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Ramps Up Bike Fines And Offers 'Dooring' Protection

Look Before You Open Your Car Door Poster

Rahm Ramps Up Bike Fines And Offers 'Dooring' Protection

The mayor threatened Chicago cyclists with stiffer fines for traffic violations, but also sought to protect them from "dooring" incidents in proposals made to the City Council Wednesday.

The 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance would increase fines for cyclists who violate the rules of the road from $25 up to a range of $50 to $200.

Yet Mayor Rahm Emanuel would also double the traffic fines for motorists who cause "dooring" incidents, in which cyclists either run into an opened car door in traffic or swerve into traffic to avoid it.

Motorists who cause a dooring crash would face a fine of $1,000, and the fine for leaving a car door open in traffic would double to $300.

On Wednesday, some Logan Square cyclists said they see victims of dooring accidents every other day, and all knew friends who have been doored or had been doored themselves.

More than 250 dooring accidents were reported citywide last year.

Doug Burk, a mechanic at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square, didn't put the blame solely on cars.

"Some people feel like as soon as they step on their bike, the world owes them a favor," he said. "But they need to take twice as much responsibility."

Burk, who has taught road safety to young cyclists in the past, said he agrees with the hike in fines for cyclists who don't follow road rules, but added that the hike should go hand-in-hand with awareness efforts.

"Otherwise it just seems like it's a revenue exercise," he said. "Ultimately it's not the laws, it's people realizing it's in their best interest to not run lights and bike the wrong way on streets."

Emanuel emphasized it's a two-way street, but Alex Bedoya, another Logan Square bike mechanic, disagrees.

"Drivers should be at fault at all times," he said with a laugh.

The 37-year-old cyclist said he's been doored twice in the past, but said there are some roads in the city — Western Avenue for example — that cyclists shouldn't be allowed to use due to the dangerous conditions.

Like many cyclists, Bedoya and his co-worker, Cassie Jones, are in favor of special "yielding" rules for cyclists. Even when a rider is cautious at every light and follows traffic rules, they said it doesn't physically make sense for a rider to completely stop when no cars are visibly present on a cross street.

"If they are sharing the roadway with vehicles, cyclists must obey all traffic laws, including yielding to pedestrians, stopping at traffic signals and indicating when they are making turns," Emanuel said. "When the traffic laws are obeyed, everyone is safer. By increasing the fines for failing to obey the law, cyclists will behave more responsibly, increasing safety and encouraging others to ride bikes."

Part of the initiative will be a campaign to install stickers saying, "Look! Before opening your door" in all 7,000 city taxicabs. The sticker was designed at MINIMAL design studios. MINIMAL employee Neill Townsend died in a dooring incident last year in Old Town when he swerved to avoid an open door and collided with a semi-trailer.

The ordinance package was endorsed by Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance.

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