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Nick Avgerinos
Nick Avgerinos
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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Bike Safety in the City

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With $5 gas apparently on the horizon , we’re all looking for ways to cut down our consumption. So, for budgetary as well as eco-conscious concerns, many are filling up their bike tires and hitting the road. In the densely populated city of Chicago , with pedestrians tripping over one another on the sidewalks and cabbies riding each other’s bumpers on the street, it’s difficult for bicyclists to squeeze through on two wheels.

Sadly, this space crunch has resulted in serious injury and even death for many bike riders. According to NBC , there have already been five deaths this year from bicycle accidents. On Monday morning, one bicyclist was hit on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and George Street ; luckily, the cyclist was able to pedal away. Just a couple weeks ago, however, one young man was not so lucky when he was hit by the door of an SUV and then run over and killed by another car on North LaSalle Street .

This recent fatality is an example of something called ‘dooring’ and it is against Illinois law, pursuant to 625 ILCS 5/11-1407 . The Chicago Bicycle Safety Ordinance likewise outlaws dooring. Why the emphasis on this phenomenon? Well, there’s simply a space issue in the heart of the city and dooring is relatively easy to do. It only requires a second of inattention. It’s important to realize that any moment of disregard could have dire consequences for our neighbors on two wheels. The phrase ‘keep your eyes on the road’ is just as pertinent after you turn the motor off.

The sheer size and weight of motor vehicles makes the road dangerous for bicyclists. And the fact that many cyclists do not wear a helmet on a regular basis —according to Injury Board member Megan Roth, a full 50%—makes things worse. Head injuries account for the most bicycle deaths each year! It’s important that bicyclists do their best to stay safe, including, as recently explained by attorney Kristin Labanauskas , following the rules of the road .

Many sites have sprung up to help keep Illinois cyclists stay safe. The Illinois State Police have assembled a bicycle safety command center that is particularly helpful; it provides list of laws applicable to cyclists and a summary of what they mean. There is also a list of safety tips , but some are hard to apply in the city; avoiding busy streets and always letting cars go first, for instance. (You might never get anywhere.) Still, it’s helpful to garner as many tips as possible and then use them to the best of your ability…and always, always wear a helmet. Remember: the price of gas is nothing next to the cost of losing your life.