Webster Avenue in Chicago – Not A Good Route for Cyclists

I bet that if you live or ride on the north side very often, you ride on Webster Avenue.   Did you know that once you get east of say, Southport that there are better routes to get you east or west?  Surprising eh? I take that route quite often to get to the Zoo from Wicker Park/Bucktown.  The Chicago Bike Map recommends switching to Dickens if you’re headed west and Belden if you’re headed east.  Why all the fuss over Webster Avenue today?   Because yesterday afternoon Mr. Ding was doored on Webster Avenue just west of Clark Street.  Boom!  He was knocked off his bike and was knocked into the oncoming traffic lane.  Luckily there was not a car headed his way and there were a few cyclists riding behind him who stopped to help out or this story might have a very different ending.  Luckily he was riding his cruiser bike – a Trek Calypso.  It’s your basic inexpensive cruiser bike, aluminum frame, steel fork.  But on that bike, he was moving at a slower speed than if he had been on his hybrid which probably saved him from more severe injuries.  He was also wearing a helmet. I”m a big fan of heavy, all-steel frame bikes, but the Calypso held up fairly well.  It is not ride-able at the moment  and will need to spend some time at the bike shop, but the frame is intact and doesn’t appear to be bent except perhaps the handlebars.

Two firetrucks showed up to the scene,  along with a cop, before the ambulance arrived. At the hospital they took an some X-rays to check him for broken bones, and found none. Just bumps and some nasty bruises and one of his favorite shirts ripped and ruined. The cop at the scene told Mr. Ding  that when he works in that neighborhood he AVERAGES 3 dooring incidents a day!   That tells me there are probably even more doorings  as I’m sure many go unreported.

What’s the solution for an area where cyclists often ride and motorists apparently do not pay enough attention to their surroundings– even though they are required to by the municipal code:

9-80-035- Opening and closing vehicle doors

No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Added Coun. J. 3-12-08, p. 22781, § 2

And bicyclists have the right to be on these same roads per the same municipal code:

9-52-010- Rights and duties

(a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to vehicles or by the traffic ordinances of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except as to those provisions of laws and ordinances which by their nature can have no application.

(b) The regulations in the traffic code applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any roadway or public sidewalk or upon any public path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated herein.

Is it more signage warning motorists to be aware or more signage alerting cyclists about the recommended routes?  I think we really need dedicated cycle tracks like they have in Amsterdam, and even now in New York. A cyclist needs 4-5 feet to be clear of the  dreaded ‘door zone’.  On a street like Webster that means a cyclist must ride in the center of the lane, thereby ‘taking the lane’, keeping cars behind him/her in order to avoid the door zone. What if Dickens and Belden were each modified so that from left to right there were parked cars, one lane of traffic, more parked cars, and then a cycle track?  If San Francisco can put forth a dramatic biking proposal called Connecting the City why can’t Chicago?  We are the city with the biking mayor,  and the city that was once the world capital of bicycle manufacturing! Why not Chicago?


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