By: Cailey Griffin
Death rates among cyclists are skyrocketing across the nation and in Chicago specifically. Despite efforts from Chicago officials to encourage knowledge on biking safety procedures, many Chicago cyclists are still unaware of how to ensure their safety. Under the bicycling section of the City of Chicago website, there are numerous pamphlets to help cyclists navigate riding in the city. Arguably, the most important pamphlet is the one covering “Safe Cycling in Chicago.” The pamphlet provides a list of the Illinois Bike Laws amongst other information.
When it comes to lights being used on a bike, the Illinois Bike Laws require that, “For night riding a front lamp with a white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front and a red reflector on the rear visible from 100 feet to 600 feet are required.” The laws also contain specific hand signal requirements such as, “Signals shall be given from the left and right side as follows: Left turn and right turn- hand and arm extended horizontally. Stop or decrease of speed – hand and arm extended downward. Signal not less than the last 100 feet before the turn.” Safe biking Guidelines and the Illinois Bike Laws are not only important to follow because they provide the structure for Chicago streets to thrive and function, but they also save lives. The City of Chicago has essentially done its job by providing cyclists access to these rules; however, these laws are not being as widely accessed by the public as officials may believe.
In an article written by the Chicago Tribune discussing cycling deaths, Halsey spoke to Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the safety association who said, “we’re seeing [cycling] deaths go up by about 55 deaths per year.” Individuals across the nation are increasingly turning to biking because it provides a fun, healthy, and effective transportation alternative. However, despite all these benefits, the unavoidable truth is that more and more cyclists are losing their lives every year. Adkins statistics do not even account for all the near-death experiences and severe injuries cyclists of diverse biking knowledge levels may have experienced.
Denis Smith “co-owner of Chicago Bicycle Company” a popular bicycle shop with multiple locations across the city, explains that many people visiting his store have some awareness of proper bike rules and etiquette, but most do not. Smith also says that it’s very common for customers to come into the Bike Shop with fear about riding in the busy streets of Chicago. Smith goes on to share that even with all of his experience, he’s had plenty of dangerous biking accidents ranging from “going down in traffic” after his bicycle malfunctioned, to “getting dragged off of a bus” during his time as a bicycle messenger.
With cyclists like Smith who have over 25 years of experience in the world of bicycles having dangerous riding experiences, imagine the danger that Chicagoans completely unaware of safe riding protocol are exposed to. Even though the City of Chicago website provides access to information for safe biking protocol, the amount of people unaware of what these protocols are, demonstrates a clear issue. One method to spread the word on safe biking protocol to a wider audience is by placing safe biking protocol signs throughout the city for bikers to access. Also requiring Biking companies across Chicago to not only verbally cover safe biking protocol, but require those purchasing a bike to pick up a hand out.
Biking although, cheap, convenient, and a great source of exercise poses a threat to the safety and well-being of cyclists. But knowledge is power, and increasing the knowledge of safe biking protocol across the city, can only help the issue.