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Tribune Runs Sympathetic Bicycling Op-Ed; Hell Freezes Over

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 9, 2014 2:00PM

Photo Courtesy billeguerriero.

We’re so used to seeing anti-bike screeds in the Tribune we’ve become nearly numb to them. So when an article about bicyclists was published by the World’s Greatest Newspaper Wednesday that had some actual sympathy to the plight of cyclists on Chicago’s streets, we wondered if hell froze over. Then we re-read it.

Hell didn’t just freeze; it went polar vortex solid.

The op-ed by Kevin Williams highlighted how wrong it is to paint an entire group of commuters like cyclists—or motorists and pedestrians, for that matter—with such a wide brush as John Kass has over the years and Ron Grossman penned Tuesday. Williams also singled out the asshole bicyclists who run red lights and stop signs, hop curbs to avoid being stuck in traffic and barrel headlong into busy intersections as being the main reason cyclists are branded as an elitist, anarchist lot.

Sensible riders understand the anger that scofflaw cyclists generate. They make me mad enough to yell at them. But that rage really hits home when I see, and occasionally encounter as a rider, the aftereffects on motorists and pedestrians. Faces are nervous around me. I stop at a stop sign, and confused drivers don't know what to do. Motorists gun their engines and cut me off, possibly thinking, "They don't obey the law anyway, so to hell with them."

One day during a pedal to work, a man in a car yelled at me, "Why don't you damn riders stop at red lights?" while I was stopped at a red light. All I could do was shrug.

Williams’ main argument centered on everyone—drivers, walkers and bikers—be safe and account for themselves. This is why he, this writer (and cyclists) and scores of others respect the rules of the road. It’s not only because it’s the law and the need to be safe, but because by doing so we hope we can sway at least one unruly cyclist to see the light and follow our lead. There are already too many obstacles to biking in this city without being cavalier about one’s own safety.

Disobeying traffic laws on a bicycle is suicidal. So is being a pedestrian who crosses against a red light, or a driver who tires of waiting for that red light. If stupidity were a capital crime, a solution to overpopulation would be easy.

I prefer caution, as we live in a world in which enforcement of traffic laws — whether on two wheels, four or more — is intermittent and capricious.

We imagine John Kass prowling the halls of Tribune Tower this morning asking who is Kevin Williams and why is the paper still employing him for writing such propaganda. But Williams’ op-ed is the strongest and most-measured entry in the transportation culture wars we’ve read in some time and worth reading in full. Then, if you’re so inclined, don a helmet and go for a ride. And stop at every intersection that calls for a stop.