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Bicyclists on the danger list? You tell us

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After the alleged antics of one 67-year-old in Naperville last week, riding a bicycle downtown sounds like a life-threatening proposition. Naperville bicyclists say this incidient might be extreme but riding on congested streets has been risky for as long at they can remember. But some say the real problem is that bicyclists don't act like cars. They don't take the right-of-way and sometimes, they don't obey the rules of the road. One even said a driver said he should get his "toy" off the road, according to a story Sunday in The Sun.

What do you think? Bicyclists, what are your biggest fears riding a bicycle? Tell us your sad stories. Drivers, what aggravates you the most about those on two wheels? Anyone wish they'd paid more attention and hit a cyclist?

With the economy in a tail-spin, gas prices never guaranteed, and a changing world that just might make bicycling the cheaper and fitter way to go, could bicycle ever really replace cars as the rulers of the road. Tell us what you think.

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24 Comments

People who ride their bike in Naperville are basically considered from another planet. Most Napervillians don't know what it's like to have to use a different mode of transportation other than one of their five cars.

Naperville is in a totally different mindset than that of our bike-friendlier Chicago streets and sees biking as a leisurely activity that was meant to be enjoyed at a turtle's pace on one of its many fine paths. People ride their bikes to get to work, to be healthy and to save money among many other reasons. For this, Naperville residents should divert their eyes from their Blackberries a little bit more than they already should be to focus on the road and not browbeat every bicyclist they pass. Shame on those people who jumped to the woman's side after she ran down that cyclist with her car because 'one time, 3 years ago, a bicyclist ran a stop sign'. Justify using your vehicle as a weapon all you want but ignorance is ignorance. Are you sure it wasn't those darn teenagers that did it?

I think Naperville is doing a good job by adding bike lanes to streets. Unfortunately, it's going to take a little bit longer to pave a new group think that believes in sharing the road with bicyclists.

Anonymous on August 4, 2009 11:34 PM,

Thanks for the clarification/correction.

-JQP

Anonymous,

Thanks for the clarification.

-JQP

Unfortunately, my experiences living in Naperville over the past two years have run me into some of the most ignorant and inconsiderate drivers I have ever come across. I not only fear cycling on these streets now, but actually come into more conflicts driving at the speed limit in my car than I do on my bikes! I see both sides of the cycling debate, and for that I understand that cycling in traffic is risky and one must be extremely alert.

The run-ins I've had are on roads are never in heavy traffic, but rather light traffic, especially on Aurora Ave. My best advise for Naperville is: Don't drive the speed limit, don't change lanes, and you sure as hell better not do these things when both lanes are wide open. No matter what street, what time of day, you will find someone throwing a hissy fit over it.

Everyone has their stories, so I won't waste too much time with mine. I've had my neighbor, literally, follow me home in my car because he was irrate at a lane change and my driving the speed limit in front of him (all within a 3 block period...so less than 2 minutes of driving the speed limit!). I've had a family man with daughter in back seat cut me off on a wide open road on my bike, just to sit in front of me at a stoplight 100 feet away, AND across the street from the police department (who promptly ignored my hand waving and pointing as they drove past!).

I'll leave with a great line I heard from a Scottish man I met at a bar in downtown Naperville. He used it in describing his attempts at friendly conversations with the locals downtown, but it can be applied across the board. He was a married man, but every time he began a conversation with an American girl, there is always an American guy standing by with a look on his face screaming, "Oy, I'll punch your face in!" Hooray to the welcoming spirit of Naperville!

By John Q. Public on August 4, 2009 7:23 PM
Anonymous on August 3, 2009 7:28 PM,

If I understood correctly, it sounds like bicyclists are actually NOT allowed to use the far left lane or left turn lane to turn left. So it's not entirely true that When traveling on-street, a bicycle is granted the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle.

A good thing, too, IMO.

-JQP
*******************

Not actually. If you note in Section 11-1510 gives two option to turn left:

Sec. 11-1510. Left turns.
(a) A person riding a bicycle or motorized pedalcycle intending to turn left shall follow a course described in Section 11-801 or in paragraph (b) of this Section.


Section 11-801 is the law that pertains to cars turning left. Therefore, a bicycle can turn left either like a car or as set forth in Section 11-1510.

Sec. 11‑801. Required position and method of turning. (a) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:
(1) Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practical to the right‑hand curb or edge of the roadway.
(2) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left‑hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.
(3) The Department and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic control devices to be placed within or adjacent to intersections and thereby require and direct that a different course from that specified in this Section be traveled by vehicles turning at an intersection, and when such devices are so placed no driver of a vehicle shall turn a vehicle at an intersection other than as directed and required by such devices.

Anonymous on August 3, 2009 7:28 PM,

If I understood correctly, it sounds like bicyclists are actually NOT allowed to use the far left lane or left turn lane to turn left. So it's not entirely true that When traveling on-street, a bicycle is granted the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle.

A good thing, too, IMO.

-JQP

As a car driver in Naperville, I can honestly state I would never take to the public road here, on two wheels, ever. It's just too dangerous. The drivers in the suburbs do not seem to me to be aggressive, they just pay no attention.

For example, I have lost count of the number of times I have had people seemingly wait until I was right on top of them before deciding to pull out from side roads. If I follow somebody driving slowly I think 'careful driver' until I get nearer and it turns out to be a woman who can barely see over the wheel, or more likely, somebody chatting on the phone. I've had to take avoiding action several times and that's from behind the wheel of a big silver car.

I just wouldn't trusting that lot to see me on 2 wheels !

Really good information for both sides of the debate here:

http://www.sos.state.il.us/departments/drivers/traffic_safety/bike-pedestrian_safety/home.html

By the way, I was a victim of the "right hook" last week while biking downtown. I don't take these things personally, and try to follow the rules of the road.

Like most people, I was a bike rider before I became an automobile driver. I am a rider who happens also to be a driver. I use the bike for transportation for errands and shopping for short trips because it is healthier,faster, and there are no parking hassles. I am on my bike daily when weather permits. Almost all of my riding is in high traffic areas and I have done this for many years. My experience with drivers, by and large has been very good as long as they see me. Visiblity and common sense are the keys to safety. So long as drivers see me, they have been curtious, and given me my share of the road. In turn,I have a responsibility to make myself visible, and clearly signal my intentions so that drivers know what I am doing and can adjust accordingly. I observe traffic signals (granted I run stop signs in low traffic areas when there are no other vehicles in sight). I have not had a problem with drivers so far. I also ride at a moderate pace so that I have the bike under control at all times and I don't ride on sidewalks as a rule although I think that is a good safe place for younger riders to learn to master riding a bicycle.

Because I am a rider, I believe I am a better driver and give bike riders their share of the road and it's never been a problem. As a driver, I appreciate a rider who claims his space, remains visible and clearly lets me know what he is doing. Any delay because a bike is a slower moving vehicle is nominal, and again, never been an issue. I am perhaps more aware of bikes because I too am a rider and understand the issues bicyclists are facing in traffic. If more drivers were also riders they might be better at sharing.

The roads in this country are nice and wide and there is plenty of room for everyone if we exercise common sense and good manners. In other parts of the world, bicycles and automobiles co-exist in congested areas just fine and on roads that are not nearly so wide as is in Naperville. I think it's more about culture and attitude than anything else. (They ride carrying their children, shopping packages, other "passengers" all the time and get along just fine. And they never wear bicycle helmets or spandex bicycle riding outfits. In fact they can't understand why Americans are always wearing helmets. I was asked once if Americans fall off of their bicycles alot and that's why they must wear these helmets everywhere? I explained that American helmet manufactures and bike shops have scared people into thinking that it is necessary and Americans have become easily scared and love to buy things.)

The unfortunate incident of a week or so ago where the young man was apparently hit by the woman is not so much a bicycle / automobile issue as it is a lack of self control by a driver. Someone who would intentionally hit a rider has other issues beyond poor driving skills and clearly lacks the judgement to be operating an automobile on any of the roads.

(625 ILCS 5/Ch. 11 Art. XV heading)
ARTICLE XV. BICYCLES

(625 ILCS 5/11 1501) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11 1501)
Sec. 11 1501. Application of rules. (a) It is unlawful for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in Article XV of Chapter 11 of this Code.
(b) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit any such child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this Code.
(Source: P.A. 82 132.)

(625 ILCS 5/11 1502) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11 1502)
Sec. 11 1502. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this Code, except as to special regulations in this Article XV and except as to those provisions of this Code which by their nature can have no application.
(Source: P.A. 82 132.)

*******


(625 ILCS 5/11 1512) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11 1512)
Sec. 11 1512. Bicycles on sidewalks. (a) A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
(b) A person shall not ride a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, where such use of bicycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices.
(c) A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
(Source: P.A. 82 132.)

JQP,

In addition to your thoughts about it not being wise to turn left from a left turn lane... the Illinois Vehicle Code also states the following:

ILLINOIS VEHICLE CODE 625 ILCS 5/

Sec. 11-1510. Left turns.
(a) A person riding a bicycle or motorized pedalcycle intending to turn left shall follow a course described in Section 11-801 or in paragraph (b) of this Section.
(b) A person riding a bicycle or motorized pedalcycle intending to turn left shall approach the turn as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway. After proceeding across the intersecting roadway to the far corner of the curb or intersection of the roadway edges, the bicyclist or motorized pedalcycle driver shall stop, as much as practicable out of the way of traffic. After stopping the person shall yield to any traffic proceeding in either direction along the roadway such person had been using. After yielding, the bicycle or motorized pedalcycle driver shall comply with any official traffic control device or police officer regulating traffic on the highway along which he intends to proceed, and the bicyclist or motorized pedalcycle driver may proceed in the new direction.
(c) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the Department and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic-control devices to be placed and thereby require and direct that a specific course be traveled by turning bicycles and motorized pedalcycles, and when such devices are so placed, no person shall turn a bicycle or motorized pedalcycle other than as directed and required by such devices.

RW Dad,

Ok, I grew up in Chicago and it is a City of Chicago ordinance that allows kids 12 and under to ride on the sidewalk. Anyone older gets booted off the sidewalk and into the street.

Anonymous on August 3, 2009 2:45 PM wrote:

Somewhere there is a defined age, maybe 12?, up to which a youth can ride a bike on the sidewalk. Above that age all bikes are supposed to be operated in the street and the law treats a bike just like any other vehicle under "Rules of the Road".

Please refer to prior posts about this issue.

http://blogs.suburbanchicagonews.com/newsblog/2009/06/how_bikefriendly_is_naperville.html#comment-88099

RW Dad

I came up behind a cyclist at a stoplight once who was in the middle of the left turn lane about 3-4 feet behind the white line. Because I stopped 5 feet behind him I figure there wasn't enough weight to trip the left turn signal. After the second time we didn't get a green arrow to turn he simply turned and promptly was pulled over by a cop who neither one of us saw. I moved up and turned with the next arrow and don't know if he got a ticket or not, but I give him credit for at least trying to wait for the light.

I don't think the vehicle code should treat bicycles and automobiles the same, at least not in every respect. As one example, the code might say it's okay for a bike to get in the left turn lane and turn along with the cars, but I don't think this is wise. I think the prudent bicyclist should revert to semi-pedestrian mode when he or she comes to a major intersection and needs to go left: ride your bike to the other side of the street, then walk or ride it across when the light changes.

Somewhere there is a defined age, maybe 12?, up to which a youth can ride a bike on the sidewalk. Above that age all bikes are supposed to be operated in the street and the law treats a bike just like any other vehicle under "Rules of the Road".

Since there are so many riders of all ages who simply choose to ignore the motor vehicle laws that apply to them then maybe it is time to change those rules? Locally, let's not forget that we have had Safety Town for about 20 years now and legions of Naperville children have been taught how to correctly ride a bike.

In addition to bikes there are a more and more other types of "vehicles" out in the roadway these days. There are manual and motorized wheelchairs, scooters for the elderly, motorized "scooters" for the kids, motorized skateboards, electric and even gas engine powered bikes, and a few other misc. things like ATV's, go carts, golf carts, etc. that are not uncommon to be seen zooming around in some subdivision. Even the City of Naperville, Naperville Park District, and even private contractors drive vehicles on the public roadway that used to be hauled on trailers just a few years ago... things like back hoes, lawn mowers, etc. I'm not sure why you and I need turn signals, rear view mirrors, seat belts, air bags, insurance, license plates, EPA inspection, bumpers, fenders, and a long list of other things to "safely" and "legally" operate my vehicles when none of these other so-called vehicles seem to need or have any of this stuff... and I'll bet a lot of them are not paying road tax on the gasoline they are burning either... but hold me back on this aspect of this discussion less I go off on a rant!

Maybe it is a reflection of the time where we legislate and regulate everything and anything and maybe then it is past time for all bicycle operators above the prescribed age to ride in the street are issued a bicycle license by the state after passing a written and riding test? Just like any other vehicle if enough violations are racked up then the right to operate a bike in the street could be revoked.

Safety and responsibility are two-way streets. Right now the motor vehicles and bikes are supposed to equitably share the road, but the playing field isn't even close to level. Bike licenses would go a long way towards communicating the value and importance of traffic safety and the responsibility everyone who shares the road has towards all other operators and the need for everyone to follow the rules.

In this day and age any accident on a roadway has the potential to be very expensive for anyone unlucky enough to become involved with whatever happens. Only motor vehicle operators are required to carry insurance. None of the other vehicles that are sharing the road are legally required to carry any insurance and it is unfair to the motorist and their insurance companies to have to pay for the consequences of accidents caused by other uninsured vehicle operators.

The idea that people will have a better attitude towards a group if only that group obeyed the rules is a logical one. But ultimately it is not enough to get us, as a whole, to respect others whose ways conflict with our own. Cyclists could be the most courteous, law-abiding group on the road and they would still be subject to the occasional angry driver who feels imposed upon to share the road with a vehicle that does not us the road in the same way as them.

It comes down to that one simple and unpleasant truth about us. As a whole, we don't like people who are different from us. And a cyclist who doesn't keep up to speed with a car, doesn't cross the road like a car does, doesn't take the same route (mixing the road with paths, grass, curb hopping, etc.) as a car, and sometimes wobbled when a truck passes them, is definitely a whole different variable for a driver than other drivers. Motorcyclists are much more accepted purely because they differ much less than cyclists in how they use the road. They're not the same as a car or truck, but they don't get "in the way" of other motorized vehicles.

For me, the idea of cyclists obeying the rules of the road is good as a way to make them more predictable, but it won't remove the angst that some drivers feel for having them around. And it certainly won't be enough to make drivers suddenly feel the need to be cautious around cyclists rather than see what happens when the cyclist senses a side view mirror whizzing by within inches of them at 50 mph. People, drivers and cyclists alike, do things like that because they don't like to be inconvenienced. No amount of rules or notices will prevent some drivers from seeing cyclists as just one more inconvenience in their busy life.

I've ridden thru my share of stop signs, but only when it didn't interfere with a moving vehicle. Usually, a stopped car that sees you will wait for you to pass. If a car looked like they intended to go from a stop, I wouldn't challenge them. Conversely, while on bike paths I've experienced plenty of cars who nearly smashed into me because they routinely think stopping BEHIND a stop sign is a nuisance or optional. So you don't even have to be riding on the road to suffer the danger of lax driving practices. And as noted before, the imposition for a driver waiting on a cyclist is minimal. The imposition for a cyclist flying over the hood of a car that didn't stop at a stop sign could be life-threatening.

Two things, Diane G. First, would you encourage a car to break the law and still feel it is the right thing? You don't get to decide who breaks the law and is justified doing it, those who enforce the law do. The fact that the bike rider readily broke the law shows that he is one of the scum that feel they are above the law.

Second, after a car has taken longer to pass you because you cannot go the speed limit and are obstructing traffic, do you then pass all the cars at waiting in line at a stop sign or traffic light, and make them all pass you again? That is the typical move of law breaking bicyclists, and a move that only promotes ill will towards them.

As a bicyclist, you reap all the benefits provided by the taxes generated by motorized vehicles. The least you and your ilk can do is follow the laws that allow you to share the road.

Gosh, Sybil, such hostility. I have ridden my bike downtown Naperville. It is too dangerous for me. I hope to ride again to the train when my knee is better. I do think cyclists should stop at stop lights and stop signs. BUT, on the other hand, I (in my car) have no problem letting a cyclist "blow" a stop sign so they don't have to stop (did this just yesterday). I think the key elements here are respect and communication. I waived the cyclist ahead and he acknowledged with a waive. I probably waited a total of about 4 seconds for him to pass. I can live with that.

A bicyclist has the right to ride on the road even during rush hour. I personally will not ride on highly congested roads if the road isn't wide enough for a car to pass me. But if other cyclists choose to, that's up to them. Also, I try to make it a point of using headlights/tail lights so I can be seen.

The bad behavior I have experienced from car drivers (while cycling) is usually honking at me. I ignore it. I ride on the right-side of the road, sorry if a car has to slow down until they get a chance to get around me -- that's why its called sharing.

Maybe when the majority of bike riders figure out they need to follow the rules, the motorists will have a better attitude. This is especially true when a pack of spandex clad Lance wannabes blow through every light and stop sign.

A few years ago the Kendall County Sheriff warned a group of wannabes that they will adhere to the traffic laws when participating in their annual outing. Needless to say, they scoffed and proceeded to get tickets when the whole lot of them blew the first stop sign. Of course the spandex queens cried that the police need to go after the law breaking motorists and leave them alone, as they are saving the planet, or some crap.

I even read a column by Jeff ward in the Beacon( an avid Spandex wearer) how it is unsafe for a biker to stop as he would have to take his feet out of the toe clips. Yes, in his feeble mind, it is much safer for the biker to blow through stops and the motorists need to be aware.

Then of course there are those who ride on the street in rush hour when there is a taxpayer funded bike path they should be on instead paralleling the road. Funny how they clamor for tax money to be spent on paths, yet in an act of defiance/arrogance, they don't use them.

Until the renegade bikers change their attitudes, don't expect much patience or sympathy from the motoring public.

Point being, respect is a two way street, and unfortunately the bike crowd thing it is theirs.

Naperville motorists seem to have a huge amount of rage toward bikes. I have been forced to jump over the curb by one that yelled "bikes belong in the park not the street".

I think it is a matter of greed. We have a wonderful city, but a lot of people whose god is selfishness. To "share" means the other person gets something. To share the road with a bike when they have a $40,000 SUV is morally wrong to them.

I saw the extreme of this just a hour ago. Riding down a hill on the prairie path I came across a jogger coming uphill on the wrong side of the trail. He had clearly seen me and I moved over further and further to the right of the trail. He decided to play a game of chicken with me, moving further to his left, to show me who owned the trail.

If it had been on the flats with an open view, I would have gone to the wrong side, but on a downhill with bends you don't ride the wrong side where you can hit other joggers or bikers head on that are on the proper side of the trail.

He won. I ended up riding my bike through the weeds and was lucky not to hit any rocks or gopher holes. Of course he cursed me as I went off trail to avoid him.

It makes you realize how little common sense comes into the hate of cycles here in Naperville. If I had not gone off the trail to miss him the high probability point of tire contact for 200 pounds of bike and biker traveling 15 mph would have been his groin.

People should open their hearts and accept that other people are not their adversaries.

When on a bike, you also have to understand: You can be right, and still be dead.

More times then not, the sidewalks are wide open to use as a cyclist and be 'safe'.

Weight wins, plain and simple. Before you think of me as some anti-cyclist, I ride a 100hp+ 2 wheeled cycle (sportbike) and have over a quarter million miles under my belt on them. No matter how 'legally right' you may act or think you are on the road, you can still wind up dead. It's not worth it. Assume that car and truck drivers will be idiots and not see you. Do what you have to do to protect yourself but keep in mind that if you go toe to toe with another larger vehicle, you will lose. Plain and simple.

I am 100% behind cyclists that obey the "RULES OF THE ROAD"! Those who ride bikes the same way they drive their motor vehicles get no sympathy from me.

I watch dozens of cyclists a week blow stop signs, run red lights, weave in and out of traffic against opposing traffic and ride through crosswalks when pedestrians are present. I've seen parents lead their kids across mainstream traffic with no regard for their safety. Most Naperville cyclists think the rules don't apply to them and have a serious lack of better judgement.

What happened with that 67 year old female motorist was wrong but, you can almost make a safe bet that the cyclist was taunting her as she tried to get around him. There are always two sides to every story! I may be wrong but, odds are in my favor based on what I see.

I have not ridden a bicycle in Naperville for nearly 20 years but, when I did, I always rode safely and responsibly.

Share the road.... fine! I'll respect that but, we share the same "RULES OF THE ROAD" too! Follow them ,stop whining and we'll all get home safely!

For my motoring friends.... When the residential speed limit is posted at 25 MPH, this is exactly what it means!

Years ago, I cycled around DeKalb as a college student without a car, and gave little regard to stop signs, until a dump truck almost hit me - a cop was nearby and pulled me over for running the stop sign. He asked for my drivers license (yes!) which I had, and reminded me that stop signs apply to cyclists as well. It was a lesson well-learned.

Now, I'm usually in a car, and I have to say, I don't think that many of the cyclists I share the road with have had my eye-opening experience, either that, or they still think that the rules don't apply to them. I've witnessed numerous stop-sign runnings, and red lights are apparently just a suggestion for some cyclists (though not all) at major intersections.

That all being said, I would never threaten to, or actually hit a cyclist, and then drag their bicycle all the way home! It's not surprising that this woman was caught, considering the evidence she was carrying with her! I do my best to make sure I keep a safe distance when sharing the road with a cyclist.

I also would like to see a better solution to allowing for better bike lanes. The one they have on Eagle heading south towards Aurora is a joke - all of a sudden the bike lane "jogs" over at the last minute so they can make a left turn onto Aurora - c'mon - I wouldn't attempt that as a cyclist, has anyone yet? Especially during rush hour (where that whole area is congested going southbound?) I might be more inclined to ride a bike more often if they really came up with a comprehensive plan to make it safer and usable for all vehicles... because sometimes we have to be in cars, we just have to.

Could we study how bikes and cars share the road in other cities here or in Europe? There has to be a good compromise...

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