As part of Chicago’s pantheon of curmudgeonly, bike-baiting opinion writers, an elite group that includes Tribune columnist John Kass and guest contributor John McCarron, DNAinfo’s Mark Konkol is a bit of an odd duck. After writing a series of rants against the Kinzie protected bike lanes for the Sun-Times, his former employer, Konkol seems to have softened his position on cycling a bit.
On Friday, he actually posted a well-intentioned guide to avoiding dooring on the DNA website, although he expresses his “disdain for Chicago’s rogue bicycle culture” in the same piece. That article consists of largely irrelevant tips from the Illinois Secretary of State’s traffic safety manager Kathleen Widmer. Her advice to cyclists includes exhortations to wear a helmet, not use headphones, and stop at red lights and stop signs, all things that have little or nothing to do with preventing doorings.
Widmer admonished bike riders to be especially cautious when riding in “protective” bike lanes. That’s an ironic thing to say in a discussion of doorings, since protected lanes, which feature a wide striped buffer between the parking lane and cyclists, greatly reduce the chance of these kind of crashes. She also left out the most important tip for cyclists: whenever possible, stay out of the “door zone” by riding three or four feet away from parked cars.
Annoyingly, her sole advice to drivers for preventing doorings was “look out for bikes when they’re parked on streets crowded with bike riders.” Obviously, motorists should always check for bicycles and other vehicles before opening their doors, regardless of the location.
In addition to throwing a bone to the bikers, last week Konkol returned to his crusade against protected bike lanes. In a column about the Silver Palm restaurant, Milwaukee and Ogden, shutting down for the winter, the writer gave airtime to owner David Gercerver, who blames the closure on a slump in business due to new bike infrastructure on Milwaukee.
“Ultimately, The Silver Palm was done in by the well-meaning pursuit of a more bike-friendly city,” Konkol writes. “Specifically, the installation of protected bike lanes and a Divvy bike station on Milwaukee Avenue — combined with road construction — gobbled up so much parking that customers stayed away, [the owner] said. ‘The loss of 15 parking places in one block took its toll,’ David Gervercer wrote in an email.”