From Joe Hendry of Mess Media.
City panel targets bikers, drivers
Chicago Sun-Times, March 5, 2008
By Fran Spielman, City Hall Reporter
Mayor Daley’s plan to curb motorists whose reckless driving endangers bicycle riders — with $150 fines that rise to $500 if there’s a bike crash — cleared a City Council committee today amid demands that the city do the same to cowboy cyclists.
Traffic Committee members said they’re all for throwing the book at drivers who open car doors in the path of cyclists, turn left or right in front of them or pass within three feet of their bikes.
But, they’re equally peeved about bike messengers who knock down pedestrians and about street racers who defy red lights in a mad dash to the finish line.
That’s what happened last month to 29-year-old Matthew Manger-Lynch. He was struck and killed by an SUV at Lincoln and Irving Park while competing in the “Tour da Chicago,” an “alley cat” street race in which cyclists compete with local traffic.
“One of the things that highlighted was the fact that laws should also be obeyed by the bicyclist. Here, we’re highlighting the motor vehicle obeying the law. Are we also going to insist that bicyclists obey the rules of the road,” said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th).
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) said he has watched cyclists ride the wrong way down one-way streets, cut in and out of traffic and keep on going after causing accidents or knocking people down.
“How many of ‘em are stopping at stop lights? How many of ‘em are stopping at stop signs? How many of ‘em are putting their hands up when it’s time to make a turn? Those are serious issues … If I violate a law and I’m in my car, they take my license. Are we gonna license bicycles,” Cochran said.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he’s all for targeting motorists to encourage people to ride their bikes to work to reduce downtown traffic congestion.
But, cyclists need to be “held accountable” as well.
“Some of our … less responsible bicycle messengers seem to have free rein over the streets in the downtown Loop area. For some of our more elderly citizens, we’ve had some close calls and, in fact, some collissions,,” Reilly said.
The city’s Bike 2015 Plan calls for new regulations against the city’s 300 bicycle messengers who make 1.1 million deliveries each year. They would be required to wear helmets and complete a city training session. Companies would be advised when messengers get tickets.
“I may have the pleasure of coming back to this committee again with an ordinance specifically related” to bike messengers, said Ben Gomberg, bike program coordinator for the Department of Transportation.
Gomberg said bicycle licensing has been studied and rejected in other cities as “administratively too difficult.”
But, he promised a summer crackdown to create a “level playing field.”
“If a bicyclist is going through a red light and endangering himself or motorists, we hope to work with the Police Department to ticket those behaviors,” he said.
Daley is an avid cyclist who once scraped the skin off his knee cap during a marathon bike ride in Michigan.
His ordinance establishes a $150 fine against motorists who endanger cyclists and $500 if the offense results in a bike crash. The same penalties would apply to double-parking in a marked lane that’s supposed to be shared between bikes and vehicles and to driving, standing and parking in a bicycle-only lane.