Last week the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the City of Chicago’s Bicycling Ambassadors program kicked off part of what officials call their “Share the Road” campaign aimed at enforcing Chicago’s oft-disregarded biking traffic laws and educating citizens on the proper ways to avoid injuring cyclists on the road, the Chicago Tribune is reporting. According to officials, 240 warnings and one ticket were given over a two-hour period at a single intersection during rush hour.
The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Desplaines and Kinzie Street was chosen because of the high volume of bicyclists who often pedal through red lights and encroach on crosswalks meant for pedestrians, making accidents and close calls a regular occurrence. As officials issued the warnings to cyclists and stressed the importance of following the law, some cyclists reminded officials that they were well aware of the laws and were only breaking them to avoid having to share the road with aggressive motorists who frequently cut them off and are generally unaware of their presence.
According to CDOT, an average of 1,300 crashes involving bicyclists occur every year in Chicago and about five of those end in death. As biking becomes more popular in the face of high gas prices and traffic congestion, the city is taking steps to increase biker safety through the education of motorists and cyclists, while improving the infrastructure of biking routes.
Coinciding with the sting operation was a press conference by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to kick off construction on a half-mile stretch of protected bike lanes running on Kinzie Street from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street, the first of a planned 100 miles of protected bike routes being built in the next four years, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I want Chicago to be the bike-friendliest city in the country,” Emanuel said.
While protected bicycling lanes, stricter enforcement of bicycling traffic laws, and increased safety education is welcome in a city where bicycling injuries are all too common, there is still a dire need for drivers to become more educated and aware of the laws, as often their ignorance or lack of awareness is to blame for bicycling accidents. Even the most diligent bicyclist is subject to potential serious injury as long as motorists continue to swerve into bike lanes, open their doors without checking for oncoming bikers, and turn in front of unseen riders as they lose focus on congested streets.
Illinois bike accident attorneys at our firm applaud the City of Chicago for taking steps to increase bicycle safety, but we still remain adamant that without a substantial effort to crack down on motorists who violate the rules of the road, injuries to bicyclists will remain both prevalent and avoidable.
For more information on bicycling safety and Chicago’s plans to improve cycling in the city, please visit the links below:
This article was co-written by Shane Nichols, a 2nd year law student at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.