riding my bicycle down Western Ave. between
Division and North—this area is a losing holdout of Mexican
and Puerto Rican shops, restaurants, tire joints, muffler
shops, liquor stores and justgettingbye families. Two blocks north, North and Western,
has been lost to Pizza Hut, BP, ultra-modern condo buildings,
and a young white urban upper middle class. I was a little
drunk and racing to the Vas Foremost Liquors before they stopped
selling. Andy was much too slow on his bike and was going
to meet me back at our apartment in Logan Square.
Logan Square in the 1870’s was an upscale neighborhood lined with
Victorian mansions and famous for its elaborately landscaped
boulevards, which are still much the same today as they were.
Palmer Square, just down the street from
our apartment, was the sight of renegade bicycle races from
the 1880’s, the heyday of the “Ordinary” or “High wheeler,”
until the automobile began to dominate the roads.
“Bottle of whiskey. Bourbon,” was what Andy asked for, always.
I rode down Western Ave.
don’t remember much before the door swung out. I was concentrating
on the road, the parked cars, side streets, and alleys. I
looked into every parked car widow and rearview mirror.
one could be seen in the truck. No lights, no head, no movement.
The timing was perfect. Like a crocodile lunging for a crane.
A snake springing at a field mouse.
The flight of humming birds. All Products of thousands of years
of evolution. Everything sped up with the industrial
revolution. The marriage of cars hitting cyclists in Chicago
dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century, although
the bicycle predates the automobile by many years.
Western Ave was originally an Indian trade route and
is one of a hand full of major streets in Chicago that run
crooked, along with Elston, Milwaukee,
Clyborn, and Grand, which all cause
massive five pointed intersections at every major crossing,
and Elston and Milwaukee intersect
each other twice at different points. These streets don’t
follow the grid designed by Burnham, the famous city planner.
Burnham’s vision for the city involved lavish green space,
conservation of the waterfront, and the first city with modern
paved streets. This was in the early 1880’s, before the automobile.
The streets were to be paved exclusively for the bicyclists.
However, by the time his Chicago
was constructed, the whole city was choked and stuffed with
I was riding my bicycle.
I know my body went over the top of the
door and did a full flip in the air. The truck was a full
size, two steps up kind of thing, like an F-250. I landed
on tailbone/hip and right hand/wrist. I was not wearing a
helmet. The impact knocked me out for a moment. I don’t know
if that is true. It seems like I should say it
knocked me out. It didn’t. I was conscious the whole time—the
second and a half it took to open the door, me to flip, and
land. I was there. My eyes stayed open. No flashes, blackouts,
realizations. Pain. Blurred vision—broken
glasses. The Mexican driver, although he may have been Puerto
Rican, this area is largely Puerto Rican, helped with my glasses. I screamed, “Why
don’t you watch what yer fuckin’
doing. You could have killed me! Jesus Fucking
The Driver: “Que?”
He wasn’t going to speak English for me—not
after that outburst. If the driver didn’t know English he
surely would have caught those last three words: Jesus Fucking
Christ. I yelled again, “Fuck… Mi B-C-Clay-Tah,”
and I pointed from where my bike was in the street to the
sidewalk. The driver grabbed the bike then helped me up and
over to the sidewalk. I fell into the fence of a used car
lot. I looked to the median, a tractor-trailer with a half
dozen cars in the back. He was moving cars for a used car
lot at 12:30 am on a Friday. His wife or girlfriend was in
the semi-truck cab. He ran over to explain the situation,
I thought, and then they took off, quickly. There were, and
are, a million assumptions to be made here about the driver
and why he ran, or why I didn’t call the police or get license
plate numbers, but that is all you get.
I made it home that night. I couldn’t move
my right arm and the front wheel was badly out of true, but
I rode home. No booze. No health insurance. A
possible broken hand, wrist, bruised tailbone, hip, cuts,
bruises, and a permanent dent in my arm.
In Illinois the supreme court ruled in the Boub vs.
case that cyclists are “not the intended users of the roads,
but my have access to them.” This ruling gave cyclists in
fewer rights than in any other state. Auto insurance companies,
after the court’s ruling, try to take an injured cyclist to
court when they can, because the case is always dropped and
they never have to pay.
I called into work. I stayed in bed. I borrowed painkillers
from friends. Iced. Braced.
my dad. Called nurse sisters of distant friends. I tried to heal naturally.
I made sure I could still play the banjo with the bad hand.
That was my test. I played a little everyday to see how I
was healing. After a month everything seemed fine and I was
back on my bicycle.
Boub was training in Wayne
County for a charity
triathlon in Chicago. On weekends he
would drive out to the more rural suburbs and ride the empty
roads. He came up on a bridge he had ridden before. He didn’t
slow down. His front tire hit the first wooden plank and he
flew. He did get
knocked out. Bloodied. Bruised.
Stumbled to a house for help and got screams in return. A
city construction crew was working on the bridge, but took
their signs home with them at the end of the day. They assumed
that cars wouldn’t have any trouble with the exposed gaps
in the bridge—why should they have assumed otherwise. When
he tried to sue the city for damages they made the ruling—bikes
are not intended to be on the roads. That ruling stood through
every level of state courts. Now, no cyclists in any other
state can sue a city or township because of the fear that
the state will follow the same model.
I never did get an X-ray, and everything cracks.