The Chainlink

Bike Safety Tips and Ideas - Courtesy of The Chainlink and WBEZ

By Yasmeen Schuller, Introduction by Brett Ratner, Photo by Ronit Bezalel

The Chainlink's Yasmeen Schuller recently appeared on Chicago Public Radio Station WBEZ to discuss bike safety in the wake of the recent deaths of cyclists Lisa Kuivinen and Francisco Cruz.

Along with Streetsblog Chicago's John Greenfield and host Jennifer White, they talked about the wide variety of things that can be done to make our streets more hospitable for cyclists. You can listen to the segment on the WBEZ website.

Due to the limited time, Schuller wasn't able to share all the tips she had compiled, based on her own experiences as a cyclist and the advice and input from dozens of seasons riders within the Chainlink community.

We think they're worth sharing, so we've compiled them here. We hope you find them helpful!

Photo by Ronit Bezalel

Things Cyclists Can Do to Help Improve Safety

Please note: These safety tips are for general cyclist safety and are not necessarily related to the crashes that occurred this summer. 

Ride Like You're Invisible: One of the best pieces of advice we've received is not to assume motorists see you. Sometimes that means you wait behind the vehicle rather than moving up and getting to the right of it. Sometimes that means caution in proceeding into an intersection where a car is waiting to make a left turn.

Scan Ahead: Focus your eyes down the road and look for potential problems. Examples might include manhole covers that may be slippery after a rain, a dog off its leash that might run into the street, a motorist looking for a parking spot, a taxi driver who might suddenly stop to pick up a fare, a blind alley that a car could unexpectedly emerge from, or a person in a parked car who might suddenly open his door in your path.

 

Always Make Sure You Have an "Escape Route": Never leave yourself boxed in. Make sure you have somewhere to go in a driver does something unexpected in your path.

Make Yourself More Visible: Although you can pretend you're invisible, try to be as easy-to-see as possible. Front and rear blinking lights are a good idea, even during the day. Reflective/High-Viz clothing can also help.

Choose a Safe Route: If you ride a regular route, pay attention to how many times you feel uneasy. There a particular intersection that seems dangerous? Construction? A left turn with no light? A fast-moving street with an inadequate shoulder? Pay attention to these trouble areas and ask yourself if you need to change your route.

Communicate: If you see a trouble area, report it on The Chainlink, and post it on Twitter using the hashtag #bikechi to help get the word out about dangerous areas. We need to help each other when there is something we all need to watch out for on a route.

Set a Positive Example: Whether it is accurate or not, there is a perception that cyclists are law breakers. When riding a bike, think of yourself as a part of a cycling community, and serve as a steward of that community. If the car has the right of way, allow the car to go. Be aware of laws. Try not to lose your temper with motorists.

Photo by Ronit Bezalel

 

Things Motorists Can Do to Help Improve Bike Safety

Accept that Cyclists Have the Right to be On the Road: Take a moment to familiarize yourself with basic bike laws. Also, shift your perception of bikes as a nuisance, rather than people just like you trying to get home from work, to the store, etc.

 

Lose the Notion that All Cyclists are Reckless Lawbreakers. Don't form an opinion of all cyclists based on the behavior of a very small number of "bad apples."

Photo by Ronit Bezalel

Look. Always check for cyclists before opening the car door. Always.

Be Present: Put the cell phone down and pay attention to the sides of the road, as well as the car ahead of you. Don’t drive while intoxicated or affected by medication. Assume that cyclists could be present, and factor that into your decision making behind the wheel.

 

Cyclists are People Too: Don’t let your frustrations or anger get the best of you. Cyclists are mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, daughters and sons. They are active members of our community – lawyers, police, developers, doctors, grocery store clerks, waiters and waitresses. And believe it or not, most cyclists are also drivers. Sure, we all get frustrated with traffic, but most importantly, we all want to get home to our loved ones safely.

 

Obey the Rules of the Road: Stop at stop signs, don’t run red lights, and proceed with caution. Look for cyclists and pedestrians. They aren’t as big as cars so they may not be as visible so remember they could be there when you go through an intersection, change lanes, or make a right or left turn.

 

Don’t Use the Bike Lane as Bonus Parking or an Extra Car Lane: This forces the cyclists into traffic, putting them in harm’s way. Sometimes people park at the entrance of a protected lane or even drive into it – this lane is specifically designated for cyclists. Think of it as the equivalent as driving up on the sidewalk filled with pedestrians.

Photo by Jennifer Wall

Use Your Rear View Mirror and Check Your Blind Spots: Assume a cyclist could be there if you are turning right – you need to look for them. Same with the left turn and stop lights – keep your eye out for cyclists. A right or left hook could be catastrophic to someone on a bike. In a car, you are protected by the vehicle. Cyclists are very exposed.

 

Photo by Anne Alt

 

Things the City of Chicago be Doing to Help Improve Bike Safety

Enforce the Bike Lanes: Ticket motorists when they enter the bike lanes to drive or park. It’s critical for cyclists to have a clear, unobstructed bike lane. Also, if the city and the city’s police aren’t taking the bike lanes seriously, that sends out a message to motorists. It’s important for all government employees to respect the bike lanes – don’t park in them, and don’t drive in them

Photo by Juan 2-8 mi.

Enforce Laws that Affect Bike and Pedestrian Safety: Opening doors in the cyclists’ path, pulling out in front of cyclists in the bike lanes, and driving in a way that puts cyclists and/or pedestrians safety at risk should lead to traffic stops and tickets.


Keep the Bike Lanes Well-Maintained and Clean:
 In the winter, it's common for piles of plowed snow to be pushed into the bike lanes. The rest of the year, bike lanes are often not as clean as the rest of the road – full of debris that can cause tire punctures and other dangerous situations.

Identify and Improve Dangerous Streets: Certain streets have higher rates of speeding motorists, excessive potholes, lanes that aren’t clearly defined, etc. These are streets that could benefit from redesign to make them safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

More Bike Infrastructure in Under-Served Areas: The Northside has long benefited from a progressive approach to bicycle access. The South and West sides need bike lanes too.

Make Bicycle Safety Education a Bigger Part of the Driver’s License Process. We think the DMV should add more bike education and awareness initiatives, to help motorists understand bike laws. This could take place during driver's education classes, as well as when people come to renew their licenses.

 

Make Accommodations for Cyclists in Construction Zones: If there is construction, keep vehicles out of the bike lanes. Just as construction vehicles shouldn’t be parked in the lanes of car traffic, they shouldn’t be parking in the bike lanes. It makes travel for a cyclist very dangerous when they are forced into car traffic to get around a vehicle that is parked in the bike lanes. In the event bike lanes are impacted by construction, construction sites should be providing accommodations for cyclists to get safely through. Lastly, construction vehicles need to be careful and aware of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Large vehicles tend to have large blind spots. There is technology to help alleviate this but drivers also need to proceed with caution and follow the rules of the road.

Have something to add? Please share your safety tips in the comments section.

 

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Comment by Rich Scott on August 25, 2016 at 3:37pm
One thing you left out is to use a high quality helmet mount or glasses mount mirror. This allows one to take a more visible position in the road. Because of that position each driver that passes needs to slow down and move left. That move, for me, is an acknowledgement from the driver that I have been seen. From that moment there are different things I can do, but all of them stem from the information I'm getting from my mirror. 
I don't understand why using a mirror is not a common practice among cyclists. We wouldn't drive our car without one. There's no downside to using one. I don't get it. There is no way I would ride without my mirror. There is no way I would place the responsibility for my life completely in the hands of today's drivers. 

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