Posts Tagged ‘civic duty’

Ride of Silence

Dear fellow cyclists,

As the Ride of Silence approaches — Wednesday night, May 18, 2011 for most communities — let’s take a moment now to reflect why we ride in silence and for whom. As someone commented on the Ride of Silence’s Facebook page – “the great thing about the Ride of SILENCE, it’s the same spoken in any language.” Silence is truly a universal and powerful language.

Below in the comments, please list the name of a bicyclist (could be yourself as a crash survivor) that you honor and wish to always be remembered.

Then please take a moment to also add this honoree info here (which will be collected by official ROS organizers for possible inclusion on the memorial page, which hopes to soon include injured cyclists). To see a list of all cyclists who have already been memorialized on the ROS site, visit the “In Memoriam” page.

Now – fellow bike bloggers… help us make another “silent” statement before the night of the ROS silent procession. Please re-post this exact post on your own blog asking the same of your readership (to comment with the names of bicyclists they honor and remember and to repost).

This is our “honor roll” for all bicyclists that the Ride of Silence (the global bike community) will never forget! We honor in this “silent” way all those who have been killed or injured by respectfully saying nothing at all… as we put a name to all cycling crash victims who we will never forget.

Please also add the names of cyclists we honor to the ROS Honor Roll database for statistical collection purposes –http://bit.ly/mnFne9

Let the Silence ROAR.

{Much love to our friend Elizabeth, who started this message at Bike Commuters, and who puts so much energy into organizing Chicago’s ride and spreading the message of remembrance.}

A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

Q: What would cause a bicyclist and a cab driver to share a moment in the middle of a busy Chicago intersection?

A: Nearly falling victim to a supremely stupid and dangerous move by another driver.

On my way home yesterday, as I waited in the middle of an busy three-way intersection to turn left – my light was green but through traffic from the other direction had the right-of-way – a big SUV pulled next to me and then awkwardly inched itself half-way in front of me at a turning angle, effectively cutting me off and placing me dangerously within its turning radius. I was thinking, “What the hell, moron??” and had to walk my bike backward. (True to stereotypical form, the driver was a woman talking on a cell phone.)

We sat there as one, two, three cars went by coming from the other direction. There was one more car, a cab, in the line of right-of-way traffic. Our light was still green. Shockingly, the SUV driver turned left right in front of the cab. She did not dart out quickly; she simply turned as if she had all the time in the world.

For a split second I was sure the cab would crash into the her and both would crash into me. Thankfully, the cab driver managed to stop in time by slamming on his brakes and the SUV continued on as if nothing strange had happened, leaving the cab driver and me stopped in the middle of the busy intersection, staring at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief. Happy to have someone to commiserate with, he made a “What was she thinking????” gesture and I responded with a “I have no idea, but that shit was crazy!” gesture. We shared a moment. Then he continued straight and I turned left, strangely giddy for the rest of my ride home.

I deal with so much ridiculousness on my bike every day, connecting with a driver about the confirmed idiocy of another driver was oddly comforting. It reassured me that I am not the crazy one. It also reminded me that cars are not my natural enemy; rather, stupid drivers are a common enemy to all. I prefer to focus on that part of the incident, rather than think too much about the fact that there are so many drivers distracted by cell phones that they don’t know or even care what they’re doing on the roads. After all, if the cab had crashed into this woman, she probably would not have been injured in her huge SUV and I’m sure she has insurance, so why should she care enough to follow the law and not talk on her cell phone while driving? That would be terribly inconvenient.

Is Bicycling Political?

Old photo chosen for the red, white and blue

WBEZ asks this question and Julie Hochstadter answers.  For those of you who are not from Chicago, brief introductions: WBEZ is my beloved Chicago Public Radio, Julie is co-owner of The Chainlink and all-around awesome woman.

Julie’s take on the question: basically, bicycling is a political statement even if you don’t intend it to be because you’re doing something out of the norm.  Also, you’re saving the world.  ;)  But bicycling is also fun, practical, safe and fast.

I cannot embed the story, so read and listen here. The audio is only 3 minutes long.

What do you think: is bicycling political?

Women in Motion

Streetsfilms created this wonderful short film, Women in Motion: New Lady Riders Reflect on NYC Cycling. The film highlights women who started riding their bikes only recently, inspired by the new infrastructure and growing number of other everyday cyclists.

Meanwhile, Steven Can Plan highlights numbers showing that the frequency of Chicago women riding their bikes to work is down this year.

Trisha and I have been bicycling for 2.5 years now. I suppose we’re slowly but surely becoming members of the old guard, but our message remains the same: anyone can start bicycling for transportation right now, even if they have never done it before. And the goal of sharing our experiences is to encourage more women to start and continue to ride bikes.

We bloggers can’t do this alone. As the news above from NYC and Chicago shows, safe bicycle infrastructure is a major factor in whether people will ride their bikes. If you agree, make sure to contact your government representatives and let them know how important bicycle infrastructure is to you!

…and then news stories like this happen.

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??)

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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.

The macho discourse on city cycling

How much does the bike community’s own discourse on city cycling negatively affect the number and type of people who are willing to give life on two wheels a try?

This question has been swirling around my head since last week, when I read a guest post on Commute by Bike that offered 10 Rules for Urban Commuting. The rules are full of advice such as disobeying stop lights, being aggressive and never signaling. There is also solid advice about avoiding the door zone, not waiting to the right of stopped traffic and taking the lane. I disagree with a lot of the rules, but that’s fine: it’s not my list and I’m sure the style of riding works for the author and many others.

However, the macho tone of the article is endemic of a problem of the greater discourse on bicycling in the bike community. This wild west approach contributes to the fringe status of transportation cycling, both by repelling everyday people, especially women, and by reinforcing a culture that pits cyclists, drivers and pedestrians against each other.

When I first started bike commuting, I eagerly searched the web for tips and information, and this is the kind of advice I found everywhere – the kind that increased my apprehension about riding in the city and made me feel like I was not the type of person who should be attempting this. While I would have learned something from the “10 Rules,” the net effect may not have been helpful.

Me, a happy city cyclist {photo (c) Martha Williams}

I must not have been the only one who felt this way. The comments following the “10 Rules” post argued passionately both in favor of and against the rules. In response, the author followed up on his own blog by posting an 11th rule:

“I was struck by one curious and oft-repeated theme: the idea that those who ride bikes should assiduously avoid breaking traffic rules, because doing so makes motorists think badly of us.

For those afflicted with this way of thinking, I offer Rule 11:

If your priority is being seen as a “cycling role model” by drivers, you should not ride in the city.

Leaving aside the notion that riding safely and not making motorists think badly of us are mutually exclusive, I have a problem with this statement. I am not comfortable with advice aggressively telling people they should not ride in the city if X, Y or Z. I have enough experience with city cycling now to know what’s what, but this macho instruction would have been very off-putting to me when I was a beginner. What is a new bike commuter to take from such a statement: that to ride a bike in the city, one must abandon a lifetime of lawful behavior and reconcile oneself to pissing off drivers in a never-ending struggle to make it home alive? Sign me up!

Since new bike commuters are presumably the intended audience for these rules and other similar advice columns around the internet, I worry about how many potential cyclists are scared off by this kind of rhetoric. Someone kicking around the idea of bike commuting is already going out on a metaphorical limb and is likely hearing from family and co-workers that riding a bike is crazy and dangerous. It may not take much to push someone away from the notion completely. Certainly, safety is important and a new bicyclist must learn the rules of the road, but there is a way to broadcast that message without alienating most of the audience (I highly recommend the article, “How not to get hit by cars”).

Hopefully, some who are initially put off keep digging around the web and find advice that speaks to them and their situations. In the two and a half years since I first started my research as a new bike commuter, the number and quality of alternative resources has grown. Although the discourse is still largely controlled by the hardcore contingent, I am optimistic that as city cycling becomes more popular, the discussion will become more moderate.

Your City: A Bicycling Survey

I love Chicago. I moved here 3 years ago for a job and because I wanted to live in a big city. I stay because there’s so much to do and I enjoy walking, biking and taking public transit everywhere.

Chicago’s bike infrastructure and sizable bike community are huge pluses. Compared to most North American cities, Chicago is advanced in this aspect, but the bar is not set very high. What I really want is serious European-style infrastructure with separated and protected bike lanes.

I’m optimistic about Chicago’s future as a bicycling city, but real progress lies in the far future. In the meantime, I wonder if a quiet town with light traffic would be better for bicycling, even if there is absolutely no infrastructure. And while I’m wondering, how about cities like Portland, Boulder, Minneapolis and Davis, those shining bike-cities?

Thinking about Chicago – what I like and don’t like and how bicycling plays a role – makes me interested in how others view their cities or towns. We’d love to hear about your experiences, if you feel like sharing.

1. What city do you live in?
2. What brought you to your city originally?
3. What is keeping you in your city?
4. Do you ever think about moving to a city that is more bike friendly?
5. Does the bike infrastructure (or lack thereof) play a major role in whether you will stay in your city?
6. Are you optimistic that your city’s bike infrastructure will improve?

Please leave your answers in the comments! We can all compare notes and learn more about each other’s experiences.

First Suburban Critical Mass a Success!

The Critical Mass ride that Melissa organized was a huge success! Fifty people showed up for the first Critical Mass ride in Aurora, a town about an hour from Chicago. There was a mixed group, including families with children, city employees, young hip guys, lycra racers, older riders, chic cyclists and even a tall bike.

The ride was definitely a Critical Mass in all the best ways.  We had lots of cheery balloons, smiles, waves and “Thank You” signs. The reaction from drivers, pedestrians and other on-lookers was overwhelmingly positive.  Motor vehicle traffic was very minimally obstructed, as most of the route had two lanes going in each direction, making it easy for cars to go around the group.  (I did not witness any negativity at all, but if some drivers were upset by the ride, that is their problem. No progress is ever made without upsetting some people who prefer the status quo.)

Check out these pictures, which describe the ride much better than my words can.

…and there was the press.

Resulting in the third positive article about bicycling in one week in the local paper, “Fifty turn out for Sunday (Critical) Mass.” The next ride will be October 31.

Go Aurora!

Anyone out there living in other a smaller town or the suburbs should consider starting their own movement. All it takes is some people, bikes and passion.

A Critical Mass: bicycling as a social movement and the importance of working together

If you ride your bike, you are part of an important social movement.  Regardless of your level of involvement in any organized effort, this movement would be impossible without your participation.  We, as people who ride bikes, are the only ones who will look out for the interests of bicycling as a viable form of transportation.  Most people who drive everywhere never give bicycling a second thought, and I’m not holding my breath for politicians lobbied by oil and car companies to take proactive steps.  Therefore, bicyclists working together and agreeing at least on the very basics (bikes = good) is essential.

Melissa rides her bike

The issue is on my mind this Friday morning because of great efforts that our friend Melissa has taken to create positive change in her suburban town of Auroral, Illinois – and the subsequent blowback she’s received from a sport cycling club and vehicular cyclists.  Melissa is not some political strategist, she’s a woman who rides her bike, feels that the roads should be much safer and is doing something about it.

There will be an organized ride in Aurora on Sunday afternoon that Melissa and others have publicized as a critical mass ride, Aurora’s first.  This ride has already garnered much attention, including an article in the town’s newspaper and a follow-up article today.  Both articles are pretty positive about the event and bicycles.  Unfortunately, the response from subsections of the bicycling community has not been as positive.

First, she received a message from a certain suburban cycling club, stating that they would never participate in or support an event that carried the Critical Mass name and did not follow all traffic laws.  They also suggested she get a permit from the city of Aurora – a permit to ride bikes in the street.  Then, in the follow-up article a vehicular cyclist is featured to give an argument against bike lanes.

“It’s not that Klenke doesn’t support better access for bikes, but he says, “Lanes don’t address education, training and attitude for cyclists and motorists to coexist. They’re a feel-good panacea that likely worsen the problems instead.” He referred me to the book “Effective Cycling” by John Forester, who, according to Klenke, “cites studies that suggest bike lanes lead to increased car-bike accidents and are inherently destructive to traffic management.”

On top of this, there are the typical mean-spirited comments at the end of the article from drivers about bicyclists.

I understand where anti-Critical Mass cyclists are coming from.  The event can create hostility in drivers and sometimes, with a big enough crowd, lead to unruly behavior.  However, the ride on Sunday will be a group of cyclists exercising their right to the road in a lawful manner – nothing more, nothing less.  If the ride were not called “Critical Mass,” would anyone have paid attention?  Would the newspaper have written two articles about the ride before it even took place?  A critical mass is an appropriate description for the purpose of the ride.

I understand where vehicular cyclists are coming from.  Bicyclists should be empowered to ride in the street with the rest of traffic.  But bicycling will never become a widespread mode of transportation in America without bicycling infrastructure.  Vehicular cycling may work for a very small minority, but telling a parent toting kids or an elderly woman to get out in the street and fend for herself will not work.  I feel even more strongly about this after visiting France and seeing the bicycling infrastructure – and people on bikes – in every city.

People who ride bikes – and people who want to ride bikes but do not feel that the roads are safe enough – have to work together for change.  Debates within the bicycling community are both important and inevitable, but there comes a point where rifts stall progress and play into the hands of those already-powerful groups working to maintain the status quo.

So I have a simple request.  Could we all in the “bicycling community” agree that people riding bikes lawfully down the street in the hopes that others will note their presence is a Good Thing?  Otherwise we are stalling our important social movement.

Sunday.  2 p.m.  West Aurora High School.  I’ll be there.

{If you would like to thank the writer of today’s column, Deena Sherman, for bringing attention to this issue, you can reach her at deenasherman@att.net.}

Brownie on a Bike in San Diego

Hi. I go by “beany” online as I’m a bean counter. I’m a brownie who is car-free in San Diego and blog at Brown Girl in the Lane . While Dottie and Trish are off galavanting in France, eating the most delectable of meals and drinking the finest of wines, they have asked me to write a post for you. So here it is :)

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Dottie and Trish in person earlier this year. It is easily one of the most memorable blogger meetings I’ve had because meeting women who ride a bicycle is harder than finding a pair of shoes that I want. Meeting women who genuinely love riding and ride for the sheer pleasure of riding, like I do? Well, that’s much harder than…fixing a flat in the worst of all possible ghettos in sub zero temperatures, in a hail storm while trying not to dirty a nail. In other words, a very rare occurrence in my world.

This post is a brief-ish history of my love affair with riding a bicycle.

Me and my cousin at age 5

I first began riding when I was around five years old.  My father bought me a red colored bicycle that had a banana seat and came with training wheels. To say that that bicycle became an obsession would be an understatement. My bicycle was parked close to my bed and I rode it every day  and soon graduated to riding a two wheeler like a proper cyclist would.

My bicycle became a constant and steady companion. It was how I was able to explore the city of eight million that I grew up in. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, exploration and with it an incredible feeling of utter exhilaration. Riding through the city began to define how I viewed the world. Everything seemed possible and doable when I was out riding. It was on a saddle (or banana seat) that I was able to sort out the jumble of thoughts and contemplate about things I thought were worth contemplating over.

In my late teens, I moved to the U.S. where I found myself living in a suburb of Philadelphia. It was there that I realized the futility of relying on others for rides or the shoddy public transit system. I also disliked living in a small town. I thrive on the energy that is found in cities. So I began to date a man in Philadelphia who would one day become my husband. My dates with him all revolved around a lengthy bike ride ending at a good bar and grill. Thankfully, he rode because he loved to ride and rode everywhere. But he was unhappy living on the East Coast and wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of living by the Pacific Ocean. I agreed to move and convinced him to make the move to the West Coast…by bicycle.

And that was what we did. We got rid of everything we owned and got ourselves touring bikes and panniers and headed west.

I would state that teddy bears provide much more visibility that wearing neon would. Because, who would want to run over a teddy bear?

This was how, in late 2008, we found ourselves in San Diego. San Diego seemed like a nice enough city so we decided to make this city our home. I found that I had become a very different person than the one who had left Philadelphia. The weeks of repeated riding had made me fall deeper in love with riding. Whereas in Philadelphia I found myself only riding because I had, in San Diego I soon found myself extending my commute daily, going out for a ride for no real purpose besides for the sheer thrill of riding.

I moved further away from my job to extend my commute. I began frequenting a farmers market located further way to have a longer ride. This was craziness. Especially in a place where the love affair with the automobile is practically a law.

But here I am. Living in a automobile-saturated culture without ever having owned an automobile. Life here without an automobile is the furthest thing from a hardship, for me. With perfect weather to be experienced every single day, the last place I want to be is boxed up in an automobile. The only place I’d rather be is on my saddle: riding, exploring, discovering and falling in love with the world around me every single day.

Visit the awesome Beany and her wickedly funny musings at Brown Girl in the Lane.

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