Bike Riders Can Be Idiots

Some bike riders think they own the damn road

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By David Hammond

John Kass, Tribune writer, doesn't like what he calls "little bikers," though he says "he likes their little outfits, with the little helmets." He thinks bikers are a pain in the arse, which is why he's so condescending toward them.

No doubt, we've all seen them. Bike riders who think they own the damn road…and the sidewalks. Blowing through stop signs as though such traffic control devices didn't apply to them, zipping between slow moving automobiles, and taking to the sidewalks to terrorize pedestrians with their recklessness, bicyclists can be idiots.

I bike all the time, avoiding automobiles whenever possible, either as driver or passenger. Last Saturday, biking over to Five Guys* for a burger, I witnessed several bikers doing things no sane person would do. One guy went right through a stop sign without even bothering to look both ways – crazy.

And I also saw a lot of cars blowing through stop signs, moving around other cars in a reckless fashion, and moving through pedestrian crosswalks oblivious to the safety of walkers.

Leading me to conclude that given the normal distribution of intelligence in the human race, there's probably an equal number of bicyclists and motorists who could be, clinically considered, idiots. The only difference is that those driving cars are capable of doing much greater damage to themselves and others.

So the next time you feel you need to come out swinging at "little bicyclists," please remember that the greater danger, by a considerable margin, are big motorists.

*Obligatory food reference.

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 9:44 PM

A couple of posters suggested that Madison and Jackson were alternatives to crossing Adams to get to Fox Park. Madison is in the wrong direction, and the amount of turning cars does not inspire me to try to race across Madison with a four and five year old. Remember, cars can turn on a red light. Jackson is dangerous as well. The danger there is cars turning from Jackson to OPA. Turning car make quick turns in front and behind pedestrians regularly. It crazy but the latest solution is to cross OPA in the middle of the street across from the Fox Park gate. Why? OPA traffic has to slow for or stop at the red light, and there is a better view of the cars turning to head north. The choice is not about laziness, it is about safety. I'll probably regret announcing my solution on WJ as I could be getting a ticket for crossing in the middle of the street. Can kids get tickets? I am willing to pay for my illegal crossing ticket, but I sure don't want to get three.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 4:22 PM

David, I am not as strident on people riding on the sidewalk. Most of them are slow riders and easy to avoid. I always assume they fear driving on the street. There are kids and adults that race down sidewalks at 20-25 MPH with no respect for anyone. When I see that, I want to put a stick in their spokes.


Posted: June 4th, 2013 4:15 PM

FYI Bikes on the sidewalk isn't totally illegal. Village Code 15-2-6 reads "A. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. B. No person fifteen (15) or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any zoning district. C. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian." Just to clarify the usual confusion.

Ken from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:57 PM

Violet - hopefully, you might consider the world from another viewpoint. Not so long ago a music teacher named Ann Monaco was run down on a Sunday morning while running on a quiet OP street. She was running with traffic. Had she properly been running against traffic, she might have seen that the driver was distracted, she might be alive today. She taught disadvantaged children at the Merit Music School - from friends who knew her - a kind person.

Lady Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:49 PM

David, I get what you're saying, BUT, let me just say, as a 72 year old woman with no transportation other than a bike, if I'm on Harlem, going to Bed, Bath & Beyond, let's say, I am not going to ride on Harlem!!! I WILL ride on the sidewalk. There are hardly any pedestrians at all there! It's a matter of my personal safety.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:26 PM

Bicycle riders on the sidewalks, John Butch, continue to amaze me. I've seen cyclists of all ages riding the pavement meant for pedestrians, and I just don't get it. To me, once you're out of single digits, you really should keep the bike on the street where it belongs. I know police ticket for such offenses, but not nearly enough, apparently, to make a dent in sidewalk vehicular traffic.

Slim Pickens from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:14 PM

So far in all these letters we've established that motorists are alley-blazin', texting, latte-sipping, managing-2-kids-in-the-back-seat road demons. And that bikers are lane-swerving, signal/sign-ignoring, helmetless soon-to-be roadkill. Since this will never change, perhaps the best strategy for both sides to assume the other is incapable of seeing them, and take appropriate defensive actions.

Don Juan  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:12 PM

It's always fun to yell out the car window at bikers "GET OFF THE ROAD!!!". It makes me laugh everytime.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 2:35 PM

Last night in a flash of time, a skateboard driven by a teenager, raced through the stop sign at Adams (west side) to cross Oak Park Avenue. As he entered the roadway, he spotted a black car going about 40mph heading north. The teenager jettisoned the skateboard and fell the street. The skateboard continued east and was demolished by the black car. The car did not slow at any point and continued toward Madison at the same speed. He did not stop to see if the teenager was hurt. The teenager got up, grabbed the pieces of his skateboard and disappeared into the night. Both drivers (skateboard and car) were at fault, but it is the boy who would have been injured or killed if he had not jettisoned the skateboard. The incident led me to think about a WJ Commentor who said that bicycle riders are pedestrians. Bicycles and slateboards are vehicles not pedestrians. Neither is allowed to ride on the sidewalk in Oak Park. As a community we need to acknowledge that the bulk of the pedestrians crossing streets and avenues are children and seniors. There safety should that the highest priority of the village.

Daily Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 1:20 PM

David, which part of "plentiful side streets" didn't you understand? A) There's next to no traffic to be slowed by a biker. B) Such traffiic as there is moves slower any way. C) The parking lane is often empty allowing you to ride out of the flow traffic when necessary and not along a wall of cars doors waiting to open into your path. And yes, I know they are doing amazing things with microfibers these days, but read the small print in your T-shirt label. ;)

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 12:12 PM

Daily Biker, are you saying that bikers should always be in the traffic lane (except when there are clearly marked and protected bicycle lanes)? I usually bike on an old Schwinn that goes no where near the speed limit -- isn't moving that slowly also a danger in that it would significantly slow down traffic behind me? And are you suggesting my shirt does not render me invulnerable?


Posted: June 4th, 2013 11:36 AM

A lot of those street choices it depends on whether I have my kids in the bike trailer or if I'm by myself. If I'm by myself, I take Jackson over Adams, Chicago over Iowa, If I'm keeping up with traffic, I find frequent side st stop signs to be more dangerous. Personal preference according to skill level. I don't care if bicycles are on the side streets. Let's make all the streets safer for every rider/runner though. BTW, doesn't the bike plan call for OPA/Lake to have bike markings?


Posted: June 4th, 2013 11:16 AM

@David/@Daily are absolutely right. Why anyone would chose to bike down the main road, even with marked bike lanes, in a grid street system is beyond me. The sidestreets are much more Pleasant (pun intended). Choose Pleasant over Mad/Wash. Adams over Jackson. Iowa over Chicago. Berkshire/Thomas over Division. East over OPA/Ridgeland. And so on. All these wonderful sidestreets will get you to your destination safer while providing better scenery.


Posted: June 4th, 2013 10:56 AM

It depends on the cyclist, Daily. I agree side streets are good for slow meandering. If you're trying to go faster, those side streets have too many stop signs. Granted, not every cyclist can handle the chaos of a main street...but that's part of what bikes lanes are for is increasing visibility & awareness that we're there. It gets more people to feel more confident on the busier streets. Which, in the end, is probably where we belong IMO...leave the side streets to Violet's pesky runners! lol

Daily Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 10:17 AM

I agree with @David: the plentiful side streets in OP are not only safer, but much more pleasant for biking. If you are biking down Oak Park Ave to Maya del Sol or down Lake Street to 5 Guys between the traffic lane and the parking lane then I'm afraid you're one of the idiot bikers to which you refer. I don't have much use for the painted bike lanes either. Neither a painted stripe nor a cutesy t-shirt offers any real protection when biking adjacent to such heavy traffic.

Another Runner  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 9:31 AM

I'm more concerned about the safety of neighborhood children going to the park than myself RE: Adams and OP. It's discouraging living in a community that gets more fired up about the lives of pigeons in the viaducts than the safety of its own citizens.

@another runner  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 6:32 AM

Agreed, Adams and OP ave is a very dangerous intersection. It would be great to have a stop for pedestrian sign, like Van Buren. Not that anyone pays attention to those. But let's not forget that a short distance is a stop light cross walk at Madison and even closer to Fox Park is the light at Jackson. If you can't be bothered to walk that far, than run. And if you can't take your own safety into your own hands then why would you expect anyone else to?

Another Runner  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 9:45 PM

@ JBM - there should be a crosswalk with signs reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians at Adams and Oak Park as there is to the south at Van Buren. It's a very dangerous intersection less than a hundred feet from Fox Park, home to a playground catering to preschool age children. There's no excuse for the lack of traffic planning at this intersection or the behavior you correctly reference shown by drivers at this intersection.

Another Runner  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 9:38 PM

@Violet - review the rules of the road at On page 39, cyclists are REQUIRED to travel in the same direction as vehicles. On page 37, joggers/walker should select wide roads with good shoulders. They should face oncoming traffic. I'd agree that what you do is childish, but it's not "training the joggers." It's ignoring the rules of the road. Please obey the law and stop being inconsiderate to runners.


Posted: June 3rd, 2013 9:23 PM

@ JBM, stop lights at Garfield, Harrison, Jackson, Madison, Washington South and North Blvd, Lake Street, Chicago, Augusta, Division and North ave. When the light is green and there is an white light, image of a person walking, then you may proceed across Op Ave. At Van Buren there is a mandatory stop for Pedestrians, which may mean one has to walk their bike across OP Ave. Hope that helps, John.

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 8:17 PM

Anyone bike Vancouver? It's dreamy. Separate bike and ped lanes around most of the city much of it by the water. The highways have bike lanes too. (Tears)

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 8:10 PM

You know you live in OP when cars approaching the street from the alley honk as if its a shield and continue to plow through the sidewalk at full speed. I love to ride but refuse to do so on the street because it's too dangerous. My dream would be to turn two streets going north and south into 1-car lane, 1-way streets each with a bike lanes going opposite directions. The streets end at 290, but the bike lanes do not. They would connect to a bridge and path that follows 290 into the city.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 8:04 PM

@RUnner: No, they are CHOOSING the left side instead of running on the right. And then they expect me to allow them to run next to the curb and I am supposed to ride into the street (having to look behind me when they are aware of the oncoming traffic). Sorry but I stick close to the curb. Maybe some will find it childish but I call it training the joggers;)


Posted: June 3rd, 2013 7:55 PM

David, that's being debated in Chicago right now isn't it about whether it's legal to ride between cars & stopped traffic? While they sort that out, I still think it's dangerous. Coming east on Chicago from River Forest to OP with that right turn lane I always wait with the center lane thru traffic in the line. It depends on the intersection, I suppose.


Posted: June 3rd, 2013 7:53 PM

I don't think it's that runners are afraid of being on the left, Violet. They're just following the law. Just like you as a cyclist are allowed to take the lane if there is something to your right. You're a vehicle. Runners are pedestrians.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 7:04 PM

Attention joggers: I still don't get why you have to go into the street at all. Someone mentioned driveways. So it's less dangerous to run in the STREET?! In any case, why are you so afraid of running on the right side of the road? Why is it that I as a cyclist is any different than you? I am supposed to ride on the right side and so many times I am met with joggers coming towards them. They should have to run in the center of the street if a cyclist approaches them since they can see the cars.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 5:52 PM

@David - Swell solution, but how do I get across OPA?


Posted: June 3rd, 2013 5:48 PM

@David, simple solution for you: don't ride your bike on Oak Park Ave...ever. One block to the East or one block to the West, pretty tame streets for biking, walking or running.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 4:29 PM

I was doored on Oak Park Avenue, right in front of Maya del Sol. The cars in the traffic lane were stopped, and I was biking to their right, slowly (fortunately) when a parked motorist just opened her driver's side door. I just got a small cut on my hand. Now, Joe, here's my point: would you have recommended that I "act like a car" and stop in traffic along with the other cars, or was it kosher to move along the side of the cars? As I said, I was going slowly, but I was still carving out a bike lane between moving traffic and parked cars. Cool or not cool?

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 3:47 PM

It's been my motto when commuting by bike to 'act like a car and the cars will treat you as a car'. Obey the rules of the road and the motorists will know what to expect. lane splitting, running stop signs and weaving in and out of the parking lane are sure fire ways to lose some skin, get doored or end up with some broken bones. This isn't a fail safe solution though, people driving and riding bikes can behave radically. I've been hit by motorist making a right turn from the left turn lane.


Posted: June 3rd, 2013 1:28 PM

I don't usually have a problem with cars while running or biking around East/Pleasant...I'd never use Adams to cross Oak Park when Jackson has a light just down the way. Jackson is being paved soon and the village board is about to consider bike lanes on Jackson sometime in June last I heard.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 1:14 PM

I offer s Oak Park Avenue (OPA) and Adams as the worst for not even slowing for the Stop Sign at Adams (either side). Congestion at OPA at Adams occurs from 6-9 a.m and 3-7 pm. Added to the chaos is the speeders on OPA pushing the gas pedal to make sure E/W traffic does not get across to avenue or make a turn. But that is not the worse. Traffic heading for Jackson or Madison block Adams causing grid lock. Cars and bikers crossing OPA risk suicide. Pedestrian tremor, say a prayer and play Car Dodge

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 3rd, 2013 12:43 PM

Long Time Biker, I was walking to George's for breakfast and at the corner of East and Pleasant, I witnessed five cars go through the intersection, barely slowing, and some not even braking. If the police want to make a point about obeying stop signs, this would be an ideal intersection to monitor.

Long Time Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 12:47 PM

I've biked to work my entire adult life, which has included three major cities and five states. My commute has ranged from half a mile to 35 round trip. Until I moved to OP, the biggest problem I had was an occasional flat. Since I've moved here, I've been hit by a car twice (both times the car was running a stop sign) and frequently feel actual fear because of the way folks drive. OP is the least bike-friendly place I've ever lived. If people want us to use a bike path, build some!


Posted: May 30th, 2013 8:21 PM

David, pedestrians on the side of street against traffic is pretty standard law in every state. It's for safety so you know where traffic is visually rather than relying on hearing it or looking back over your shoulder. Come on, police officers teach this stuff to elementary schools! Don't you remember? lol

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 5:27 PM

From what I can find in several Google search, it's advised that runners go against traffic and that bikes go with traffic. Not sure if it's "law" that runners go against traffic, but if it is, then to quote Mr. Bumble, "The law is an ass."

Another Runner  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 1:31 PM

I run in the street into traffic, per my rights under state law. The only times I've come close to being hit by a car it's been while running on the sidewalk while a car came flying out of the alley without slowing, much less stopping, at the sidewalk. If people don't like runners in the streets they should slow down and drive with a sense of responsibility. Knowing that won't ever happen I will continue to run in the street. I do tire of the dirty looks from uninformed motorists.


Posted: May 30th, 2013 11:17 AM

Runners--as pedestrians--should be going against traffic if they're in the street...state law says if it is a two-way street they should be on their left. Personally, I use the sidewalk, but not everybody finds it safer because of alleys, driveways, etc..

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 10:31 AM

VA, with you re: joggers as well as bikers who go against traffic. It makes no sense. It makes the most sense to jog on the track, which is where I contain my jogging impulses.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 9:45 AM

If you ever want to see how stupid most car driver's are just observe what happens when a red light goes out at an intersection and it becomes a four way stop.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 9:33 AM

Oh and would you please do a column exploring why joggers are on MY side of the street? Funnier yet, they expect me to move into the middle of the street, even though they are facing the traffic. Why do they even jog in the street in the first place?!

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 9:31 AM

And so the point of this column is...? If it's a wash, then I don't get why you even bothered. It sounds like you wanted to dis cyclists and then slapped on that sentence to soften the blow. The point is that I am growing weary of fake liberals who drive their SUVs 8 blocks to Whole Foods and then pat themselves on the back for being greener than thou. Ride a bike and stop the madness.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 1:05 AM

VA, "Leading me to conclude that give the normal distribution of intelligence in the human race, there's probably an equal number of bicyclists and motorists who could be, clinically considered, idiots."

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 6:54 PM

And 100% of motorists are complete geniuses. Especially the ones who hold up screens whilst navigating a 2000-lb. car. Or the ones who never use their turn signals and expect me to channel Kreskin. Yup, total brain power right there! And great concern for our qualify of life, too. I love that I can be zipping around on my bike and sure enough, there is yet ANOTHER car approaching. Probably going six blocks to the gym in that metal box.'s so great that there are so many brainacs!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 4:55 PM

Totally with you, Cheryl. As long as you drive defensively (i.e., assume the other person is not paying attention), biking in Oak Park is excellent.

Cheryl Munoz from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 3:19 PM

I ride all over Oak Park with my 2 kids and have no trouble at all. One kid is up in the bike seat and the other is in the trailer... or they are both in the trailer... or the groceries are in the trailer and the kids are home with dad. :) Anyway, I bike because we get to experience our village in a slower, more intimate way. Teaching 3 year old Cora how to say "forsythia" this Spring was fun and 5 year old Cedar chats about architecture. Take it slow... exude peace and look both ways.

oak parker  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 2:49 PM

Bikers in our city are ruthless! as if they are the only ones on our roads! get back to the bike paths you lunatics!

Dave Coulter  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 2:41 PM

Your headline says it all - and I'm a bike rider.

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