…and then news stories like this happen.

File this under “schlocky local news strikes again.”

I could not watch the entire video because I was shaking in rage from the opening line: “Bicyclists on the streets of Chicago face many dangers, but they may put themselves in that position and frequently frustrate others on the road.” (Next up on Channel 7 news – Domestic violence victims: why don’t they just leave the guy??)

This is how the mainstream media uses a few examples to twist reality and perpetuate false truths about bicyclists. I ride through Chicago every day and I see hundreds of bicyclists riding lawfully and courteously. Anyone could stand on the corner of downtown Chicago during rush hour and record footage of drivers and pedestrians breaking traffic laws, but no one’s broadcasting a story about how those who die in car crashes everyday are asking for it. This story is bullshit, total car-head on display.

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28 thoughts on “…and then news stories like this happen.

  1. Ryan says:

    News stories like this are quite common with our media here in Ontario as of late.

    I have to laugh at how they show bike messengers and assume they represent ALL commuter cyclists.

    Hopefully the same people who did this piece now go out and show all the motorists who don’t stop at stop signs or red lights, speed and turn without signaling.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      I’m not going to hold my breath and wait for the expose on how almost all drivers constantly break the speed limit by just a bit under 10mph, and the huge danger to the public safety that wanton law breaking represents.

  2. Janice in GA says:

    When I saw that video, that was my thought too: Where are the videos of the scoff-law CAR DRIVERS??? And where are the videos of them driving unsafely AROUND CYCLISTS??

    Jeezopete. Sometimes I despair.

  3. Mr Colostomy says:

    This kind of thing is rife. It is bad enough in the news but sometimes it can be seen in government too.

    Mayor of Toronto exposes own ignorance: http://manchestercycling.blogspot.com/2010/10/democracy-fails-in-toronto.html

    Conservative councillor in Kent exposes own ignorance: http://road.cc/content/news/23346-kent-councillor-calls-road-tax-cyclists

    UK DfT blames children for being hit by cars: http://manchestercycling.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-i-wish-this-were-parody.html and http://naturallycyclingmanchester.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/dft-what-are-you-on/

    Transport for London blames cyclists for being crushed to death by lorries: http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.com/2010/10/sharing-londons-streets-with-lorries.html and http://manchestercycling.blogspot.com/2010/07/hgv-safety.html

    City of London council takes more gruesome approach: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Environment/Pix/columnists/2010/9/10/1284133349308/Bike-blog–Advert-on-a-bu-006.jpg

    Taking the victim-blaming approach is bad for everyone

  4. neighbourtease says:


    I guess the silver lining is that there are now enough cyclists to inspire ridiculous, alarmist news stories. When I first starting riding my bike in the city — around five years ago — you never heard a thing about bicycles in the press.

  5. NancyB says:

    You must be mad, I’ve never seen profanities in your posts!

  6. G.E. says:

    Giggling @ “Next up on Channel 7 news – Domestic violence victims: why don’t they just leave the guy??” That seems to be about it, doesn’t it?

    Honestly, I think they (“news” reporters) must just be hard up for stories. We all know there is very, very rarely news without bias. It tends to swing one way or another, almost without fail. There’s nothing objective left in reporting, and if my 7th grade journalism teacher were seeing this, she’d likely give them a failing grade. I believe they think that throwing in a quick quote from a bicycle advocate stating that bicyclists need to take care of themselves makes the story balanced, but they are missing a huge piece of the puzzle, I believe. Of course, that is what “news” has become.

  7. This is one of my big pet peeves (second only to bicyclists don’t pay for the road). In my job I oversee our City Traffic Calming program as well as the bicycle counts, so I have the data on percentages of motorists who speed, percentages who fail to yield to pedestrians and the percentages of bicyclists who ride illegally (run reds, ride on sidewalk, etc.) The statistics show a certain percentage of all road users break the laws they can get away with breaking if they add convenience, irrespective of mode of transport. I posted some results of my studies here:

    • Matthew Sterling says:

      Great research David. Another thing I think people forget is that when cyclists break the laws we think we can get away with we are generally only endangering ourselves but when the driver of a motor vehicle breaks the law they are exposing everyone on the road to a much higher risk of serious injury or death. Your numbers on failure of drivers to yield to pedestrians is an alarming example of this.

  8. Simply Bike says:

    Ugh! This is why I prefer my News from NPR. Less sensationalizing and more reporting.

  9. Robert says:

    There is no silver lining in this “news”. They just picked a story (bicyclists are dangerous!), made ZERO (none! not a single fraction of a second!) effort to find the majority of bicyclists that actually follow the traffic rules, then ran with it.

    Frankly, it boggles my mind that ABC7 could have put this inane bullshit on the air. I would rather have watched three and a half minutes of political commercials instead of this airhead.

    Chicago Tonight on WTTW had a 10 minute segment on bicycle commuting in the winter. Much better, but unfortunately no longer on the website (it was from February, so I can understand that.)

    Do some bicyclists break traffic laws? Of course. Do all of them? Well, I don’t know, ABC. How about you actually use your reporters to report and find out?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I couldn’t find a section for viewer feedback to post in association with the clip like most news sites that I’m used to have. Can anybody else find a place where one can publicly air one’s views on their site?

    Mostly those sections are just ignored, but it really is the only way I can think of for individuals to hold a news organization accountable for the (mis)information that they air.

  11. I live in Arcata, which is considered one of the most bike friendly communities in the country. Weather permitting, I ride every day, both for business and pleasure. We have bike paths, bike lanes and bike parking.

    Everywhere I ride I see bike riders on the sidewalk, blowing through stop signs, and weaving all over the road, precisely the kind of willful disregard of traffic laws shown in this segment. At any time of the day, you can watch a half dozen cyclists run the stop sign in front of City Hall, office of the chief of police.

    Yes, plenty of cyclists ride responsibly, but enough do not to make the interviewer’s point.

    An instructor at the local college spoke to us about bike safety. He teaches a course in semi truck operation. These large trucks require 300 feet to stop at 50 mph. The biggest problem they have is dealing with cyclists. He tells his students to expect anything from bike riders–they will ride on sidewalks, they will make sudden lane changes, they will swerve at will.

    People, we’ve go a problem. Cycling has a way of bringing out the inner three year old in adults. We are not going to get a handle on this problem by bristling at every criticism of cyclists.

  12. Gram Bev says:

    Betcha there are more motor vehicle accdents by far than bicycle ones. it would be interesting to look up the statistics and
    ( never mind ) ; )

  13. ridon says:

    i saw this same news segment and i just rolled my eyes. big surprise, people break laws whenever it’s convenient.

  14. Hippiebrian says:

    Here’s where I think part of the problem is. How many gasoline and car ads run during a news segment? And how many bicycle ads? These people, unfortunately, know who butters their toast, and it sure ain’t us. So much for “fair and balanced”…like it ever was.

  15. Jeanette says:

    I think videos like this reflect a larger issue — and one that Neighbourtease suggested — which is the kind of backlash that tends to happen whenever something increases in visibility and popularity the way cycling and bicycle infrastructure now does.

    The media is supposed to be more objective than this, but commercial media goes where the money (and popular opinion) goes; they’re catering to the tastes of their reader and so their POV to whatever degree is going to reflect that of their readership.

    Journalism is not the reliable source of information it should be. And the public does not tend to apply critical thinking to assess the objectivity and accuracy of what they’re reading. It’s a big pet peeve of mine.

    I think one of the reasons for lawful (defensive and safe) cycling is that it helps me feel I’m doing my bit, however miniscule, to moderating that backlash. Who knows if it actually does? It makes me feel better, though!

  16. Jeanette says:

    Dave Schlabowske says:
    2 November 2010 at 8:42 am
    This is one of my big pet peeves (second only to bicyclists don’t pay for the road).

    Do you mean that cyclists do not pay their way fairly because they do not pay licence fees or taxes on gasoline or taxes on automobile purchases — taxes which go to infrastructure upkeep?

    I’ve read various statistics that suggest that such taxes and fees pay a very small percent of total road maintenance (low single digits). I’m not in the transportation budgetting field, so I’d be happy to be corrected. But my reading suggests that, while it varies by community, most infrastructure costs are ultimatedly funded by federal money collected out of general income and other taxes, and this money then allocated to local communities for local roads. And certainly pay my share of income taxes…so I feel I have every right to my local pot-holes, which my lovely bicycle certainly did not create!

  17. David from Madison says:

    Well that embedded video is not working, never has for me at work and home, different computers. I just see code………

  18. David Bosch says:

    Was this Channel 7 news report balanced? Of course not. We cyclists should remember,however, that our poor riding habits (I’m speaking to myself as well as I am not the very model of a modern urban cyclist) reflect poorly on all cyclists. Lets take the opportunity to reflect and educate others not to behave in ways make the roads less safe.

  19. John Nelson says:

    My pet peeve is the term “main stream media” or even “the media”. I don’t own a TV so most of my news comes from legacy (for lack of a better way to describe it) newspapers or websites (like new york times or my home town paper the latimes). When you use those terms you’re basically doing what your complaining about, lumping all media under the same label.
    I do find it interesting that this post follows the last post. I tend to follow the rules of the road and try to be as predictable as possible and would like to think my fellow cyclists do the same. But after reading the last post perhaps my perceptions are off. You have a fairly well known cycling blog advocating “wild west” (your words dottie) approach. Perhaps there are (more than we think) a good number of cyclists that do ride in an unpredictable and unsafe manor.

    • Dottie says:

      In the first sentence of this post, I noted that the story came from the local news. Nevertheless, ABC news is most certainly mainstream media.

      My choice to publish this post right after the previous post and title it, “…and then news stories like this happen,” clearly links the two topics and recognizes that the type of cyclist who advocates the riding style embraced by Commute by Bike is the same type of cyclist who provides fodder for this news story.

  20. Benji says:

    Ugh, stuff like this makes me mad. All of those cyclists in the video made dumb decisions, yet they didn’t show any cyclists making smart ones. I know there are cyclists who obey the rules. I kind of feel like cops should start handing out tickets to bicyclists who do dumb stuff like that. It would really cut back on the amount of it that is done. If I can get a ticket for riding a skateboard in Chicago (not even doing anything just riding by a cop) a bike who blows a red light should also be able to get a ticket.

    Btw, I’m not trying to come off anti-bike as I do collegiate road bike races.

  21. scott t says:

    well…there is quite a bit of footage on bad car drivers already. probably a story every month.

    i guess as bicycling has increased in popularity over the last few years exclusive attention is being placed on bicycle incidents.

    i have a large van for a vehicle. one day at a stoplight a cab ran right in to my bumper….about 25 mph or so. lucklilly i was in my van and could get out without injury. had i been on my bicycle in line with the cars i would have been knocked over the car in front of me and likely killed.

    if i feel that waiting at an intersection is unsafe and its clear…i go thru the intersection regardless of sign or light color.

    if its clear…i don test car drivers abilities by cutting in front of them etc.

  22. Marc Irwin says:

    I like your blog a lot and just wanted you to know that I referred to this entry in my own today. I’m a little slow on the draw but I thought you might like the information I had there.

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