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Bike Haters of the Week: Jon and John

November 30, 2011

Here are two new additions to the my collection of “Some of my best friends are bike lanes” quotes, and both come from the Midwest.  To be fair, these hew closer to Adam Sternbergh’s brilliant how-to piece, “I Was a Teenage Cyclist,” and his instruction that the “Invocation of personal cycling bona fides” is required in any anti-bike lane screed.

The first comes from the Twin Cities’ Jon Tevlin (above), writing in the Star Tribune:

It’s hard to argue against creating safer biking paths in the cities, or against the fact that biking is good for you and the environment. I bought a new bike last year and like to ride it around town. I like the new lanes when I’m riding my bike.

Tevlin likes bike lanes when he is riding his bike, but doesn’t like them when you’re riding yours.

Tevlin’s piece follows Alex Nazaryan’s standard measurement for bike lane success by using reader comments and anecdotal observation and not, say, data.  He also follows many of the tired anti-biking tropes pioneered by Steve Cuozzo, John Cassidy and Andrea Peyser: comparing cyclists to “a Spandex-clad Lance Armstrong,” reducing delivery people to sub-human transportation bots unworthy of safe cycling infrastructure, and using one instance of gridlock as proof that bike lanes have messed up his formerly traffic-free city.

To top it off, paint and symbols confuse him in the way looking both ways before crossing the street seems to flummox certain Neighbors for Better Bike Lane members: “Like a lot of other drivers, I’ve also frequently been flummoxed on what to do when my car lane suddenly becomes a bike lane, or has a large painting of a bike in it.”  Is this a problem?  Car lanes suddenly turning into bike lanes?  What does Tevlin do when he gets to a T intersection and a car lane suddenly turns into a sidewalk?  “A large painting of a bike” is probably a sharrow, which means Minnesotan drivers are probably supposed to do the same thing New Yorkers do: park on them.

Speaking of NBBL, Tevlin introduces readers to that group’s Midwestern chapter:

Over in St. Paul, a group of residents, Local Taxpayers for a Livable Community (LTLC), has fought a bike lane through their neighborhood, arguing that changes made on Jefferson Avenue actually made traffic less safe, and diverted cars onto side streets where kids play. They raise some logical questions about how much of our roads, and money, we should devote to the 4 percent of people who commute by bike.

Clare Malloy Bluhm is one of the members of LTLC and says the group spans the political spectrum. “I think our voice isn’t being heard,” she said. “We keep hearing that St. Paul wants to be like Portland, and I always ask, ‘How long does the snow last in Portland?’

If this country’s bike lane battles were a Scooby Doo episode, the Mystery, Inc. gang would unmask Clare Malloy Bluhm and reveal her to be Louise “We are never going to be Portland” Hainline.  LTLC: “…the group spans the political spectrum.  NBBL: “The members of our organizations have been called affluent and politically well connected. A small number of our members are.”  Malloy Bluhm: “I think our voice isn’t being heard.”  Hainline: [PDF] “…there was no warning to any of the buildings on PPW about this.”  To be fair, I don’t really know the particulars of Bluhm’s particular beef with the bike lane in her neighborhood and she may have some very legitimate concerns, but the similarities are still quite astounding.  Is there a Midwestern version of Key Foods?

Not to be outdone by Tevlin, the Chicago Tribune’s John McCarron added this entry to the Bike Hater’s Almanac:

Mind you, I have nothing against biking or hiking. I can change inner tubes on my single-speed AMF Roadmaster; and the Ira J. Bach Walkway overlooking the river along Wacker Drive is, for me, a sacred path.

Drop a classic bike brand name, brag about your ability to change a flat and — ta-da! — you’re free to unleash a torrent of irrational criticism.  McCarron, like Tevlin, goes even deeper in painting cyclists as spandex-clad freaks.  He says that most people have neither the ego nor stamina to commute by bike and, in one artfully crafted sentence, is able to also imply that cycling is a pastime for the wealthy elite:

Besides, I’d look silly in cyclist couture. Imagine me in a Castelli Sorpasso bib tight cycling suit (available online for around $179.95 plus shipping). I’ve never paid that much for a real suit.

Yes, $179.95 for a “cycling suit” makes cycling too expensive to be a practical commuting choice, but a monthly car payment of at least that much, as well as gas, tolls, insurance, and maintanance, is sound economics for Joe Chicago.  Not that I need one for commuting–I typically wear a “real suit–but for the price of owning and operating a car, I could by few new Castelli Sorpoassos and throw them out at the end of each week.  (For a more precise take-down of McCarron, please visit the excellent Grid Chicago.)

By the way, as I’ve considered before, why is it that the worst bike haters know the most about high-end cycling equipment?  The Daily News wrote of “Cannondale-mounted maniacs” in their open letter to Janette Sadik-Khan, but McCarron goes one deeper in naming not only a brand, but a specific model of bike racing clothing.  The columnist doth protest too much, methinks.

On the one hand, it’s sad but somewhat inevitable that two metropolitan areas making such progressive strides are seeing some of the exact same bike hate that has plagued New York City.  On the other had, it’s encouraging that these two areas are seeing some of the exact same bike hate.  It means that the movement to create safe streets is spreading fast and wide while logical arguments against that movement are few and far between.

  1. December 1, 2011 1:56 am

    Thanks you, Doug, for putting this article together.

    Just this past Tuesday, Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein said at a City Club luncheon that there was no war on cars (I’ll write about that event in a few days).

    I’ve added a link to this article at the end of mine.


  1. Breaking down the battle John McCarron wants to start | Grid Chicago

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