Measure aims at safer city cycling

Biker Devin Keast  pauses on North Clark Street  Friday. / Photo by Jennifer Slosar
Chicago's cyclists brave a variety of hazards, from potholes on winter-ravaged roads to interloping cars and car doors flung open into their paths.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has championed biking as integral to his vision of a "green city," has introduced an ordinance he hopes will help Chicago become the "most bicycle-friendly city in the country" by making the roads a little safer.

The ordinance, introduced at Wednesday's city council meeting, will penalize drivers who threaten cyclists' safety with moves like turning in front of a bicycle, passing a cyclist within three feet, or opening a door into a cyclist's path.

The proposed law slaps violators with a minimum $150 fine,  up to $500 if the violation results in a crash.

It also creates a fine for double parking in lanes designated as "shared" by cars and bikes, and increases the fine for driving, standing, or parking in a bicycle lane from $100 to $150.

There were more than 6,000 reported bike crashes and 30 fatalities in the city between 2001 and 2005, according to a press release issued  by the mayor's office.

The ordinance drew on recommendations from the bike federation, as well as studies conducted by the city transportation department.

"It's really just codifying common sense," said Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, which worked with the city on the measure.

"This is a way for city police to be able to address these violations more effectively," he said.

Sadowsky said collisions with car doors are a common hazard.

"My other favorite is the "right hook," where a driver leaves his lane and turns left in front of a bicyclist," said Sadowsky.

Sadowski himself suffered a broken arm a few years when he was "doored" while biking home from work on Fulton Avenue. A taxicab had stopped in the middle of a lane to let a passenger out, instead of pulling to the curb and the door opened into Sadowsky's path.

Many of the changes bring the city into line with state law, said Sadowsky. Others simply expand existing violations to include bikes.

Prohibitions against using and parking in bike lanes are key, said Sadowsky, who said "far too many motorists" continue to ignore these designations.

"I'm totally for this ordinance," said Devin Keast, 24, of Ravenswood, who bikes daily to his job as a dog walker. "Anything that will make it safer to bike in the city."

Keast is an all-weather biker who was braving wintry conditions Friday morning.  "I bike between clients--it's the only way I get there on time," he said.

Keast, who has relied primarily on his bike for transportation for the past six and a half years, was hit by a cab downtown two years ago while making a left turn. Keast said the cab was behind him in the lane and the driver didn't wait for him to complete the turn.

The new measure will address the safety component of the Bike 2015 Plan, a master strategy for bicycle-related planning and development in the city. In addition to reducing bike injuries by 50 percent, the plan's goals includes extending the city's 114 miles of bike lanes into a 500-mile network that will reach within a half mile of every neighborhood in the city.


BOBBY SUTTON, 02-09-2008

The mayor's ordinance will help but there will still accidents. If he really wants to make Chicago "the most bicycle-friendly city in the county" he needs to create bicycle only lanes that are separated from car lanes by parking lanes and curbs. That is what you will find in real bicycle-friendly cities like Amsterdam.

TEST, 02-11-2008