How often do you come to a complete stop at a stop sign or wait for the traffic light to turn green before proceeding? According to Illinois state law, bikers must obey the same traffic laws as motor vehicles. But a recent study by DePaul University shows that many bikers routinely violate these laws – and for good reason.
The study, by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, indicates that only one biker in 25 comes to a complete stop before proceeding through a stop sign. In addition, approximately two out of three bikers proceed through red lights if there is no oncoming traffic. Yet these behaviors are currently in violation of the law, although citations are rarely issued. The study suggests a need for cities in Illinois to consider allowing bikers the ability to treat stop signs as yield signs, and proceed through traffic lights under some conditions.
Study Promotes the Idaho Stop
The change in the law, known as the “Idaho Stop,” for a law enacted there, legalizes this common sense behavior. As a result, some accidents, especially those occurring at busy intersections, might be avoided. The law puts biker safety in the hands of the individual biker, and encourages them to make safe choices based on road and traffic conditions.
Cyclists stress that it is not just a matter of increased flow and speed through the city. In fact, in many conditions, bikers are safer proceeding through intersections, even against red lights, than waiting for the light to turn green and proceeding with oncoming traffic. Despite the rapid increase in the number of bikers on the road, cities have struggled to keep pace with infrastructure to support them. As a result, many cyclists indicate that they make choices based on road conditions, traffic levels, and perceived risk.
Bicycling magazine reports that the number of bikers on Chicago streets has increased by 157 percent in the past ten years. This increase is expected to continue as more individuals choose this healthy, inexpensive, and green option. Biking may even be a faster option of jaunts, especially between neighborhoods. The study compared biking to CTA and UberPool and found similar arrival times between destinations.
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The study suggests lowering fines and increasing the use of alternatives such as safe biking classes for violators of biking laws. These classes would give violators the opportunity to learn basic biking rules of the road, which are often not taught in school. Biking safety should also be added to the current driving curriculum, as more and more individuals will choose biking, at least in part, for their transportation needs.
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