Kass' characterization of people who bike and protected bike lanes way off the mark

The following is a letter to the editor that was submitted to the Chicago Tribune in response to John Kass' column, “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS,” published on August 22. The letter was submitted by a coalition of local interests: AARP Illinois, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, New Communities Program and Active Trans.

John Kass’ column, “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS” (8/22/2012), implies all Chicagoans who ride bikes are “elitist” “hipsters” only concerned about “carbon-footprintless pedaling” and not worthy of our city’s investment. If Mr. Kass could get beyond his stereotypes, he would know that all kinds of Chicagoans ride bikes and want safer streets.

We are Chicago’s children, sisters and grandmothers. We live on the north side, west side and south side. We are black, white and Hispanic. We speak English, Spanish and Polish. We are going to the grocery store, dropping by the park and visiting family. We are going to work as your teachers, your waiters and your IT professionals. We are poor, we are wealthy, we are middle class. We are also drivers. We pay gas taxes, sales taxes and property taxes that pay for roads. We write today because we share one thing in common: we ride bikes because it’s healthy, affordable and convenient – and we want “complete streets” in our neighborhoods that safely accommodate everyone – people on foot, in cars, and, yes, on bikes.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, 24 percent of Midwesterners ride a bike at least once a week; and 71 percent of Americans would like to bicycle more, but fewer than half feel that their community is designed for making biking safe. Most Chicagoans avoid riding on city streets for fear of their safety. We need safer streets for biking in order to access jobs and basic services in our communities. Biking also provides a rare opportunity for healthy physical activity in our busy daily routines.

The 100 miles of protected bike lanes that Mayor Emanuel is adding will enable thousands more Chicagoans to get out of cars and onto bikes and, by giving bikes their own space, will make streets more orderly and safer for everyone. But 100 miles is less than two percent of our street network, and cars still get to use streets with protected bike lanes.

For about the same cost as just one mile of freeway, Chicago can build an entire city-wide network of protected bike lanes. This could provide safe and easy access to a healthy, affordable and convenient form of transportation that our neighborhoods need. It’s a wise investment for Chicagoans and our neighborhoods.

Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago, IL
Bob Gallo, State Director, AARP Illinois, Chicago, IL
Joy Aruguete, Executive Director, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Chicago, IL
Christy Prahl, Director, New Communities Program – Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL

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Thank you, Active Trans, for

Thank you, Active Trans, for your well-written, patient, and professional answers to the insanity coming out of the Tribune etc. It is your important work that will change our society to be more friendly to bicyclists and better for everyone.

Will and Juan: Kass' article is as unfunny, and moreover, as downright terrifying as Swift's original "Modest Proposal." It is unacceptable to publish this type of thing because many who are ignorant or already anti-bike will continue to engage irrational anti-bike thinking that will do much damage to cycling in Chicago and other cities, as well as the individual cyclists whose freedom and safety will be compromised.

What we need from our citizens and newspapers is powerful advocacy of those causes most beneficial to society. And we could do without the petty name calling: anyone who calls cyclists "pedaling One Percenters," "hipsters," "bike-ists," and refers to relatively inexpensive and highly important bike lanes as "government perks," should be neither listened to nor published.

Literary device

My Kass was using, although ineffectively, the literary device known as SARCASM. You can untwist your panties now.

"Beware politicians bearing

"Beware politicians bearing gifts."

That's the gist of Kass' article. It doesn't require much sleuthing to discover many of the niceties and beautification in recent years in Chicago were either used to fatten the pockets of crooked connections, had its true cost passed on to future generations, or both. We use fiscal shortfalls for our schools as justification for casinos. Medical clinics and public transportation services serving under-privileged neighborhoods are being discontinued.

Kass is simply saying tread carefully for what you wish because even the most noble of ideas can be corrupted. History proves that premise. I, for one, would love a more bicycle (and public transportation) friendly city. If the plan moves forward, however, let us be sure to scrutinize its execution and be prepared to be rigorously convey our contempt when it becomes obvious that select, connected parties are reaping financial windfalls from it. Let's also hope, by then, that it is not too late.

WTH, Tribune?

What's going on with the Chicago Tribune these days?! This is two anti-bike articles in a month, both displaying a terrifying explosion of ignorance and intolerance for the author's fellow Chicagoan who is just trying to live his or her life in a way that benefits the health of themselves, the city, and the planet.

Why does Chicago not begin with a tax on cars driving within the city, as London did years ago?!


Kass' Characterizations

Thanks for coming to the defense of people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds who bike in all parts of our city. That is the correct thing to do.

But Mr. Buhrke, knowing that your staff is monitoring the ChainLink Forum I would like to ask why threads like this one (http://goo.gl/zgk41) go without pushback from your or any of the other signatories on your open letter to Mr. Kass?

I wonder if his article was in response to the kind of over generalizations that you are accusing Mr. Kass of using. I will not repeat here some of the terms used to describe the West and South Sides of Chicago but suffice it to say that the only kind of response you could have to such a diatribe by one of the participants in this thread is that he is indeed an "elitist hipster".

I for one think it is high time that folks in the cycling advocacy community did a little policing of their own.

I agree with Will. Also,

I agree with Will. Also, Kass actually said:

"Please don't misunderstand. I love our noble bike-ists. Anyone with a brain would applaud them for their carbon-footprintless pedaling."

That sounds pretty complimentary to me.

It dawned on me yesterday

It dawned on me yesterday that Kass' commentary might have been laced with more than a little satire, and the target might have been more the city's revenue-generating schemes, rather than us chickens. I certainly hope so.

Lighten up, everybody.

Lighten up, everybody.

Remember Mike Royko? He used to take occasional shots at some group or other just to generate hostile response letters. Then he'd generate a couple of days' columns responding to all the colorful letters.

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