Thursday, October 06, 2011

I Want to Ride It Where I Like

After reading this in the Sun-Times (and I never read the S-T anymore, so -- this is a Big Deal) yesterday, several simmering thoughts about bicycling in our city came to a boil. How many cyclists have you actually seen texting while biking? Talking, yes. Talking while 1. wearing no helmet; 2. in heels and a dress 3. on a rickety Schwinn with bald tires 4. on North Avenue (or Ashland) and biking, yes.Texting? Maybe messengers and those folks who commute all the way down Elston, but really, no.

Maybe the law and City Council can treat cyclists like operators of motorized vehicles on the roadway, but until those on Schwinns, fixies, and Gary Fishers start behaving like they are operating a vehible on the roadway as part of traffic, then we’re all f—ked. To wit, only in the last 72 hours I’ve witnessed some dumbassed and downright repugnant bike behavior. First it was the trendily shorn-headed (no helmet, of course), plaid-shirted girl blasting through a red light on North Avenue at Leavitt who bellowed at my very own mother the ugliest “HEY” (as in, HEY, ASSHOLE, GET OUT OF THE ROAD) I’ve heard since I saw that bleeding drunk guy fight off the poh-leece in front of Lincoln Hall during some surreal anger fit that did not originate in LH. This was WHILE SHE (not my mother) WAS RUNNING A RED LIGHT. I hollered a retort I can’t remember but the gist was, WHY ARE YOU IN THE F-ING INTERSECTION IN THE FIRST PLACE? (all-caps apologies; but it went down this way).

A month ago, I purchased a bell for my bike, after a decade of riding in Chicago and another six or so years during my days in Milwaukee. I appreciate the bell because it accomplishes in an immediate, even pleasant, way what a strangled screech like that of Lay-Rubber Lana of Logan Square who almost impaled my mother on her ten-speed does in a screechy, rude way. And I've done what L-B L did: I've had to shout at various human and mechanical obstacles that appear in my path, and yes, even at the pie-eyed and clueless when I was sailing against the light. Now, I don't holler, I give a clear, innocent "ching-CHING!" (And an angel gets its wings.)

And I don't coast through junctions anymore, either. Two years ago, I almost got mowed down by a green SUV (I remember what it looks like since the whole event happened in Matrixy slow motion) in an intersection that I was crossing without stopping, I now stop at intersections with stoplights. I even slow to the point of being able to safely brake at four-way stops on completely deserted streets. As I did the same this morning, I almost got mowed down by an a.m. Pannier Hero who clearly had not stopped his Tour-level commute since Lincoln dumped into Wells. Maybe even since Ravenswood or wherever the hell he suited up.

So don’t tell me, Ald. Margaret Laurino of the 39th (which seems made up primarily of the north end of Elston and four cemeteries), that it’s important to “level the playing field.” How about y'all start by enforcing the existing rules of the road that cyclists, as much as drivers, are supposed to follow?

Yeah, perhaps I’ve become a full-blown blowhard on this, a preachy prig. And maybe I'll start a series of Bad Bike Behavior posts on this blog to safely vent my spleen. Or I'll swallow the bile and breathe and just bike the way I like: safely.

But until the City Council bans biking while your head is up your ass, we’re all in danger -- unless you'd enjoy a delightful nude spin around Wimbledon Stadium.

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