With over 280 miles of bike lanes, marked-shared lanes, and signed bike routes installed throughout Chicago, motorists should be aware of the best practices for sharing the road with bicycles. Reducing accident rates and improving road safety involves understanding the bike lane laws and knowing how to prevent and avoid collisions in everyday situations.
Sharing the Road with Cyclists
The first step to safely sharing the road with bicycles is to understand the different bicycle lanes you’ll encounter in Chicago. Traditional bike lanes are striped, on-street lanes with a bicycle symbol and an arrow. Sometimes, these lanes are painted green. Buffer-protected bike lanes are similar to the conventional ones, but they have extra space to keep cyclists at a greater distance from parked vehicles and opening doors.
You’re also likely to encounter marked shared lanes. These are not striped, but you will see a bicycle symbol and a chevron. In addition to that, there are also barrier-protected bike lanes. These use physical barriers between bikes and moving cars. In the physical barrier setting, cars park between the bike lane and car travel lane.
No matter what type of bike lane is near you, driving at the proper speed is crucial when sharing the road. While a bike rider has a 95% chance of survival in a collision with a car traveling 20 miles per hour, that percentage drops all the way to 15% when a car is traveling 40 miles per hour.
In addition to monitoring speed, it is important to share the road properly at intersections. Most bicycle accidents happen at intersections. If you find yourself turning right at the same time as a cyclist, make sure you are far enough away so you don’t side-swipe them. If you’re turning left and a bike rider is crossing an intersection, don’t try to beat them through the intersection. Instead, wait for them to cross and proceed with caution. It is also important to stop at crosswalks for cyclists and pedestrians.
Bike Lane Tips for Motorists
While cyclists need to be aware of the best safety practices for riding on a road with motorists, it is equally important for motorists to understand what they can do to drive safely around bicycles and ensure their actions don’t contribute to an accident. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, drivers can take a number of precautions to avoid crashes:
- Avoid distractions. A driver’s primary responsibility is to stay focused and safe behind the wheel. In Chicago, it’s illegal to text as a driver. It’s also illegal to talk on a cellphone unless the device is hands-free. Ensuring you’re focused while driving will make you more aware of the bicycles around you, so you can avoid a potential crash.
- Pass at a safe distance. Drivers should leave at least three feet of space when passing a cyclist. Passing closer is not only dangerous—it is illegal.
- Never park in a bike lane. When drivers park in bike lanes, cyclists are forced to go around the parked vehicle and merge with faster-moving traffic. This endangers them and other motorists. In Chicago, driving, parking, standing, or stopping in a bike lane can result in towing and a fine up to $500.
- Watch for cyclists riding against traffic. You may encounter a cyclist riding in the wrong direction. While this may be foolish and they may be unaware of the risks, it’s important for you as a driver to slow down and maintain at least three feet of space between you and the bike.
- Check for cyclists before you open your door. Always look for bicycles before exiting your vehicle. Dooring accidents are common causes of critical injuries and deaths to cyclists every year. If a driver is involved in a dooring, they could be fined up to $1,000 for violating city code. To remember to look for cyclists it is recommended that you use your right hand to open the car door. This will force your upper body to turn and look behind your vehicle.
When motorists follow the tips above and bicycles understand how to maneuver safely around moving traffic, accident rates may be decreased and lives can be saved.
What to Do When Sharing the Road Results in Harm
When a cyclist is involved in a collision with a vehicle, there is a potential for serious injury. Broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries are not uncommon. Krzak Rundio Gorman, Injury Attorneys represents bicycle accident victims. We can fully investigate the incident you were involved in to determine why the accident happened, hold the at fault driver accountable for their actions and get you the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident and you’re interested in learning more about our personal injury legal services and how we help accident victims, contact us and schedule a free consultation with our firm today.