Tale of Two Cities: Bicycling in Chicago and Los Angeles

richard_daley.jpgTwo news stories came across the wire yesterday that highlight vast differences in the way U.S. cities treat the use of bicycles for transportation. First, there was this story out of Chicago:

Chicago bicyclists, Mayor Daley (pictured right) knows your pain.

The mayor introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would slap fines ranging from $150 to $500 on motorists who turn left or right in front of someone on a bicycle; pass with less than three feet of space between car and bike; and open a vehicle door into the path of a cyclist.

Daley, an avid rider, said he personally has been involved in unhappy encounters with motorists, providing them with "a few choice words" and "salutes" that he said were delivered "in the Chicago way."

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there's Los Angeles:

Last night, a group of cyclists from throughout the LA area delivered the Bicyclist Bill of Rights to the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee and asked the members to deliver it to the Mayor and City Councilmembers.

After leaving the meeting (10:30 pm) the cyclists were riding on Virgil and approaching Melrose when four cyclists executed a "vehicular left turn" on the approach to a red light. The car to the rear and left continued to accelerate toward the red light and only yielded to the cyclists in control of the lane at the last moment, causing him to stop suddenly. The cyclists were riding in pairs throughout the left turn maneuver. Behind the cyclists was an LAPD Sgt. who looked at the incident and decided that the cyclists were impeding traffic, all on the approach to a red light.

He pulled over the cyclists, let the motorist go, called for backup and tied up an additional three squad cars and a helicopter while he lectured the cyclists on everything from "impeding" to pedal reflectors to the difference in weight between a bicycle and an automobile....

...As Enci told the Committee members, "I was born in a Communist country with limited freedoms and rights. When I moved the United States of America, I set foot on this ground and I immediately took possession of basic rights and freedoms. Why is it that when I climb on a bicycle I become a 2nd class citizen and get treated as if I have no rights? Those days end now and I'm claiming my rights!"

Photo: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley unabashedly takes a spin on a Velib public bicycle in Paris, France.