All about prairie conservation efforts in Central Illinois

May 4, 2007

Biker/Vehicle Interaction

Biker and motor vehicle interaction

This is my first “blog” but the situation calls for a brief report and for your input.

Our cities are well disposed to the use of bicycles.

I recently castigated a young lady for riding on the footpath when the law says that adults should not necessarily be there. The thinking is that children are safer on the footpath, as they are young people not yet raised to the level of awareness they should have to be on the roads.

In actual fact, the law should be more flexible and meet a number of different biking situations.

We all know the arguments that exist within the biking community, where off-road bikers like to travel forty miles a day, while the high speed folks like to move faster on smoother roads and ride a hundred miles a day. Each group has specific needs.

In town, there are differences between the recreators and the transportation people. One wants to look around and absorb the environment. The other may be hell bent on getting to work on time without breaking a leg.

The person I spoke to about riding on the side walk was from Europe. She has had experience of bicycling in Bulgaria, France, Turkey and England, and she has always been able to bicycle in a laid back manner. She wanted to explain that many European urban roadways assign half the roadway to bicycles. There are also often specific traffic lights that allow bikes to move on first, and another set of lights is for vehicular traffic.

A few days ago, I was tending a local urban prairie when I heard a dull thud. I peered out over a fence to see that a biker had seemingly run into mainline traffic. His foot may have fallen off the pedal, which brings to mind the need for stirrups.

From what I could understand, the automobile traffic was not at fault, but it often is.

I took photographs then downloaded them to a CD for distribution to bikeway people, journalists, the city, and interested individuals, which is one of the functions of a blog.

A day or so later, we had a bikeway workshop where this sort graphic feed-back can sometimes make a point.

The workshop was the first of a series that will deal with bikeway and hikeway planning in and around the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois.

It was explained by the bikeway specialist hired to do the planning that it may take ten years to iron out some of the local bike, hike and vehicle conflicts.

In many cases, there are no roads across town other than main arterials that are heavily trafficked.

There was a healthy discussion of some of some of the alternatives that engineers have to work with.

The accident depicted was not unusual, but it does raise issues about the high speed use of bicycles and the dangers involved. There are problems on both sides of the traffic pattern.

The biker did break a hand, but he seemingly did not hurt his head.

Some the motor vehicle people are not even aware that there are such things as bicycles. On the other hand, bikers can appear out of nowhere to cruise through intersections without hesitation, and they can scare the wits out of careful drivers.

Trails can help, but they can be restrictive. They are not popular with most distance riders. Nor are some of the barricades that are used to slow traffic.

Some bikers would like to see more money go to the general upgrade of roads and education than to the creation of formal trails.

There is a time and place for all manner of plans and calming devices. Our bikeway engineers need feedback from astute users who are interested in assessing a situation and suggesting possible alternatives. It is amazing what can happen as a result of friendly interaction.

I will include a couple of accident shots to encourage you to add your weight to the formal and informal use of our roads for multiple purposes.