December 14, 2012
The Rahmfather probably won't be riding a Stingray bike with a banana seat, pulling back on his chrome ape hangers, popping wheelies down Dearborn Street on Friday with Cubs baseball cards in his spokes as all the little bike people of Chicago scream deliriously with joy.
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be doing something almost as spectacular.
Emanuel will open his new bike lanes on Dearborn Street, and is expected to promise building 645 miles of bike lanes in the city by 2020. He's had city crews working furiously to time new traffic signals, set bike lanes and reconfigure street parking. They've made more room for bikes and less room for those large clumsy things called cars.
I'm thrilled that the mayor, who supports bicycle commuting, is making the city bike-friendly. It's a healthy activity, it's environmentally correct and it foreshadows the day when cars will be illegal except for those driven by our masters from China who'll own all our national debt.
And readers tell me that bicycling to work would seriously improve the sculpt of my buttocks.
But gazillions of angry little bike people sent missives of rage to the Tribune over Thursday's column, in which I argued that if they're going to take over the streets, they might start by also observing traffic rules and paying tickets for running red lights, and purchase license plates and city stickers.
Some said that houseplants write better columns. Others made with the fat columnist jokes. All because I want them to follow the law, so they don't end up like bugs on a windshield.
"Your condescending writing is ridiculous," shrieked a cowardly anonymous little bike person. "What made you think of 'little bike people'? You must say that because you're too fat to ride a bike, hence 'big car driver.'"
That's what you'd expected from those who think the law doesn't apply to them. And the reason they think it doesn't apply to them? Because it doesn't.
Only 38 bike riders were ticketed all last summer, meaning the city is missing out on untold millions in revenue and is content to squeeze cash out of those who drive.
"I don't think @John_Kass ever graduated from training wheels," tweeted another of the bike people, the tweet seething with unbridled rage. "Still hates his father because of it."
Actually, my dad bought me that Stingray bike, an orange one, with the ape hangers. It was so cool. The Rahmfather may have owned one too.
"You are doing taxpayers a disservice by highlighting your petty personal annoyances and missing the much more important bigger picture," wrote a woman named Kelly. And she added, "Signed, a 'little bike person' whose (buttocks), I guarantee, look better in Spandex than yours."
Kelly, what does it say about a woman when she writes a newspaper to brag about her behind? Just sayin'.
And that message was perhaps topped by a guy named Lee who wrote the following: "Is 'little people' a comparative reference to 'large, fat people.' Or is it your opinion, as a 'large, fat person,' to distort reality relative to anything that annoys you?"
Sadly, Lee failed to describe his Spandex-clad buttocks and how biking improved the looks of them. This may mean that for all their tribalism, some bike people are possessed of a shred of modesty.
But not smarts. And that's what the bike people don't understand. I've been trying to warn them for months. They just won't listen.
They were the ones who had to agitate and organize, not me. They're the ones who rode au naturel through the streets of Chicago on Ride Naked Day or whatever they called it, to bring attention to their bike culture. These bizarre rituals helped them coalesce into a powerful transportation alliance. In exchange for their fealty, City Hall has given them their bike lanes and their traffic signals and their signs, while taking lanes from drivers.
OK, fine. It's politics. But here's some more politics: It's only a matter of time until they are processed like livestock for revenue collection.
Wild pigs are caught this way, with corn and sections of fence built over time. And now the once-noble free riders are entering their pens, willfully, eagerly, having ignored my warnings that government help always comes with a government squeeze. And soon the City Hall Revenue Man will say hello because nothing government ever does for you is free.
Not all bike commuters are rude, highly caffeinated selfish imports from Portlandia who think the rules don't apply to them. Most of the correspondents — good, law-abiding bicyclists — supported the notion that rogue riders should pay. And dozens of pedestrians and riders told me of being struck by hooligans on wheels and threatened afterward. One guy said he was further humiliated during a collision when he was slimed by a random bike messenger's sweat.
"John Kass has described the (random) sweat transfer he suffered at 'The Taste.' I know too well what he means," wrote Joe M.
Oh, the humanity.
"I hate other bikers," wrote avid cyclist Mark B. "Until bikers follow the rules, they will get no respect from drivers."
But they do get City Hall love. And soon, they'll get even more love from the City Hall Revenue Man.
And it won't be their buttocks he'll care about. He'll care about what's in their wallets.
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