Did You Know?

Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

Tribune editorial stirs up anti-bike sentiment again

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Every day in metro Chicago, an average of nearly 14 pedestrians are injured or killed as a result of getting hit by people driving cars. That’s nearly 5,000 injuries and fatalities each year.

You wouldn’t know that car traffic poses such a serious danger to people walking if you read Chicago Tribune columnist Ron Grossman’s recent musings about banning bikes for a day to improve pedestrian traffic safety.

Thank goodness for the level-headed response to Grossman’s column from Tribune reporter Kevin Williams, a regular cyclist. And every letter in the printed Tribune yesterday addressed this subject — split between anti-bike and pro-bike, of course.

There is no doubt that reckless cyclists are a danger, and like anyone else who makes streets unsafe — people who walk into traffic while texting, people driving who speed across crosswalks without looking for people walking, etc. — they should get tickets and be scolded by society. Just as important is designing streets that create more order and accommodate everyone safely.

But in failing to even mention the far greater toll that people driving cars take on pedestrians, Grossman reveals an underlying bias that is all too common. It goes like this: people driving cars are rulers of the roads and people on bikes just get in the way. Car crashes are acceptable and even inevitable in this light, while bicyclists are an unacceptable traffic risk, even though people driving cars cause many, many times more injuries and deaths.

We are big believers in shared responsibility for traffic safety — as opposed to finger pointing.

Earlier this year we launched a campaign with AAA Chicago focusing on that theme.

We submitted a letter in response to Grossman’s column, which hasn't been printed, but you can read it below.

And yesterday we launched our new Safe Crossings Campaign to create changes that will actually make our streets safer and accommodate travel choices, unlike banning bikes for a day.

Dear Editor:

Everyone should travel respectfully and safely on our streets, whether you’re biking, walking or driving. As Ron Grossman points out in “Maybe Chicago should ban bikes for a day,” some people on bikes don’t meet this standard. Unfortunately, the same can be said about motorists and even pedestrians. If you’re traveling recklessly and putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving.

With exciting developments like Divvy and a growing network of protected bike lanes, more people in Chicago are riding bikes. More people biking makes the need to share even more pressing. That means driving, walking and biking with less risk and more respect.

We support bike lanes and other “complete streets” designs like pedestrian islands that create safer conditions on the road. These improvements cost very little compared to overall roadway costs, and they reduce traffic conflicts and improve safety by creating more order and predictable behavior on the streets.

In addition to better infrastructure, we also need better enforcement. Unfortunately, there are sixty car crash injuries or deaths every day in the city of Chicago, of which about 13 people are on foot or bike and 47 in cars.

Sharing the road is the new normal in Chicago and our fear is that these fatalities and injuries will rise if each of us doesn’t take personal responsibility for obeying the traffic laws and respecting fellow commuters on Chicago’s increasingly crowded streets.

We can all help create a new normal by modeling responsible behavior when we drive, bike and walk.

Ron Burke
Active Transportation Alliance