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Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
A cyclist pedals along Lake Michigan in
Chicago.

Chicago Cracks Down on Cyclists’ Traffic Violations

August 25, 2008 06:54 AM
by Rachel Balik
More people are choosing to ride bikes in Chicago as a way to save gas; but if they don’t obey traffic rules, it can lead to tragedy.

Chicago Red-Lights Bicyclists Breaking the Rules

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Thanks to high gasoline prices and efforts to be more green, more bikers are on the road than ever. Unfortunately, many riders are routinely breaking basic traffic laws. In Chicago, the police and outreach members from the Bicycle Ambassadors are patrolling the streets, stopping cyclists to let them know when they’ve violated a rule. Four bicyclists were killed in collisions with cars this past year in Chicago, and the outreach team is emphasizing the dangers of disobeying rules.

Most cyclists were unconvinced. Geoff Keller, 36, plans to stick to his previous plan of action: “Follow 90 percent of the rules, and for the 10 percent you’re breaking, know that you’re breaking them and look at what the safety issue is.” Other riders insist that motorists, not cyclists, are responsible for accidents.

But with cyclists freely admitting to disobeying traffic laws, it’s hard to know where to pin blame.

Related Topic: Cities encourage more bike use, with mixed reactions

In San Francisco, a proposed bike plan intended to reduce carbon emission is being stymied by local activist Rob Anderson, who argues that increased bike use will have a negative effect on the environment. He claims that more bikes on the road will mean that motorists will use more gas getting stuck in traffic or avoiding bikes.

New York City ensured that for three Saturdays in August, motorists wouldn’t have to interact with bicyclists at all, because the former were banned from the road. From 9am to 1pm, 6.9 miles of Manhattan were open only to cyclists and pedestrians. Reactions from motorists and business owners were less than enthusiastic, but New York, like many other cities, is determined to make the metropolis a greener place.

Related Topic: Greener is not always safer

Experiments like the one in New York have been attempted elsewhere, and cities everywhere are devising initiatives to get more people traveling on bikes. But if they don’t follow up with a program similar to Chicago’s, it may put more people are in immediate danger than if they simply drove their cars. Other green behavior also holds potential risk; scientists have said that backyard gardening may be dangerous because of high amounts of lead in the soil. Locavores intending to preserve the environment or save money may actually be damaging their health.

Reference: Car and bicycle safety

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