The Chainlink

There's no lack of passion for those of us that ride bikes. We mourn our fallen sisters and brothers at ghost bike memorials. We attend the annual Ride of Silence. We show up in the freezing cold with smiles on our faces for the annual winter bike rally. Passion pumps through our veins.

We all understand the risks of riding our bikes because we all live with the same danger so it's not surprising conversations get heated. At first, I worried about expressing my own opinions and POV here but ultimately decided I could be an equal voice in the discussion. I am here to learn and express my passion for cycling too. I also feel very passionate about equity and feel very strongly about addressing issues in our community of sexism and racism. And there are people that will argue with me, some will leave The Chainlink to make their point that they don't feel I should express this point of view. 

I've never removed a member for disagreeing with me. I participate in the same guidelines everyone else is expected to follow. I have been verbally attacked on the forum and in private. I'm rather used to it now. It doesn't happen often but when it does, it can cross a line and that is not ok. If you disagree and express yourself without personal attacks, I will defend your right to do so. You can count on it. 

Why am I so passionate about the issues of racism and sexism in the bike community?

  • Can you imagine experiencing that same day-to-day danger riding your bike, dealing with distracted motorists and then layer in having no voice at the table for planning and advocacy?
  • No bike lanes in your community or on your commute?
  • Being told the city doesn't have the money to make you safe like the other areas of the city?
  • Being shoaled by one too many men that assume you are slow because you are a woman?
  • Being targeted by police, pulled over an frisked and ticketed because you have no bike lanes and need to use the sidewalks?

When I first took over managing The Chainlink, like every other cyclist I was devastated by the two cyclist deaths at the hands of well-connected drunk drivers. I took time off of work to go to hearings, did what I could to help get the word out, and reached out to the person that was the contact at the local advocacy organization. I was met with disdain and talked down to as I was of zero value and intelligence. When I brought this up to the organization, I was met with disbelief and treated like a trouble-maker and an annoyance. Here I was trying to help, providing free support, and doing literally everything they asked me to do without question. 

The contact is no longer at the organization and years have passed. Frankly, it's still a relevant issue among bike advocacy and planning in Chicago and other cities. There is a lack of representation and a need to do a better job of listening to the community. It is not just about annual fundraising events. And there are communities that have zero support.

Back to the two court cases... One cyclist was a white male who worked at Groupon and his death was equally as tragic as the person of color (who was a veteran). The cases were not covered with the same passion and support. That is a second tragedy. The veteran who was riding home from work when he was killed? I only heard about his hearings when the lawyer of the person of color's family asked me to help bring people to the hearings. Not the bike advocate. The other man, from Groupon was well-supported every single hearing by the bike advocate. 

The bike advocate who had treated me so poorly was the person responsible for advocating for the fallen. Why was one given so much more support? Did this bike advocate have an issue with women and/or people of color? I scratched my head for years wondering what it was that made him so unkind to me when all I had was blind enthusiasm and support. 

Looking back on this, I am going to say it out loud - the contact/bike advocate is a white male. The optics aren't awesome here - I'm a woman and a person of color and he treated me like I was irrelevant. With well over 10k CL members and a strong social presence, I was in a position to help. It has taken me years to bring this up and frankly I am incredibly grateful we as a society are finally in a position to call this out. I won't get into intention because it is not helpful but how did it make me feel? Terrible and confused. 

When I passionately talk about needing to have equity, I come to the table with experience. I come to the table knowing others have struggled and while I don't know all of it firsthand, I do know it needs to be fixed. And being afraid to call it out because I am afraid of losing members or advertising is not a position I choose to take. As I said recently, if I am incorrect, I am open to hearing the research and data that says otherwise. I'm open to other points of view. I am open to not always getting it right. There are times I am wrong or could do better. I've learned and changed so much from the day back in 2011 when I got back into cycling. I am here to learn. Moving to DC opened my eyes to other approaches and POVs and I am grateful for it. The community has been a lifeline for me in a new city, making it feel like home. I didn't know that was possible. I still ride every day. I still show up to memorials and protests. 

If what I said here makes you uncomfortable, I ask you to take a little time to consider there are perspectives of people that have had different experiences. There are people less fortunate - not provided safe accommodations. Let's do something about this together. It's ok to feel uncomfortable - sometimes that comes with growth and learning. Know that you are in a safe environment to learn and grow. Thank you for coming to the discussions with your passion on your sleeves. We can make Chicago an awesome bike city together.

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Thank you for  opening  this thread. I will say it  didn't  make me uncomfortable but in  doing so have to  admit that I  am  probably hiding something  or  ignoring  something or  failing to  see  something.  I was  recently at a discussion where  I was told that  it  starts with  being willing, as  a white  dude, to  feel uncomfortable  and to put  myself  into situations where  I feel  that way.  So, thank you for this. What I  do with  it...we will  see. Please  know that  your  efforts, your  passion, and your advocacy are noticed back here in  your  old home town. 

Thanks David, your feedback and posts are always appreciated. I've been thinking about what you wrote about feeling uncomfortable. It's powerful. Thank you for saying it.

Those aren't crickets -- they're finger snaps

“Why are [motorists] more important than myself?” he asked. “How am I going to commute home late at night when it’s dark safely, and it doesn’t require me being in and out of cars?”

“There’s a big disparity in infrastructure when I see biking north of where I live as opposed to when I’m biking south of where I live,” Quispe continued. He urged King to keep the status quo and to add concrete barriers for bikers’ additional protection.

Shari Runner spoke later, opposing any cyclist protection barriers but endorsing the status quo.

“I gather that you want to bike, and you want to have a safe place to bike, but I have an investment that I have to protect,” she said, recalling her home of 20 years. “I don’t know that having concrete barriers where there are bike lanes and having parking on the interior side of Drexel, either during the day or at night, adds to my property value.”

“The boulevards are a historic part of Chicago. They are very important to the way this city was built and the way this community was built, and I am very much opposed to changing it from where it is right now,” Runner concluded. “It allows for people to bike, and it allows for people to park.”

Thanks for sharing this article. It's eye-opening but sadly part of the very same barriers. Frustrating to see Ald. King use her position recklessly by expressing a perception that is in no way based in data/fact. She thinks bikes aren't using it and because she's an alderman, we should all listen to her? She's used that very same bike lane to justify not providing other bike lanes and now she wants to get rid of it. 

Not to take away from the intent, but my wife has a terrible problem with guys shoaling her and cutting her off. The funny thing? We commute together. We ride to and from work together. When people cut her off, they don't do the same to me. People don't shoal me(as much). It's annoying as fuck. I'm happy that it's getting cooler, because that scooter season was terrible, and (I say it every year) this year's new divvy crowd was worse than last year.

Yes, my wife is a strong cyclist. She rode up the side of a volcano one time to camp out with me. Your Beats wearing, divvy swerving, nonsensical riding is going to get someone hurt or injured. This was the first year I feel cars were better than cyclists in paying attention. 

This is exactly the intent. Thank you for posting. Your wife deserves better than this. My last year in Chicago I did a pre-ride for the Ferris Bueller ride and as I was riding back, it was rush hour and I watched a man get into the oncoming bike lane to pass 5+ women to weasel his way to the front of the line at a light. When I caught up with him a few blocks down, he was respecting the (men) biking in front of him, not shoaling them. There's a reason we say "manshoaling". It's a reality. 

I very rarely post. I am extremely grateful for the site. I don't read much local news, although I follow some Chicago transit folks on Twitter and read streetsblog. Some of the information here inspired me to communicate with my car-loving alderman. (It was kind of hilarious and sad. Among other things, she denied that her proposed annual registration fee for bikes functioned as a tax. She also implied supporting car2go would hurt car owners and prevent people from finding parking... sigh.)

I've cycled for most of my life to get to school/work (I'm nearly 40), but since moving to Chicago six years ago, I've had more trouble committing to cycling. Chainlink continues to motivate me. This city has one of the most anti-cycling cultures I have experienced, although I know it could be worse. The weather doesn't help either. I've appreciated the opportunity to discuss cycling norms here too: inspired by support here, every week I am asking some dude to stop drafting me on the LFT. It still creeps me out to have some stranger at my heel for miles.

Thank you for your work, Yasmeen.

I should add that I whole-heartedly support your commitment to promoting equity in cycling. Admittedly 90% of my riding is on the LFT (south side), but I'm struck by how non-diverse the cyclists are. I am also struck that more people, especially elected officials, do not recognize how increasing the number of safe and reliable transit options is critically important for those who have fewer resources to begin with. I support making cycling more inclusive and safe, and less intimidating, for all.

I've been riding bicycles on Chicago streets, north side and south side, for 40 years since I moved here. The greater part of what I actually know about cycling, I think I've learned since I joined The Chainlink a few years ago. For that I am indebted to you and the many intelligent people who post comments and links here. There's going to be some conflict, because civility is something generally in short supply in America right now. I hope you stick by your guns. All right, maybe not know what I mean!      


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