Can Chicago drivers and bicyclists find common ground?: Part I

Even with Chicago’s long and cold winters, many of the city’s residents choose to travel by bicycle whenever possible. Owning and using a bicycle makes sense in nearly any densely populated urban area. Bicycles are eco-friendly and promote exercise. Moreover, many trips are just a few miles in length, and bicyclists don’t have to worry about parking.

The drawback, of course, is that riding through urban traffic can be a death sentence. City streets are designed for and cater to automobiles. And although bicycle accidents are often fatal to the bicyclist, automobile drivers who cause such accidents face few legal consequences, if any.

This issue was recently written about in the New York Times; although Daniel Duane who authored the article, lives in California. In the article, Duane notes that bicycle safety in car-centric urban areas is a nationwide problem.

He is careful to note, however, that bicyclists are not entirely blameless. Most states have laws that give bicyclists equal access to roads. But bike riders frequently choose to exercise that access while ignoring traffic laws. It is common, for instance, to see bike riders ignoring stop signs or riding through intersections on red lights.

That being said, it is well understood that in a collision between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, the person riding the bicycle is the only party in any significant danger. This reality alone often means that drivers don’t pay attention to cyclists because they don’t have to do so to ensure their own safety.

Moreover, even when drivers are at fault in a fatal bicycle accident, they usually face minimal legal consequences, if any. Except in cases involving drunk driving or hit-and-run accidents, motorists who cause bicycle accidents are likely to face a small fine at worst.

Is there any way to reach a mutually agreeable solution? Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion about this topic.

Source: New York Times, “Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?” Daniel Duane, Nov. 9, 2013