While driving my car in Oak Park, recently, I had an encounter that was both unsettling and unnecessary. I was turning left, after dark, out of a store parking lot onto a divided four-lane street. I looked to the left for oncoming traffic in the near lanes, and to the right for oncoming traffic in the far lanes. Seeing none, I started to pull out, and was nearly broadsided by a (helmetless) bicyclist riding on the left side of the street, and with no light. Not only was he in a place he should not have been, but he was also nearly invisible. In other words, he was riding illegally. (The situation was, of course, exacerbated by the fact that the row of parked cars he emerged from behind is not arranged to provide visibility to traffic moving in the wrong direction.)
My alarm at the near collision was not eased by the volley of vicious epithets he spewed at me as he dodged my car, apparently convinced that I had severely wronged him.
I realize that our society is pathetic when it comes to educating people on bicycling safety and laws. This needs to change! But the most immediate reason bicyclists don’t stop putting themselves and others at risk is that there is next to no enforcement of traffic laws when it comes to bicyclists. After all, the same laws apply to cyclists as to motorists, yet on a daily basis I see bicyclists ignoring every traffic rule there is, with no consequences. The only way this is going to change is if they get nailed. That could mean hit by a car (or, as nearly happened tonight, hitting a car), but I hope that doesn’t have to happen. What I mean is that our law enforcement bodies need to start taking this problem seriously, and pull these violators over just like they would a motorist who violates the law.