The danger of riding a bike in the city stems, to a large degree, from the sheer ignorance that many drivers have regarding how to drive around bikes. They simply do not understand how to do it properly. They're not trying to put you in danger when you're out for a ride, but their lack of knowledge leads to critical mistakes -- and you're the one who pays the price.
Just take a look at the results of drivers' tests at the DMV. One of the questions that drivers frequently answer incorrectly is how to make a right turn if they're next to a bike lane. Turning right is one of the easiest things you can do in a car, but they can't do it if there are cyclists around.
To help, here are three easy steps for drivers:
- Merge to the curb. Do this prior to turning right. Merge from the travel lane, across the line, and into the bike lane. It's best to do it when you are within 200 feet of the turn. First, check to make sure no bikes are riding in the lane. Second, merge into that lane with the car. Third, stop and make the turn. By doing this, the car blocks the lane and ensures that a rider does not move up onto the right side of the car.
- If there is a rider in the bike lane, you want to merge far enough ahead of the bike that the rider can pass you on the left or slow down, just as a car would. Always check the distance and the speed of both vehicles. Do not cut off the bike. Merge well ahead of it and signal your intent so that the rider knows you are moving over. They can then slow down -- again, just like a car would -- and allow you to turn safely.
- If the merge would cut off the biker, do not do it. Instead, slow your car down. Allow the cyclist to pass in the bike lane. Once they go by, then you can merge and turn as described above. Overall, experts say that you should act as if cyclists are other motorists. Treat them accordingly.
One of the big reasons that drivers do not do this, other than simply not knowing what they are supposed to do, is that they don't want to wait. They try to speed up and turn abruptly, at a right angle, without merging. They should never do this. It's not worth saving a few seconds to cause a potentially deadly accident. Just slow down.
These steps make it easy to turn, but the reality is that drivers still won't follow them. Cyclists who suffer serious injuries need to know what rights they have to compensation in Illinois.