Today’s Crackdown on Cyclists in Wicker Park Was a Waste of CPD Resources

Police serve and protect by standing around in the street blocking traffic. Photo: @hurmsolo
Police serve and protect by standing around in the street blocking traffic. Photo: @hurmsolo

Update 5/30/18, 2:15 PM: Today Alderman Hopkins provided documentation that indicates that he asked the 14th Police District to hold a targeted enforcement event on January 19, 2017, to ticket motorists for dangerous driving, but the police took it upon themselves to focus on ticketing bicyclists instead. Read the full story, including the correspondence from Hopkins, on this Twitter thread

Back in November we heard about a pair of cyclists getting ticketed by the police for a technically illegal, but perfectly safe and very common, maneuver at Wicker Park’s North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection. After heading southeast on Milwaukee, the bike riders crossed North Avenue in the west leg of the intersection while pedestrians in the nearby crosswalk, which parallels Milwaukee, had a walk signal, but traffic on Milwaukee had a red.

After crossing North this way, southeast-bound cyclists typically wait in front of a Starbucks, holdings onto the nearby guard rail or placing a foot on the curb, until the next signal phase, when Milwaukee gets a green light. Doing this means you have a shorter distance to travel across the intersection once you have the green. See the map below for a visualization of this move.

This morning the Chicago Police Department did a full crackdown on this harmless behavior, and possibly other minor infractions by cyclists. According to the police, this was a targeted enforcement event that included ticketing drivers as well. But while I’ve heard multiple reports of bike riders getting pulled over and cited, I’ve seen no evidence of any motorists being ticketed. Obviously, lawbreaking by people driving high-speed, multi-ton vehicles is much more dangerous than infractions by cyclists.

After I learned about the ticketing sting through various channels I contacted Police News Affairs. “14th District officers were conducting a traffic mission in that area this morning, which included bicycle enforcement,” a spokesperson responded via email.

While CPD officers sometimes team up with the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Bicycling Ambassadors to do safety awareness events, the spokesperson said CDOT was not involved in today’s sting. “This was not done in conjunction with any outside organization,” they stated. “It was a routine traffic enforcement mission, which included vehicular as well as bicycle traffic.”

However, in response to an inquiry I posted on Facebook, Chris Morales said he was at the intersection this morning and saw drivers obstructing traffic and failing to yield to pedestrians while turning without being ticketed.

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It’s common for southeast-bound cyclists on Milwaukee to cross with the nearby walk signal and wait by the Starbucks for a green light.

Cyclist Chris Bushell was ticketed for doing aforementioned crossing of North Avenue with the walk signal but while traffic on Milwaukee had a red. He conceded that he had violated the law and therefore deserved a ticket.

However, Bushell added, “I can’t believe that in this time and place the CPD would dedicate six to eight officers and squad cars to writing administrative tickets to bikers.” He was also annoyed that the ticket for running a red, which carries a fine of $50 to $200, cannot be contested or paid online or at a payment office, which means everyone who got one will have to show up for a court date.

According to a DNAinfo report, a man who was ticketed for running a red at the intersection which biking downtown on Milwaukee at around 8:15 a.m. said four other cyclists were ticketed at the time. He said he had just crossed to the Strarbucks with the walk signal when he was stopped by police.

Pedestrian Darlene Allison told DNA she saw at least three other southeast-bound cyclists on Milwaukee getting pulled over after running the red.

Bushell added that he found it hard to believe that “anyone with half a brain would think this will make either pedestrians or cyclists safer.” He noted that three of last year’s six Chicago bike deaths were caused by drivers who failed to yield while making a right turn. Two of the fatalities occurred within a short bike ride of North/Damen/Milwaukee. “Where are the stings to keep cyclists safe from that?” he asked.

Granted, in a month when the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that found evidence of widespread abuses by the CPD, an incident in which a bunch of officers wrote tickets to cyclists who were breaking the law, albeit in a harmless way, is a pretty trivial issue. Still, it would be great to see targeted traffic enforcement used to reduce behavior that is actually dangerous — such as failure to yield, red light running, and speeding by drivers — instead of serving as a waste of time for everybody involved.

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  • IMO it’s more dangerous not to proceed to Damen when you can safely. Drivers do all sorts of crazy crap in that intersection, better to get out of the way.

  • Vic

    I laughed when I heard this on the news and just now read about it. All I can say is it’s about time. There are no shades of gray on this one it’s either black or white. A cyclist has to obey the rules of the road. If you don’t you’re subject to a ticket. The same way as a driver I am in my car. Even if it’s “acceptable” to cross the street with the walk signal technically you are breaking the law and deserve the ticket. For the last few years cyclist have claimed and demanded that they be treated as equals on the road but now that they are subject to being ticket on the road now they cry about it and say you should go after automotive traffic. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Pat

    Actually, we’ve been demanding different treatment, not equal. One way would be legalizing the Idaho Stop and another would be to have the leading interval apply to cyclists as in DC and NYC. Bikes are not vehicles, and while we share the same basic rules of the road (signaling, obeying right-of-ways, yielding to pedestrians) not every rule need apply equally to both. Trucks and cars don’t have the same rules and regulations, why should bikes and cars?

    The only “equal” thing we demand on the roads apply to safety (keeping bike lanes clear of vehicles and snow, asking that motorists be mindful of our presence, space to safely ride) because we don’t get to cruise around with a safety cage.

  • What percent of drivers speed every day? What percent of drivers do not come to a full and complete stop at every stop sign?

    It’s either black or white. There are no shades of gray.

  • roadgeek80

    Yeah, and we have a bloated corrupt camera system bilking city residents everyday. So yeah, it is black and white, unless you are cyclist. Lets not ignore that cyclists kill pedestrians too.

    “Back in November we heard about a pair of cyclists getting ticketed by the police for a technically illegal, but perfectly safe and very common, maneuver at Wicker Park’s North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection.”
    Damn, I thought the law was the law…only if you drive.

  • Pat

    As John will probably chime in, there have been zero reported deaths of a pedestrian by a cyclist in Chicago…. ever.

    So yah, let’s ignore it.

  • Would it be illegal to dismount and treat this like a double box turn?

  • Sorry. Maybe my sarcasm about black and white was not heavy enough.

    Let me get this straight. You are in favor of humans collecting fines for law breaking but not robots collecting fines for law breaking? Is that your thinking?

  • roadgeek80

    “Let me get this straight. You are in favor of humans collecting fines for law breaking but not robots collecting fines for law breaking? Is that your thinking?”

    Actually no, I am fine with humans and cameras collecting fines for law breaking. When it is done for safety reasons. Not for revenue that pays for corruption.

    My problem is when those same robots are geared to collect fines and don’t judge context. Speed limits are tinkered with, School zone size and rules expanded. Cameras put on streets 500ft away from a school or park, not actually on the street the school or park is on. All to justify there existence.

    Overall automated enforcement can be used as a tool to make roads safer. They can also be used as a tool to bilk drivers for revenue. I say that because these cameras are catching to many right turns on red, ban right turns. Make signs that alert drivers to stop and wait. Other states do it. But ah! we live in Chicago.

    If these cameras were put up in the name of safety. There would be very few cameras. I am fine with that. Protect me from myself. But don’t tell me it is for safety and no study to back it up. The city was obviously crooked in the execution of the cameras. The city just put them at the highest volume intersections. The city would never put these up in the name of safety because they would not justify there cost and the kickbacks attached to them.

  • roadgeek80

    Don’t tell that to New York. They(Cyclist) injure many a pedestrian as well and don’t carry insurance. Cyclists also happen to get hit by cars. It would definitely help if they face enforcement of some kind. They don’t need to be shaken down like drivers. But a little crackdown every once in a while will keep ’em honest.

  • JKM13

    You admitted in your earlier response that this manoever is acceptable (ie safe), but “technically you are breaking the law and deserve the ticket. So to now pretend that you’re only issue is with ticket enforcement not in the name of safety is a little rich.

    By the way, in terms of ‘the law is the law’, speed cameras do not issue tickets unless a driver is going 6+ miles over the limit. And the law for right on red is to stop and wait (the law is the law).

    So just admit you’re a hypocrite and be done with it.

  • Frank Kotter

    ‘The same way as a driver I am in my car’.

    The issue is not the law, the article is about enforcement. Considering that, it would be comparable if you, as ‘a driver in your car’, would be subject to stop sign stings, radar controlled speed areas in neighborhoods, getting ticketed for rolling right on reds, etc…. The fact is, you aren’t – despite the infinitely more dangerous aspect of each and every one of those activity than proceeding through an intersection with the pedestrian green. That is the issue, as clearly stated in the article.

  • Frank Kotter

    ‘Bloated corrupt camera system’.

    Is this the same as ‘cameras taking photos of drivers breaking the law and sending them to corresponding financial penalty’?

    The next part is even better…. What is the death of someone in Chicago by a bicycle we are ignoring? If you provide the instance I will still ignore it but I would love to give you the chance.

  • Frank Kotter

    These guys totally agree with you:

    https://www.motorists.org/

    BTW, they also think that drivers are the best judge of their ability to drive when drunk and a BAC limit is therefore oppressive, among many other jewels.

  • Frank Kotter

    OK, I’ll do it then:

    IT IS FOR SAFETY and here is one of hundereds of studies backing it up.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3861844/

  • duppie

    Motorists kill well over 100 people (other motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists) annually in the City Of Chicago.

    Pedestrians and bicyclists combined cause zero traffic deaths for people other than themselves.

    So go ahead, cry me a river about motorists being targeted unfairly.

  • duppie

    The first word is the problem: IMO.
    Bicyclists dream up all kinds of excuses to justify their behavior.

    I ride down Lincoln most days and I never do that. I never feel threatened by drivers doing ‘crazy crap’

    My point: do whatever you want to do (motorists and pedestrian do it too) but don’t justify it with some lame excuse and don’t complain if you get caught

  • duppie

    Now you shifted from bicyclists killing pedestrian in Chicago, to bicyclists injuring pedestrians in New York. Let’s stay on topic, please.

    Can you just back up your original comment ( bicyclists kill pedestrians in Chicago) or admit that you made it up?

  • Andy

    It’s about time. Bikers are the most dangerous road users. At least once a week I have close call situation. In Europe, NY they have to obey the rules. Not in Chicago.

  • FPJ

    My apologies to regular readers for “feeding the trolls” in the red light camera story, as it appears to have spilled over to this story as well. Someone was wrong on the internet and I had to intervene! http://xkcd.com/386/

    I’ll think better of it next time.

  • Jennifer Melfi

    you sir, are ignorant. It’s about public safety and prioritizing traffic reduction (reducing gridlock). On both of these subjects bicycling is 100X better than driving automobiles. Any officer sitting at this intersection for an hour or more will witness hundreds of drivers “breaking the law” if this were indeed a 0 tolerance area. Each of these mistakes put the property and safety of others at infinitely more risk than a few bike riders.

  • I can live with sneaky ways for the city to collect money. What I hate is turning over government functions to line private pockets. Charter schools and private garbage contracts. Emanuel is a neo-liberal who damages the urban fabric to enrich his classmates. Now that’s real corruption of the civic commons.

  • Kelly Pierce

    Where’s the Aldercreature on this issue? Is this not the ward of Joe Moreno, who makes a point of claiming to be cycle friendly and the biggest advocate for bicyclists in the city council? Will he send a letter to the Chicago Police Department urging relaxed enforcement at six-way intersections in his ward?

  • Carter O’Brien

    It’s a PR stunt, the City needed to make an example out of some cyclists, so they did. And while I agree the 24/7 bad behavior motorists display is many times more exponentially dangerous, two wrongs do not make a right – Milwaukee Ave cyclist behavior has been giving all of us a black eye for years.

  • ohsweetnothing

    I think this is actually the 2nd Ward now, Hopkins. Product of our goofy remapping process.

  • semperfi1371

    So let’s see, cyclists should be able to use the pedestrian cross walk without repercussions, blow stop signs/lights, put themselves, pedestrians and drivers at risk (of hitting and killing them) with their ignorant, reckless behavior. No. The cyclists along Milwaukee avenue from Logan to downtown are a scourge, as are the cyclists riding through the loop, weaving between cars, blowing through intersections, etc. They should all be ticketed, in addition to any drivers breaking the rules and jaywalkers. I should not be held responsible for striking a cyclist who darts between cars as I am mid-lane change, as I have been in the past, nor should a cyclist be responsible for striking a pedestrian who darts out into the bike lane, etc. Nobody is safe unless we all take responsibility for our own actions and think about how they will affect others that are using the roadway.
    As a matter of fact, it’s about time that bicycles are licensed and insured.

  • semperfi1371

    My kid was hit by a cyclist at Dearborn and Harrison who blew the automobile traffic signal and the one there for cyclists, resulting in a broken femur, orbital socket and concussion and spent 6 weeks in the hospital on MY dime. Dude didn’t even stop, he was grabbed in traffic by a nearby witness. Had it been a motorist he’d have been facing several tickets and charges.
    Please, tell me how safe cyclists are and how bicycle insurance is unnecessary.

  • semperfi1371

    Go ahead, but get off your bicycle and walk it in the cross walk and there will be no tickets.

  • Pat

    Why did he not face any tickets or charges?

    Did you sue him damages? Because you should.

    People are routinely hit by motorists without insurance as well. And the fact that no one has been killed by a cyclist proves that they are far less of a threat than vehicles.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “So let’s see, cyclists should be able to use the pedestrian cross walk without repercussions, blow stop signs/lights, put themselves, pedestrians and drivers at risk (of hitting and killing them) with their ignorant, reckless behavior.” No. Read this: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2016/12/12/idaho-stop-in-the-name-of-love-depaul-study-endorses-rational-cycling/

  • johnaustingreenfield

    No name-calling please. Thanks.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Bikers are the most dangerous road users.” Right, that explains why drivers killed 113 people in Chicago last year and no one has ever been fatally struck by a cyclist in our city.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Had it been a motorist your son would probably not be here today. So the point still stands.

    Also no one is defending that cyclist’s behavior. He sounds like an ass.

  • johnaustingreenfield
  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’m very sorry to hear that, but obviously, people can behave recklessly regardless of travel mode, and it’s fortunate this person wasn’t in a car. When did this happen and was the offender charged with anything? Was there any news coverage? This seems like the kind of story the local media would pick up on, and I’m not finding anything online.

  • roadgeek80

    I agree, definitely we should never turn over the public good to private interests. What I disagree with is dishonestly or sneaky tricks by the city. The snow ban that start dec.1. That is so sneaky and dirty. The cameras are also dishonest whether they are RLC’s or speed cams or police cams. It just tells me as a resident that I cant be trusted. I am watching you every second, so I can make money off of you. Ironically, I have not gotten any Automated tickets ever.

  • roadgeek80

    I was never arguing any of what your saying. But, you will sure tell me. Don’t break your hand patting yourself on the back. All the while endorseing corruption. All because you think you are better than those who chose to own and operate a vehicle. For the sole purpose of feeding their family, entertaining themselves and recognizing that cars while costly, allow for freedom and independence.

  • roadgeek80

    I thought the law was the law. Drivers face much stiffer enforcement and as you call it a “0” tolerance policy. There is not a camera at that intersection because they wont generate revenue. You cant turn right so no need for Rahms little revenue generators.

  • roadgeek80

    Do you live in Chicago? drivers face a the toughest enforcement. What we hear from likes of you is, it is okay, you drive a killing machine so, the law is the law. Hey cyclists, the law is the law. Despite your cute pants and how much you are saving me from myself. Follow the law and we wont have the problem of where and how they enforce the law.

  • roadgeek80

    “Is this the same as ‘cameras taking photos of drivers breaking the law and sending them the corresponding financial penalty”

    No, way to go off the deep end, you read this post I am sure:

    jeff wegerson:

    “Let me get this straight. You are in favor of humans collecting fines for law breaking but not robots collecting fines for law breaking? Is that your thinking?”

    me:

    Actually no, I am fine with humans and cameras collecting fines for law breaking. When it is done for safety reasons. Not for revenue that pays for corruption.

    Damn dude it pays to read and not make assumptions.

    I will give cyclists credit there has been no pedestrian cycling deaths here in Chicago. But that does not take away the danger

    Here are some stats from IDOT:

    http://www.idot.illinois.gov/Assets/uploads/files/Transportation-System/Resources/Safety/Crash-Reports/crash-facts/2014%20CF.pdf

    But Chicago has been lucky, not so much in New York.

    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/bicycle-crash-kills-another-pedestrian-central-park

    I never contended bikes kill people. That is untrue, But it does happen and cyclist don’t carry insurance drivers do. Since you know they kill and all.

  • roadgeek80

    Just like streetsblog.org, Wired,. But in favor of bikes

    Where it is never the cyclists fault and drivers are all fat SUV driving suburbanites. Who also hate the environment.

  • roadgeek80

    Sure what was the purpose and need for these cameras?

    “safety or capacity”

    Chicago chose capacity for the sake of corruption

    http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/news/local/red-light-timeline/

    Please Sir, can you find me Chicago’s study. I bet you wont.

  • roadgeek80

    “You admitted in your earlier response that this manoever is acceptable (ie safe), but “technically you are breaking the law and deserve the ticket. So to now pretend that you’re only issue is with ticket enforcement not in the name of safety is a little rich.”

    What is RICH is your over the top attempt to mischaracterize me. I really don’t understand your thought it is too abstract.

    But I am game. I have always maintained that tickets by anyone or robot be issued for safety reasons. NOT for revenue generation. This is why cyclists getting tickets is a fine use of resources especially at unsafe intersections for cyclists.

    It would help if you quoted this by me:

    “Actually no, I am fine with humans and cameras collecting fines for law breaking. When it is done for safety reasons. Not for revenue that pays for corruption.”

  • The cops are more dangerous than riding slowly with a crosswalk light and Lincoln has a lot less 90-94 spillover traffic so it’s different.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Pay attention when you drive your car. It sounds to me like you don’t pay attention to the road conditions when you are driving your car around town. When cyclists are about you should be looking for them and that way you will not be hitting them with your car like you have done in the past. Often bad drivers find excuses for their bad driving skills (which mainly are related to inattentiveness behind the wheel) and this prevents them from remediating their bad driving skills. I would suggest that you take some more driving lessons, or perhaps speak with a good driver in your community and ask for some pointers or just leave your car at home and take the bus. This way cyclists, pedestrians and other better drivers can enjoy the road safely.

  • Jennifer Melfi

    come on sir, if there was actually “0 tolerance” the police would have to call in backups to handle all of the illegal driving behavior at this intersection. This was a farce intended to make a point, and it not only doesn’t work, but it goes against the successful strides the city has been making. This appears to be a sting requested by a rogue alderman, who hopefully will not be in office next time around.

  • Guy Ross

    The policy point of Streetblogs advocating for removal of BAC maximum standards for cyclists? I find it hard to believe but would love to read it if you have it in front of you.

  • Guy Ross

    I’m sorry to read below about the collision between your kid and the cyclist. I was just having drinks with my brother whose good friend is a reporter at WGN. Would you be able to speak to them about this? It sounds like a story that needs to be told. Especially if the guys was caught and not even charged, people need to know why not.

  • roadgeek80

    Strawman………….

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Often cyclists “break” the traffic laws designed for 5,465lb automobile/truckcars because while the “law” treats them equally as you say they ask to be treated (and you are wrong in your assessment) they know that physics and road conditions put cars at a tremendous advantage. Cyclists are endangering no one in crossing intersections with the pedestrian lights. Cyclists know that waiting alongside distracted idiots in towering SUVs as they spill coffee all over their doughnut encrusted pants, answer emails on iPhones, listen to music, eat pizza as their prozac, lipitor, caffeine and blood sugar levels stabilize is a recipe for disaster. When we get to the point where cyclists kill and injure motorists and other cyclists and pedestrians at the same rates as the automobile drivers just described to you in this comment then we can talk about treating cyclists equally. Until them my advice to drivers is as follows 1. follow the speed limit, (red light cameras will help you do accomplish that and help the city and state collect much needed revenue) 2. put down the food and put both your chubby little hands on the steering wheel, 3. use those mirrors that is why they are there to be used and finally, PAY ATTENTION.

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