In a recent online discussion, it seemed that some folks in the neighborhood were a bit confused by the new markings on Longwood Dr. All they do is formalize the usage that's been in place for years. Lines mark designated parking areas on Longwood. Sharrows (shared lane symbols) send the message that the traffic lanes are SHARED lanes. The amount of space for each purpose, and the locations of those spaces have not changed.
I think that some people see the new bike markings on the pavement and misinterpret them. Notice that the chevrons above the bike symbol point in the direction of traffic. That's how you're supposed to ride - WITH the direction of traffic, not against it. Using a bike mirror is worthwhile to see what's coming from behind you. These mirrors are all good ones. They're not expensive or hard to install.
Lately my husband and I have seen families with young kids riding the wrong
way against traffic on Longwood Dr. Please DON'T teach your kids that this
illegal move is okay. They could pay for this mistake with serious
injury or worse.
As more people ride in the Dearborn bike lane downtown, some mistakenly extend this model (a two-direction bike lane, rare in the city) to any place they see sharrows.
If you're in a head-on crash with a car or truck, the force of impact is greater than it would be if you were hit from behind (a rare type of crash in cities). In a wrong way scenario, there's a LOT less time for you and the driver to react safely and avoid a crash. Drivers are not expecting you to be coming at them in the wrong lane of traffic, so they're not looking for you.
Similarly, if you are riding on the sidewalk (in violation of Chicago law if you are over the age of 12), drivers are not watching for you when you cross streets or alleys, so you are at greater risk of a crash when you cross those streets or alleys compared to being in the traffic lane where you are more visible to drivers.
On the legal side of things, if you're in a crash that you caused and you are injured, good luck with that. The driver's auto insurance company and yours will deny the claim. They'll say that you broke the law so you're more than 50% at fault for the crash. Illinois law for bicycles states: "When riding, you must ride in the same direction as other traffic.
Riding in the opposite direction of traffic is both dangerous and
illegal." (Disclaimer - I work for a personal injury law firm that focuses on
bike crash cases, so I have plenty of experience with how these situations play out.)
Here's another thing to consider - if you cause a crash because you are breaking the law, and you cause damage to the vehicle that hit you, it's very likely that the driver's insurance company will go after you for the cost of repairing the vehicle. Yes, this really IS a thing.
If you'd like a refresher on Bicycle Rules of the Road, it's worth taking a bit of to review current Illinois bike laws. Test your knowledge (or your kid's) with the Ride Illinois bike safety quiz. They have versions available for various age groups - and for drivers. If you drive but don't ride, it's worth taking the driver quiz. There are recently passed laws you should know about.
Wishing you many years and miles of safe riding. Please teach your kids (or grandkids) to ride safely and legally so their rides are safe, too.