Quizzes help motorists, bicyclists learn how to share the road

Every great civilization has its origin story - "Seven Grandfathers" for the Potawatomi Nation, Genesis for the Jewish people and Rome's mythological twins Romulus and Remus. Likewise, every worthy newspaper column.

"Along for the Ride" got its start 15 columns ago with my suggestion after all sports went dark last March. Biking was booming as people sought an outlet to combat lockdown. The Daily Herald's Neighbor staff was open to new ideas. The notion of a regular bicycling feature happened to strike at the "right place at the right time." So, voila!

What prompted my idea? Last spring, a buddy and I initiated the Bike Palatine Club's blog, addressing bike safety for our local community. Many "rookie" riders displayed alarming unfamiliarity with cycling etiquette and basic safety protocols. It left us panicking. My suggestion to the Herald offered a larger audience for my underlying bike safety theme.

Check your safety IQ

Twelve months later, I've come full circle to today's column. As the weather warms, it's perfect timing to measure your "safety IQ" using the Bike Safety Quiz of Ride Illinois, the statewide, nonprofit bike advocacy organization. Take the quiz at

Not just one quiz, but four free quizzes are available in English, three in Spanish. Quizzes for adult cyclists, youth cyclists and motorists launched in June 2013, and a fourth quiz for truck/bus drivers appeared in 2018 after fatal truck-bicycle crashes in Chicago.

Schools earn $2 per student

Not only are quizzes free to everyone, but schools can earn $2 for each student successfully completing one - elementary students take the Child Cyclist Quiz; high school PE students, the Adult Cyclist Quiz; and driver ed students, the Motorists Quiz. The money originates with an Illinois Department of Transportation Injury Prevention grant backed by federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian safety campaigns.

For the 2019-20 school year, 117 driver ed programs used the Motorist Quiz, with more than 18,000 students participating. For 2020-21, 159 driver ed programs are involved. In addition, 72 elementary schools and 32 high school PE programs are participating in the mini-grant program.

Another 7,000 individuals completed at least one of the quizzes in 2020. Since 2013, more than 125,000 have taken them, probably over half by driver education students.

This perilous "right hook" scenario is just one example of cyclist-motorist interactions illustrated in the Bike Safety Quiz. Courtesy of Ride Illinois

Appropriate agencies vetted the quizzes before release.

"Illinois Secretary of State's office made sure our state law-based questions were accurate," said Ed Barsotti, then executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists (now Ride Illinois). "I also got feedback from the Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association as we sought their buy-in and use of the quiz."

The safety quiz's interactive format was a first of its kind.

"The user must - eventually - answer each question correctly before proceeding," Barsotti said, "learning from tailored responses to their mistakes and then getting second and third chances" at each missed question.

I first took the multiple choice quizzes several years ago as a full-time teacher. My "learnings" came by solving a traffic scenario correctly, more so by making errors. As a learner, mistakes stuck with me more than my correct answers.

How? All quiz responses provide a full explanation, not just the answer, whether you nail it or not. If you answer incorrectly, additional chances allow you to get it right.

Popular with teachers

Survey responses from 14 Chicago-area teachers suggest that others continue to be just as impressed. Joanne Janetopoulos, sixth-grade PE teacher at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield, agrees.

"It focuses on all students being successful. Students who answer wrong are redirected to the correct answer and then get to answer it again correctly," said Janetopoulos.

Chris Wingate, a Neuqua Valley High School driver ed teacher, adds, "Part of the beauty is that it can allow students to continue to grow independently. It forces each quiz taker to get the correct answer through feedback and repetition."

For teachers thinking of offering the quiz, prep time is minimal. Most surveyed agree with Sam Jensen, PE teacher at Chicago's Stone Scholastic Academy: "Little to no prep done on my part, aside from communicating with Ride Illinois and copying down codes for my students."

Lisa Nelson at Emerson Middle School in Niles, said, "PE teachers just had to upload the quiz to their Schoology course. As a department, we wanted to ensure our students' safety, especially with more biking during the pandemic. A recent bike accident in Niles involving a teen hit close to home."

In Michelle Schaffer's driver ed class at Wheaton-Warrenville High School, "We discuss sharing the road with bicycles, motorcycles, large trucks and pedestrians. We talk about the importance of hand signals, not just for riding a bike, but a car as well."

Shaffer adds, "I want to ensure students learn there is more to driving than they think. They must be aware of all other roadway users. Things can go wrong very quickly if they don't pay attention to their complete surroundings, not just straight ahead."

Kristine Schmicker, Leggee Elementary PE teacher in Huntley, added, "I created a slideshow of the lessons. Before going through the presentation, I had an open discussion to find out my students' level of bike safety knowledge. I explained the importance of being a safe bike rider - not just for them, but for everyone around them."

Cycling Shorts

Congratulations to the Active Transportation Alliance ( for 35 years advocating for improved walking, biking and transit throughout the region. Organized as the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation in 1985, the nonprofit "Active Trans" has consulted on biking and pedestrian projects throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Since 2001, its "Bike the Drive" fundraiser has opened up a motorist-free Lake Shore Drive to Sunday morning cyclists in May. This year's ride is planned for the fall.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.