"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.


Assholes of the Week: General Motors

President Obama bailed them out so they could spend our tax dollars on this?

The League of American Bicyclists calls it, "one of the more remarkably ill-conceived car ad campaigns of all time:"

If you are a student looking to add tens of thousands of dollars of long term debt, care little about the environment, and want to lump two tons of steel around campus while paying through the nose for insurance, gas, and parking…General Motors has got a perfect deal for you. Bonus: it’ll make you fat and unhealthy! All you have to do is give up that dorky bicycle that’s easy to use, practically free, gets you some exercise and is actually fun to ride.

Considering that 95% of all advertising is sexual innuendo, this is about as literal as you can get:

Copenhagenize.com points out the hysterical contradiction between GM's stated environmental values and their actions in the face of "...stiff and growing competition from bicycle traffic."

Except GM gets it wrong. There certainly is a correlation between sexual performance and the car you drive, or don't drive, rather. The woman in the ad, her eyes directed...(ahem) lower...is actually just fed up with her driver's erectile dysfunction.

No wonder Cav is so happy and Tony is such a grump:

That's where my laughter stops, because the fight is just beginning: in 2008 bicycles outsold cars for the first time since before World War II. While GM has now pulled these ads preying on the financial insecurities of broke college students, they serve to remind us that the stakes couldn't be higher in the battle for making our streets safer while building a sustainable economy.