Kass’ column on bike scofflaws is a “little” right and a lot bizarre

Today, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass rails against “free-riding little bike people” who don’t pay for roads (wrong) and against law breaking cyclists who are rarely ticketed (true). (Registration is required to read the column). 

I do agree with Kass on this point: Like motorists and even pedestrians who use roads recklessly, people who ride bikes should also be ticketed. We don’t endorse ticketing cyclists and drivers for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters. But if you’re putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving.

Unfortunately, lax enforcement of traffic laws is a problem for all modes of transportation. I agree with Kass that people biking should not get away with riding on sidewalks in the Loop and going the wrong way on one-way streets, but I also see motorists commit flagrant road violations in plain view of the police regularly, and they let it go.

On average in Chicago, 60 people are injured or killed every day in car crashes, of which about 13 are on foot or bike and 47 in cars. Bikes are rarely the cause of injury. If the police are willing to look the other way for reckless motor vehicle drivers, they aren’t likely to ticket people riding bikes.

We hear that police officers sometimes feel that traffic tickets aren’t worth the amount of time it takes to process them. We need the police to overcome this hurdle and step up traffic enforcement across the board.

As for “free-riding” cyclists – wrong! First, many people who ride bikes own cars and buy gas and vehicle stickers. Second, roads and highways are only partially funded by gas taxes and other direct user fees. A report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center found that, even counting federal funding as user-based, between 24 percent and 38 percent of road and highway money in Illinois comes from non-user fees.

As a sidenote, it's downright bizarre how many times Kass refers to “little bike people” – he wrote it in a previous column, too. It’s obviously intended as an insult, but to me it refers to how little space we take up on the roadway, how little wear and tear we cause, and how little our facilities cost within the grand scheme of transportation dollars spent!

Should be ticketed, huh?

Ron ->

You suggest that cyclists who "put people at risk" should be ticketed and that this is a place in which you agree w/ Katz. However, let's be realistic -- cyclists don't put people at risk (besides themselves, of course -- but that's not what I think you mean). Cyclists aren't the reason our streets are so dangerous and taking sides with Katz lends support to this idea that somehow, if we could just ticket cyclists, our streets would be a calm, peaceful place.

The issue is there are too many damn cars in Chicago, being driven too often. That's it -- that's the issue.

The sooner that we start addressing the "car problem" the sooner we can make real gains towards safer streets. The very fact that we trumpet _protected_ bike lanes is proof of the issue. Protection from what? From cars.

Cars suck up all the space
Cars dump poison into our air
Cars make our neighborhoods less safe

When are we going to stop beating around the bush and call it for what it is -- Chicago has a car problem

Todd - No doubt Chicago has

Todd - No doubt Chicago has too many cars and too little public right of way for people using their feet, bikes and transit. I'm excited that Chicago is finally setting aside some street space for people on bikes with protected lanes, and we need a lot more. I agree that bikes rarely cause danger on our streets, certainly not to the extent cars do. I make that point in saying that virtually every traffic injury/fatality in Chicago is caused by cars. So cars are the big problem, but to deny or ignore that some cyclists ride recklessly, and occasionally cause injuries, is a non-starter in the policy arena.

Kass: drop the K

My opinion of this reporter get lower with each article I read. As a long time believer that the Tribune is the finest newspaper on the planet, I just don't see how he fits in. The public in Chicago needs a lot of education on proper usage of their vehicles and advoacy for better maintenance of our street surfaces. What a waste of copy space. Kass will fit right in when Rupert Murdoch buys the paper. And that will be the last day of my long running subscription.

Don't read Kass

I recommend NOT reading Kass' article, even if you can get past the pay wall. Every "click" is an affirmation of his business model (and his idiocy). He gets paid to get eyeballs on the Trib website, so don't give him yours.

Read the article for free

If you'd like to read the junior-high level writing of Mr. Kass, a renowned troll at the sink-or-swim tribune, you can load the article through the link and hit "stop" on your browser before it loads the registration pop-over.

Easy workaround, thought it'd let y'all know.


*Er, without registration.

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