Biking and Driving During Covid-19
Covid-19 has many of us working from home and going out only when we need to, rather than for our daily commute to and from work.
The pandemic has also blown the doors off bicycle sales, with unprecedented numbers of people purchasing, or fixing up, bikes to ride for pleasure and exercise. With many working from home, and gyms still closed for the most part, people have opted for mobility via two wheels.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
If you have read my past blogs, you are ware that I am one of those MAMILS—Middle Aged Men In Lycra—who rides his bicycle for exercise and competition. I love it.
What is not to love so much is the way motor vehicle operators tend to not notice bicyclists. While my prior experiences before the pandemic were that traffic was getting worse and drivers were more distracted than ever, Covid-19 has changed things a bit. The roads are much less crowded, which is a good thing. However, drivers have taken to treating stop signs (and even stop lights) as advisory at best.
The rule of thumb for bicyclists is to assume that all drivers are distracted, unaware of your presence, on their phones, or a combination of those.
Ride defensively. Give yourself plenty of time to decelerate to avoid a vehicle.
Signal your turns. If you are turning right, simply point your right arm outward and point that direction before making your turn. Same deal with the left arm for a left turn. It is not a bad idea to signal that you are slowing by placing a flat palm behind your back. It is something we cyclists do when riding with a pack of riders, so why not also let the vehicles behind you know what you’re doing, especially if they can’t see around you.
Always wear a helmet. I’ve cracked two in the last half dozen years, and I don’t even take chances. One saved me from killing myself after hitting a tree head-first.
Many riders recommend helmet cameras to record any crashes or aggressive or dangerous driving. Now, many bicycle computers have accident awareness technology as well.
Always carry identification, a basic first aid kit, and a little bit of cash and a credit card with you. Bring your phone too.
How to Drive Safely With Bicycles All Around You
Make a promise to yourself to dream one night that you were in a hurry to get somewhere, or you were looking at your phone, and you ran over a cyclist.
Yup, you just killed a human being.
Scary stuff, huh?
That’s the point. Promise yourself to remember that bicycles deserve your attention when you are driving. Yes, I know some don’t follow the rules perfectly or ride irregularly. Same deal with little kids darting out from between cars. The little kids do not deserve to get run over.
The adult way to handle these issues is to drive always as if you might kill someone if you don’t pay complete attention. It may take you a while longer to get where you are going, it might frustrate you, and it might slow up traffic. But it just isn’t worth a human life, is it?
More safe driving basics:
- Always use the Dutch Reach when opening a car door. That is, you open the door with the hand opposite to that side of the vehicle, forcing you to look behind yourself. It is now the law in the State of Illinois. Just the other day, someone literally flung their car door open into the bike lane without looking, right in front of me. I’d left plenty of room for just such an intrusion and was able to avoid it, but this situation is the most common type of vehicle-bike crash.
- Never turn right when there is a bicycle near you. Always let the bicycle go ahead, unless you are positive it has stopped and you can see it behind you in your mirror.
- Never turn left in front of oncoming traffic. Not only is it illegal, but you have a legal duty to ensure the intersection is clear prior to making your turn. Even if the light is red, this maneuver is the most likely way to kill a cyclist. Cyclists are often on the far right of the lane you are turning across. If you cut off the car facing you, that just about guarantees that you haven’t looked for or seen the oncoming bicyclist.
- Look for bikes. Yes, whether you like it or not, it is legal for them to be on the roadways.
- Give bicyclists three (3) feet of space. That’s the law. Also, if the road is rough or under construction, be alert for merging bicycles, which can’t ride on the same level of torn up roads motor vehicles can.
But It’s a Hassle
Absolutely true. Having bikes around is like having telemarketers calling your phone, street cleaning making you move your parked car, and having to wear a mask to protect yourself and others from deadly diseases like Covid-19. These are just some of life’s inconveniences. Yes, the alternatives of not having a phone, or unclean streets, or the like, is not logical or livable.
Make a pact with yourself to be a good human and pay attention to bicycles and the rules of the road. If you are a cyclist, know the rules and follow them.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as auto accidents, bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.