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Added Jul 16 2014

Has this topic been discussed to death? Bicyclists are regularly injured by cars, HOWEVER, they also regularly disregard the rules of the road. In the past 2 days, I've counted 7 cyclists going the wrong way down one-way streets like Roscoe. And as for red lights - no such thing. How can they stay safe if they don't take responsibility for their own safety? Are they supposed to obey the same traffic rules as cars?

  • I'll never forget the time when shortly after I moved to Chicago and Lakeview, I went to the lakefront on my bike. I took Roscoe, eastbound from Broadway which is against traffic. A guy about halfway down the block was on the sidewalk talking to someone and saw me heading in his direction. He moves off the sidewalk, stands right in my path and says angrily, "You're going the wrong way." I was far enough away to pretend I didn't hear him with my headphones on, so I just put my head down, kept pedaling. For a second or two, it became a game of chicken to see who was going to avoid the other. I won. I briefly enjoyed the victory but ultimately in the long term, he was victorious. I changed my route to the lakefront by using Aldine from that day forward.
    Years later, this lesson was reinforced, when a biker almost hit me in my car. I was pulling out of an alley on to Aldine. The biker was going fast & the wrong way, so I never saw him until he was skidding towards the side of my car with a look of shock. I totally understood why that guy from years ago made such a big deal. Drivers don't typically check BOTH directions on a one-way street.

  • Kirk Buena Park Buena Park Resident

    I could not agree more.

  • Peter Compernolle I love Chicago.

    this is a great article, definitely worth reading.

  • I also worry about my safety and the safety of bikers when I see some go through red lights that I am stopped at. I'm not a biker so I'll reserve my judgment until I find out more but it would be great if someone could share info on what the city's laws actually are.

  • Here is the Chicago ordinance. Essentially bicyclists must obey all traffic signs.
    • Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic. Riders moving in opposition to traffic is the leading cause of bike accidents on the road.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    By law, cyclist are held to the same rules as drivers for the most part. With respect to actual practice, there is great debate within the cycling community regarding whether cyclist should conform to the law. Some believe that cyclist should always follow all rules if for no other reason than to make nice with other users of the roadway. Others believe that public rights of way and traffic regulations have been developed solely for vehicles, and consequently, do not make sense for cyclist. For example, stop signs were designed with vehicles in mind. Having to come to a full stop at every single stop sign expends far more energy and doesn't make sense. Bicycles by their nature can only go so fast and have far less potential for harm. Additionally, cyclist have a greater field of view than drivers and are able to make better judgments when coming to an intersection. Hence, many cyclist treat stop signs as yields. That being said, there are many cyclist who blatantly run intersections with little regard for other traffic. In the end, the problem is about expectations and norms. If all users of the road (cars, bikes, etc) can reasonably predict what another will do, then we'll all be safe and less stressed out.

  • Stop signs can be frustrating, but I often see evidence of complete disregard for them. No attempt to slow down. If many cyclists weren't so quick to blame motorists for bike accidents, I would be more sympathetic. One-way streets shouldn't pose such a burden as they typically alternate.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    There is blame on both sides. I see drivers do incredibly dangerous things with little regard for other drivers, bikers, or peds all the time. As for one ways, I admittedly will go the wrong way on a one way for a half a block leaving or going to my house. Most of these roads are wide enough to accommodate a lane and half of traffic and shouldn't be a big deal. As for those who "salmon" for more than a block or so, I don't have an explanation. Could be simple laziness like when I see a driver bang a U-turn (that turns into a 3 point turn) in the middle of traffic right in front of me or other traffic. Like I said, all users are guilty of using poor judgment. Might it be that we are simply conditioned to accept / overlook the bad decision of drivers more so than bikers?

  • I think the focus is on careless bikers because they are so much more likely to be seriously hurt when struck by a car in what are all-too-frequent and preventable accidents. Note that cyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets is statistically the leading cause of bike accidents - not motorists disregarding cyclists. There are remedies for bad drivers - and heaven knows there are plenty of them. But tickets are issued, fines are levied, and licenses may be revoked or suspended. What are the penalties for reckless cycling?

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    We can't simply focus on careless bikers. We should focus on all careless users of the road. The rules are the same for cyclist as they are for drivers. The only difference is that the careless biker is a lot less likely to cause serious harm to anyone else (other than himself I suppose). The same cannot be said of the careless driver. Thus, police tend to focus on drivers. As for remedying bad drivers, those laws are not enforced very well either. I spend my evening commute watching nearly a third of drivers stare at their phones while driving, or blocking the bike lane forcing cyclist into traffic. We all need to do a better job of sharing the road and respecting others. While I can't speak to the leading cause of accidents, the leading cause of cyclists' deaths are due to rear-end collisions (

  • Here is another good resource.
    Note that in almost EVERY instance, the advice to bikers is to slow down and to NOT ride against traffic. Yes, fatalities are often the result of a bike being rear-ended, however, fatalities (thankfully) represent a very small number of bike accidents. What about those that cause injury - sometimes serious?

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    I skimmed through the link, and yes, much of this is good advice that many of us practice regularly. But I increasingly feel like you are victim shaming. All responsibility does not lay with bikers / injured bikers. The right hook is a great example where the biker is in fact in the right legally speaking and the driver fails to check before making the turn. This happens all the time and bikers now enter traffic to pass on the left creating many other potential dangerous situations. Dooring is another example where drivers fail to check for a biker. Actual bikers have died because of dooring and they do NOT bear any responsibility for their death. This should not be an us v. them debate. We all bear responsibility. Yes bikers can do things to prevent injury to themselves, but drivers who are operate 1 ton vehicles capable of great speed bear responsibility too. In more bike friendly countries like the Netherlands or Denmark, the driver is held responsible in almost all incidents. Thus, drivers operate their vehicles with more care. Yes, they have superior bike infrastructure and bikers conform to existing laws (designed for cyclist) to a higher degree. My point is that we should be working together to make the public right of way useable and pleasant for all. Not putting the onus bikers as I perceive you to be doing here.

  • I have the utmost respect for cyclists and try to be constantly aware and careful for their safety while driving. I have noticed, however, that many cyclists do not appear to show that same care for pedestrians. They often do not stop or even slow down in pedestrian crossings that are clearly marked with signs indicating that pedestrians have the right of way and all others must stop to allow them safe passage. I have nearly been hit three times in that very situation and twice, the cyclist cursed at me as they went flying by. It seems a little lopsided to vehemently demand respect from all on the road and then practice the opposite. The caution and respect must come from all parties to be successful. Also, I just recently took the Illinois driver's test and according to that, cyclists are required to follow the rules of traffic.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    Sahara, I'm sorry for your experience. That is unfortunate. But, there are bad bikers like there are bad drivers. I watch drivers behave similarly at these crossings. I've also watch bikers myself included block traffic so that an infirm person could cross the intersection. It is a fallacy to ascribe the behavior one user to that of all. There are good drivers and good bikers as well as bad ones. As you said, caution and respect must come from all. This goes for peds too. I've seen peds blatantly block the protected bike lane in the loop or simply step out into without looking. I've seen peds simply stand in the bike lane and carry on a conversation with little regard for the bikers coming through. There are good peds and bad peds. Their behavior likely reflects their general attitude towards others in all aspects of their lives. Same goes for drivers and bikers.

  • Since I moved back to Chicago in 2008, I have seen only two bicyclists stop at a stop sign (not counting the ones who actually stopped because there was too much traffic for them to just blow through it).

    Like Sahara, I too have almost been hit by bicyclists while walking the neighborhood. Here are just two examples. I was walking to work about to cross Clark at School/Aldine. I don't like crossing Clark there because people have a tendency to roll through that stop sign (bikers and cars included, even buses). Before stepping out into Clark, I made sure the car stopped at the sign and even made eye contact. I stepped out and almost got slammed by a bicyclist who came whizzing by the stopped car and the curb. I didn't look further up the street as my attention was more focused on the 1000+ pound car that has the potential to kill me. I wanted to ensure that the driver saw me. Now I assume that the stupid bicyclist also saw me. Either way he should have been slowing down to stop at the stop sign. But he wasn't because stop signs don't apparently apply to bicyclists.

    On my street which is a one way, my kids and I were getting out of the car. We had been "in the street" for a little bit because I was gather the groceries we had just bought. As I finished and turned to cross the street, I bicyclist almost hit me because he was going the wrong way down the one way. Now like I said, we had been "in the street" for a bit so any normal idiot breaking the law would have given us a wide birth as he passed. Worse than him hitting me would have been him hitting one of my kids.

    @Nikul, thank you for stopping for the infirm, but the law states that everyone must stop for ANY pedestrians within the crosswalk (bikes, buses, cars, trucks included).

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    With respect to the peds in the crosswalk, I have had close calls simply because I couldn't seem them over the stopped car. It is a lesson learned for me and I know to approach with caution.

    For each ped and driver complaint, I can come up with an equal amount biker complaints. We can continue to air our grievances about the "other," but it seems self defeating. I'm not defending bicyclists that put others in harm's way. I'm only trying to demonstrate a bicyclist's point of view so that we can come up with rules that make sense and understand each other.

    @El Mojo: That example was simply to illustrate that not every biker is bad or disrespectful of others. Many bicyclist do stop for those in the crosswalk. However, there is some common sense here. Should a bike stop if the pedestrian is just entering the crosswalk on the far side of the street? That seems a little extreme.

    As for your bad biker example, the biker that blew the stop sign should have slowed down and/or stopped, However, many bicyclist have become conditioned to ignore stop signs because they represent a car centric model of regulating traffic and aren't practical for bikes. In another world, that biker may have taken heed of that stop sign had regulations been tailored to bikes. It doesn't make sense for a bike to come to a complete stop at every stop sign.

    On another note, I run through Lakeview a couple times a week and come upon cars that do many things that put me in danger including entering halfway into the intersection without checking the crosswalk and blatantly running red lights well after its changed. Yet, I never see complaints along these lines by peds about drivers. Are we not a little conditioned to except these wrongs because we have been surrounded by cars for so long and our infrastructure is so car-centric?

  • This is simple: Car centric model or not, it's the law. Whether cyclists disagree with the laws for them of not , it's the law . If you disobey the law, you put everyone else at risk, because people expect a defined behavior (e.g ., stop at a stop sign) When I'm on my bike, I stop for signs, ride with traffic because it's the behavior that's expected by law. I don't try to rationalize blatant disregard for the law or deflect the conversation to bad drivers. Just obey the law.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    @soccermom: Many agree with your position. I don't. I don't believe in such unwavering loyalty to traffic regulations and laws that don't reflect core moral values, practical reality, and common sense. Bad laws are bad laws and need to be changed. Clearly, current traffic regs don't work for the current situation or we wouldn't be having this conversation. I'm also advocating for changing these regulations and creating new norms for everyone to abide by. I'm not deflecting on bad drivers. Those instances where I referenced bad driving were to illustrate a point that not all bikers are bad just as not all drivers are bad. It is easy to demonize the "other." I'm trying prevent that. And my only goal into trying to explain cyclist behavior was to inform others of a cyclist's perspective. To explain the level of frustration / anger that cyclist have with drivers. To explain some cyclists disregard for such established norms like the stop sign. Part of me hopes that we can work together to change the current rules to be more accommodating to all users of the road. By doing so, I hope cyclists will respect those regulations, and their behavior will become more predictable for drivers and peds. My end goal is safety and peaceful coexistence, not unwavering loyalty to rules that may be outdated to the current situation.

  • I definitely see your POV, however I also agree with SoccerMom that right now we have the laws we have and that is what everyone expects. By all means, if the laws don't work, let's change them, but until then, cyclists ignore them at their own peril. Drivers aren't being hurt in wrong way accidents or run red lights, cyclists are.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    For those who don't understand cyclist's frustration and anger at drivers, I hope this helps. On today's commute home (North on Dearborn out of the Loop, North on Clark, and West on Belmont) at around 330-4p, I encountered the following situations: 1) 3 vehicles parked in the bike lane; 2) one driver with Indiana plates intentionally running 2 stop signs in a row without even slowing down on Dearborn just north of Chicago; and 3) one Acura MDX who just passed me only to cut into the bike lane to take a right into the shopping strip at Clark and Wellington with me watching my life flash before my eyes.

    This stuff happens to cyclists on a near daily basis. The thinking goes if no one else respect the rules why should I. I just hope we can tweak the rules to better accommodate cyclist and create more mutual respect for all users of the roadway. I simply don't understand the defense of the status quo given that it is not working.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    Francine: Thank you for considering my POV. And most cyclist who ignore such rules with blatant disregard will tell you as much. But lets not pretend that drivers are predictable or rule abiding either. My post above describes as much. Lets work to change the rules, and increase respect for cyclist use of roads and bike infrastructure. From my personal experience as a cyclist, it feels like drivers don't want to share the road. I'm regularly squeezed, yelled at, honked at, and cut off. Often times, it feels intentional.

  • "For example, stop signs were designed with vehicles in mind. Having to come to a full stop at every single stop sign expends far more energy and doesn't make sense. Bicycles by their nature can only go so fast and have far less potential for harm"

    Nikul, stop signs are not just about controlling speed. The purpose is to allow cross traffic the opportunity to travel through an intersection. So when cyclists don't feel like stopping when other vehicles are waiting at a stop that's a problem for me, and one of the many reasons people have the idea cyclists think the laws of the road don't apply to them.

    You want to roll a stop sign on your bike when there are no vehicles waiting to cross an intersection? have it. 90% of the cars are doing that anyway. But to blatantly run stop signs with no intent of slowing down and with complete disregard for everyone else around you is reckless. So, sorry you have to expend more energy, but if safety is the priority paying attention to stop signs is a good place to start.

  • I think we should welcome more cyclists, make it safer for more people to ride bikes in the city and encourage more biking and less driving.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    @Kevin: I do NOT support cyclist blowing through active stop signs. That comment was made in the context of explaining why cyclist treat these intersections as yields ("Idaho stops"). Thus, at an active intersection, a cyclist should yield to those arriving at the intersection first before proceeding. Not simply entitle themselves to blow through the intersection with no regard for the interest of other users of the road way. Please read the entire comment as you would have noticed how I distinguish that from those that blatantly run the stop sign with no regard for others.

    @Francie: Thank you for your support.

  • i find it more scarey sometimes riding in the direction of traffic on narrow streets as many cars open their driver's side door without looking for bikes in the street. if i'm riding towards them, they can see me. point taken, though, in regard to turning out of alleys, etc.
    on the bike path along the lake, it is also dangerous because i always try to ride as far to the right as possible to allow other faster bikers to pass me, but many times pedestrians are totally oblivious to the fact that anyone other than themselves in on the path. and/or they walk 2-4 across. really?
    the answer is just awareness of others as is true in most situations in life.

  • Shelly Lifelong suburbanite, now in Galewood,via Lakeview

    I work just north of the intersection of Lincoln and Irving. We actually had an accident, I believe, either involving a bicyclist or a pedestrian happen across from our store. I told my co-worker, who bikes in everyday, this is why I worry about you.

  • Chi-girl Lakeview can't we all just get along

    Bikers should have to get license plates. There is no accountability for their careless actions.

  • lauren :)

    Yes. They are supposed to follow the same rules as cars. I appreciate it when I see ones who do. However few and far between they are. As for the rule breakers, they think they fall under the "pedestrians always have the right of way" rule. Which they don't. Even pedestrians follow rules better than bikes. Waiting to cross the street until it clears up.
    I hit a biker myself who went through a red light. She tried to blame me and the insurance immediately told her they wouldn't cover anything because she went through the red light. I never got a ticket either. Pretty sure she did, though.

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    @Andrea: 1) Licensing would have the effect of deterring cycling as a mode of transport especially for the poor. We should be doing the opposite. Placing additional regulatory burdens on cyclist only seeks to maintain the status quo. Instead, existing laws should be better enforced especially at busy intersections.
    2) Speaking of accountability, maybe we should hold drivers accountable. Please see

  • Hangin-in-Roscoe Lovin, Livin, Likin

    @Lauren: Not all bikers are bad bikers. The overwhelming majority of the ones I see conduct themselves with all due care and common sense. Most bikers recognize they are especially vulnerable and prefer not to be killed.

  • lauren :)

    Nikul - that's why I said "I appreciate the ones who follow the rules."
    The amount of bikers who DO follow the rules, however, is much smaller than the number who don't.

  • Education and accountability is the answer...Bicyclists will continue to have freedom on the city streets (at the risk of injury) until they are educated and licensed then held accountable for their actions with regard to the current Rules of the Road as drivers currently are or should be (whether or not we all agree with the current Rules of the Road or not they are there for all of our safety NOT our convenience and they are all we know!!!).
    The city has negligently placed MILE upon MILE of bicycle lanes within our communities with NO regard for anyone's safety...Peds, Bicyclysts, or Motorists. We are ALL in harm's way. No one is getting educated on how to handle sharing the city streets!
    All of the barking on this thread is aimed at the wrong audience. Why was there no eduction before this implementation?! Did the city just want the status of the "greenest city" and have NO regard for any of our safety? With all the money spent on laying all of the bike lanes...was there nothing left to educate the masses with a revision to the Rules of the Road?! Smh

  • As someone who bikes countless miles and often to lakeview, i think the city should have a licence program where cyclists Have to learn proper rules and regulations of biking. I also think the idaho rule for stop signs should be passed.but this will never happen. I HATE when i run into a biker going the wrong way on my side. It brings out some nasty! Have people heard of lights,hand signals and one ways. But then again, drivers hardly use their proper driving skills (lights, turn signals, legal turning, u turns, or pull outs). Im a safe rider and been hit by one car and two taxis. We need prober signs and bike lanes!

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