I believe it’s important to recognize the good and the bad relevant news, and to recognize the victims, not to make bicycling or walking in the city seem especially dangerous. (Nearly every day, it seems, there are news stories about car drivers and passengers being killed in crashes.) I hope there will be justice for these senseless deaths, what little justice there can be, and further examination by the City of how it can make its residents safer.
That got the public’s attention. Readers left 340 comments on the article and recommended it on Facebook 1,000 times. The majority of the comments were ridiculously anti-bicyclist and rejoiced at the comeuppance.
And all of that is good. I’m totally cool with it.
Because the crackdown took place at the very intersection where the city is quickly constructing its first protected bike lane and bike box. NYC is experiencing an absurd “backlash” for its installation of protected bike lanes. Chicago is smartly working from the get-go to prevent that.
By conducting this crackdown, the city effectively countered the #1 instantaneous complaint drivers have about providing a safe place for people to cycle: that people on bikes don’t deserve anything because they do not follow traffic laws.
So maybe 1,000 people are cackling about cyclists on Facebook (probably from their iPhones while driving, but I digress). Awesome. I hope they spread the word far and wide that the police are enforcing traffic laws for bicyclists.
And really the “crackdown” consisted of bike cops and CDOT bike ambassadors thanking cyclists who stopped at the red light and educating cyclists who ran the red light. Another difference between NYC and Chicago is that Chicago’s crackdown may actually succeed in improving bicyclist, pedestrian, and driver safety, a difference that Bike Snob NYC noted. Bicyclists should stop at red lights and I wish more of them would.
I highly recommend watching this 1 minute news clip about the enforcement. Then tell me: crackdown? Not really, but please continue using that word with the masses, news media. Your hyperbolic headlines could only help.
What are your thoughts about bicycle “crackdowns” – are they ever a good thing? Where would you draw the line between educating cyclists and unfairly singling them out? Do you think “crackdowns” help with public opinion in support of safe cycling infrastructure?
File this under “schlocky local news strikes again.”
I could not watch the entire video because I was shaking in rage from the opening line: “Bicyclists on the streets of Chicago face many dangers, but they may put themselves in that position and frequently frustrate others on the road.” (Next up on Channel 7 news – Domestic violence victims: why don’t they just leave the guy??)
This is how the mainstream media uses a few examples to twist reality and perpetuate false truths about bicyclists. I ride through Chicago every day and I see hundreds of bicyclists riding lawfully and courteously. Anyone could stand on the corner of downtown Chicago during rush hour and record footage of drivers and pedestrians breaking traffic laws, but no one’s broadcasting a story about how those who die in car crashes everyday are asking for it. This story is bullshit, total car-head on display.
Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled during their three-week stay in Nashville. These two have a gift for getting to the heart of what makes a city tick—especially when it comes to bike-related matters—and seeing Nashville through their eyes was a real treat. (Especially since they turned out to be big fans of my adopted hometown!)
Anyone thinking of setting out on a bicycle tour can benefit from the experience of these two pros, who are currently in the home stretch of their cross-country tour. After the jump, read the intro (click on the image to make it larger).
Let’s Go Ride a Bike is featured in the upcoming issue of Yes! Magazine, an award-winning, ad-free, non-profit publication that supports people’s active engagement in building a just and sustainable world. The issue is on building community resilience and one of the features is 8 Crash-Proof Ideas, highlighting people and places building skills now that will come in handy in a future without oil. We (meaning us and all of you out there) are Resillent Idea 3: Bike Anytime, Anywhere, As You Are.
You can read this part of the article by clicking on the image above. The issue comes out sometime in the next week or two. You can purchase it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, other book/magazine sellers or subscribe here. I highly recommend supporting this intelligent, interesting and unique publication.
Is the current bicycle boom simply part of a never-ending bike cycle, wherein the press rattles on and Americans ride a little more, but real progress is never made?
I’m contemplating this question after reading an article from 1941 in Click Magazine that I found at a book fair, entitled: “Bike Cycle? How to Go Places Without Gasoline.” At first glance, the article seemed to be a bit of vintage fun, like the preceding article, “Your hat in 1941 will show how you feel about the war.” Step-through frames with baskets! Women on bikes in skirts! Men in suits riding to the train station!
However, as I read the article, I realized it was eerily similar to the issues presented today. Take out the retrograde parts about “men” going to the office and “housewives,” and the piece could have been in the latest issue of Time. The writer seemed very excited about the future of transportation cycling in America, yet 70 years later there’s been no progress. To me this is horrific in a Twilight Zone kind of way.
Below I present the article in its entirety (apologies to the original copyright holders). I bolded and italicized the parts that struck me the most and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Bike Cycle? how to go places without gasoline
BIKE CYCLE? HOW TO GO PLACES WITHOUT GASOLINE
Town and country have both witnessed the return of the bicycle as a pleasure vehicle. During the Gay Nineties, heyday of cycling, only 10% of the bicycles sold were made for women. Today women buy over 30% of the bicycles made. College girls like those on the right helped bring back the bicycle’s popularity. In cities, bicycles must obey all traffic laws. Bicycle fans want state registration and license tags just like automobiles.
When the phrase “they never come back” was muttered about the American bicycle, the mutterers were muttering too soon. True enough, bicycle sales in America dropped from a high of 1,089,000 in 1899 to 180,000 in 1932. But then the great comeback started. Last year, bicycle sales reached an all time American high – more than 1,300,000 were sold. Cycle paths were built in city parks, and women took the wheel in amazing numbers. As a fun vehicle, the bicycle’s comeback was complete.
"Today, women buy over 30% of the bicycles made."
Now, with gasoline shortages looming importantly on our horizon, the bicycle is making a serious bid for at least some of the jobs being performed by automobiles. It is no longer necessary to release pictures like the one above to make people bicycle-concious. Bike lovers see their two-wheelers usurping most of the duties of the family car – and they might be right.
Men who now use automobiles to drive to the railroad station while they commute from suburb to city daily may follow the lead of commuters like Norman Hill, who pedals two miles from his home to the Maplewood, N.J. station in ten minutes every morning. He parks his bike there all day.
The huge quantities of gasoline now being burned by the cheap second-hand cars many families maintain for children who go to rural and suburban schools can well be saved by sending them to school on bicycles. Bikes are healthier, often less dangerous than cars.
"Suburbanites find they can make two wheels do the work of four."
Housewives who now drive a mile or less to do their shopping may soon find themselves faced with the alternative of cycling or walking to the store. But many American women, like this suburban Pennsylvania matron, find that cycle shopping can be completely practical.
The pleasures of parking and touring the countryside are enjoyed by any bicycle owner who desires them. A pair of shorts are all this girl needs in the way of special cycling clothes. The growth of roadside youth hostels has paved the way for bicycle tours covering hundreds of enjoyable miles.
"…and get an amusing exercise program out of legwork that replaces gasoline."
With the private family car completely eliminated by the fortunes of World War II all over Europe, most people are finding bicycles to be their only form of private transportation. Gadgets like this side car for Parisian youngsters are becoming more and more common in European city streets.
American schools and factories may soon have to erect bicycle garages like this one in Paris if gasoline shortages on this side of the Atlantic become even remotely as acute as they are in contemporary Europe. Cycling enthusiasts say this will make for healthier Americans.
"Bicycles have already replaced automobiles in Europe"
Prominent Americans love bikes. Bicycle enthusiasts take great pride in the prominent Americans who ride bikes. Civilian Defense Director La Guardia must have seen this picture of Grover Whalen before he appointed him director of the gas-saver drive.
L to R: Lana Turner, Wendell Willkie, Ann Rutherford, Grover Whalen
Click Magazine, 1941
What do you think – Fun piece of vintage bike history or terrible sign of the status quo? I’m afraid that in another 70 years another article like this will be written and nothing will have changed.
Over the weekend, Jezebel posted about Women of Dirt, a new documentary about women who participate in the sport of Gravity Mountain Biking. In a word, it looks amazing. Though this is miles away from the type of riding we usually feature here, I think we can all agree with the statement at the end of the trailer: “Nothing will ever replace my bike.”
Seriously, watch the trailer and tell me you aren’t a little tempted to give off-road biking a try. I dare you.
According to the site, the film will be shown a few times in Seattle — it’s also available on DVD. Anyone seen it? Is there another film or documentary about cycling that you’d recommend (and yes, I’ve heard of Breaking Away)?
I couldn’t resist using one of my favorite titles ever, even though what’s coming to Nashville today is not a freaky carnival headed by a mysterious man who might be the incarnation of evil. (If it were, I don’t think I’d be tracking it nearly this avidly.) No, what’s coming today is wicked only in the awesome sense. Can’t wait to show you!