I've been biking and driving in Chicago for 12 years, and I've seen the age-old bike-car battle from both sides. In an effort to help both, I'm taking a look at the mistakes each side makes. Here are the top 10 mistakes bikers make on the roads.
Riding on the sidewalk It’s not legal—unless said sidewalk has been designated as a bicycle route under Illinois law—and it’s not safe. Pedestrians are a big enough problem to bikers—and cars—when they cross the road; there’s no need to join them on the sidewalk.
Running red lights and stop signs No explanation necessary.
Riding between two lanes of traffic Yes, sometimes it’s easier to just ride between two lanes of traffic traveling the same direction as you—especially on a bridge—but it’s not wise. Cars changing lanes and side-view mirrors can equal disaster, and the practice leaves no margin of error for bikers or drivers. Just stick to the right side of the street like the law says.
Not using hand signals You know how irritating it is when cars don’t use turn signals. The same applies to bikers. Use your hand signals to let car drivers know what you’re doing. If not, don’t blame them when they almost hit you.
Wrong way on one-way street This is self-explanatory, but the main danger here (besides being hit head-on) is a vehicle coming out of a garage, an alley, a side street and the driver not looking your direction because they don’t expect anyone to be traveling the wrong way on a one-way street. So, not expecting a biker there, they might pull right out in front of you.
Using mobile devices while driving Just like for drivers, using mobile devices of any kind is distracting—and if a biker is using earbuds, they can’t hear what’s going on around them.
Riding in a car’s blind spot If drivers can’t see bikers in their blind spot, what’s stopping them from pulling over right on top of said bicyclist when they want to park in the street or turn down an alley or into a parking lot. Slow down so drivers can see you in their rear-view mirror or speed up so they can see you next to/in front of them if they are driving slow enough to allow you to.
Riding too far right Yes, bikes are supposed to travel as far right as safely possible. But don’t go all the way to the curb. If bikers are that far to the right, they could be mistaken for someone on the sidewalk or not seen at all. Travel far enough into the lane so cars have to actively go around you.
Engaging drivers verbally No matter how great the temptation to yell at that a-hole who cut you off, don’t do it. It will distract you and possibly escalate to something ugly. They have a car. You don’t.
Assuming cars will follow the road rules Biker must be ultra-aware at all times, no matter how ordinary the situation seems. You never know what’s gonna happen. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open.