"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Thursday Hate: Alderman Mell

Yesterday, Alderman Mell of Chicago's 33rd Ward spoke up during CDOT commish Gabe Klein's address to the city council about his upcoming cycling initiatives - including the new protected bikelanes and bike share program - to ask Klein if the city could license bicycles.

Licensing bicycles is not the solution to stopping reckless cycling. There are myriad reasons for the conflict between motorists and cyclists, but the biggest of all is that the streets are simply not designed for anyone but someone driving a car.

This then leads to the misconception that cyclists are somehow scofflaws and freeloaders who don't pay for the infrastructure. Not true. Most people riding bicycles are also car owners and they're ALL taxpayers. User fees and gas taxes pay for a very small percentage of local road maintenance.

How will a licensing scheme address what is fundamentally an infrastructure and education issue? What will an unenforceable regulation for a non-problem (hanging license plates that are big enough to read from a distance as a cyclist flees from one of the handful of non-injurious hit-and-runs a year?) do besides turning an entire mode of transportation into criminals (because no one will follow it) and adding another level of useless bureaucracy? Meanwhile 32 pedestrians were killed in Chicago car-crashes last year.

It should be clear, then, that calls for licensing cyclists are nothing but reactionary support for the status quo intended to prevent more people from being cyclists while ignoring the fact that car-culture is carnage culture.

Why impede the very mode of transportation that makes our streets safer and city more livable?

Considering the state of traffic safety and congestion in Mell's ward - home to some of the most dangerous and dysfunctional intersections in the city - his failure to recognize that Gabe Klein's proposals are the solution to cyclists riding outside the law makes Mell part of the problem.

To be fair to the Alderman, he did suggest alternatively that public service ads be produced.

Good for you Richard! Advocacy groups like Active Trans and Transportation Alternatives have been shouting their education message for years, but without the needed funding - which the private sector will never provide without the necessary prodding - their voices are lost in the din of traffic noise and automobile marketing.

Perhaps Alderman Mell could lead a charge in forging a public-private partnership, such as the Downtown Seattle Association and their successful brand Commute Seattle, and work to support CDOT's efforts to make Chicago a safer and better place to live, work, and play.

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