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Police Enforce Rules of Road on Bicyclists

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 7, 2011 9:00PM

While road crews were constructing the protected bike lanes on Kinzie, police and members of the Mayor's Bicycle Ambassadors program were at the corner of Milwaukee, Desplaines and Kinzie this morning to crack down on bicyclists running red lights, riding their bikes in crosswalks and trying to educate all users of the road, not just cyclists, about the rules of the road.

The cyclists, naturally, were not pleased.

"I know the police have a job to do, but if obeying the law is going to cost me my life, I'm not going to do it," bicyclist Peter Walke said after being pulled over for two traffic violations -- riding in a pedestrian crosswalk and against a red light.
"Are the police tagging cars too today for running red lights?" said bicyclist Paul Jurkowski, 48, who police stopped for riding in a crosswalk. The law requires cyclists to walk their bikes in crosswalks.

"When are you targeting cars?" Jurkowski asked a police officer. "I'd like to see it."

There lies the rub. The article will only serve to reinforce the opinions of some that bicycists have either a disregard for the rules of the road, if they even know the rules.

Chicago magazine's Whet Moser wrote one of his patented thoughtful articles that asked why drivers and cyclists in America have an often antagonistic relationship.

I'm more convinced by Vanderbilt's argument that ignorance of the laws governing biking is responsible for a lot of the discord, which partly explains the misguided belief that roads belong to the cars. It's explicitly illegal to door someone, and bikes are legally required to ride as far to the right as possible in Chicago and in Illinois. If you don't know that, and many of the commenters clearly don't, the doored bicyclist looks to be twice at fault.

What would appear to be constant, blatant lawbreaking--beyond just the obvious, like cyclists blowing red lights, which irritates me too--has to figure into what Vanderbilt calls a "bikelash." But the most compelling argument I've ever read about anger comes from a lengthy thread about bikes and road rage. In short, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side...

As an avid cyclist, we've always felt there's enough blame to be shouldered, by both drivers and our fellow cyclists. Like Moser, it chafes us when we see someone blow a red light or stop sign or, worse, watching someone bomb right into the middle of an intersection into oncoming traffic. The Bicycle Ambassadors are doing the Lord's Work, as far as we're concerned. Bicyclists who don't know the rules of the road or, worse, know and still willingly violate them make it harder for everyone.

Another bicyclists quoted in the Tribune, Justin Schmitz, cut right to the chase: "There are as many crazy bikers as crazy drivers out here."