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?

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Some cars have that and they're called suicide doors.  Basically if the door unlatches or opens a bit while the car is moving, the force of the moving air pushes the door open rather than closed and closing the door becomes really difficult since you have to fight air resistance to close the door.

Carter O'Brien said:

What if car doors had the hinges reversed and opened in reverse?  Then if you hit a door it would just slam shut instead of deflecting the cyclist away from the car.

Michael J Blane said:

I'm thinking that even the "glancing blow" would deflect the bike and rider directly into oncoming traffic.

Cool, a gentle dooring before the headon.

Whoever taught Paul to ride on the left is in error.  A bicyclist is safer to ride with traffic than against traffic because if hit from ahead, the effect is worse because the bicyclist's speed is added to the motorist's speed.  If hit from behind, the bicyclist's speed is subtracted from the motorist's speed.  Moreover, if the bicyclist hits the motorist head-on, the bicyclist had better be wearing a helmet, or be ready to donate his vital organs.  If then cyclist is hit from behind, he/she will probably land on the motor vehicle backside first.  To get adequate warning of a motorist approaching from behind, a bicyclist can install a relatively cheap rear view mirror. 


The new design for Jackson will likely be on the left to avoid conflicts with buses.  That's on a one-way street though, which isn't what I think you mean.  It sounds like you think being a salmon riding against traffic is safer, but research shows it is more dangerous than riding with traffic.

I keep wondering why someone thought that having that Dearborn bike lane on the left side was a good idea.  There are too many places where that is a disaster - especially Ohio.

Michelle said:
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.
Well said.  If you're in a head-on collision, basic physics makes the impact worse than an impact from behind.  (see #3 below)  Just use a mirror! 

Liz said:


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.)


The only reason I think it's a bad idea is because everything moves to the right. Slower traffic is always on the right (or supposed to be) and we're more apt to be seen and looked for on the right.

Just my opinion. 


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