Sunday, September 9, 2018

getting up to speed

Getting up to speed isn’t always about going as fast as possible. Sometimes it’s good to do a refresher on rules of the road. Laws change over time, so what we learned years ago isn’t necessarily the same as current laws. Going back and reviewing from time to time may also help us break bad habits.

I see evidence every day that doing this would be relevant for many drivers. A few days ago I was riding my bike on Longwood Dr. A driver zoomed up from behind me, shrieking “Get out the street! Get out the street!” I’ve heard clueless things said by lots of drivers like her who seem unaware of state laws giving cyclists the same rights as drivers on the vast majority of streets.

Too many seem equally unaware of the Chicago law requiring cyclists 12 and older to be on the street, not on the sidewalk, unless it's a location where the sidewalk is designated as a trail. This is for pedestrian safety. Grandma will thank you. Laws on this subject vary by municipality. Many suburbs allow riding on the sidewalk except in business districts or other areas where signage prohibits sidewalk riding.

If you’re driving, there are a few important bike-related laws you should know. Illinois and most other states have a 3 foot passing law, requiring you to move far enough to the left of a cyclist to leave 3 feet or more between your vehicle and the bicycle when passing.

When you are parked, opening your door into traffic make cause a serious injury or fatality for a passing cyclist. It's happened to me. I turned a corner and encountered an illegally parked car at the crosswalk. The driver flung his door open and knocked me sideways, flying off the bike into evening rush hour traffic onto my tailbone. The woman driving behind me hit the brakes and put on her flashers, blocking cars behind her from hitting me. Some people aren’t as lucky when they get doored.

This is why there is a state law requiring drivers to look before opening their doors and wait until the lane is clear before doing so if there is approaching traffic. Looking before opening your door can help to prevent tragedies like this one in Pilsen last week.

      (625 ILCS 5/11-1407) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1407) Sec. 11-1407. Opening and closing vehicle doors. No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

A new bill was just passed adding the Dutch reach technique to Rules of the Road and adding bike safety questions to the state driver’s license exam.

If you see someone on a bike using hand signals and there hasn't been any unfriendly exchange to provoke hostile gestures, pay attention. They're probably trying to tell you that they're stopping or turning.

If you're the one who's going to turn and there are no cars in sight, it's still a good idea to use your turn signals if there's a pedestrian or cyclist who may be affected by your turning movement. They need to know if you're turning. That critical bit of information may save that person's life or prevent serious injuries.

Illinois and most states have laws requiring drivers to stop or yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. A while back I wrote about an incident I witnessed on 99th St. where a driver  was trying to intimidate a group of moms and kids who were crossing the street in front of All Day Montessori.

A driver who uses their vehicle to threaten a vulnerable road user (pedestrian or cyclist) or deliberately or recklessly hits and injures them may be charged with vehicular assault.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. To deserve that privilege, it’s our individual responsibility as drivers to stay up to date on current laws. Anyone who choses to be ignorant of laws threatens the safety of others and should not be driving a motor vehicle.

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