Copyright © 2004 Chicago Reader, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Suckered on the South Side

by Ben Joravsky
from the Chicago Reader, July 9, 2004

In my June 25 column Dan Korn was proudly riding his tall bike around Daley Plaza at the city's Bike to Work Day rally. Now he's in the dumps—his bike was stolen. "I have no one to blame but myself," he says. "I should have known better."

He took the awkward-looking bike, which he'd built by welding one frame on top of another, to a Critical Mass ride on June 25. "You know how we do it—we gather at Daley Plaza on the last Friday of the month at 5:30 PM, and we go from there," he says. "This time we went to Hyde Park."

Korn and about eight other riders were on their way back north when they ran into trouble. "We were at 41st and Ellis, and there was a bunch of teenage kids hanging around," he says. "A kid was yelling at another rider. For some reason the rider stopped. First mistake. Instead of telling the rider to move on I stopped too. Second mistake."

He says one of the teenagers approached him. "He said, 'Hey, let me get on your bike.' I said no. I'm standing there, holding my bike, and he's climbing up on it. I'm thinking, 'All right, if rides a bit it will defuse the situation.' I let people ride my bike all the time. I didn't think he'd get very far anyway. Third mistake. One of the other kids said, 'Hey, that guy's a punk. He's gonna steal your bike.' He actually circled back again, and then he took off. I was really surprised he was able to ride the bike so well, but he did. The last I saw he was heading west on 41st Street."

Korn and his friends talked about what they should do. "It was getting dark, and all of a sudden people got afraid that, you know, we were in a really 'bad' neighborhood and we were going to die," he says. "The whole thing got a little silly at that point. I mean. it wasn't that bad of a neighborhood. Fear will do strange things to you. The others rode back, and I just took the bus home."

The next day he rode another bike back to the neighborhood. "I had printed up some flyers, and I went around asking people if they'd seen my bike," he says. "They said, 'Oh yeah, I saw this kid on a bike like that.' I posted my flyers offering a reward of another bike and 20 bucks to anyone who could return my tall bike."

Later that day he got a phone call. "The caller ID was blocked, so I couldn't tell who was calling," he says. "It was some kid who said, 'I got your bike—I want 100 bucks for it.' I said, 'Look, I'm not giving you 100 bucks. My offer stands. Take it or leave it.' He hung up. I don't know if he's the kid who took my bike. By now my bike's already gone to the scrapper."

Korn also filed a police complaint. "The cop said, 'You let some kid ride your bike?' What could I say? It was true. I don't want to get too philosophical about this, but to me the whole thing is about fear. Fear is the one thing I had to overcome to ride the bike in the first place. Fear is why I lost the bike—because I was afraid to confront the kid. Fear is the enemy of civilization."

Copyright © 2004 Chicago Reader, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
(Hyperlinks added by Dan Korn.)

The postscript: After a few days of mourning, I climbed out of the dumps, and into the dumpster, and with a little help from my friends from the Rat Patrol, I built me a new tall bike, the H2!