The Art of Giving Cycling Advice

Background Reading

Summary

The 606 Bloomingdale Trail Lenny Gilmore/RedEye The 606 under construction on April 22, 2015.

The 606 Bloomingdale Trail
Lenny Gilmore/RedEye
The 606 under construction on April 22, 2015.

With the impending opening of the Bloomingdale Trail next month, cyclist and pedestrian etiquette will almost certainly be a major topic of conversation among the trail’s future users.

Issues that plague the lakefront path are certain to exist on the 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path that slices through the Northwest Side—although we won’t know until the grand unveiling June 6. Like the lakefront path, the Bloomingdale Trail will be multi-purpose—meaning cyclists, runners and everyone else will be sharing the same lanes, planners have told RedEye.

It’s an understatement to say that riding a bicycle, or doing anything for that matter, on the lakefront path is chaos.

A few years back, my roommate showed up to work looking like he had joined an underground fight club, with a black eye and cuts and bruises all over his face, arms and legs. It turns out that instead of indulging his pugilistic desires, my roommate had been involved in a crash on the lakefront path.

While riding his bike to work, an absent-minded runner abruptly, and without first looking behind him, decided to swing a 180 from the right shoulder of the path into the middle of the path—and into the path of my roommate. In order to avoid a catastrophic collision, my roommate swerved sharply out of the way, crashing his bike and skidding across the pavement.

Working in a bike shop on the weekends, I often am privy to the aftermath of such crashes and close calls. Anyone who bikes extensively in Chicago has their own story involving a close call or worse while riding on the lakefront path. Many of those same riders would now rather take their chances riding on the city streets than ride on the lakefront path.

Looking at the big picture, my roommate’s injuries were insignificant compared with the injuries others have suffered on the lakefront path. But it underscores how basic etiquette can help prevent many crashes that happen on the lakefront path, the soon-to-open Bloomingdale Trail and beyond. The trail and park system is formally known as The 606.

If you are a cyclist, ride defensively. Realize that each person you are approaching may potentially step into your path of travel at any moment. Warn people as you approach them. Let them know you are approaching; it’s the polite thing to do. Also, slow down. The Bloomingdale Trail is not designed for high-speed workouts. You will be sharing the trail with a lot of slow-moving traffic. If you are trying to set PRs on Strava, you are going too fast.

Pedestrians, pay attention. I cannot emphasize this rule enough. Use the lessons your mother taught you and look both ways before you cross the path. And, when you are out running on the path, before you abruptly stop your run and turn around to start making your way home, look behind you and in front of you. Cyclists travel at a much faster speed and it can feel like they came out of nowhere, but it just may be that you were not paying attention.

Finally, if you are a Rollerblader, just stop. You take up too much space and you are in the way of everybody. Leave the Rollerblades where they belong, in the ’90s.

Do not assume the things I just mentioned are common sense for other people.

If we can make the effort to follow some of these basic rules of etiquette, the Bloomingdale Trail will be more enjoyable for everyone and not the chaotic nightmare that is the lakefront path.

A cyclist, RedEye special contributor Andrzej Brzoznowski is a Chicago attorney representing bicyclists and pedestrians injured in crashes. 


TakeAways

What a wonderful bit of advice being being from the point of view of the most important user of trails, the bicyclist. Never let it be said that we do not want to share the trails with others, we do. But please be aware that if there is a collision, you are most likely at fault.

Bicycles move a good deal faster than do runners and pedestrians. So clearly they should be the ones to pay attention lest they cause an accident. The should indeed look both ways before doing anything which might cause harm to a bicyclist. Note that while cars move much faster than bicycles, the same need for bicyclists to pay attention does not ensue.

The roads are made for bicycles and everyone on the road including pedestrians should pay attention so as not to harm us.

It was mentioned in the article that bicyclists should slow down, but everyone of us cyclists knows that slowing down is really not in the cards for us. We have a pace we need to travel because we are special. So what we really mean when we caution lowering the speed we mean lowering it enough to allow us to dart to the left of runners to get around them quickly.

And as for other kinds of trail use, we simply will not abide anything that we do not think is helpful. While it may not have been pointed out to the rest of the world, we as a class of user have condemned the use of things like rollerblades, scooters and longboards. None of these is really safe.

Besides with the invention of the bicycle came the need to get rid of other forms of transportation both motorized and wheeled. In fact we really do not see any point even to the usage of unicycles.

Sooner or later we may have to make a decision as to whether we are willing to allow overly wide cargo bikes in our midst. But for now we certainly feel that rollerblades should be outlawed to make our lives easier.

Well that about wraps it up. We would really prefer it if pedestrians were smart enough to avoid being on the trails around Chicago when we are out using them. Oh and should we also point out that anyone walking a dog or cat or even a small child should be alert and keep these out of our way.

In fact let us go on record as saying that prams, kids on HotWheels and other conveyances that are likely to force us to slow down to the point that we lose our momentum are too dangerous to be out and about and should like their rollerblade counterparts be banned from trail use.

None of this should be construed as meaning that we do not reserve the right to use any lane on any street (including the bike lane) and if needs be we also demand the right to use the sidewalk. That is especially true in areas like Michigan Avenue in the Loop.

OK, now that you folks have been duly warned we will go back to ‘sharing‘ the trails in a manner that suits us.