Chicago Sun-Times

Bikes and the law

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I got a lot of comments and letters regarding Monday's Ride column on the possibility of different rules of the road for bicyclists. The article talked about an Idaho law that allows bicyclists to treat stop lights like stop signs and stop signs like yield signs. It's a polarizing idea -- the comments on both sides were fierce.

Here's the longest letter I got -- the writer is identified as "Vulture X":

"Everyone wants the right of way; be it a pedestrian, motor vehicle operator or bicyclist, often all three groups at the same time in the same space. In Illinois, as mentioned in the article , " Law...Less!", bicyclists are to obey the same rules of the road as a operator of a motor vehicle. However, just as motorists disobey the rules, bicyclists I believe, disobey traffic laws at a greater rate. This is evident when they routinely ignore any form of traffic control. Nearly all bicyclists I have seen have this," I have the right of way " no matter what" attitude along with , " what are you going to do..hit me ? " stance. And that is where the problem lies. Our roads were not built to be shared by bicyclists and motor vehicles together. Irregardless that we have painted lines on the road to denote bicycle traffic.( Which is a joke for more than one reason) Everyone needs to be responsible for their actions. It seems to me that bicyclists want to have a large chunk of the pie and eat it too.

Points of contention from the article:

* "It's common sense " quoted from article, from Mr. Rob Sadowsky, that bicyclists should not have to "Stop at stop signs or stop at stop lights or yield to at an intersection."

Where would it be common sense if those who bike follow the law as it's written in the first place ? Motor vehicle operators can't drive lawfully and in a " common sense " way as it is, much less with a bicyclist in the equation who thinks that a stop light means, "hey, it doesn't apply to me".It amazes me that people who bike do not ever admit that they DO NOT have the right of way...ever. Yet I do not see that bicyclists get any tickets for any infractions they commit.They do they want to admit to themselves that they have a great potential for serious injury or worse. As it is said " ...he's a different person when he gets behind the wheel " ,so is it with bicyclists.

* "... - if a car is coming in the opposite direction, it's the bike, not the car, that gets smashed."

To my recollection ( or rather, my way of thinking ), any accident involving a motor vehicle with a bicyclist ( or pedestrian) the aura of blame almost always seems to be on the motorist. Not all accidents involving a bicyclist ( Or pedestrian) is a motorists fault. It would be interesting to see the statistics about Chicago on accidents involving motor vehicles and bicyclists, to see what amount of blame is associated to the drivers and how that relates to civil actions along with their outcomes.A ticket or two (per accident) can mar a person's driving record with insurance companies. Much less the act of getting the ticket(s), I would not like to go and hunt for insurance after being dropped by my insurance company for hitting a pedestrian or a bicyclist. If a ticket is issued, fault is placed on the driver which, and I am not a lawyer ,would help in a civil case for damages, would it not ?

* " If you're on a bike, it seems silly to stop at every light."

Well gee wiz...I feel the same way when I am in my car, on a motorcycle, walking, or on a bicycle. Again, everyone at any given time wants to be in the right of way so as not to have to stop, slow down, use caution ,obey rules.

* " People don't put stop signs in their neighborhood because they're worried about their kids getting run over by bicycles."

I have seen kids , and adults run over by bicyclists along the lakefront and in my neighborhood,sometimes the outcome is severe head injuries to all parties involved.I don't think the method of getting run over means much to the victim now does it ?

* "Think of waiting at a stop light at six in the morning."

Yeah..and ? Obey the law, or break it, like everyone else. Break it and get a ticket, like everyone else should. I feel the same way when I am in my car etc.If the rules of the road were changed to that of Idaho, as mentioned in the article, we reallywouldn't see any change at all. Bicyclists already ignore the rules of the road as it is, and then try to hide their irresponsibleness if something goes wrong for them. Again, if I were to hit a bicyclist I'd probably end up in court even if it wasn't my fault.

I would have respect for bicyclists if they would obey the current law as it is first. Instead of making a case for creating another obstacle to contend with on the road. And yes, obstacle, what else would you call it ? I cannot even remember when I saw a bicyclist make a stop at a stop light in my neighborhood much less anything that could be considered as yielding at a stop sign.What I see and read in the media about this issue, is that bicyclists just want to get on their bicycle and ride nonstop...period. Without any responsibility or worries of others, be it pedestrian or motor vehicle. If I am wrong then why change the current laws ? There are enough distractions and obstacles on the road without having to think ..." Is that bicyclist going to yield or run the stop sign ? " Because... who really yields in Chicago ? It is "common sense" to leave the laws them they way they are, given the fact that we live in a city as large as we do where accidents between motor vehicles is commonplace. Where pedestrians, adult and child alike do not obey traffic signals, traffic signs or cross at the proper place in the road. Let's not help the chance of someone losing their life or limb because a bicyclist does not want to slow down , or bit my tongue, stop when supposed to.I think changing the law(s) would continue to create animosity

Here is what we really should put an end to:

* Those bicyclists who see fit to attach a cart to the rear of their bikes and take junior for a ride on a four lane road during rush hour. ( Seen often , but seen yesterday on North bound Milwaukee avenue from Peterson at 5:30 PM ) Now that's talent, let's put a child in a cart and drag it on a busy road with all sorts of trucks and cars doing 30 - 40 miles per hour.

* Bicyclists who ride without any reflective gear, in dark clothing at night.

* Bicyclists who can seem to be able to ride a bike in the first place. You know the ones, they pedal their bicycle with such a way that the bike sways from side to side. I have to change lanes for those folks in fear of hitting them.( They must ride horses somewhere during the day ,their legs must be bowed, I think, )

Again ,everyone wants the right of way; be it a pedestrian, motor vehicle operator or bicyclist."

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I ride every day. I dont see why a bicyclist see the need to get in cars lanes. Espcially when turning. If we want the same rights as a pedistrian then act like a pedestrian. Do not think that your Bike can go as fast as that 10 ton vehicle that is trying to get around you.

It's clearly a battle of the stupid cyclists vs. the dumb drivers.

And when they collide, the result is predictable, if not fair: the cyclist goes into (and, if he's lucky, out of) the hospital, and the driver pays a bunch of money.

And they both just complain about the other, instead of doing what they can to prevent a mess. Rather like Washington, don't you think? People get the government they deserve. Heaven help us.

"irregardless"? Really? I couldn't take anything you said seriously after that point.

It might help all of us if we remember that the rules of the road NEVER say who has the right of way. Instead, it tells us who must YIELD right of way. It is a subtle but important distinction.

I am a bike rider who sometimes rides through red lights. I do so because I feel it can be safer than proceeding as the light turns green with cars. Too often, cars pull into the right hand turn lane intending to dodge traffic and go straight. If you have two cars and a bike trying to merge back to one lane it gets crowded. I much prefer to stop at the red light (of course) but if the coast is clear I'll proceed and leave the two cars to battle out lane supremacy alone.

Also, in response to laura11 complaint about bikes going on the left side of the car before turning right, I sometimes do that because taking a right while on the right side of a car can get you pinched between the car and the curb - especially if you're in the driver's blind spot. It's a judgement call, sometimes I'll go right and sometimes I'll go left - and I agree it can be tricky and, even after 10 years of riding, I don't always make the right choice. But I do try. Sorry you've had some bad experiences, but hopefully that will explain why a biker would choose to turn by going around to a car's left.

Also bikes don't always have the right of way, but three feet between bikes & motor vehicles is the law, and we do have lane rights - if we're in the center of the lane, please assume that we have a reason - potholes, broken glass, whatever. You don't need to squeeze by - by doing that you're risking my life. Please please please just wait the five seconds (it's rarely longer) until I can get over and you to pass safely. I'd hate to to die just because a driver had a long day at work and couldn't wait to get home or whatever you all are rushing for....

I don't believe bikes should be allowed in the City!

I was going out to lunch today with a friend. We were by Roosevelt in Chicago and this bike pulls out of nowhere while we're in the care. Luckly, my friend didn't take off, since it was a green light, or he might of hit the biker. I know bikers have the same rights as motorist in Chicago, but some of them have death wishes or they wouldn't be pulling in front of cares or going between two lanes of trafic. Either bike on the sidewalk or the side of the road. Half the time i fear of hitting somebody and i'm not the one driving the car.

Yay, Idaho. I have lots of experience rolling thorugh stop signs and taking off at a red lights, legally. I can tell you, done in a town where 35mph tops almost all routes, and 25mph is the norm, I see the law fit. I really hate when i do stop for the rightaway game, having car trying to wave me on, like I'm a lesser transportation. Licensed drivers do need to have bike education from the dmv.

My biggest complaint about are bicyclists are the ones that choose their own traffic pattern, i.e. riding where the dotted line is in the middle of the street, weaving in and out of traffic, and pulling out in front of cars. It is just simple common sense that cars are faster than bicycles; if you pull out in front of me while riding your bike, there's a pretty good chance I am going to hit you. Naturally, it is the bicylclist's fault for not being very bright and causing the incident, but ME, the driver of a vehicle, will get the legal blame in the end.

In Defense of Bicyclists, all persons coming and going in this city do need to pay attention to bikers. This especially applies to people exiting their cars when parked on a street that has a bike lane between their parking spot and the street. Please take a moment to check your side view mirrors before opening your car door so you don't take out a bicyclist.

Take a break from driving and hang out close to a stop sign, see how many cars really stop.
Or do they slow to the speed of a bicycle, then continue?

I don't understand the letter writer's attitude toward car/bike accidents. How can having your insurance rates jacked up be equivalent to being hit by a car? Is the author so consumed with miserliness that having to pay more for insurance is actually as painful to him as having his legs broken? I wouldn't be so hung up on this point except that I keep hearing it in comments sections every time there's an article about a bicycle accident. Some unfortunate cyclist ends up in the hospital or the morgue, and the peanut gallery's crying their eyes out over the poor driver having to buff the stain out of his bumper.

Bicyclist are supposed to follow same laws as motorists. Time and time again I have stopped at a stop sign and then preceded...thankfully with caution because inevitably some yahoo bicylist comes flying down the cross street, not stopping and I'm slamming on my breaks so I don't hit them....Or how about the bicyclist who wants to turn right but goes on the left side of your car to go around you to turn in front of you. Cuz that's the direction I'm looking before I turn right, in my LEFT side mirror to see behind or on the side of me. Dalesy's all for bicyclists and so am I. The more bicyclists there are the less crowded the streets are and less traffic there is, but if they're going to be driving the same streets that motorists do, then they should be held accountable to the same laws. More tickets need to be given out to bicyclists to reign them in before it gets really ugly on the streets.

dumb ass bikes always have the right of way. those damn cars r pollutiong and r suppused to stop on red when turning right

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on September 23, 2008 10:30 AM.

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