What you need to know about bicycling
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 17:09
Bicyclists are everywhere. They are found on sidewalks, streets, college campuses and anywhere in between. With increases gas prices and a new emphasis on green living, more and more people are turning to bicycles as a form of transportation and a great form of exercise.
However, there are great risks in riding your bicycle in crowded places such as a city’s downtown or a busy college campus like Parkland.
“Automobiles don’t respect bicyclists,” Sam Packard, Parkland student and cyclist explained. “My familiarity with my hometown is a big part of me being safe. I know this town really well and I know where the safe streets are.”
Packard has been using his bicycle as his main form of transportation for 10 years. “There are streets that have bike paths, streets that don’t. There are one way streets, streets that are not well lit and streets where people don’t pay attention,” he said.
“I try to avoid busy streets that don’t have bicycle lanes and one way streets because people tend to drive really fast down those streets,” Packard continued. “Remember to be cautious at all times and use your eyes and your ears.”
Some drivers, however, are aware of bicyclists’ rights. First year student Robert Thomas, who drives to school, had this to say, “When approaching a bicyclist, I check my blind spot to try to get into the other lane. If I can’t change lanes, I try to slow down and give them as much room as possible.”
According to Cyber Drive Illinois’ website, in 2009 the United States had 600 deaths and approximately 51,000 injuries. Of those deaths, 20 occurred in Illinois and 70 percent of all accidents occurred in urban areas.
“You have to be careful when sharing the road with cars,” Edouard Lubaga, first year student and cyclist, remarked. “If you’re on busy streets don’t panic. I make sure not to listen to music while on my bicycle.”
There are laws that protect bicyclists, but in order for that to take effect, bicyclists need to follow them to keep accidents from happening.
“They need to have a light on if it is dark,” College Relations Officer Matt Kopmann explained. “As far as on campus, the bikes need to go on bike racks. You can’t lock it up to a fence or a pole,” he continued.
“Cars need to be aware of bicyclists because they are also considered a motorist,” Kopmann said. “(Bicyclists) need to follow the rules as well. They need to stop at stop signs, yield when they are supposed to. They need to ride on the right lane, and use hand signals.”
Cyber Drive Illinois also states that motorists are required by law to allow three feet of space between them and bicyclists when passing them.
Bicyclists are required to ride single file and have both hands on the handle bars they are also required to ride in the same direction as traffic.
Tim Chao, mechanic at Neutral Cycle Workshop, wants to spread the word on bicycle awareness. “The basic bicyclist should have reflectors and lights. For safety, they definitely need brakes,” he explained. “It would be good to wear a helmet, especially on busy streets.”
“Bicyclists need to be aware of pedestrians and cars especially when they are making turns and especially when riding on campus,” Chao said. “Look out for people who have earpieces on and respect the cars and pedestrians.”
Regarding the tendency of motorists to not respect bicyclists, many bicyclists are now fighting back. According to The New York Times, in big cities cyclists are now using specially made cameras that either go on their helmet or their bike so that if an incident occurs they will be able to capture drivers license plates and take people to court.
Accidents will happen, but with a little caution and awareness, perhaps they can be lessened. The best piece of advice that a bicyclist can follow is to wear a helmet - it can be the difference between life and death. And to motorists: remember, it’s their road too.