A Bicycle Lane Built for Cars

A Bicycle Lane Built for Cars

Every summer in Chicago, I white-knuckle it.

No, I don’t mean with alcohol, alcohol’s one of those things whose inclusion or exclusion in my life isn’t all that important.

I’m talking about driving. With cyclists.

I just got back from a steering wheel-clenching ride down Broadway, utterly ineptly named, as it is far too narrow for cars, bicycles, and parked cars. Though I’ve had plenty of cyclists who assume I am more concerned for their lives than they, today that wasn’t even the issue.

These people were riding responsibly, not weaving, barely even running red lights (you cyclists know you qualify as vehicles, right? Thus the sting where the police were giving out tickets).

But still, even with cyclists who check for cars, who don’t laissez-faire their way in front of your car and back around the other way, who don’t glare at you for proceeding though your green light as they streak through their red, it’s a dangerous situation.

Bicycles have been around since the days of the penny-farthing (man, I’ve always wanted to work that into a blog post), and we’ll only see more and more of them in the city. We’ve got to come up with a way for cyclists and motorists to coexist in Chicago peacefully--a Midwest Peaceable Pedal Treaty, if you will.

Cyclists, please ride as though you give a little, tiny, bit of a care whether you survive the next block, and I will do my best not to hit you.

Which I’d do anyway, so I’m not really giving up much.

As for the crowded streets of Chicago, there’s that new protected bike lane that opened on Kinzie earlier this summer, which keeps traffic and cyclists separate.

Now that’s segregation I can believe in. And maybe I can relax my grip on the steering wheel.


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    I'm a cyclist and I approve this message.

  • I almost saw a cyclist get hit the other day cause they were taking up an entire lane (which is fine), but then didn't feel the need to stop at a red light (not fine). We had this issue in Arkansas bad too. Cyclists were always getting hit.

  • I think it'd work better if everyone were alternately a cyclist and a motorist (i.e. if people were more like me). Seriously. Switching away from your primary mode of transportation every once in awhile you get to see what the other side is seeing when you weave through traffic (if you're a cyclist) or open your car door without looking while talking on your cell phone (if you're a jackass).

  • It is time to change the antediluvian law that gives cyclists the right of way no matter how many violations they commit to get themselves injured or killed. The law was passed when there were more bikes than cars.

    Bicycles are vehicles and the riders are subject to the rules of the road. If they drive like idiots, get creamed, they should get cited and they should have to pay for any damage to your vehicle. It is only fair and balanced.

  • I'm really concerned about these new protected bike lanes. If I understand it correctly there will be parked cars blocking the bicycles and the view of the bicycles from traffic. So what happens when a car tries to make a right turn as a cyclist is going through the intersection? Sounds like a recipe for a disaster. Am I missing anything?

  • Gary, I hadn't thought of that, that's a good question. I'd guess that there'd be no parking closer to the intersection, so that everyone can see one another, (we'd hope). Other countries have protected lanes, and it works there, so if all else fails, there's always plagiarism.

    ThirdCoastVince, ever since that cyclist was doored a few years ago on LaSalle, I always, always check (shoulder check, I don't rely on the mirrors) when I open my door. But before that, I had no idea you could kill someone; I suspect the cell-phone jackasses don't realize that's a possibility.

    David and Peter, I absolutely hear you, I think that the reckless riding we see from some cyclists (note I said "some,") is alternately terrifying and frustrating. I think cyclists should have to qualify for a license the way drivers do, so everyone understands their rights and resposibilities (like, as you say Peter, bicycles are bound by traffic laws).

    And Martin, I'm glad I didn't anger the cyclist lobby! (I hear they're pretty powerful).

  • I absolutely love the name -- Midwest Peaceable Pedal Treaty!

  • Sorry Peter. There's nothing "fair and balanced" about forcing bicyclists to behave like cars. The only times I've been hit or narrowly missed are when I was strictly obeying traffic rules.

    Bicycles have to act like they are invisible to car drivers, because basically, we are.

    And as long as we are talking fairness, let's get real about it. Bikers are contributing far more than drivers are to keeping health costs down; reducing pollution and carbon emissions; reducing road and parking congestion; paying for roads (through general fund taxes) while reducing wear-and-tear; reducing the need for military adventurism to secure crude oil. So it's really only fair that cities SHOULD be favoring bikes over cars, but they traditionally have not.

    And the idea that it's no different to expect a biker to stop at all lights than to expect a car to do so would only be posited by someone who has never actually used their own puny horsepower to travel over long distance. The reality is that these stop and starts are cripplingly exhausting and ridiculous.

    When cars started to become popular in the 1900's, threatened horsemen pushed through all kinds of ridiculous and burdensome laws, like: drivers must stop at all intersections, get out and look all directions and honk before proceeding.

    Pretending that bikes and cars can actually "fairly" share roads designed exclusively for cars is equally absurd. Kudos to cities that are finally recognizing this.

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