Rogue bikers ignore Rules of the Road

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What part of “STOP” do bicyclists not undertand? A River North resident says they endanger pedestrians: “All I have to do is stand on Kinzie for five minutes in the morning and 20 bicyclists blow through stop signs.” | Mark Konkol

 

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Last summer, I dared to point out the obvious: Protected bike lanes are bunk.

They’re a giant waste of money that probably don’t protect anybody. Not bicyclists. Not drivers. Not pedestrians. And spending millions of dollars on those ugly white pylons certainly doesn’t protect taxpayers during tough financial times.

Of course, that really ticked off the bicycling crazies, who dismissed my opinion with high-minded logic: Don’t believe a lazy, ugly, fat and stupid guy who drives a Korean station wagon.

“Looks like he’d start sweating in 60 degrees,” some knucklehead wrote on a blog that nobody reads.

Another bike activist kept asking me to join him on a protected bike ride, hoping I might see the light. I declined. I’ve been riding unprotected on Chicago streets for years, thank you very much.

But the way rabid cyclists reacted did help me consider why they got so worked up over my point of view. They must be smarter, skinnier and just better people than guys like me. In fact, they are more evolved urban creatures. They don’t just ride their bikes to work. They are saving lives, reducing the carbon footprint and traffic congestion. They might even be curing cancer, ending hunger and homelessness one pedal at a time. As a superior race of Chicagoans, cyclists deserve the extra protection provided by plastic poles.

But just before I completely changed my tune on bike lanes, a levelheaded River North woman talked me out of it.

Rogue bicyclists emboldened by their special lanes have become a threat to pedestrian safety, she told me. They must be taught manners or, at the very least, the Rules of the Road, such as obeying traffic signals, sharing the street and — I’m paraphrasing here — don’t be a jerk.

“All I have to do is stand on Kinzie for five minutes in the morning and 20 bicyclists blow through stop signs. They’re all wearing ear buds listening to music. They’re in a zone, a bubble, and they don’t stop. It’s scary. I hate driving on that street. It’s scary,” the River North gal said on the condition that I keep her anonymous to avoid attacks from bicycle-riding anarchists.

Cyclists might not like hearing it, but she’s right. I’ve almost been run over by a woman on a vintage 10-speed and a klutzy fellow riding in flip-flops who apparently believes stop signs are optional for cyclists, particularly if they’re riding in a protected lane.

But don’t take our word for it, militant bicycle people of Chicago.

Here’s what Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) wrote to Chicago Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein: “I have received chronic residential reports that bicyclists frequently ignore posted stop signs, leading to several ‘near misses’ on a daily basis.”

Reilly “respectfully requested” that the city install signs that state: “Bicyclists MUST Stop at Intersection” signs next to stop signs on Kinzie. In a separate letter, the alderman asked that speed humps or other bicycle traffic-calming measures be added to what he called the “Kinzie Cycle Track.”

That seemed like an ironic request because Klein once told me that a goal of protected bike lanes is to slow down auto traffic in Chicago. His faithful bike-riding followers either didn’t get that part of his message or figured that goal doesn’t apply to pedal power.

Since Reilly sent those letters in March, the city has installed reminders on stop signs and painted “STOP” on the street as a reminder.

As a rule, Reilly said he was told, the city doesn’t put speed humps downtown. Instead, Chicago cops and transportation department “ambassadors” have conducted “educational” traffic stops. Officers read cyclists the riot act — and the Rules of the Road — for blowing through stop signs, and they hand out warnings.

More of those education days are scheduled for the next few weeks.

Reilly says bike lanes are a “nice amenity” geared at making streets safer, but it won’t work if cyclists don’t slow down, stop at stop signs and watch out for pedestrians.

And if warnings don’t work, the next step, Reilly said, will be ticketing law-breaking bicyclists for moving violations.

I still don’t think extra signs, written warnings, traffic tickets or anything you put in front of a guy going downhill on a bike will keep him from blowing a stop sign.

On Thursday, I stopped on Kinzie to snap a picture of the “stop for peds” sign. Just as I hit the button, a guy on a bike zoomed downhill through the stop sign and swerved to avoid a woman crossing the street while picking up speed — stop sign be damned.

There’s no point debating the need for these bike lanes, though I could argue the pylon-lined path linking Garfield Park to Douglas Park should include bulletproof vests, and there are no protected lanes where you really need them — Halsted Street, Elston Avenue and, of course, Milwaukee Avenue through Bucktown and Wicker Park, where hipsters on Huffys are constantly crashing into open car doors.

I won’t push it anymore.

But it is time for a cyclist culture change.

Go ahead, enjoy your fancy bike lines.

But obey the signs. Slow down. Watch out for pedestrians.

And try not to be a jerk while you share the road with chubby guys driving station wagons.

We are people, too.

Link:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/13894027-452/rogue-bikers-i...

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Since suburban traffic speeds tend to be higher, it makes sense that fatality rates would be higher.  Read more here on speed vs. fatality rate.  This and related issues have been discussed in relation to multiple topics on the Grid Chicago blog.  While traffic congestion may be a pain in the butt to drivers, it works to the advantage of cyclists and pedestrians by reducing traffic speeds, thus reducing speed of impact and improving the odds of survival.


O said:

I tried to deal with what I termed The Myth of Urban Cycling Difficulty (http://www.beezodogsplace.com/2012/07/20/a-bicycle-is-not-a-nose-ring/) by doing a bit of research on the percentage of fatalities in both the city limits and suburban areas. Some of the data there are from the tables listed in the DOT summaries. It turns out that suburban fatalities appear to be higher as a percentage per number of crashes

I have decided that 'O' stands for obtuse.

I'm trying to parse your response below. Since you did not quote anyone specifically I suppose you are responding generally. What has me confused is the second sentence in the first paragraph. What exactly does this mean? I assume too that the second paragraph is referring to the author of the original article?

notoriousDUG said:

the fact that cars do not follow the rules is not a justification for bikes not following the rules.  I am not an advocate is following the rules to the letter but I am an advocate of riding politely when it comes to pedestrians and other road users.

The second he was called fat and picked on the argument on the previous article was lost.

Spencewine did not (so far as I can find) mention anything about either local or current statistical information in the paragraph I quoted. That was why it surprised me when he spoke about the pedestrian vs. cyclist situation in that manner. I can understand that you might have taken his reference to be about local incidents, but parse the sentence again.

It is a bit like the claim (made with Venn Diagrams) that urban cyclists face steeper challenges than do professional cyclists participating in the Tour de France. That too is pretty farfetched.

h' said:

I'm pretty sure "zero" is wrong, but I took spencewine's post to be in reference to local incidents.

S/he was certainly clear about "this year" regardless of other imprecision.  It's interesting that someone has felt it important to compile those videos, but a random bunch of ped vs. bike crashes from the whole globe over a several year period doesn't really relate regardless of how one interprets the post.

Motorists... Bankers... Politicians... and Football coaches!!!... if there is one thing we can agree on?... Everyone loves rules!

Only laws of nature will be adhered to 100% of the time by every human.  Thinking gravity/Newtons 3 laws of motion and so on.  Expecting greater participation in human law is poop.

It means exactly what it says, I do not think I could have made in any simpler.  Read the words and interpret them literally.  I'll try and dumb it down for you: Rules not perfect!  No follow rules exactly! Be nice to others on road! Og ride bike!

Yes I was referring to the author of the original article I think that was pretty obvious.

You know I am really starting to question your reading comprehension skills...

O said:

I'm trying to parse your response below. Since you did not quote anyone specifically I suppose you are responding generally. What has me confused is the second sentence in the first paragraph. What exactly does this mean? I assume too that the second paragraph is referring to the author of the original article?

notoriousDUG said:

the fact that cars do not follow the rules is not a justification for bikes not following the rules.  I am not an advocate is following the rules to the letter but I am an advocate of riding politely when it comes to pedestrians and other road users.

The second he was called fat and picked on the argument on the previous article was lost.

Unfortunately, regarding ped/bike crashes, until IDOT (and NHTSA) decide that ped/bike numbers are important, we won't have true picture of what's happening. CDOT does work with CPD to gather any serious (hospital injury/death) crash information, as these are the two agencies that deal with the aftermath of a crash. The downside of this approach is that CDOT is not legally the keeper of this info (that should be IDOT,) and therefor we can't really make these numbers officially public. Additionally, because even in the best circumstances, there's many layers to the investigative process at CPD; the Police don't really have a mechanism for collecting this data either. They release the serious stuff to CDOT as a courtesy. So far this year, I have not seen or heard any reports of any "serious" bike/ped crashes.

Just a little note. I don't make these decisions about reporting, and I'm not saying all of this so you can tell me that CDOT doesn't do enough. Citizens need to advocate to their state reps and the governors office that IDOT needs to increase it's reporting scope. Members of CDOT staff battled for years about dooring, and it wasn't until real folks got involved that IDOT changed their policy. Email me if you have questions. Howard will tell you that I do respond.

One more thing. If you are willing, I believe that all closed CPD reports are viewable through FOIA, but you must be willing to sift through the info yourself. I know that because of ongoing investigations (and law suits) many reports are not always filed until years later, but I think (I don't know for sure) you can have access to them at some point. Someone who's willing to do the work could probably come up with a pretty good picture of all bike/ped crashes in the city.

The Venn diagram is meant to show the overlap in challenges, not the comparative difficulty of all elements combined in one set v. the other set. Michelle meant to say that riding in the city does not prepare you to ride the TdF and vice versa, not which one is harder.

O said:.

It is a bit like the claim (made with Venn Diagrams) that urban cyclists face steeper challenges than do professional cyclists participating in the Tour de France. That too is pretty farfetched.

FYI, Active Trans sent the response below to the Sun-Times.

- Lee Crandell, Active Trans

The Active Transportation Alliance agrees with Mark Konkol’s call for courtesy and respect on our streets (“Rogue Bikers Ignore Rules of the Road,” July 22). Unfortunately Mr. Konkol’s baseless hyperbole is counter-productive toward these measures, which seek only to divide people and fuel more aggression.

“We are people too,” Mr. Konkol reminds bike commuters, after labeling them as “rabid” and “militant” “crazies” and “knuckleheads.” If Mr. Konkol seeks more courtesy and respect, perhaps he should demonstrate some himself. Courtesy begins with each of us, even when someone is wrong. For example, we respectfully point to traffic data from across the country demonstrating the safety benefits of protected bike lanes, which contradicts Mr. Konkol’s claim they are “bunk.”

Chicago is transitioning into a city where you can safely walk, bike and drive. Reckless biking is not acceptable, nor is reckless driving. In Chicago alone, there are 60 vehicle crashes per day with serious injuries and fatalities to people inside cars, on foot and on bikes. Better street design, including protected bike lanes, helps calm all traffic and improve safety. People in cars, on bikes and on foot should all embrace these changes, even if some are still adjusting to them. To commuters and newspaper columnists alike, let’s show a little courtesy and respect for one another.

- Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance

Well played.  +1

Active Transportation Alliance said:

FYI, Active Trans sent the response below to the Sun-Times.

- Lee Crandell, Active Trans

The Active Transportation Alliance agrees with Mark Konkol’s call for courtesy and respect on our streets (“Rogue Bikers Ignore Rules of the Road,” July 22). Unfortunately Mr. Konkol’s baseless hyperbole is counter-productive toward these measures, which seek only to divide people and fuel more aggression.

“We are people too,” Mr. Konkol reminds bike commuters, after labeling them as “rabid” and “militant” “crazies” and “knuckleheads.” If Mr. Konkol seeks more courtesy and respect, perhaps he should demonstrate some himself. Courtesy begins with each of us, even when someone is wrong. For example, we respectfully point to traffic data from across the country demonstrating the safety benefits of protected bike lanes, which contradicts Mr. Konkol’s claim they are “bunk.”

Chicago is transitioning into a city where you can safely walk, bike and drive. Reckless biking is not acceptable, nor is reckless driving. In Chicago alone, there are 60 vehicle crashes per day with serious injuries and fatalities to people inside cars, on foot and on bikes. Better street design, including protected bike lanes, helps calm all traffic and improve safety. People in cars, on bikes and on foot should all embrace these changes, even if some are still adjusting to them. To commuters and newspaper columnists alike, let’s show a little courtesy and respect for one another.

- Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance

Once again, I am so glad I have an active ATA membership. Thank you Ron and Lee.

And I will still roll carefully through stop signs when there is no opposing ped, car or bike traffic, no matter who is counting.

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