- A Ride Leader Speaks Out (BeezodogsPlace)
My faith in cyclists has been reaffirmed. Sometimes when you do not seem to be hearing from the folks who are The Silent Majority you think that perhaps things have gone much further than they actually have.
Most bicycle clubs formed in the 1970s were created by the idealists of my generation who were able to celebrate the American Bi-Centennial with cross country rides. They came back with a vision of cycling that was largely centered around the training that would ensue from writers like John Forester (Vehicular Cycling).
Ideas like coast-to-coast greenways cropped up and trails were inaugurated and rights-of-way reclaimed by this group. It was the Wayne vs. Boub that reshaped the debate on cycling’s future.
But somewhere in the effort to establish that we had a right to be part of the transportation landscape there arose a notion that we were actually better off performing the transportation equivalent of secession. It has been that way for a decade or more and we have slowly devolved into a hostile relationship with traffic engineers and automobile drivers that has lead to the dropping of the “Share The Road” idea.
Now it is all about bicycles not wanting to share the road but instead wanting to remove cars from it altogether and to carve out a set of behaviors that are in fact illegal. We now have folks who feel that riding with bright colored clothing is passé. In fact using lights and reflectors is no longer cool or even desirable for many cyclists. Nina-style riding is all the rage and that means no lights, reflectors on the bike itself and certainly no reflective clothing.
But the one constant had always been that we wanted to be “safe“. And that was supposed to mean that we wanted everyone to “obey the traffic laws“. We were taught to be predictable to drivers and to request the same of them. But all of that has devolved as well. Now the notion is to deliberately ignore traffic signs and signals. Scofflaw behavior has become the “cool way to ride“.
A Bicycle Club Takes A Stand
Dear Bicycle Club Members and Guests,
The issue is whether we should stop at Stop Signs. Our Bicycle Club, has a long-term policy of supporting the Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road, a booklet offered by the Secretary of State. Members can check our website under “Ride Leader Responsibilities” and “Rider Responsibilities”. The Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road include the following information.
OBEY ALL TRAFFIC LAWS AND SIGNALS
*When riding your bicycle on Illinois roadways, you must obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals that apply to motorists.
Ride leaders and riders are reminded to follow the laws of the state when riding. Our actions affect the public’s view and opinion of cyclists.
After graduating from A Midwestern University, I went to law school at a Midwestern University for a year. I decided not to be a lawyer and left after the first year to become a financial advisor. During the first year in law school we studied “The Law” and read a lot of cases. One thing we learned when studying cases is that both sides have a good case, the truth is usually in the middle, and the judge decides which way to lean and establish the law. I understand there are two side to this issue. However, the law of Illinois states cyclists have to follow the rules, or there will be a violation. The recent Police ticket warning on a club ride is one example. There are states, like Idaho, where cyclists treat the stop sign as a yield sign while observing safety. The state of Illinois does not allow this. I would suggest members who feel strongly about this issue get together, and help change the law. Until the law changes, please follow the Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road.
We want less accidents and injuries every year. I will research this issue further, and report to the club later. Enjoy the cycling season, take care, be safe, and SAFETY FIRST! If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly, …we already get enough email.
Then followed a letter from our club ride captain:
To all members of Our Bicycle Club,
As ride captain, and leader of many rides I have been as guilty as the next person in violating this law. I will attempt to rectify this on my future rides by insisting that any riders on my ride will come to a near complete stop at stop signs when no traffic, and a complete stop if there is any traffic at the intersection.
I will include this in my ride description so anyone not wishing to partake of this lawful method of riding can opt into a different ride.
Further I would request that some one who has legal knowledge, write a proposal for Our Bicycle Advocacy Officer to pass on to the powers that be to hopefully influence the proper legislators who write future laws pertaining to this for the bicycle community.
VP & Ride Captain
It really is not difficult to ride within the scope of the law. It is a bit like adopting a new diet. You react to the change in emphasis in your food choices. But before long its becomes second nature to you.
Learning to ride with a pace line group is easier if folks are not taking chances at intersections. You actually make it easier for the newbies on the ride to keep up. Yes you may have to learn to practice regrouping after passing through intersections where the group gets “broken up” but the wait while a comrade gets out of the ER is a lot longer than a single light change.
Let’s make it “cool” again to be law abiding riders. And in addition to behaving ourselves on the roadway it gives us more credibility when attempting got change laws that we are not having to explain having broken them on a consistent basis.
The very last thing we need to keep in mind is that many of us are also car drivers. We need to be extra diligent in bringing our case to our fellow motorists concerning the need to “Share the Road“.
One day in the future it might be true that all bike lanes are “separated cycle tracks“. But long before cities like Chicago release their stranglehold on the federal and state funds for Protected Bike Lanes that they are sure to possess, suburban riders are going to have to slog it out on roadways that are far from perfect. And unlike our city cousins we have few alternate forms of Mass Transit to fall back upon.
So being able to communicate effectively with motorists about our concerns is doubly important as we diligently work to make Complete Streets the mandate for all suburban areas. We need motorists to be as concerned about bicycle infrastructure as we are. We need to offer (as our club is currently doing) introductory courses to bicycling on streets for the benefits of our neighbors and their children.
We suburban riders have a unique advantage over our city cousins in that we have plenty of really verdant bike trails that run through forests and along streams and rivers. These are places that an entire family can enjoy because they are in essence “separate cycle tracks“.
We need to introduce our neighbors to the rich assortment of these trails. We need to enlist their help in getting the “final miles” of these trains built so that vast networks are available to take riders both east-west and north-south. Trails like the Illinois Prairie Path could even serve as commuter routes into the city.
I salute the folks of my club who have had the courage of their convictions. Let us agree to keep cycling viable as a form of transportation as well as a superb form of recreation. And let us redouble our efforts at winning the hearts and minds of our fellow motorists to show them a better way.