Bicyclists, please follow the rules of the road we share

Opinion: Columns

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Denise Wells

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To the bicyclists out there who are certainly proliferating these days and enjoy the village's blessing, I beseech you, implore you, to have consideration for the innocent law-abiding pedestrians and drivers.

To the woman who on March 15 about 6:25 p.m. blew through the four-way stop at Kenilworth and Ontario, what were you thinking? I was walking on my way to First United Church and had just stepped from the curb to the street when she sped through the stop, never slowing down at all. She appeared to be a mature woman who should certainly know better. She was wearing a helmet, but I wonder if I need to get some sort of protective gear just to be able to cross the street. If I had been a few steps further along, I could have been seriously injured or even killed. She was going just that fast.

Last June during the time we had a long electrical outage, we drove our car to the store. It was night when we returned to our pitch-black street where there also is a four-way stop. As I waited my turn at the stop, I had just started to make a left-hand turn when my headlights caught a bicyclist riding through the stop sign. She had no lights on her bike and was dressed in dark clothes. There was no way she could have been seen earlier. It gave me quite a fright and I yelled at her, asking how I could be expected to see her. She yelled back that she forgot her lights. That did not explain her failure to stop. Am I to assume now that bicyclists will routinely ignore the rules of the road?

I hear bicyclists say they cannot stop at stop signs or for traffic lights because it slows their momentum. But they simply cannot use that as an excuse to endanger others. These were two blatant examples of seriously irresponsible bicyclists. I like to walk and I should not have to be extremely worried every time I cross a street. I understand there are many careless and dangerous drivers around and we have to be vigilant around them, too. But a car is easier to see and is not usually darting around the street from side to side or riding on sidewalks.

This frequent lack of respect for others by too many bicyclists is a serious issue that needs resolution. I do wonder if the Oak Park police ever ticket bicyclists. Surely it might help.

It will be 48 years in April since we moved to our home in Oak Park. I would like to enjoy some more years.

Denise Wells Palfy is a graduate of Rosary/Dominican. Her two daughters are graduates of Oak Park and River Forest High School.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: July 14th, 2013 7:21 PM

Think about it--when's the last time you saw a car cut between two other cars to blow through a red light, then ignore two stop signs? Never happens. Cyclists need to man up and own their crappy behavior. We'll share the road. You share the laws.


Posted: July 14th, 2013 7:18 PM

I lived in OP for 3 years and agree that a high percentage of cyclists do not even attempt to obey the rules of the road. It's dangerous and obnoxious--I shouldn't have to work my around the same scofflaw biker four times in one trip, because he/she elected to ignore every sign and light. And the argument that there are many more bad drivers on the road doesn't hold water--yeah, there may be more, but the percentages aren't even close...WAY more bad bikers, relatively speaking.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 20th, 2012 1:25 PM

@elderly - have you tried ignoring the bump out? I usually ride as far right as practical in the lane without entering the parking area. It's a lot easier for the rider to be seen when you are not bobbing in and out of bump outs and easier for the car to avoid you.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 15th, 2012 10:14 PM

From what I hear the village is about to adopt a mandatory bicycle helmet ordinance. It goes along with the current amber front wheel reflector and red rear wheel reflector, horn that can be heard from 100' away and registration sticker ordinances. This town gets more ridiculous by the minute. If a cyclist does somthing stupid (like running a stop sign) and gets hit, it's the cyclist's fault.

Violet Aura  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 6:46 PM

What do you mean "enjoy some more years?" Are you honestly afraid of a mad cyclist running over you?! What about all the assorted asshat drivers who blow stop signs (in addition to my daily cycling, I am also a pedestrian & NOT a driver) I have had many experiences with that one. You mention the left-hand turn: were you whipping around the corner like it's the Indy 500 instead of cautiously turning? It constantly amazes me how hostile even the so-called bleeding-heart OPers consistently are.

Elderly Bike Rider, Continued  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 2:25 PM

"bike lanes"

Elderly Bike Rider, Continued  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 2:24 PM

Bike lines are needed. And, last of all, I hate "bump outs", such as those on Harrison, between Austin and Lombard and the new ones on Roosevelt Road. They are very hazardous to bike riders. I don't understand what planners are thinking . . . it's certainly a very anti-bike way to make a street.

Elderly Bike Rider, Continued  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 2:22 PM

Bikers try to save their own lives. Motorists need to avoid killing others. Distracted motorists are a bane to everyone! I have a right to ride responsibly on the streets. I pay taxes, too. Everyone needs to learn to share the road. Life is changing. Motorists need to know that more and more bicycles will be sharing the road. Let's all be kind to each other.

Eldery Bike Rider, Continued  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 2:19 PM

Basically, when I ride my bike to the grocery store, the library or the doctor, I try to save my life, because a car can kill me. Bike riders can be "doored" (car door opens into the traffic lane) or "shaved" (car comes too close to the bike rider). And, basically, people who drive cars should seek to do no harm. They must be aware at all times about their surroundings. They should notice that bike riders are in the right lane and they should try not to kill them as they turn right.

Elderly Biker  

Posted: April 14th, 2012 2:16 PM

I am a healthy, 71 year old bike rider who has lived and biked in Oak Park since 1972. I do not own a car. I believe that I follow traffic laws most of the time. Exceptions: if there is no traffic anywhere at an intersection with a stop sign I will go through without stopping. And, if I happen to be on a busy street like Harlem (I try to avoid it) and I feel my life is in danger, I go on the sidewalk. There is very little foot traffic on Harlem.


Posted: April 13th, 2012 3:42 PM

Not to get picky with your hierarchy, Moving Target, but technically there is no difference in terms of yielding between bikes & cars. They both follow the same rules of the road & must yield to others who have the right of way. Though pedestrians do trump anything with wheels. I think the cars v. bikes debate misses the point (which many cyclists forget) that they're just another vehicle out there. I don't think bikes are being picked on per se. I'm pro-traffic laws AND pro-bikes.

Moving Target from Oak Park  

Posted: April 13th, 2012 3:02 PM

In the heirarchy of yielding, pedestrians on foot are top dog, then bikes, then cars. Bikers who don't yield to pedestrians give us all bad name. But I'm going to take this opportunity to mention the balding driver of a red BMW convertable who SPED UP to give me a scare as I was crossing the intersection of Fair Oaks and Berkshire.

Beth Puccinelli from Oak Park  

Posted: April 13th, 2012 8:16 AM

Biker- No anger here...It's your life at risk....just Saying!I'll be the one protected by steel...on our narrow streets.


Posted: April 12th, 2012 10:15 PM

Again, the cyclists here fail to see the point that is not the number of incidents (I'd like to see the vs ratio), but the pervasive attitude of entitlment that cyclists have. I've been in many situations where cyclists passive aggressively swerve into my lane to try to prove some point, especially during critical mass season... And when it hits the fan, they play victim and put the responsibility on the driver.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 9:43 PM

To Another Biker from Oak Park:Nice stats but the stats do not support your statement,"Based on statistics bicyclists are more law abiding" What do you have on law abiding bicycle traffic?


Posted: April 12th, 2012 5:01 PM

I am constantly amazed that more bike riders aren't hurt in Oak Park. I witness almost daily bike riders not following any of the rules of the road. They don't have to stop at stop signs, red lights, or anything in their minds. It makes it difficult for those of us who are driving and attempting to share the road with them. If I have to stop at a light in my car, a bike rider should also stop. I see this countless times. So very frustrating!


Posted: April 12th, 2012 3:46 PM

I was recently in my car at an intersection. I got the green light and started to go. Out of nowhere a cyclist, sans helmet, crossed in front of me and tossed me an unfriendly glance. Of course, I stopped to avert hitting her and I got rear ended by the car behind me. I'd wish I could say this is a unique experience but I've seen this type of cyclist behavior all too frequently in Oak Park.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 3:32 PM

"...debunking the fact that so many bikers blow through intersections. Most accidents result in motorists not paying attention." I would invite you to sit at ANY intersection and count the number of bikers - and drivers - who stop at an intersection. You won't need many fingers. Might even learn some new words. And bring your cell phone in case you need to call an EMT.

Another Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 3:21 PM They have a variety of statistics and reports. In 2009, only 36% of bicycle accident fatalities were at intersections, debunking the fact that so many bikers blow through intersections. Most accidents result in motorists not paying attention. 51,000 cyclists were injured in 2009; 17% were under the age of 14. 12% of bicycle fatalities involved people 65 years or older and 13% under the age of 16.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:51 PM

*yawn* Yeah, yeah, yeah, we hear this attack on cyclists on a regular basis, but both cyclists *and* drivers regularly blow through stop signs in OP. Crack down on scofflaws, please, but stop singling out cyclists.

Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:47 PM

Find a bike trail? Streets were made for cars? Really? Sigh, seriously you might want to work on that anger thing. Bikers don't have to follow traffic laws? The last time I checked, we are equally accountable under the law. If you feels these laws aren't being enforced, I suggest you speak to your local law enforcement officer.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:47 PM

To Another Biker from Oak Park: "Based on statistics bicyclists are more law abiding" Please cite the source.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:40 PM

Bike riders share the road also - so follow the rules! Our lack of respect for each other is why we have such traffic problems. Every individual who uses a roadway or sidewalk feels that they are the only on it. I always find it funny that people like Beth and Another Biker will bash each other about their driving or biking habits, but I'd bet my house that neither one comes to a STOP, before the crosswalk and looks for people before traffic, at a stop sign. And often with their kids in the back

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:35 PM

Another Biker: I cannot tell you the number of times I've been at a stop light on the right lane of two lanes of traffic and had a biker pass on the left between lanes to get to the crosswalk at a stop light and doesn't stop. Or the times I've had to hit the brakes because a biker turns right off a side street and runs the stop sign. Or when a biker yells "FU" to me because I tell them to stop at a stop sign. I'd say the attitude of bikers is WAY worse than drivers, which is also terrible.

Beth Puccinelli from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:07 PM

O.K. If I hit you, and it's your fault..It's my Fault!! Find a bike trail. I'm tired of risking my and my childs life due to bike riders ruling our streets. At least 5 times a day, I see a law broken by a biker.Our streets were made for cars..Of which most of them you can't even get two down at a time. Now throw bikes in the mix. Really smart. Please don't put your babies at risk by dragging them behind you on a bike while you run an intersection..or mine for having to slam on the brakes 4 U!

Another Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 1:04 PM

I cannot tell you how many times a car has passed me and made an immediate right turn. Or the times that cars ride in the bike lines. Or the times that a car pulls out of a parking spot right in front of a cyclist. Or the times that a car opens its door in front of a cyclist. Or the times that a car hits a cyclists and takes off. It is the attitude of drivers that think they own the road and don't need to share it with pedestrians and cyclists who often move faster than they do in traffic.


Posted: April 12th, 2012 12:53 PM

I have to agree. Most think because they are on a bike, they don't have to follow the traffic laws. I have avoided MANY accidents because of bicyclists in their own world. They fly through stop signs, street lights, ride the wrong way on a one way street,cut off cars,etc. And yet if one gets hit, the blame goes to the person driving the car even if it's not their fault.


Posted: April 12th, 2012 12:28 PM

Again, it's not about whether drivers break more laws... That's a given considering the disproportionate amount of drivers to cyclists. It's about an attitude that many cyclists have, believing that they can do what ever they want. I can't count the number of times I've seen cyclists decide they want to one minute be on the road, then suddenly become pedestrians on the side walk when it's convenient for them. And the number of times I've been cut off by them causing close accidents.

Another Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2012 10:00 AM

It is annoying to hear how drivers get upset with bicyclists when in reality bicyclists follow more rules than automobiles ( Pedestrians cross against the lights, jaywalk, and drivers text and talk while they drive. All one has to do is look at the accident statistics to realize that cars are far more deadly than bicycles and pedestrians are involved in far more accidents with cars than bicycles. Based on the statistics, bicyclists are more law abiding.


Posted: April 11th, 2012 10:01 PM

Biker, yes we all know this... but the point is cyclist aren't held accountable for the laws they break and the blame often gets pushed onto the driver in the event of an incident (whether it was the drivers fault or not), and there is a common belief among many cyclists that they don't have to follow the same laws as everyone else.

Biker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2012 9:56 PM

For each irresponsible biker on the road, there are at least 3 drivers who are texting & juggling their latte', speeding, and ignoring what's in front of them. It's WAY more dangerous out there for bikers who observe the rules.


Posted: April 11th, 2012 9:20 PM

Thank you for the article! Sure, drivers break the law, and they get called out on it all the time, as they should be... but some how many bicyclists seem to think they operate under different rules. I can't count how many times I've experienced cyclists runs red lights and stop signs, weave in and out of moving traffic as if it's their birth right... and then they get hit and blame it on the evil driver! If you're going to ride your bike on the road, follow the law and take responsibility!


Posted: April 11th, 2012 8:22 AM

I'd also add to motorists & bicycles...pedestrians, please use crosswalks! How about EVERYONE obeys the law & police better enforce safety with everyone getting tickets whether you're speeding in a car, jaywalking, or a bike rolling through stop signs?


Posted: April 10th, 2012 11:28 PM

You have valid points regarding cyclists, but it is far more dangerous when a driver ignores the rules of the road. I stop at all traffic lights and slow down at all intersections while cycling. Still I have been hit by a car on 3 occasions in broad daylight and it was not once was it at an intersection. Also, only once did the car stop. Cars are still far more dangerous in OP then the cyclist. Encountering two irresponsible cyclists in your 48 years in OP does not constitute a frequent problem.

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