The Chainlink

Should the entire Chicago community start biking on the left side of the street?

I would like to propose the idea of changing the side of the street we ride on. 


Biking on the left you can:

-See oncoming traffic. No surprises from fast cars in the bike lane behind you.

-See people in parked cars, and they can see you. You're less likely to get doored.

-Even if they do open their door it would be a glancing blow, and not a deadly jam onto the sharp edge of the door.


I know this is bound to be unpopular, but it seems to have it's positive points.


Of course this could only work if there was a city-wide consensus. Hence the discussion.


What do you think?

Views: 1402

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'll let others explain why this would be dangerous, but Warren, you might be interested to know that the upcoming protected bike lane on Jackson will probably be on the left side of the road. See the description and photo of Jackson near the end of this article.

If you do get hit, the force would be greater from a head on incident than that of a side or rear incident.

Great idea Warren!

I can't wait for this to become a common occurrence in Chicago...


You're riding the wrong way (against traffic, on the left-hand side of the street). A car makes a right turn from a side street, driveway, or parking lot, right into you. They didn't see you because they were looking for traffic only on their left, not on their right. They had no reason to expect that someone would be coming at them from the wrong direction.

Even worse, you could be hit by a car on the same road coming at you from straight ahead of you. They had less time to see you and take evasive action because they're approaching you faster than normal (because you're going towards them rather than away from them). And if they hit you, it's going to be much more forceful impact, for the same reason. (Both your and their velocities are combined.)

How to avoid this collision:

Don't ride against traffic. Ride with traffic, in the same direction.

Riding against traffic may seem like a good idea because you can see the cars that are passing you, but it's not. Here's why:

  1. Cars which pull out of driveways, parking lots, and cross streets (ahead of you and to the left), which are making a right onto your street, aren't expecting traffic to be coming at them from the wrong way. They won't see you, and they'll plow right into you.
  2. How the heck are you going to make a right turn?
  3. Cars will approach you at a much higher relative speed. If you're going 15mph, then a car passing you from behind doing 35 approaches you at a speed of only 20 (35-15). But if you're on the wrong side of the road, then the car approaches you at 50 (35+15), which is more than twice as fast! Since they're approaching you faster, both you and the driver have lots less time to react. And if a collision does occur, it's going to be ten times worse.
  4. Riding the wrong way is illegal and you can get ticketed for it.

One study showed that riding the wrong way was three times as dangerous as riding the right way, and for kids, the risk is seven times greater. (source)

Nearly one-fourth of crashes involve cyclists riding the wrong way. (sourceSome readers have challenged this, saying if 25% of crashes are from going the wrong way, then riding the right way is more dangerous because it accounts for 75% of crashes. That thinking is wrong. First off, only 8% of cyclists ride the wrong way, yet nearly 25% of them get hit -- meaning wrong-way cyclists really are three times more likely to get hit than those who ride the proper way. Second, the problem with wrong-way biking is that it promotes crashes, while right-way biking does not. For example, cyclists running stop signs or red lights is 17% of their crashes. (source) But do we therefore conclude that not running signals causes 83% of crashes?! (Hint: No.)


Thanks Liz, those are good points.

Great idea!  While we are at re-designing bicycles and bicycle riding let's all go to those new-fangled airless tires.

These are both good ideas who's time has come!



FYI: Riding on the left side is legal on one-way streets (that has at least two lanes). But the dooring issue remains. 

11-15-1505- Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways - Riding on roadways and bicycle paths

"Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a one way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable."

Illinois Compiled Statutes

All good points why this is not an idea whose time has come. Additional anecdotal evidence exists in the form of the City of Chicago experiment with CTA buses traveling the opposite direction on one way streets; e.g. Jackson is one way eastbound with the exception of a lane for buses on the north edge of the road going westbound. Pedestrian going southbound reaches the intersection, sees a "One Way" sign pointing eastbound, looks to the west for oncoming traffic, sees none, and steps off the curb into the path of a westbound CTA bus traveling at speed. I had a friend who worked for the corporation counsel in the mid-80's and his sole specialty was defending the City in reversible bus lane accidents. He was really busy. 


It's hard enough to get people to pay attention to high probability events without mixing it up with low probability events which run contrary to common experience.

Re: Kevin's comment about peds being struck by "wrong-way" CTA buses, it's pretty common for American visitors to Japan, where you drive on the left, to get hit by cars because their instinct is to look left for traffic before crossing a street when they should be looking right.
Ouch! Peds do that even when the biker isn't breaking the rules, merely because they didn't hear anything. Interesting dialog, too. I wonder what a lawyer would say if s/he were involved on behalf of one or the other parties?  Heaven knows why that rider would want to broadcast his idiotic riding to the world....

Duppie said:

Great idea Warren!

I can't wait for this to become a common occurrence in Chicago...

It is a good thing that business man has padding. He landed like one of these.
Duppie said:

Great idea Warren!

I can't wait for this to become a common occurrence in Chicago...

I don't even like riding on the left side of the street when it's a one-way street. The worst part of my commute home is the bike lane on Dearborn, north of the river. No one expects a bike on the left, tons of left turning cars in afternoon traffic trying to get on the Ohio feeder ramp. Ugh. I can't imagine riding on the left and against traffic as well.


© 2008-2016   The Chainlink Community, L.L.C.   Powered by

Disclaimer  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service