The Chainlink

Breakin' the law: What should Chicago do about bicyclists who don't follow the rules?

I thought this article, which looks at the best approaches to dealing with three different kinds of lawbreaking behavior on a bike, might be of interest to Chainklinkers.

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For the love of God, legalize the Idaho Stop already. As we saw with the 55 mph speed limit, when 85+% of the drivers were in violation of the law, it's not doing a whole lotta good, and only reinforcing the idea that traffic laws are there as a source of revenue, and not safety. The Idaho Stop, when done correctly, does not endanger anyone, and should not lead to confusion. If anyone is confused, then it wasn't a proper Idaho Stop. It's really quite simple. If one doesn't have the right away, then yield.

BTW, in addition to being a cyclist, I'm also a life member of the National Motorists Association. 'No idea why they're opposed to the IS. The association's basic mantra is that traffic laws should be sensible, with high level of voluntary compliance. If 2/3rd of cyclists are treating red lights as stop signs, and only 4% are stopping fully at stop signs, the law is wrong. This is a lower compliance rate than the old double nickel speed limit.

Why is it that we regularly bring this conversation out to discuss how cyclists break the law but seem to be mostly quiet when it comes to the elephant in the room? I get frustrated because every day I ride to work I have to use 3 crosswalks. Every single day at least one car blows through it with me standing there. 

Every single day a car is parked with flashers on blocking the bike lane. Or just parked there. When I lived in DC, I'd see 5+ instances just on my bike ride home from the station.

Every single day I see drivers looking at their laps. Why? They are trying to be sly about looking at their phone. Or some are just blatantly using them in the open because who really cares? 

So while I realize motorists like to use a false equivalence, why do we cyclists allow them to? Why do we scold and get mad at our own when so many motorists put us in harm's way on a daily basis? John, I'm glad you clarify and break it down into 3 points but I also worry that every single time we give this air space we are saying there's some legitimacy to it rather than talking about that elephant in the room. The deadly motorists.

Yes, yes, yes

On my 10 minute ride home this evening I encountered ~12 cars illegally stopped in the bike lane. I'll be posting them shortly. You are absolutely correct. Cyclists that put others in danger should of course be flagged. Rolling through a stop sign at a clear intersection is not dangerous, and shouldn't be treated as such.

Not to be flip, but we as humans are able to be concerned about more than one thing at a time.  If I'm concerned about how a motorist acts, it doesn't mean I have to give a reckless cyclist a pass, and vice versa.    

For me, to be honest, I look at the action of a truly reckless cyclist (I'm talking about someone that rides in a manner that's well beyond bending a few rules to stay safe, the Class 3 that John mentions) as an embodiment of how over-entitled that person acts in society in general.  Few people are one thing in life.  A cyclist that blows through an intersection out of sense of misplaced entitlement one day (and they're out there) may very well be the driver of a car that rolls through a crosswalk and almost hits a pedestrian on another day.  Or the cyclist exhibiting bad behavior while riding may be the entitled jerk you have to deal with in some other aspect of your life.         

I'll be a lot more concerned, on behalf of the general public, about cyclists breaking the law when the law and infrastructure takes cyclists into account, rather than just motorists. People driving cars kill tens of thousands of people every year. People riding bicycles do not. 

They should up the penalties for breaking the law, the current ones are too lax.

I laugh at being arrested!

My bike impounded? Try again.

A $250 fine? I can pay that every day.

I'm buying a car and kill someone and get a $75 failure to yield ticket.


Most Americans drive.  Few cycle. The "normal" American attitude is that people ride bikes for exercise.  Why are they even on the streets, in my way, when I'm in my car trying to get somewhere?  Why don't they ride on all those expensive paths we made for them in the parks?

I ride very carefully and courteously.  But it doesn't seem to give me any protection from the many drivers who simply don't want me to exist. So while law-breaking by cyclists is annoying, and probably does somewhat affect public attitudes, I'd argue that it's a second order effect.  The primary cause for negative attitudes about cyclists is that most people don't cycle, don't understand why anyone would, and don't understand why cyclists should be on the streets.  OTOH, drivers are pretty patient with a lot of law-breaking by drivers e.g., double parking, because they do it themseles and understand why others want to do it.


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