Monday, April 21, 2008

New Road Rules in Illinois: A Lesson for NY

A new law passed in Bloomington, Illinois requires motorists give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing, and assesses violations up to $500, according to a report by Pantagraph.com

Now this is a law that should be passed not only in New York State, but also in the entire country.

This law has been in effect since Janaury 1, and was sponsored by two lawmakers who have been struck by cars while riding their bikes, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, and Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago.

Other major advancements included in the bill are an allowance for cyclists to use the center lane when there is a right hand turn lane-- a major source of collisions--and an allowance for cyclists to move out to avoid debris.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists will be sponsoring radio ads next month to alert motorists to the changes. Brochures explaining the changes will be given to police departments for officers to hand out as warnings in lieu of writing tickets, if they choose.

According to Pantagraph.com, seven states have passed a 3-foot provision before Illinois, and similar bills are pending in several other states.

More info that the article cites:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety counted 770 bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2006, the last year available. Bicyclist deaths are down 23 percent overall since 1975, but up about 23 percent since 2003.

In related action last year, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of what was dubbed “Complete Streets” legislation to require pedestrian and bike ways while planning and constructing state roads.

Some cities in Illinois are taking stronger action on behalf of bicyclists.

In March, Chicago aldermen passed an ordinance mirroring the state law mandating at least 3 feet of clearance, but they went further. They disallowed making left or right turns in front of bicyclists, opening a vehicle door into the path of bicyclists (a type of crash called “dooring”), and double parking in marked shared vehicle/bike lanes.

Fines for driving, standing or parking in a bicycle lane also were increased: Each violation carries a minimum $150 fine, increasing to $500 if the violation results in a bicycle crash. More than 6,000 crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles were reported in Chicago between 2001 and 2005, with 30 bicyclists killed.

Closer to home, the Normal City Council recently set aside $50,000 to hire a planner to design safe bike and pedestrian routes, based on the recommendation of Oehler’s committee. He hopes Normal officials will eventually designate certain streets as bike routes with marked bike paths, similar to Chicago’s.

The routes would offer bicyclists safer ways to access Constitution Trail, said Oehler, who also is a member of the boards of Friends of Constitution Trail and the League of Illinois Bicyclists. Meanwhile, those groups and the Twin City parks and recreation departments are cooperating to print a map of recommended bike/pedestrian routes. Copies should soon be ready at the parks departments, cycle shops and online at www.GoToTrails.com, a new website showcasing area trails.

This year, the league and bike clubs across the state also are pressing the General Assembly to pass a Vulnerable Users Bill aimed at motorists who kill people using alternative forms of transportation, including pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians and unprotected farm equipment operators. Punishment would increase to up to a year in jail, a $12,500 fine, and the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Supporters point out that current penalties include no jail time or significant fines.

Bike facts

-- One-third of bicyclist deaths occurred at intersections in 2006, the last year available.

-- Sixty percent of bicyclist deaths that year occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 33 percent occurred on minor roads.

-- Nearly three of every four bicyclists were killed in urban areas rather than rural areas, a switch since 1975 when bicyclist deaths occurred equally in both kinds of settings.

-- The decline in deaths was greater for women, 49 percent, than for men, 18 percent.

-- Get more information

-- Download a list of bike laws

-- The Illinois State Police offers bike safety tips

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cyclist Killed in Midtown

The NY Daily News reported that a 54-year-old man was killed by a DHL truck on Wednesday night.

His identity is being witheld pending notification of his family, said police.

Apparently the cyclist was riding on W. 36th St. when he collided with the truck from behind.

The report is unclear as to whether the truck side-swiped him, or stopped suddenly in front of him, squeezed him to the side, or in the more typical scenario, turned in front of him.

Although the report says the cyclist "lost control," that type of scenario supports that he was struck by the truck as it passed him.

His family should be well-advised to get a full report of the point of impact of the cyclist to the back of the truck, and to interview witnesses in the area.

Amazingly, the NYDN may have learned that to talk about whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet is not appropriate and only stated that a nearby witness
Maritsa Ruiz, 28, said "the cyclist was bleeding heavily from his head."

The man died at Bellevue hospital.

Full report here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Five Boro Bike Tour May 4th--If you want in, be a marshal

Many people, regretfully did not register in time for Bike New York. This year it is taking place on Sunday May 4. And guess what, it's sold out!

In response to many of the pleas and entreaties to get in at the last moment being voiced on ebikes, (the New York based email exchange list for cyclists,) Len Diamond, Member, Bike New York board of directors sent an email missive outlining the group's reasons for not making a bigger bike event this year.

"While we regret having to turn folks away, we decided to limit the size of the ride to make it run smoother for our participants. While we could without much effort probably get 50,000 people signed up for the ride, the route as presently designed could not accommodate the increased traffic without huge delays. We felt last year's delays were unacceptable and thus decided to make the financial sacrifice to cut back numbers to a level that would make the event flow better."

BRAVO! That was a very brave decision. Don't you remember Steve Klein of 26-bicycle-fame's review of the Five Boro Bike Tour a couple of years back? He got perfectly skewered for it by a couple of Five Boro volunteers. (Not just for his review, but also for sneaking onto the course.)

But Klein correctly nailed it when he said that the delays on the bridges, and the almost military environment to keep people in check detracted from the joy of riding en masse by bike through all of New York City.

But what about those people intent on getting in at the last moment?

A number of emails floated back and forth on ebikes positing that if you wanted in at this late date, you could maybe buy someone else's place.

Please don't said Diamond: " We are not thrilled about folks reselling their entry for several reasons, some logistical and others legal," he wrote, referring people to their website for the whole policy.

Diamond also encouraged people to volunteer for the ride and even the pre-ride, and plugged the growing advocacy related work of Bike New York, which extends well beyond the one day event each year.

Said Diamond: "We have a significant education/safety program that is rapidly growing and whose funding comes from the bike tour," and again invited people to take a look at the site to see what they were doing.

It seems New York is becoming a better and better place to ride, and this organization's contribution to our evolution is a terrific example of why.

www.bikenewyork.org