Longwood Drive Bike Lanes and Safety 

By Anne Alt 

It seems that some folks in the neighborhood a a bit confused by the new markings on Longwood Drive. The markings simply formalize the usage that’s been in place for years.  

New lines marking designing parking areas make the no parking areas more obvious. Sharrows (shared lane symbols) send the message that the traffic lanes are shared by cars and bikes. The amount of space for each purpose, and the locations of those spaces have not changed. 

Some people may see the new bike markings on the pavement and misinterpret them. This is the correct interpretation: The chevrons above the bike symbol point in the direction of traffic. That’s how you’re supposed to ride — WITH the direction of traffic, not against it. Using a bike mirror will help you see what’s coming from behind.  

Lately, I have seen families with young kids riding against traffic on Longwood Dr. Please teach your kids that this illegal move is NOT okay and could result in serious injury or worse. 

If you’re in a head-on crash with a car or truck, the force of impact is greater than it would be if you were hit from behind (a rare type of crash in cities). In a wrong way scenario, there’s a lot less time for bikers and drivers to react safely and avoid a crash. Drivers are not expecting you to be coming at them in the wrong lane of traffic, so they’re not looking for you.  

If you are riding on the sidewalk ( which is in violation of Chicago law if you are over age 12), drivers are not watching for you when you cross streets or alleys, creating a greater risk of a crash. 

On the legal side of things, if you’re in a crash that you caused and you are injured, driver’s auto insurance company and yours will deny the claim, citing that you broke the law so you’re more than 50% at fault for the crash. Illinois law for bicycles states: “When riding, you must ride in the same direction as other traffic. Riding in the opposite direction of traffic is both dangerous and illegal.”   I work for a personal injury law firm that focuses on bike crash cases, so I have plenty of experience with how these situations play out. 

Here’s another thing to consider: if you cause a crash because you are breaking the law, and you cause damage to the vehicle that hit you, it’s very likely that the driver’s insurance company will go after you for the cost of repairing the vehicle. Yes, this really is a thing. 

It’s worth taking time to review current Illinois bike laws, which can be found at cyberdriveillinois.com. You can test your knowledge (or your kid’s) with the Ride Illinois at rideillinois.org. There are versions for various age groups and for drivers. If you drive but don’t ride, it’s worth taking the driver quiz there are recently passed laws you should know about. 

I wish you many years and miles of safe riding. Please teach your kids (or grandkids) to ride safely and legally so their rides are safe, too. 

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