Vickroy: Cyclists, drivers must take the high road
By Donna Vickroy email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy June 7, 2013 7:52PM
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following safety tips and reminders:
All bicyclists should wear properly fitted helmets every time they ride.
Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including traffic signs, signals and lane markings.
Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic.
Drivers of motor vehicles need to be courteous — allow at least 3 feet clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road, look for cyclists before opening a car door or pulling out from a parking space, and yield to cyclists at intersections and as directed by signs and signals.
Bicyclists should increase their visibility by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing during the day and using a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light, and use retro-reflective tape or markings on equipment or clothing.
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:13AM
Can’t we all just move along? Safely.
It’s time for motorists and cyclists to come to terms. State law recognizes the rights of both to use roadways in Illinois. That means cyclists have as much right as drivers to traverse Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park, Dixie Highway in Homewood and busy LaGrange Road through Frankfort and Orland Park.
But that doesn’t mean bicyclists can pedal with reckless abandon.
Both drivers and pedalers must adhere to the same rules of the road, in addition to laws specifically aimed at each group.
So now that the weather is finally breaking and we’ll likely see even more people putting pedal to the pedal, let’s review some of those laws and codes.
Some measures have been longstanding, and some — such as a Chicago ordinance that raises fines for both cyclists and motorists who disobey the city’s traffic laws — are brand spanking new.
Last summer, Tinley Park finished the 167th Street Project, which added bike lanes as well as shared bike/auto lanes called “sharrows,” between Harlem and 84th avenues.
Village planner Amy Connolly says the new lanes have been well received — by cyclists.
“There have been some safety concerns expressed by noncyclists, though,” she said.
“State law says we must share every street with bicyclists. The roads are not just for drivers,” she said. Studies show, she said, when you provide designated bike lanes, people will use them.
Like other towns, Tinley Park has developed a Complete Street Policy that ensures design of all future streets and redesign of existing ones will accommodate all modes of transportation.
Interest in cycling, she said, has steadily increased over the past decade.
“I see more adults bicycling to work, to Metra trains and to shopping centers,” she said. Thanks to rising gas prices, she said, cycling has moved beyond the world of exercisers and pleasure seekers to become a necessity.
Homewood is a town long known for its bike-friendly policies. Yet Curt Wiest, bike patrol officer for the village, says, “We’re seeing even more cyclists, a lot more teens.”
How to keep all the wheels rolling, without handlebars and front ends coming into contact?
You can’t have order and efficiency without a few rules, some of which might be surprising to drivers, others to cyclists.
Let’s start with the cyclists. True or false?
1.) must have a working horn or bell on their bike in Orland Park.
2.) are not allowed to ride on sidewalks in parts of Oak Lawn.
3.) who ride at night without a light on their vehicle can be ticketed in Orland Park, Tinley Park, Palos Heights and Homewood.
True, true and true.
Yep, there’s more to riding a bike than simply getting back on it.
Wiest said, for the most part, his department emphasizes using common sense when riding.
And, oh, you’d be surprised at how hard that can be to come by. He’s seen riders pedaling in flip-flops, riders wearing headphones, riders texting.
Some cyclists, it seems, can be just as reckless as some drivers. Think biking under the influence is not a problem? Think again.
Wiest said officers try not to issue tickets, preferring to issue warnings and reminders, but some oversights, such as failure to have a working light on a bicycle being ridden at night, can result in a citation.
Orland Park municipal code states that “No rider of a bicycle shall remove both hands from the handlebars.”
And in Oak Lawn, riding on the sidewalk is forbidden through the business district. Elsewhere, it is OK, but pedestrians always have the right of way.
Deanna Skeels is helping organize an Oak Lawn bicycle tour June 22. The event is sponsored by the village’s Green Team and will focus, among other things, on increasing safety awareness for riders.
She said among the things many drivers and cyclists don’t know is that state law requires drivers to leave a 3-foot passing clearance between their vehicle and a cyclist who is riding on the road.
Skeels also said she recently learned that cyclists in Oak Lawn are required to have a bell on their bikes.
Legal ramifications or not, Wiest said, dumb cycling habits can lead to injury and even death.
In 2010, there were 618 cycling deaths nationwide, including 24 in Illinois, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation. There were 52,000 cycling injuries nationwide, and 3,464 cycling injury crashes in Illinois.
Wiest said, currently, Homewood does not have an ordinance regarding cyclists’ texting or wearing headphones.
“But should they be? No,” he said. “Not just for their safety but for the safety of pedestrians and drivers.”
Boomers and old-timers remember the days when carrying a passenger on the handlebars was common practice. Well, today, that is illegal. While carrying a baby in an approved seat is acceptable, state law forbids the carrying of passengers on vehicles that are designed for single riders.
Wiest said those pegs that so many kids’ bikes come with are meant for tricks, not passengers.
But the safety onus does not rest solely with bicyclists.
In addition to requiring that motorists recognize bicyclists’ right to share the road and abide by the 3-foot clearance rule, Illinois law states, “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic ... ”
The new Chicago ordinance doubles the fine for motorists who leave a door open in traffic. Of the 1,675 bicycle crashes in Chicago in 2012, 250 were “dooring” accidents.
Illinois recently moved up to ninth place on the League of American Bicyclists list of Bicycle Friendly States. Installation of bike lanes in communities across the state, plus Chicago’s ambitious bike-sharing proposal, have helped boost the ranking by two places.
Now, if we can just get bicyclists and motorists to recognize, accept and respect one another.
Tinley Park’s Connolly emphasized that it is in everyone’s best interest to learn how to get along.
“Creating walkable, bikeable communities not only provides more opportunities for transportation, it improves health and helps to maintain property values,” she said. “People want to live in communities that offer lots of options.”
For more information, visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publi