Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=197115
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 7:48:08 AM CST
Bicyclists can seem like a transportation hybrid. They are out in the elements, just like pedestrians. But they roll along streets, just like cars. That in-between status can sometimes be confusing, but it shouldn’t be.
“Bike riders are not a different kind of pedestrian,” said Tess Freedel from the South Loop.
They are not: They have wheels and metal, and they are supposed to follow the same rules as drivers, expert say. Usually they do, but it is not uncommon to see bicyclists running red lights and stop signs, ignoring public safety or traffic rules.
“Currently Illinois has a law stating that motorists have to stop to give way to pedestrians in a crosswalk. We encourage bikers to do the same," said Jason Jenkins, education specialist at Active Transportation Alliance. “As well as not riding on the sidewalk.”
As a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve conditions for bicycling, walking and transit, Active Transportation Alliance encourages bikers to follow the same traffic rules motorists obey.
Bike lanes and signs posted in public spaces bearing guidelines for bikers would make cyclists lives easier and safer, said Brooke Boncimino a regular bike rider from the South Loop. “In downtown you have no space and it’s hard to understand what we are supposed to do.”
“Most of the times cyclists are not issued a citation, but can be stopped by the police,” said Charlie Short, program manager at the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Last year, 1,711 bikers were in accidents. Five were killed and 149 injured, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“We know that cycling has increased in the last five years, based on census data, and crashes are decreasing,” Short said.
The intersections with the highest rate of bicyclists in crashes are Chicago-Ogden-Milwaukee, Milwaukee-North-Damen and Clark-Diversey. Most crashes involve a vehicle turning into or in front of a cyclist.
Bikers might put public safety at risk sometimes, but they sometimes are put at risk by pedestrians and motorists, too.
Freedel, who rides her bike to Columbia College to attend school, said the ride is not always pleasant. Pedestrians crossing the road may not pay attention to bicyclists and step in front of them. Cars often drive too close to bikes sharing the road with them. She said she deals with scenarios like this almost every day.
Motorists become more aggressive downtown during rush hour, she said, when everybody is anxious to get home or to work. Her nightmare, though, is a common mistake drivers could easily make.
“I am terrified of being doored,” Freedel said.
Dooring occurs when someone in a parked or stopped car opens a door into a passing bicyclist. In this kind of crash the motorist is at fault, Jenkins said.
Short agreed with Boncimino that a combination of bike lanes and education will make a difference.