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New Chicago fines encourage car, bike respect

The relationship between cyclists and Cook County motorists can be an uneasy one. Bike riders want drivers of bigger vehicles to recognize them as equals on the streets. Motorists complain bike riders are hard to see and often ignore traffic rules.

Chicago lawmakers want to make sure riders and drivers coexist with respect, even if it means adding new laws to make sure they do. The mayor recently signed new legislation that heavily penalizes cyclists and drivers for ignoring one another.

Fines are now twice as stiff for cyclists who break traffic laws. Motorists will also pay twice as much as in the past for causing "dooring" accidents - bike crashes into vehicle doors suddenly opened into traffic by drivers or passengers.

"Dooring" is no small problem in Chicago. There were 250 dooring crashes in the city in 2012. A local cyclist who suffered debilitating arm injuries when her bike hit an SUV door recently received a liability settlement of $800,000.

In anticipation of the new ordinance, officials last month announced all Chicago taxis would sport stickers warning passengers to exercise caution while opening cab doors.

Fines now have jumped to $300 for motorists who allow vehicle doors to remain open in traffic for extended periods. Drivers who cause bike riders to crash into open doors are fined $1,000. Bike riders caught disregarding the rules of the road pay up to $200 per traffic offense.

Public officials initiate traffic safety programs for more reasons than modernization. Transportation officials regularly study traffic flow and update roadways to avoid car accident claims.

Riders and drivers are ultimately responsible for their actions in traffic. Liability attorneys and crash victims realize secondary factors like poor road designs and inadequate lighting can also contribute to auto accidents.

Agencies responsible for road maintenance and safety are subject to civil lawsuits when cyclists or drivers are harmed due to government negligence.

Source:, "Chicago Approves Crackdown on Dooring, Rule-Breaking Bicyclists" Andy Ambrosius, Jun. 06, 2013

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