Chicago is one of the most bike-friendly cities in America. According to David Smith, manager of the City’s Department of Transportation bicycle program, Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is the busiest bike trail in the country. As summer approaches, more and more bicyclists will begin to hit the city’s trails— and the roads. Sharing the road safely is important for all users.
Bicyclists and drivers both have criticisms of the other. Bicyclists often feel invisible on the road. A cyclist’s biggest fear is getting “doored,” when someone in a parked car opens their door in front of a bicyclist. It’s no surprise that with collisions involving a motor vehicle and bicycle, the cyclist overwhelmingly bears the brunt of the injuries.
On the other hand, drivers worry about cyclists breaking the rules of the road. New drivers are especially fearful of bikers, as some cyclists do not ride with the flow of traffic, do not obey traffic signals, and can act unpredictably.
Despite the concerns on both sides, both drivers and cyclists have the right to be on the road, which means it is up to both sides to follow the rules of the road and act responsibly. Here are five tips on how to best share the road and avoid a serious accident:
Tips for Sharing the Road
- 1. Know your rights and responsibilities
Many drivers become aggravated when they see bicycles on the road. Drivers need to recognize that bicyclists have the right to be on the road. If you notice yourself becoming irritated, try imagining yourself, or a loved one, as the bicyclist. Imagine the difficulties you might face riding a bike on the road and proceed with caution.
On the other hand, when a bicyclist decides to ride on the road, he/she needs to act as if they were a car. Cyclists need to ride on the correct side of the road, with the flow of traffic. They also need to signal their moves and turns, stop at traffic lights and stop signs, and be visible. Just as cars must turn on their headlights at night, bicyclists should wear reflective clothing and/or attach a light to their bike.
- 2. Work your way up to the road
While people may describe things that are easy “like riding a bike,” riding a bike through city traffic requires knowledge and skill. Just as new drivers don’t learn to drive on the highway, inexperienced or out-of-practice cyclists shouldn’t pick up their bike and cruise down Wacker Drive. Cyclists need to work their way up to riding alongside busy traffic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) suggests taking an on-bike class through your school, recreation department, local bike shop, or bike advocacy group.
- 3. Allow plenty of space when passing a bicycle
If you’re driving a car and want to pass a bicyclist on the street, the NHTSA recommends that you treat the bicycle as if it were a car— only pass when you have enough space to move into the adjacent lane.
- 4. Avoid electronics
It is vitally important for both cyclists and drivers to remain fully focused on the road and avoid using electronics when operating their vehicle. In Illinois it is illegal for drivers and cyclists to use headphones, though the use of a bluetooth device or singular earbud is permitted.
- 5. Drivers, look behind.
When turning right on red, drivers should not only look for oncoming traffic, but should look to the right and behind to avoid a collision with bicyclists approaching from the rear.
Following these recommendations will certainly help you avoid injury as a cyclist and avoid causing injury as a driver. But if you find yourself or a loved one injured in a collision involving a bicycle, contact McNabola Law Group for a free consultation to discuss your rights.