Making the case for better behavior on the road

Last week, Brent Cohrs, a blogger for Chicago Now, wrote an insightful series of blog posts making the case for better behavior on the road for people riding bikes and driving cars.

Here are a few tidbits from the posts that went up on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday last week.

Whether you're a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or motorist, if you're not obeying the rules of the road or acting in a predictable manner, you're increasing your own risk for getting injured. Your bad behavior is also increasing the risk for others.


It is difficult to wage a campaign for the right to share the road safely when some riders we seek to protect exhibit no regard for their own safety or the safety of others.

While emphasizing the importance of everyone following the rules of the road and being courteous, Cohrs points out that motorists who drive recklessly warrant the most concern. The potential for injury and even death, he explains, is exponentially higher when motorists behave badly.

The greatest threat to the safety of a pedestrian is a motor vehicle. The greatest threat to the safety of a cyclist is a motor vehicle. The greatest threat to the safety of a motorist is a motor vehicle. When driven improperly, a motor vehicle is a lethal weapon. Let's not lose sight of the fact that driving is by far the most dangerous activity that any of us partakes in on a daily basis.

PS: Active Trans is glad that Cohrs is asking his readers to sign our petition in support of installing protected bike lanes in the Loop. If you haven’t signed it yet, please do so right away.

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recent tragedy

Regarding the very sad result of last weeks death while riding in a bike lane and coming on a motorist opening a car door:
How many of you would drive a car without any rear view mirror? Yet most cyclist do not use them. I'm talking about a rear view mirror mounted on the left side of a pair of glasses. There is a law of phyiscs that allows a wide field of vision from a mirror as long as that mirror is close to the eyeball. I use it whenever riding as a very rapid glance into the mirror can report what is back of you.
If the young man whose incident resulted in death had not noticed the sound of a semi truck near him he at least should have been conscious of that traffic even before encountering an opening car door. In that even he could have either slowed down on seeing the door or hit the door instead of bypassing it.
The photographs printed in the Tribune lead me to notice the bike was a fixed wheel bike with only a front brake. When I am riding in a Chicago bike lane with traffic next to me my hand is always on the drops with fingers touching the brake levers. This only makes sense as cyclists in these lanes ARE vulnerable. Face it!

Having successfully avoided

Having successfully avoided many narrow misses with doors and also, having been unavoidably doored while going at a slow pace, I know that when you are doored you CANNOT react. There is not enough time. It's shocking when it happens and you CANNOT react to it. Preventative measures are always excellent, and sometimes lawfully required, like no headphones while riding, to hear approaching traffics, etc. While I appreciate your valid pointers regarding safe riding and your reality-checks regarding riders' lack of protective space on the roads, I am called to defend this fallen cyclist's reflex. We don't know what exactly happened in that awful collision. Please do not fault his instinctive behavior or his choice of bike equipment. A multitude of split-second decisions were made by several parties and it is grossly unfortunate that this cyclist had to suffer a painful death because of these split-second actions.

In the Chicago region, many

In the Chicago region, many people get around aggressively no matter what they're moving with - car, bike, or feet. Many cars speed and don't yield to pedestrians; too many cyclists blow through stops signs and weave through traffic; and pedestrians jaywalk and text while in the cross walk. Breaking the rules and taking chances on our streets is the norm in the Chicago region. Compare that to places like Portland, where the travel norm is much slower, safer and less aggressive than here.

The culture of "travel aggression" is not unique to cyclists, pedestrians or motorists, and pretending it is only shifts the blame and deters us from finding real solutions. No doubt that cars pose the greatest safety risks, and cars set the tone on our streets more than people on foot and bikes simply because they are much bigger, faster and more common. So motorists have an additional responsibility, but we all need to do out part.

There is no one silver bullet to solve the problem of travel aggression, but more enforcement and people setting good examples are vital. Cities like Portland give us hope!

Ron Burke
Executive Director
Active Transportation Alliance

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