Chicago needs to be more bike friendly

I know we try hard. We try real hard. But Chicago is not nearly bike friendly enough. With laws in place that make it illegal for riders to use the sidewalk, and not nearly enough bike lanes on the streets, choosing to bike to work instead of drive is a risky endeavor. I know, I’ve thought about it a lot.

On Sunday, I finally finished my very long and very heated debate with myself about cycling to work. My math showed me that I spent $60 a month on gas to get to work. Even though I only work about 2 – 3 miles from my house, it regularly takes me 20 – 30 minutes to get to work (thanks a lot Western, you popular morning destination). This is just assinine. There is no reason I shouldn’t be riding my bike. So I let Matt (a psychotic cycling enthusiast) know to keep an eye out for a good vintage frame, and set my mind to doing something good for my health and for the world in general.

And then yesterday happened.

Shortly after I got home from work, Matt came stumbling through the door, barely able to hold himself up. After I freaked out and clucked around him like a crazed grandmother, he told me he had been hit by a car on his bike while riding home.

I’m sorry, did you catch that? HIT BY A CAR.

A car door, to be exact. He was riding home on Belmont, and was just about at Southport when a girl who had just parked her car opened her door as he was riding by. Let me stress this. As he was riding by, in the incredibly small space between parallel parked cars and moving traffic that cyclists are supposed to occupy. This left him with 2 really crappy choices: swerve into traffic to avoid the door, or take on the door. Knowing who wins the battle of bike vs. moving car, he opted to take his chances with the door. Smart move, but unfortuantely both really suck and he ended up in the emergency room regardless.

Now, you can’t really blame the girl in the car. She was incredibly nice and was almost as freaked out as Matt (which is saying a lot since he went into actual medical shock). You know it and I know it, you don’t usually check outside in your mirror when you open your door. It just isn’t something we have really been taught to do. It would be nice if we did, but we don’t.

Chicago needs to really think about what it can do to make this city more bike friendly. Bike lanes are great, especially if they actually enact them all over the city. But even a bike lane wouldn’t have prevented this accident. Chicago needs to work on educating drivers better if they want cyclists to feel safer sharing the road with hunks of metal exponentially larger than them.

For more information on what the city plans to do in order to make Chicago “The City that Bikes”, check out their Bike Planning site. Got something to bitch about? Da Mare would like to hear it. Daley’s Bicycle Advisory Council meets 4 times a year, with the next meeting in June. You can check out meeting dates and get more information here.

4 Comments so far

  1. Alana Waters (unregistered) on May 10th, 2005 @ 11:14 am

    Another point to consider:

    People used to be more aware of what was happening just behind their cars when the liability was on the shoulders of the person opening the car door. Yup. Until recently, if you opened your car door and caused an accident, it was your fault. Not so anymore.

    Yay law.

  2. rmk (unregistered) on May 10th, 2005 @ 11:55 am

    it was still the driver’s fault until thre years ago when this happened to me. at least state farm recognized this as her fault and paid up.

  3. Lauren (unregistered) on May 10th, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

    I am not sure about the fault issue – the other driver was issued a ticket in the police report, and her insurance information (State Farm as well) was taken down by the police and the hospital. Regardless, he is a union employee so his ass is covered either way. But IT IS frightening to think what could have happened if he wasn’t insured and the law just said “Sorry kid, them’s the rules”

  4. greg (unregistered) on May 10th, 2005 @ 8:31 pm

    i’ve had so many bike accidents. i rode every day to and from work for a year and a half, and now i’m back in school and ride three times the distance three times a week. whatever. i’ve been doored once, breaking a wrist and an elbow. i ran up against a curb once and went down breaking my ankle. i completely wrecked the forks on my bike and messed my shoulder and wrist up slamming head-on into the back end of a bus that pulled into the bike lane right in front of me on a slushy day when my brakes weren’t doing their job. and the skids on the ice. and the clipped mirrors. and the couple of times that i’ve ended up sprawled on someone’s hood.

    and i still ride. i ride at night. i ride in the shittiest of weather. i flaunt the traffic rules. i ride less than sober. i bring 50% of it on myself. and i accept the consequences. and i DEFINITELY wear a helmet.

    i sure wish chicago was more bike friendly. but i’ll ride anyway. i always think that riding down a narrow lane between a row of parked cars and another row of moving ones reminds me of luke flying his x-wing in the canyon of the death star.

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