Ask Me Why: Cars vs. bikes

Do cyclists deserve the same rights as cars on the streets of Chicago?

December 24, 2010

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(Flickr/Andrew Ciscel)
Chicago's streets are crowded with cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
Only around 1% of Chicago residents bike regularly for transportation. Some cyclists see themselves as an embattled minority, fighting for a safe space on roads that were not designed with them in mind. Some drivers see cyclists as a nuisance, flouting traffic laws and putting themselves and others at risk. But do cyclists deserve the same rights as cars on the streets of Chicago? That’s the question in this next installment of Ask Me Why, our series of recorded conversations that explore the personal experiences and stories that shape our beliefs. Each installment of Ask Me Why pairs two people who know each other and disagree on some issue, asking them to share what's at the root of why they believe what they believe.
 
In this case, Dan Schleifer and Rich Beckmann are friends who met through their shared interest in cooking. They see eye to eye where food is concerned, but they disagree on their preferred modes of transportation. Dan sold his car when he moved to Chicago from rural Virginia and bikes to work daily. He’s been hit by a car more than once and is angry that drivers so often disregard his safety. Rich sees biking on the street as inherently dangerous and drives to get around. He gets upset when he sees cyclists disregard the traffic laws he himself must obey.
 
In the audio excerpt posted above, Dan and Rich share stories of what they’ve witnessed and experienced on the streets of Chicago. Their conversation is a good reminder that not every difference of opinion can be resolved through talking, but that hopefully something good comes from trying to understand the other person’s perspective.
 
Ask Me Why is produced in collaboration with the Illinois Humanities Council, and was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Company. If you and someone you know are interested in participating in this series, you can download the application form here.