Tensions mount between cyclists and motorists

Published6/22/2008 12:03 AM

The topic of cyclists ignoring the rules of the road has made up a decent percentage of the e-mails I've received over the past few years.

Primarily it's motorists writing to complain about behavior that they've observed.


I can't argue that improper riding occurs all too frequently in the Chicago area.

As both road cycling and traffic congestion continue to grow, the problem seems to be escalating. Chad Brooks' article last weekend in the Daily Herald, "Barrington Hills Cracking Down on Cyclists," seems to have really struck a chord with both cyclists and motorists alike.

The story points out the growing struggle between both factions as large packs of cyclists are riding through Barrington Hills and often ignoring laws as they train on the town's hilly terrain.

Despite years of desensitization, I was not prepared to read some of the comments posted by online readers. This is obviously a sensitive issue, but I'm afraid the angry statements by motorists aren't always backed up with common sense.

For example, reader "joecitizen" ranted: "Could it be that SOME of you jerks think you own the freaking road? I don't feel the least bit sorry for any bicyclist that makes me have to move into the oncoming lane simply because you choose to ride in the street when there is a sidewalk available."

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Unbeknownst to "joecitizen," riding on sidewalks is actually illegal in most municipalities.

Then there were the insightful words of "keith:" "Just start mowing (them) down, (it was an accident officer I didn't see him). Maybe they will get the idea to ride single file when traffic is present."

I won't even comment on "keith's" first sentence but the law in Illinois requires cyclists to ride no more than two abreast. Single file is often appropriate in narrow situations, but not required by law.

Fortunately, a reader under the moniker of "POV" put things into perspective by pointing out that "Both bikers and motorists are at fault. It is just plain old consideration and caution, patience and love. WWJD?"

He would not advise motorists to "just mow them down" or bicyclists to disobey rules and bike etiquette. He would guide both sides of the issue to be "gentle, considerate and patient. Slow down and love your neighbor. We are being selfish when we get angry at each other for a minor inconvenience. Chill out guys, and be safe." Very well said.

Night lights: Finally, mark your calendar for the night of July 26 for this year's edition of the Chase the Moon 25-mile midnight bike ride. There aren't too many night rides that offer spectacular luminarias lighting the first 3.5 miles of the route and this one also offers a car-free experience within Batavia's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Visit www.chasethemoon.com for more details.

Todd Underwood covers cycling in the Chicago area. To contact him, e-mail todd@peppergroup.com or write to c/o Daily Herald, 385 Airport Road, Suite A, Elgin, IL 60123.

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