With the advent of the green movement, many people are advocating the virtues of bike riding, especially people in large cities. It’s low cost, low energy, and frees up public transportation space for those of you who hate bike riding. However, most drivers are not used to sharing the roads with bikers, causing confusion and dangerous situations. For instance, a driver turning right may be unaware of a biker on his right side trying to continue straight on the same road. This can cause a serious collision. In some cases, the roadways themselves aren’t safe. Roads may have potholes or depressions in them which could trip up bikers and cause them to fall on the pavement. This is what happened to a Kings County resident who suffered severe brain trauma when he hit a small hole in the pavement that was fine for a car, but unsafe for a bike.
It’s a good thing then that major cities are taking the needs of their biking citizens seriously. Chicago is working hard to build dedicated bike lanes on busy city streets to protect bikers from motorized traffic. In fact, one such bike lane opened up right next to our offices on Kinzie Street. Because Kinzie is now safer for bikers to traverse, the City of Chicago estimates bike riders account for 48% of the rush hour commute on Milwaukee and Kinzie.
Chicago also has special ordinances on the books just to protect bike riders from motorized traffic. Remember the example I mentioned with the biker going straight and the car trying to turn right? Chicago Ordinance 9-16-020 states that the driver has to wait until they are clear of the bicycle to turn right. In other words, the biker going straight has the right-of-way. A car turning left must also wait until a biker who is in the intersection or near it is safely through the intersection before turning right, and if passing a bicycle, must maintain a safe distance of at least three feet from the bicycle until it has overtaken the bicycle.
This is not to say that a bicyclist always has the right-of-way. Bike enthusiasts must still follow traffic laws, use hand signals, and have proper lighting equipment if riding at night. If you are a courier or make deliveries on your bicycle you must wear a helmet. (Though wearing a helmet is always a good idea!) You can learn all the rules of biking in Illinois at the Secretary of State’s website or you can request a pamphlet. And if you are injured while riding your bike, get immediate medical attention and call for legal advice, or visit my website for more information at www.siglaw.com. Remember, bike riders have just as much right to the road as anyone else.