Editorial: Awareness key to pedestrian, bicycle safety on roads

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/26/2019 6:09 PM
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  • Kane County Transportation Director Carl Schoedel was wearing this helmet on his bicycle when he was hit from behind by a passing car.

      Kane County Transportation Director Carl Schoedel was wearing this helmet on his bicycle when he was hit from behind by a passing car. John Starks | Staff Photographer

The change in seasons presents different hazards but the same challenge for bicyclists and pedestrians to stay safe on the roads.

Ice and snow will give way to road construction and rain among the factors that when combined with lighting conditions, traffic volume and distractions from electronic devices, can in a moment tragically tilt the delicate road-sharing relationship with moving vehicles.

It's a relationship that must be predicated on awareness -- by those behind the wheel of a two-ton SUV, those walking across a street and those riding a bicycle on the shoulder of a two-lane road.

An example of how a lapse in awareness can have frightening consequences happened recently on the wide shoulder of Route 64 near St. Charles, where Kane County Transportation Director Carl Schoedel was riding on his 9-mile bike trip to work and was hit by a teenage driver who had failed to clear his frosted windshield.

Schoedel felt sudden impact and wound up in a hospital bed, alive but badly bruised.

"I consider myself lucky," he told Daily Herald Transportation Reporter Marni Pyke.

Pyke's "The Suburbs In Transit" column featured a picture of a banged-up Schoedel wearing a neck brace and holding his helmet that was split into pieces. Lucky indeed.

Awareness is no small responsibility for anyone on the road and it grows with last week's arrival of spring. The advent of warmer weather will undoubtedly attract more pedestrians, more distance runners and more bicyclists, and unfortunately, more opportunities for accidents.

Nationwide, the number of cyclists killed rose by 1.3 percent in 2015, when 829 people died. Across the region, 21 cyclists were killed in 2015 compared to the nine-year average of 15.7, Active Transportation Alliance reports.

Two years ago, Pyke did a study of 246 suburbs between 2012 and 2015 and documented nearly a death a week caused by collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists -- and nearly 10,000 crashes, virtually more than nine out of 10 of which result in injury.

Those statistics aren't lost on legislators, communities and others who have responded with changes including pedestrian bridges over heavily traveled roads, designated bicycle lanes and beefed up crosswalk laws.

This year, the Alliance is lobbying hard in Springfield for money dedicated to building a safer infrastructure for walkers and cyclists.

While laws and capital projects to better protect pedestrians and cyclists are welcome, there are steps that can be taken by everyone every day that will make roads safer -- motorists need to be aware of people on foot and on bicycles, and people on foot and on bicycles need to take responsibility for their own safety as well.

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