The Mayor

  • How to win the door prize in bike lanes: a crash course

    29 September 2016
    St Louis vs Chi bike lane
    St. Louis vs. Chicago bike lane: What's wrong with this picture?

    When Bicycling magazine named Chicago as 2016's most bicycle-friendly U.S. city, the news was soon followed by our town's fifth bicycling fatality this year.

    That got me thinking about the unfriendly side of Chi biking: the hundreds of bike crashes, whereby bikers gets hurt, that occur each year.

    Take, for example, my housemate's recent bicycle crash: She got doored in a Chicago bike lane. The resulting injury required knee surgery. What's more, it was her second dooring—and her second knee surgery. The first time, seven years ago, she injured the other knee.

    Years ago, when I started to teach traffic cycling, I taught my students to ride on the left side of bike lanes—to avoid what I and others began calling "the door zone." At the time, it seemed like teaching a child to use a kitchen knife: You had to learn it, because bike lanes—like big, sharp knives—were inherently dangerous. Why? Because the city often installed bike lanes just to the left of parked cars, so the right two-thirds of a bike lane put bikers on a collision course with opening car doors.

    Over the years, in my role as bicycling author and instructor, Chicago bikers told me countless "dooring" stories. One gal I met could not recall her dooring crash; she remembered biking carefully (or so she thought) down Halsted, and the next moment she was waking up in a hospital bed, her skull fractured. Not surprisingly, she said she couldn't bring herself to bicycle again.

    At some point, Chicago bike planners got the memo: The city began using a bike lane design that includes a striped buffer next to parked cars, showing bikers where not to ride. Unfortunately, many miles of "unbuffered" legacy lanes are still out there.

    I just got back from visiting St. Louis with my bicycle. To my wonder, most of the lanes I saw had a buffer in the door zone. What's more, these lanes looked old. Many of Chicago's buffered bike lanes, in contrast, look relatively new—reflecting the recent innovation that they are.

    While biking around in view of the Mississippi River and the Arch, I thought about these two Midwestern cities: St. Louis, with its unheralded but cannily safe, buffered bike lanes; and Chicago, with its shiny, new Bicycling magazine award.

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel is surely proud of getting the "most bike-friendly city" prize. But no one in the Emanuel administration (or at Bicycling magazine, for that matter) is talking about the fact that many Chicago bike lanes are a set-up: The lanes lure credulous cyclists with the appearance of safety, while they actually place bikers in danger that's both predictable and ongoing.

    The mayor and his factotums like to brag about how many miles of new, "protected" bike lanes the city is paying for each year. Why not put that effort on hold—and, instead, spend the money on fixing Chicago's legacy lanes, all of which are crashes waiting to happen?

    It won't win Rahm any awards—which maybe is why it won't happen any time soon.


  • Alderman's shot at shorting TIF slush thwarted?

    8 August 2016

    The Lathrop Homes redevelopment brackets a purported mayoral slush fund, an alderman's bold claim that he'd reform it, and little-known uses of your property-tax dollars.

  • Lucas Museum narrative is a mixed art

    17 May 2016

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on Mayor Emanuel's obsession with international visitors, and more.

  • Watching the public schools ship sink

    10 February 2016

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on why CTU leadership accepted a contract offer that some felt its members would surely reject, and more.

  • Rahm cops to 'owning' McDonald fiasco—or does he?

    28 December 2015

    Interview in which the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky looks at aldermen's assertion that the Emanuel administration misled them about the McDonald shooting, and more.

  • Wanted: police chief—with no binding

    11 December 2015

    The Chicago Police Board is seeking applicants for the position of police superintendent, to replace the recently fired Garry McCarthy. Applicants should be adept at "avoiding excessive force, corruption, verbal abuse or other misconduct."

  • With police, Emanuel already knows what to fix and how

    10 December 2015

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel already has in-depth recommendations about how to reform policing in Chicago—and reportedly has sat on them for a year.

  • 2016 city budget raises taxes, fees, and questions

    17 November 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the city budget director's flawed logic about TIF districts robbing schools, and more.

  • Activist: City's "not broke," prove I'm wrong

    21 October 2015

    City officials tried to prove to tax-increment financing activist Tom Tresser that unspent TIF funds are actually "obligated"—with mixed results.

  • Principal Troy LaRaviere's City Club speech

    27 August 2015

    On August 25, 2015, Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School, addressed a meeting of the City Club of Chicago. This is an excerpt from a video of the meeting, courtesy of the City Club.

    LaRaviere likened the administration of Chicago Public Schools to "a thief stealing your rent money, then attempting to convince you that the landlord is your problem." Length 7.2 minutes.

    Standard audio:

  • Council, assembly, and school board: education funding tag team

    14 August 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the different pension holidays won by Chicago Public Schools, and more.

  • Tax traders, or tax-increment financing?

    23 July 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the questionable benefits of having financial markets in Chicago, and more.

  • Chicago's big, bad bonds: revenues or ruse?

    1 July 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on possible collusion between bond raters, investors, and city officials—and more.

  • 2015 council: rugged spines vs. rubber stamps

    9 June 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the three elected aldermen most likely to resist the dark side, and more.

  • Refuting the rationale for closing schools

    5 May 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on what proponents of school closings have missed, and more.

  • What 2015 election says about Emanuel and voters

    26 April 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the most pathetic contingent of voters in Chicago, and more.

  • Fioretti's plan clearer than Chuys?

    1 April 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on Ald. Fioretti's real motivation for endorsing Rahm Emanuel, and more.

  • Reimagining Rahm's "sweater" campaign ad

    15 March 2015
    Rahm Emanuel's reelection campaign has put out a video ad in which a sweater-clad mayor "owns" that he "can rub people the wrong way." Here's an audio version (2.3 minutes) showing what else some think Emanuel should have owned:

    Music: "Ego Grinding" by Megatroid

    Standard audio:

    Here's the original 30-second ad:

    Standard audio:

  • What's missing in the mayoral election?

    9 March 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how Mayor Emanuel's perceived financial gravitas might not work in a second term, and more.

  • Rep. Danny Davis endorses Chuy Garcia for mayor

    4 March 2015

    Congressman Danny K. Davis (IL-7th) has endorsed Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor in the April 7, 2015 runoff municipal election.