Website gives cyclists place to vent about driver harassment
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter September 13, 2013 3:23PM
The Close Calls website, at cc.stevevance.net, details bicyclists' run-ins with drivers.
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:03AM
Steven Vance — a bike advocate and blogger — says Chicago bicyclists get “harassed” by drivers every day, ranging from a slight acceleration of the engine to intentional swerving.
He set up a website called Close Calls to try to capture these stories: “What I find absolutely disgusting is when people in cars harass people who are cycling with their children,” Vance said.
One man wrote on the website about the time his family was harassed by the driver of a white van as they tried to cross Ravenswood near Montrose.
“My wife corked the intersection to ensure cars wouldn’t go through as my kids were crossing,” the man wrote. “A man driving a dry-cleaning van began to honk and scream at my wife to get the ‘f’ outta the way — while my kids [ages 5 and 6] were crossing.”
In the area where contributors can recommend “Suggested improvements,” the man wrote: “I don’t know — road rage classes for all drivers.”
Vance, who co-writes the biking and pedestrian blog Streetsblog Chicago, says harassment ranges from slight acceleration so bikers can hear the engine noise, to a honk, to a holler. Some bikers have also reported drivers intentionally swerving into them.
The reason for the site, besides having bikers find a place to tell their story, is for Vance to try to document bike incidents to see whether a change can be made.
“The only data that we have is crash data . . . but there’s a huge portion of the population that’s interested in cycling, and so there’s a lot of trips that aren’t being made because they’re afraid of these harassments.”
He hopes the stories will help show any dangerous hot spots that might need some more enforcement or roadway changes. And with the addition of Divvy, he believes biking in Chicago can become safer in the long run.
“If there’s more people biking, then those people are also drivers,” Vance said. “They adapt their driving to accommodate the new cyclists, and they now understand what it feels like to be a cyclist. . . . What’s most important to me is the visibility of cycling becomes more conspicuous.”