After four years of riding my bike in our fair, flat city, with nothing to do but pedal along and observe my peers, I now present the definitive list of The 5 Bicycle-Riders You Meet in Chicago.
1. The Dickwad
The Dickwad is probably the broadest designation of Chicago cyclist. He or she can exemplify all manner of dickish and wadish behavior, a caroming cocktail of aggression, fear, and self-consciousness. Typical Dickwad behavior includes, but is by no means limited to, airmailing stop signs at busy intersections, cutting off fellow cyclists while wearing earbuds, being a coked-out private high school student, and skirting red lights at six-way intersections by wading into the lefthand crosswalk to facilitate running two reds lights in quick succession while cars honk and pedestrians dodge, a move I like to call “How is this worth it?”
Dickwads make all cyclists look bad.
2. The Rage Face
The Rage Face is a ticking timebomb who rides with one hand on his bell and the other clutching an iron U-Lock in giddy anticipation of smashing a taillight should he be so obliged. A profound fear of car doors (adooraphobia) is common among Rage Faces, who harbor no qualms about slamming or kicking the wayward doors that imperil their progress and their lives. The Rage Face believes the road will never truly be shared until cyclists take it from drivers.
3. The Goody Two-Wheels
A perfect foil to the Dickwad, the Goody Two-Wheels has pledged allegiance to the rules of the road. He rides with the spirit of the biblical Creationist, choosing to interpret roadsigns literally, such that he often finds himself fully stopped at vacant intersections. The part in his hair reveals the crown of a special magnet that attracts bicycle helmets. He has fashioned a bell to his handle bars and has vowed to ring it dutifully should he ever pass a confederate.
“On your left,” he can hear himself someday calling. “Passing on your left!”
4. The Little Old Polish Lady
Her floral print fluttering in the breeze, she pedals all the day long. She pedals meticulously, her legs a windmill’s unflagging circulation. You could keep time to her orbiting clogs. She has learned the secrets of stoplights; her formula for pace means never having to stop. She is a perpetual motion machine. She rides, rides forever, in endless loops around the city; up Lincoln, down Elston, her basket full of flowers, a bead of sweat strung from her brow. Her calves are granite. Her calves are folded steel. Her calves are week-old baguettes.
5. The Divvy
The Divvy is the newborn babe of the Chicago cycling family. You can see the litter suckling from the many teats of its storage rack host/mother/mixed metaphor. The Divvy has only just learned to walk, which it does in fits and starts, clumsy and slow, always on the verge of teetering over, and sometimes so doing. The Divvy never learns. It wanders into dangerous places. Its sky blue body and oversize frame alert those nearby, “Stay away from me, for I know not logic or experience!” The Divvy is a horror movie villain, your inescapable and slow-moving death.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re all like, “But Jon, if these are the 5 Bicycle-Riders You Meet in Chicago, and you are a bicycle rider in Chicago, which one are you?” An astute observation, friend. The answer is, I think, that most of us are all of these things and none of them! That is to say, I can be a total Rage Face after a stupid day at the office, a Little Old Polish Lady on Sunday afternoon, a Dickwad when it’s raining, a Goody Two-Wheels in response to a Dickwad, and even a Divvy when I’m out late and refuse to pay for a cab.