As the weather warms up, more and more people will be out on their bikes. In Illinois, new bike safety laws are being pushed into action, and places like Plattsburgh can do the same.
At the beginning of this year, Public Act 100-0359 went into effect in Illinois and had multiple elements directed at improving cyclist’s safety. The act allowed for the enhancement of “no passing zones,” so drivers can’t pass bikes in certain areas, and allows cyclists to legally ride on the shoulder.
Now, two new laws regarding bike safety are currently being proposed in Illinois’ General Assembly. The first of these new laws would require more questions about bike-awareness on driver’s exams. The second would demand drivers use the “dutch reach” technique for opening car doors. This technique requires that when parked, drivers open their door with their right hand, forcing their body to turn and look out for oncoming cyclists in the shoulder or bike lane.
Plattsburgh State is home to many cyclists in the warmer months.
Many PSUC students use bikes to get to class, work or just for fun. Alumni Kyle Bronwell is an avid biker and bikes in Plattsburgh frequently.
“It sounds like a rule like this may be well implemented in the most pedestrian heavy spots of cities where one would typically find designated bike lanes,” Bronwell said.
Bronwell said the New York driver’s permit test doesn’t have nearly enough questions and information on bike safety.
“I think bicyclist safety should be involved past law,” Bronwell said. “And be better emphasized in driving courses and five-hours [five-hour driving courses] as part of an overall effort for the heightening regard to pedestrian safety.”
Kevin Turchick, another Plattsburgh cyclist, is in favor of seeing similar legislation in New York State.
“I think it’s (these laws) a good idea,” Turchick said. “People should always wear a helmet, and it’ll sort of encourage everyone to pay more attention and cause fewer accidents.”
In New York State, only cyclists below the age of 14 are required by law to wear helmets while riding.
Justin Courtade, PSUC university police officer, said these bills have the potential to set a precedent for other states to follow.
“It’s probably experimental to see if less people get hit by opening car doors,” Courtade said. “That’s the idea, for people to be more aware.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015 more than 1,000 people were killed and 476,000 injured in bike-related accidents. The total medical cost and productivity losses collectively cost more than $10 billion.
Courtade says the bills could help teach drivers and cyclists the proper way to share the road.
“I’ve been involved in a few (bike accidents),” Courtade said. “Oddly enough, sometimes it’s on the bike. People not knowing not to ride in a crosswalk, things like that.”
Courtade said he wants bicyclists to realize that they are not separate from the flow of traffic.
“As soon as that bike hits the road or is a part of traffic, it’s treated like a car,” Courtade said. “So, it goes both ways, cars often aren’t looking for the smaller targets.”
Courtade encourages every bicyclist to pay attention to the rules of the road.
“If you’re confident enough on your bike, it’s expected you use the bike lane and stay close to the curb,” Courtade said. “But we’re not expecting kids to ride in the middle of the street.”
Email Tess Acierno at firstname.lastname@example.org