I hate to say it, cyclists, but the other bike shoe has just dropped

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass comments on a proposed hike in traffic fines for bicyclists, and who should shoulder the blame when accidents happen.

Don't be angry, Little Bike People of Chicago. Please don't be upset at what happened at City Hall on Wednesday.

I don't really want to say this, but I've just got to:

I told you so.

You've become part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's City Hall revenue stream. Dealing with City Hall is like falling in love with a vampire. It might be thrilling for a few minutes, yes, but there's a bleak eternity waiting out there.

You once thought you were free riders, like those untamable Dothraki horse lords from HBO's "Game of Thrones," riding wherever and whenever you pleased.

But you've been tamed.

I tried to warn you months ago, but you didn't listen. Instead, you got your bike shorts tied up in knots. You made with the personal insults against me. You ridiculed my waistline and said I'd look terrible in spandex shorts.

Happy now?

Emanuel proposed on Wednesday that he would increase traffic fines for "rogue" riders from $25 up to $50 and even as high as $200, depending on the severity of the traffic violation.

I figure that's only the beginning. And this is how it will end: with bike tolls, bike registrations, bike transponders and bicycle vehicle stickers. And they'll all cost you.

"If they are sharing the roadway with vehicles, cyclists must obey all traffic laws, including yielding to pedestrians, stopping at traffic signals and indicating when they are making turns," Emanuel said Wednesday. "When the traffic laws are obeyed, everyone is safer. By increasing the fines for failing to obey the law, cyclists will behave more responsibly, increasing safety and encouraging others to ride bikes."

Emanuel is also increasing fines against drivers of legitimate vehicles, and by this, I mean cars. Actually, drivers of legitimate vehicles are going to have to pay disproportionately more than the Little Bike People.

If we dare open our doors when a bicyclist is approaching, and said bicyclist hits the door, the driver could be fined up to $1,000.

And this after Emanuel configured miles upon miles of streets to allow for bike lanes. The worst example is Dearborn Street, a one-way street going north. The way he's set it up now, there are bike lanes on the farthest west side of Dearborn going both ways. Just to the east of the bike lanes is a parking lane for cars.

If you park in the parking lane on Dearborn and open the driver's side door, it could reach into the bike lane. The mayor's proposed new ordinance allows for bicyclists to ride two abreast. So chances are there could be more Little Bike People ramming into car doors. And whose fault will this be?

The fault of the Little Bike People?

No. It'll be the fault of the drivers of legitimate vehicles. And they will pay.

"I guess I am waiting to see how this works out," said Lee Diamond, an avid cyclist who also gives bike tours through Chicago. "I'm a driver, too. I'm not anti-car. … If we have new laws to prevent problems and they are effective in doing that and it's an issue everyone (bicyclists and motorists) can agree is a problem, I'm in favor of it."

He also said he's in favor of the ordinance if it limits cyclists from riding foolishly and "endangering themselves and others."

Fair enough.

Let's split the Little Bike People into two distinct groups — the Good Little Bike People who follow the law and wear yellow shirts and spandex, and the Bad Little Bike People, including stoners, who ride on the sidewalk, roll through red lights and talk on their cellphones (which will be illegal under the new law).

They're also the ones who weave in and out of traffic during rush hour and flip you off or threaten you, and sometimes they run down pedestrians at crossings since they don't stop at the light.

But how can the Bad Little Bike People be given tickets?

There aren't enough police now to patrol the streets to fight serious crime. They're trying to enforce other laws, like the one that prohibits murder.

Going after bicyclists seems like a waste of police manpower.

So what will happen? City Hall will need revenue to enforce bike traffic laws. These are not enforced now, but eventually, City Hall will need people to write tickets and seize bikes.

Emanuel can't hire cops for this purpose. So I predict he'll hire Civilian Little Bike People Traffic Enforcers.

And how will City Hall pay their salaries?

You'll see the answer when you fix the city-approved Rahmsponder to your handlebars, and drive between the giant plastic legs of those Rahmfather Bike Toll figures that will stand astride select streets. His eyes will light up as you pedal past. Ka-ching.

It's inevitable.

And this time, don't say I didn't warn you.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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