#620: The Sneer

April 13th, 2016

The sun was bright and his face was happy as he stepped out of his luxury SUV.

He took a few moments to just stand between car and sidewalk, relaxing and feeling the city’s pulse before a night of culture and glitz at the Goodman Theatre.

It would have been inspiring had he not been taking his moment of joy in the middle of a protected bike lane.

A woman slammed on her brakes — well, squeezed them quickly — to avoid hitting him. She said something to him, presumably along the lines of “Hey! Watch out!” And the next thing that happened reminded me I live in Chicago.

The old guy shot her a nasty look.

It was a look I’ve, in my particular set of life experiences, only seen from the white and well-off. It was the look of “Harrumph!” “Well, I never!” “How dare you, sirrah? How dare?”

How dare you inconvenience me?

How dare you follow the green light whilst I dipstick through a thoroughfare?

How dare you ride your vehicle in a section of street specifically reserved for that purpose as designated by a large drawing of the exact vehicle you’re riding? It’s a standing-and-dipping-around zone when I want it to be, baby!

The woman rode on, angered by the exchange. The man ambled to the curb, shooting looks and sneers at her back for having the gall to bike in a bike lane.

I realize that in a protected lane people have to cross a bike path to get from their cars, but have we forgotten as a culture to look both ways before crossing the street? I get that people get absent-minded, but it wasn’t this guy’s goof that got me mad.

It was his anger and his entitlement that, even though clearly marked for her, this spot of road was rightfully his the moment he wanted it.

I’m historically skeptical of this administration’s motives in terms of transit, but if it keeps my mom from worrying I’ll end up a hood ornament (and me from ending up a hood ornament), I fully support plans to increase the number of protected lanes throughout the city. It’ll be a learning curve, of course, training people that bike lanes aren’t sidewalks, parking spots, valet areas or places to pull in “just for a second” while promising five for five to the Uber guy.

Yes, there will be some old white man sneers and it’ll give the Tribune’s John Kass a lot of clickbait “Little Bike People” columns (the written equivalent of an old white man sneer), but I think it needs to be done.

Without protected bike lanes, people like Neill Townsend and Liza Whitacre will keep dying. I don’t mean to politicize their deaths, just give two examples of people who would be alive if a line of paint had been on the other side of the cars.

Some people talk about cycling as a movement, but it’s not that for me. For me, the call for dedicated bike lanes is as commonsense and class-free as a call for seatbelts.

We raise the sidewalks so pedestrians don’t amble into a semi. Can we have a little safety for the cyclists without a “Harrumph!” and “How dare?” from some folks who only need to look both ways?

A few biking stories:

A cyclist doesn’t let her missing leg stop her

Chicago’s bloody cycle battles of the 1800s

The first ride of spring

Why I do it

A few non-bike links:

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