The Chainlink

Last week I was riding on 51st street (on the South side) near Martin Luther King Drive and a SUV with 3 individuals started threatening me because I was using the full lane due to road conditions, they pulled ahead of me, got out of the vehicle and threatened to beat me. I flagged down a police SUV and told them what was happening, the vehicle with the people who threatened me were stuck in traffic, as the vehicle approached I pointed it out to the police (1st District, 51st and the Dan Ryan), the police looked at them and asked if I wanted an escort home! WTF???

I don't understand why they DID NOT pull these people over and question them!

Yesterday I was on a ride with the Chatham Devcorp touring the Chatham area, there were about 30-40 individuals in the ride. We had multiple people in cars the threatening to run us over!

After the ride was over I was heading home on 87th Street and a vehicle pulled up to me and a passenger told me that he would beat my ass if I were not a senior citizen ( just for riding my bike and following the rules of the road)!

Today (July 17,2016) at the Bike Box on 51st and Calumet, 2 customers stopped by for estimates on some repair work, these guys were over 12 years of age, they were riding on the sidewalk (which is illegal in Chicago), they each were issued citations ($25.00 fine). 

They were were riding on the sidewalk because the police will NOT enforce the laws that allow them to ride in the street safely!

I was speaking to another individual who stated that he will not not ride in the streets on the South Side of Chicago because he has been told by motorists that "we don't do that over here (the South Side). He has been threatened also!

The 5th Ward Alderman has stated publicly that "Black people do not ride bikes"(WTF!!!!??????)

How do we (on the South Side) deal with these issues? 

This reminds me of the "broken window" policing policy.

Any suggestions? Or is this an issue only that South Siders have to deal with?

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I get the sense that people are wary of navigating the mine field of the loaded issues present here.

But as much as we are tempted to look the other way, you're right, the issues are there. Part of it is lack of infrastructure, part of it is sociological. I see less people biking on the South Side than the North Side, I see more people biking on the sidewalk on the South Side (often with an undersized bike or with the saddle set very low), more people who throw their bike on the ground instead of using a U lock when they go into a store, or bike against traffic, or dont wear helmets or have bike lights. I do get a sense that biking is seen more as something for kids and not grown ups there (which is why it's great that Slow Roll Chicago is doing what they do). I see a lot more broken glass in the bike lanes (or poor maintenance in general), if there are bike lanes, and I've also had a lot more close calls with cars acting like I'm not even there (near doorings, cars popping a U turn like I'm not even there, or reversing in the bike lane). I also see a lot less people who are emboldened to play the part of the well meaning cyclist (telling other cyclists to wear a helmet or that they're going the wrong way biking against traffic etc) much less say anything back to dangerous drivers.

I think there are good intentions behind the avoidance of discussing these issues, partially that we want more people to feel welcome and not dissuaded from biking all over this city. Otherwise it can be a self perpetuating thing- less people bike there because (insert cornucopia of issues) thus the issues are reinforced because you don't have a critical mass of cyclists to push back the other way. But we shouldn't steer clear of issues just because not everyone can grasp nuance.

Good comment!  I myself think that that a primary problem with cycling on the south(west) side is that there just aren't enough cyclists.  It's a chicken-and-egg problem.  Without more cyclists, conditions don't improve very quickly.  But without conditions improving, there aren't more cyclists.  When drivers see cyclists regularly, I think they learn to deal with them and co-exist.  Where there are hardly any cyclists, drivers aren't aware or are resentful of precious pavement being taken up by bike lanes that hardly anybody uses.  I ride north on Damen pretty frequently, and I swear that every block that passes north of Madison I breathe a little more freely and enjoy myself a little bit more.  Even though there's more traffic, there seems to be a better understanding on the part of both the cyclists and the drivers about how to get along.  Even passing through the Damen/North/Milwaukee quagmire, I seldom hear horns blowing or curses being hurled, although I'm sure those things to occur on occasion.  People seem to understand it's a quagmire and show a little patience while they work their way through it.  Maybe my experience isn't typical, who knows?

We need more bikes on the streets of the south side.  We could sure use some better streets to help the process along. 

Sorry, I saw the responses on Facebook and was thinking about it before responding. I'm sorry you had this many experiences in such a short time. It's truly frightening when we are threatened by motorists and when we ask for help and don't receive it. 

I think a huge part of it is the utter lack of infrastructure on the South Side. Bike lanes, potentially protected bike lanes have helped give legitimacy to cycling. They are not perfect but they do give cyclists more legitimacy than on streets that don't have them. That "share the road" sign has proven to only anger motorists and not help cyclists so it is proven we need more than an anger-inducing sign.

Giving people tickets for riding on the sidewalks is understandable IF there is adequate, safe infrastructure so just by the nature of the lack of bike lanes, the South Side cyclists are at an immediate disadvantage.

We've had some North Side Aldermen argue against the support of cyclists over the years but many have backed down due to the backlash. Has this woman faced any backlash for saying that? I remember reading about it but I didn't see any follow up. 

Once there is infrastructure, there has to be enforcement - this has been a universal issue in Chicago. Police typically (not 100% but enough to be an ongoing issue) don't enforce keeping the bike lane clear, tend to take the side of the motorist, and show consistent unwillingness to issue tickets when drivers endanger cyclists unless there is contact and then there is still a hesitation. 

I think Active Trans does a great job but I don't think it's as easy as paying our membership and being done - I think we do need to band together and be a strong, lobbying group to get attention on these issues of enforcement, infrastructure and cyclist safety. We need to be organized and when issues arise, have a letter/email/phone call campaign to cover the alderman, city hall, etc. every time. We need to express ourselves consistently on social media as well - and in strong numbers. 

When I think of organizing, I think ALL cyclists in the city need to get together and address the South/West side needs as well as the universal issues. We should all have this on our talking points because we'll have more strength in numbers. 

If the folks who got ticketed were on 51st EAST of King Dr., along the hospital and Washington Park, I totally get why they would be on the sidewalk there. The pavement is in terrible condition and the street is rather narrow. It's a location where taking the lane is often necessary, because staying to the right puts one both in the door zone and where there are lots of craters. I've been harassed by drivers there and had close calls. 

This is a location where existing infrastructure does not work in our favor. There are too many locations like this on the south side. 

I see people riding on the sidewalk on 95th St. very often. If you need to travel any distance east-west and you're south of 83rd St., there are few streets that go through for more than a mile. The ones that do (like 95th) aren't very rideable.

We need help from police. Enforcement on drivers is practically non-existent. Strength in numbers is important here. Let's work on a social media campaign and trying to get bike police out on rides in some of these problem districts.

Let's work on a social media campaign and trying to get bike police out on rides in some of these problem districts.

+1, Anne.

I wonder if there are any plainclothes bicycle officers? THAT would be fairly interesting to see.

Good question. I will ask a knowledgeable source or two and see if this exists.

"I wonder if there are any plainclothes bicycle officers?"
I'm sure that they exist, but you would probably not get anyone of authority to acknowledge their existence on the record. They are probably used for 'higher priority issues.'

The answer I got was "not that I'm aware of, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were used occasionally for very specific assignments."

As for this part "I flagged down a police SUV and told them what was happening, the vehicle with the people who threatened me were stuck in traffic, as the vehicle approached I pointed it out to the police (1st District, 51st and the Dan Ryan), the police looked at them and asked if I wanted an escort home! WTF???
I don't understand why they DID NOT pull these people over and question them!"

- it's probably part of their "stay fetal" movement to do as little as possible to teach us all a lesson for ever daring to criticize them. Police are increasingly looking the other way ostensibly because they're afraid of becoming the latest poster child for BLM, but I suspect it's a convenient excuse to work less while allowing crime to skyrocket so they can point at it and say "see? We need unfettered discretion to proactively police, so dont question us again and try to make our jobs harder".

Unfortunately they (these police who ignored you) could've made a bad situation worse since these jerks in the SUV presumably could've seen you talking to the police and the police doing nothing, they might have felt even more incensed and emboldened to go after you in retaliation for trying to report them.

The individuals in the vehicle looked directly at the police while I pointed them out.

Sorry, I needed to remove the event at the request of the organizers. This meeting is considered "invite only".

I was at that ride in Chatham.  I took the Red Line to 87th on the way there, but rode my bike back to Lincoln Park.  I didn't have any harassment issues, but the streets on the south side are not configured well for bicycle riding.  Aside from the poor surfaces in many areas, the streets have too many lanes and are often not even striped.  This set-up leads to people driving far too fast.

Trying to cross Cottage Grove at an intersection without a stop light was difficult.  That street is 6 lanes (4 travel and 2 parking) wide.  I eventually turned south, rode in the left lane when there were no southbound cars, then made a u-turn when northbound traffic thinned out.  I don't know how pedestrians would do it.

There doesn't appear to be the car volume to support such a configuration.  It seems like the arterial streets on the south side are designed so white people can drive as fast as possible to get out.  The city should really do a massive street rebuild (removing driving lanes and adding bike lanes, curb bump-outs, & pedestrian islands).  Possibly adding BRT to major streets.  This would bring major infrastructure improvements to a neglected part of the city, while also collecting important transportation data to combat the obstructionists on the north side.

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