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Need to move to the ‘burbs but want to live car-free? Buy anti-bike columnist John Kass’ house

John Kass

Ah, right-wing Tribune columnist John Kass, the Rush Limbaugh of Chicagoland. For a guy who, at least until recently, didn't live in Chicago, he sure loves to tell actual Chicagoans how to run our city.

Most egregiously, he's been known to argue that Chicago's gun violence epidemic should be addressed through better home training and more church attendance, rather than addressing the legacies of segregation, neighborhood disinvestment, and redlining, as well as ongoing disparities in education, healthcare, housing, and transportation access.

And speaking of transportation, Kass sure used to love to preach about Chicago transportation policy. Remember all those snide "little bike people" columns, written after the city first began installing protected bike lanes? Kass argued that infrastructure that protects vulnerable road users and encourages alternatives to driving was a wasteful pork-barrel project. He probably wasn't paying any property taxes into the city coffers at the time anyway.

Kass also told tried to tell Chicagoans where to put our bike-share stations. “I still can’t stand those Divvy bike people," he said, complaining about people riding on the sidewalk near his office on Michigan Avenue, a key shopping street with a six-lane layout that's completely hostile to cycling. "I don’t want ‘em in my neighborhood." Of course, it wasn't really his neighborhood, which was actually in west-suburban Western Springs.

Dooring survivor Dustin Valenta with his mother, Terry O'Bryan.
Dooring survivor Dustin Valenta with his mother, Terry O'Bryan.
Dooring survivor Dustin Valenta with his mother, Terry O'Bryan.

You may have noticed that, after years of serving as Chicago's leading anti-bike troll, Kass has been silent about cycling issues for quite a while. That's thanks to bike rider Dustin Valenta, who suffered multiple, life-threatening injuries after a careless motorist opened their car on him, and then he was run over by a hit-and-run driver.

After Kass wrote a column complaining about a hike in Chicago's fine for dooring a cyclist, arguing that motorists shouldn't be held accountable, Valenta set him straight. "[Kass is] clearly writing from the stance that bicyclists are in the wrong in the first place, just by being on bikes," Valenta wrote. "It’s like he’s putting a value on human life based on an individual’s choice of transportation." We've barely heard a peep out of Kass about bikes since then.

However, it's possible (but totally unconfirmed) that Kass may be putting some skin in the game by actually moving to the city he loves to pontificate about in print. What we do know for sure, thanks to a report in Crain's by Dennis Rodkin earlier this month, is that Kass is selling his Western Springs residence.

Contrary to what you might assume, Kass' house is *not* a hellish McMansion. Image: Google Streetview
Contrary to what you might guess, Kass' house is *not* a hellish McMansion. Image: Google Streetview
Contrary to what you might assume, Kass' house is *not* a hellish McMansion. Image: Google Streetview

Despite what you might assume from reading Kass' car-centric bloviating, the home isn't a horrid, isolated McMansion. It's actually a fairly nice-looking four-bedroom, 3,350-square-foot house on a third of an acre, priced at $789,000. There are other (OK, very large) homes right next door, which lend a bit of a neighborhood-y feel. Kass' place went on sale on September 16.

No, I'm not enough of a jerk to publish the exact address of the house -- even though he may not still be living there, I don't want to expose it Halloween night egging by people who aren't fans of his column. But rather than a pedestrian-unfriendly cul-de-sac scheme, the neighborhood has a consistent, almost urban, street grid, although the homes do have suburban-style wide front yards. (Insert a joke about Ernest Hemingway supposedly saying that Oak Park, another western 'burb, was "a community of “broad lawns and narrow minds.”)

Now there are plenty of legitimate reasons for a Chicagoan to move to the western suburbs. You might need to live closer to your workplace. You might have a desire to place your children in a school system that's better funded due to a wealthier property tax base. Or you might just want convenient access to multiple tiki-Chinese restaurants.

So I imagine that there are plenty of Streetsblog readers that love sustainable transportation and hate driving who might be considering a move to the 'burbs. If so, why not buy Kass' house?

My guess is that Kass typically drove to a dedicated parking spot at the Tribune offices (although I'd love to be proven wrong.) If that's true, the hour-long slog through traffic on the Stevenson would help explain the grumpy tone of his columns.

Screen Shot 2019-10-31 at 5.22.41 PM
Kass' house is a five-minute bike ride and a 16-minute walk from Metra.

However, his home is a mere 16-minute walk, or a five-minute bike ride, from the Western Springs Metra station on the BNSF line, which would make for a very convenient commute if you work in the Loop. There's plenty of nice-looking retail around the station, including restaurants, taverns, cafes, a bakery, a doughnut shop, a hardware store, and a fitness center. The house is a similar distance from a Mariano's and Walgreens, so it would be a pretty easy place to live without a car. On top of that, you'd only be a ten-minute pedal from a trailhead for the scenic Salt Creek Trail.

So if you're interested in living well in the suburbs without having to get around in a climate-change accelerating metal box, why not purchase Kass' home. I, for one, would enjoy the delicious irony.

One caveat: While the home is likely perfumed with the heavenly aroma of beer can chicken, I can't guarantee that it's 100-percent moutza-free.

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