Friday, October 3, 2014

Divvy Diary: Safety in numbers

     Education is a process, not an act. One of my favorite aspects of writing a column is I get to build off things I've written earlier. Such as finally understanding the seeming paradox that more amateurs without helmets careening on bicycles in city traffic somehow makes the city safer and leads to fewer head injuries.

     A friend is feeling unwell, and I recommended she nurse herself back to health with the rich gingery soup from Ajida, a Japanese grill on Wells Street.
      As she isn’t able to go out, I gallantly offered to convey the miso udon to her, of course hopping on a Divvy to rush the soothing broth to her place in Greektown.
     As there are no Divvy stations immediately around the restaurant, I meant to pick up a cable lock, to secure the bike while I ran inside to collect the carry out. I considered leaving the bike unattended in the street. But I did that once, buying cookies at D’Amato’s Bakery on Grand, and it was a nerve-wracking experience, with one eye on the goodies slowly being placed into a box by the clerk, one eye fixed on the defenseless blue Divvy bike parked in front, poised at any moment to have to bolt out to rescue it.
     Never again. Too stressful. But I didn’t get around to buying the lock, so instead I walked to Ajida, accepted our soup, then hot-footed it to Franklin and Madison to grab a bike west to Halsted.
     Memo to self: buy cable lock.
     In fact, if you have other unsanctioned tricks and unrecommended strategies regarding maximizing the bike share system, let me know and I’ll include them in a future column tentatively titled, “Pimp My Divvy.”
     Yes, I wore my helmet. I’m trying to be more scrupulous about that, a) because it’s safer and b) toting the helmet gives me a cachet of cool, if only in my own mind....

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  1. Leave it to you, Neil, to point out the nonobvious!


  2. As a frequent motorist, I would be less contemptuous of bicyclists if they obeyed the traffic laws. Almost none of them do. Cannot tell you how many times I have seen a bicyclist zip through a stop sign -- or even a traffic signal -- nearly causing a crash. Or having one make a left turn in front of my car with no proper hand signals.

    When bicyclists learn to use the streets safely, I'll be OK with them. Until then, I believe they are a menace to themselves and others.

    1. You see this argument a lot, and while that behavior is pretty bad it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. For the most part, that biyclist is endangering himself/herself but nobody else (I don't want to sound flip because there ARE pedestrian accidents, but that's relatively rare). In contrast, people in cars, who almost invariably go over the speed limit let alone even worse "car sins" (talk on their cell phones, drive tired or buzzed, etc.) are in a two-three ton vehicle capable of killing or causing grevious bodily injury with a mere sideswipe. So if a car driver is going to be "contemptuous" of bicyclist for these reasons, they probably should be self-loathing at the same time.

  3. You can get really thin cables and a tiny lock at bike stores - they're meant to deter quick-grabs of seat posts but they'll at least prevent the "walk away with divvy" you're talking about and fit easily in a front pants pocket.

    Here's an anti-bike argument I don't think you've aired. How many years of people's lives have the bike lanes taken away? I don't know who keeps the stats, but I can tell you the Route 22 and 36 bus moves through Dearborn at molasses-like speed since they took out a lane for the bikes (and no, being able to listen to the radio through people's cell phone conversations while on the bus does not retore the lost time). Same thing for the red light cameras - on weekends certain interesections are jammed for three light cycles (especially the six-corner intersections with red light cameras). I'd probably still favor the downtown bike lanes, but like everything else in life, there's no free lunch.

    1. Stop signs are way worse.
      Go down Clark from Montrose to Bryn Mawr, it's a disaster with cars & buses backed up for blocks due to the insane number of completely unnecessary stop signs.

  4. I don't disagree that more bikes on the road, many being ridden by tourists rather than speed demons, may well have resulted in drivers being more aware and even more considerate. "The data suggests that bicycle share programs were in fact associated with reduction in bicycle injuries..." Part of this reduction compared with "control cities," though, might also be because the cities with bike share programs are the cities with the best supportive infrastructure for biking.

    Regardless, if you're unlucky enough to be one of the riders who's going to be receiving a head injury, having a helmet on is likely to be pretty beneficial, whatever the frequency of head injuries may be among the biking population.

  5. Now the problem with bike lanes are the idiot joggers that use them, often going the wrong way, & the drunks in powered wheelchairs also going the wrong way.
    And before anyone complains about my calling them drunks in powered wheelchairs, I only see that in Uptown & Edgewater on the Kenmore & Winthrop bike lanes, which are neighborhoods that are full of drunks in general, because of all the halfway houses there.
    I've even seen the powered chairs on Sheridan Road. I guess those have a death wish.


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