Well, it would have been 62 miles if I could have continued to ride with a bunch of jackasses while avoiding the sudden urge to ride my bike off a cliff and end the misery. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any cliffs in the Chicago area.
What was so terrible about this ride? Where do I begin?
First, let me say that I’ve participated in the other popular Active Trans event, Bike the Drive, which takes place the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend every year. I’ve done it three times, and for the most part I don’t have many complaints. Keyword: Many. Anyway, it’s a nice ride and seeing the city from Lake Shore Drive via bicycle is pretty cool.
Second, let’s take a look at the mission statement for the Active Transportation Alliance:
“The mission of Active Transportation Alliance is to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. We advocate for transportation that encourages and promotes safety, physical activity, health, recreation, social interaction, equity, environmental stewardship and resource conservation.”
Safety is so important to Active Trans that they mention it twice in their mission statement. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to enforce some of their own rules on the ride.
- Helmets were required. Too bad we saw quite a few people without helmets and no one seemed to stop them and tell them they needed to wear helmets.
- Follow traffic laws. This seems to be a pretty big safety rule, yet NO ONE obeyed any traffic laws on this ride. There was even an Active Trans volunteer that was wearing a yellow vest and stopping traffic so that cyclists could ride through red lights.
Let’s Talk About Safety Some More
This wonderful Active Trans volunteer was not always there to stop traffic for riders, so most riders would just take it upon themselves to ignore red lights and stop signs. Here are some examples:
- As my friend and I had stopped at a red light (as all cyclists should), we couldn’t help but notice the woman flying past us through the red light. NO HESITATION. NONE. I actually yelled out, “No hesitation! You’ve got to be kidding me!” No response.
- At a stop sign we noticed a car pull up before us, so we stopped to let the car go first. I mean, that’s what you would do if you were in a car right? Well, we stopped and the car started to go, then quick hit its breaks again. From behind us came a guy flying through the stop sign waving to the cars and yelling, “Thank you!” Thank you for letting him break the law? I’m still not certain what he was thanking them for…
What About That Route?
It was pretty terrible. Well, at least the first 30 miles were. Here are some highlights:
- Speed bumps. I’ve done quite a bit of riding around Chicago in the last five years, and I’ve only been on one, maybe two streets with speed bumps. I don’t know how many streets there are in Chicago with speed bumps, but I’m sure we hit the rest of them. We went over at least 25 speed bumps.
- Twists and turns. There were so many twists and turns through city streets it didn’t even make sense at times. Maybe it would have made more sense if we were turning onto streets with bike lanes, but that was not always the case and a lot of the streets we were on did not have bike lanes.
- Poor route marking. We had a map, but it was nearly impossible to follow with all of the turns. The painted arrows on the road were actually helpful, but some times we wouldn’t see one for a while and we would think that maybe we lost the route.
The only nice part of the route was later on, after mile 25 when we had open roads and not as many turns. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it much further than that because we couldn’t stand the majority of the people riding the bike tour… And by “majority” I mean ALL OF THEM.
The People… All the Stupid People.
Think I’m being a little harsh? I don’t. This bike tour just reaffirms why I hate all other cyclists. The majority of the cycling community is made up of people that think they’re better than everyone else. They own the road. Cars and pedestrians should yield to them at all times. They think that every ride is a race.
Let me start a list of annoying people from this bike tour:
- Traffic law breakers. Red light runner and stop sign runner from above.
- People that don’t understand safety. Just get a helmet. Or don’t, and die so I don’t have to see you on the streets anymore.
- People that need to “win” the race. Just because I passed you doesn’t mean you need to get aggressive. Go at your own pace. You don’t need to keep up with me or pass me just because I passed you. These people also don’t understand pacing themselves. Go ahead, pass me while you’re peddling like a crazy person… I’ll pass you in another 10 miles.
- Horny men. Seriously, have men cyclists lost the ability to control themselves? My friend was hit on a few times and had inappropriate things said to her at other times… Including one guy that rode by her slowly and said, “Yeaaahhh” in a creepy voice.
- People that want to draft. This is not the Tour de France. There is no need for drafting on a ride like this. One guy was literally riding about a foot behind me for a while. When I got tired of it, my friend and I took off at about 25 mph in order to lose him. Unfortunately, we passed a line of cyclists that were drafting… When I passed them, they for some reason thought I was the new leader of the draft line. NO!
- People with terrible form that think they’re professional cyclists. Pretty much says it all.
- Not understanding some of the basic rules. My friend and I passed someone that wasn’t even part of the bike tour. As we passed we said, “On your left.” She said, “Thank you, you’re the first to inform me.” My friend said, “Well, there’s many more coming” and the woman responded, “Oh I’m sure, there’s already been a lot that passed by me.” ALL of these people passed her and NOT ONE informed her that they were passing her. TERRIBLE.
These people make me sick and that is why we left this bike tour. I hope I never have to ride with people like this again.
Some Final Thoughts
We were lucky that around mile 30 this bike route we were on met up with a bike trail that we ride quite often, and love to ride. At that point, we stopped, removed our tour stickers and as everyone else turned right towards the Chicago Botanical Gardens we turned left and took our normal route home. A route that’s free of speed bumps, multiple turns, and for the most part… free of idiots.
If you’re questioning how bad the route actually was and how those speed bumps could have actually affected my ride and my bike… I’ve been riding my bike in Chicago for over 5 years now and not once have I ever had a flat tire. On the way back home I noticed that my back tire was a little low. Then it was really low. We stopped at a bike shop on Lincoln Avenue to get it checked out and sure enough, I had a hole in my tube. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t caused by this ride… I’m going to say it was though.
As a cyclist, I hope you never have an experience like this. Unless of course you are one of these people, then I hate you.
If you’re anyone else (not a cyclist), then I understand why you hate cyclists. It’s people like this that make everyone hate cyclists. I just hope you know that there are some decent people out there that ride bicycles, and we hate the rest of these idiots just like you do.