A game of cat & mouse: revisiting John’s old CBF cartoons

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Steve Buchtel, who did a brilliant job of editing the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation’s (CBF) newsletter in the late ’90s and early 2000s, recently left his job as Southland Coordinator with Active Transportation Alliance to take the helm of Trails for Illinois, advocating for new greenways. Cleaning out his files recently he came upon a few cartoons I submitted for the newsletter back in 1998-99. Yes, I was a 28-year-old adult when I drew these doodles of cyclists as mice and drivers as cats, inspired by Art Spiegelman’s Maus comics.

The above cartoon was a reaction to 44th Ward Alderman Bernie Hansen sending a crew out to paint out the bike lanes that the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) had installed on Halsted Street in Boystown. Hansen felt there hadn’t been enough input from the local business owners. Why is it that Chicago aldermen named Bernie tend to be anti-bike? Not long afterwards Hansen retired and was replaced by bike-friendly alderman Tom Tunney, and CDOT re-striped the lanes. This cartoon was a bit too edgy for the CBF News – they didn’t run it.

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Steve asked me to draw the cartoon above re: the dissenting opinion in the Boub vs. Wayne Case, in which the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that bikes are permitted, but not intended, users of the roads, after cyclist John Boub was seriously injured after he crashed on an unsafe bridge. It was feared that the case would create a disincentive for municipalities to install bike facilities, as this might lead to increased liability. “Boub is still in effect despite a long fight by Active Trans and League of Illinois Bicyclists,” says Active Trans spokesman Ethan Spotts. “We are encouraged to see that Chicago and other municipalities around the state are routinely installing bike lanes and similar facilities.”

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Did the CBF trans publish the above cartoon? Uh, no. If I was in Steve’s shoes I probably wouldn’t have either. This cartoon refers to the ritzy North Shore suburb of Lake Bluff’s ban on bikes on Sheridan Road. Sure, the Robert McClorey path runs alongside it, but the ban must be an annoyance for fast roadies who would prefer to keep up with traffic on the highway rather than pedal on the path. The look of horror on the cyclist’s face is probably a reflection of the fact that my friends and I once got arrested for ignoring the “No Bikes” signs by the Winnetka ravines. Ethan tells me that the Lake Bluff ban is still in effect but there’s some talk that this may be revisited this year.

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This last cartoon (can’t remember whether this was published or not) now strikes me as particularly absurd. Bicyclists used to show up to protest the Chicago Auto Show, so this depicts drivers protesting the long-defunct Chicago Area Bike Dealers Association show. The auto show protest died off a few years ago but unfortunately the car convention is still going strong. Who says the pen is mightier than the Buick LeSabre?

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John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

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