How to Chicago: If you Bike, Wear White

Drawing by Wilson

25. Survive. Back in my sports radio listening days the renowned commentator Tony Kornheiser used to sign his show off with “If your’e out on your bike tonight, do wear white”.  Initially it struck me as a peculiar way to end a sports show. As time passed however, I began to really appreciate what I thought was a solid and unique public service announcement. Later I heard that it was more a tribute to the Rolling Stones tune “Something Happened To Me Yesterday”.

Blah, blah blah…..who cares. I’ve been observing bike riders during dusk, early and full evening for years now. I must continue to pass the advice on. If you are out on your bike tonight, do wear white. It makes a shocking difference in your visibility to drivers. Bike reflectors do not get the job done. It’s stunning how often I see people young and not young zipping around the neighborhood in black T-shirts and dark shorts. They appear from nowhere. Drivers cannot see you until they are figuratively on top of you. An easy way to keep that statement from going literal would be to throw on a white T-shirt before you head out on your high wheel. Give yourself a fighting chance.

Dedicated to Philando.

Fear is not an excuse for murder. 

How to Chicago: Weeknights 

24. Thrive. You live in a big city! It’s wonderful and it’s crowded. Take advantage of what downtown has to offer on weeknights. Beach on a Tuesday after work? Yep. You’ll have it all to yourself. Free concert downtown on Thursday night? Sure. Only locals are out. Dinner on a Wednesday night in River North? Do it. It’s gonna be swarming with people in three days.

How to Drive Chicago: Zipper Merges 

23. Drive. All merges are zipper merges. Think about that phrase “zipper merge” and act accordingly. One car from the left. One car from the right. Do not deviate. Left, right, left, right. Whether you are entering the expressway, merging from 2 lanes into 1, or being redirected by construction, do it. It will speed everything up. 

Let people merge in front of you. It won’t ruin your life. 

How to Drive Chicago: Go Flashing 

22.  Drive. My wife mentioned the other day that my recent blog entries have drifted away from my supposed main theme of city driving. Fine. You want driving? I’ll give you driving. 

If you’re on the expressway, or anywhere for that matter and traffic ahead comes to an unexpected screeching halt, after safely breaking, immediately throw on your hazard lights to warn the vehicle rushing up behind you. It makes a difference and may help you avoid getting rear ended. I’ve been the hazard flasher and the flashee and it’s saved me in both instances several times. 

Love depressing that little triangular button on your center console? Then why not use it to warn the tailgater behind you that you’re about to parallel park. Some drivers simply stop abruptly and throw it in reverse. Others throw on a quick turn signal to halt the driver behind them to allow enough room to reverse and park. It’s often not enough time on crowded city streets. The driver in your wake  is too close. And the driver behind them is too close. Getting the whole chain to reverse is near impossible and you have to abandon your potential parking space. 

Throw on the hazards the second you find an upcoming space. It will warn the driver behind you that there’s something out of the ordinary going on ahead. If you’re lucky  she’ll leave you a little room. 

How to Chicago: Concerts

Dinosaur Jr.

21. Thrive.  Go to shows. Plays. Musicals. Concerts. They’re ubiquitous in the metropolis. It’s one of the fundamental reasons you’ve chosen to live there…. endless entertainment options. If you’re heading out for a bit of the old rockity roll, call the venue that afternoon and get the set times. Nine times out of 10 they will tell you exactly when the opening act starts, when the headliner begins and when the headliner has to be finished by. They are staggeringly accurate. Very few bands take the stage when they’re “feeling” it, or end the show when they’re satisfied.  It is all predetermined. That’s useful for letting your babysitter know when you’ll be home. Better yet, you no longer have to guess when the best time is to arrive. There’s nothing worse than showing up at 7 when music doesn’t start until 11. 

Bobby Bare Jr.

Dale Watson

Alia Shawkat

Mike Watt

How to Drive Chicago: Doored

20.  Survive.  More than 25,000 people use bicycles to commute each day in Chicago. The city has more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes.  This post, however, is once again about drivers. Obviously, general awareness of bicyclists in large cities is paramount. Let’s get more specific. After parking, before exiting your vehicle take five seconds and look at all your mirrors.  By gosh even turn your head around.  Look to see if there are any bikers zipping by on your left.  They can materialize from the ether in a blink. We MUST be heedful of them.  I’ve heard many, horrific accounts on what a car door can do to human on a bike. Like involuntarily manslaughter them. 

Chicago Ordinance 9-80-035 states 

“No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”

Hitting a rider, or forcing them into a collision with another vehicle can result in $1000 fine, but obviously it can do much worse. 

A good habit for drivers would be to open your door with your right hand, forcing you to turn your head to the left. 

Please try it. 

P.S. The news is reporting that a car has lost control and careened onto a sidewalk in Times Square. 

Refer to my January archives. Blog Entry #3. 

How to Chicago: Cliques are Cliché. and Passé. and Blasé.

19. Thrive.  Do not spend the totality of your time socializing with people of your same ethnic background exclusively. Most large cities are melting pots. The world is a large melting pot. Take advantage.  If your hood is all caucasians, head to art fairs, farmers markets, or parks with more ethnic diversity. If your niños go to a predominately Latino school, sign up for a football league that’s more diverse.  Even at my children’s very racially diverse grade school, white parents huddle with white parents. Puertoriqueños gather with Puertoriqueños. Filipinos congregate with Filipinos. Racial cliques are a comfort thing. I get it. But it can it can be a slippery slope and lead to isolation. Isolation can lead to segregation. Segregation leads to racism. And I’m not just saying white against others racism. I’m saying everybody against everybody racism. All ethnicities do it. 

We would all benefit from experiencing what it’s like to be the minority at times. Learning about other cultures first hand will help you learn about yourself. I guarantee it will cut down on some of the fear that grips the world. Fear of anything different from you.