As the summer months approach, more bicyclists will be hitting the roads and trails to enjoy the warmer temperatures and fresh air. Illinois has prided itself on welcoming bicyclists onto the roads, especially in Chicago. However, even with progressive laws there is still a concern for safety when bicycles share the road with other larger and faster vehicles.
Illinois Bicycle Crash Data
The Illinois Department of Transportation compiled crash statistics for the years 2007-2011. This data shows where the majority of Illinois bicycle accidents happen and in what numbers. Over the 5-year period, there was a fairly consistent number in the total amount of crashes, though there was a reduction of 15.1% in 2011 over the past four-year average. Some specific data that stands out on the report include:
- Increased fatalities. Although the total amount of crashes was reduced, fatalities increased in 2011 22.7% over the previous 4-year average
- Local streets had more fatalities. In both urban and rural settings, local roads and streets had more fatalities then state or interstate roads
- Older cyclists have higher fatality rate. Of the 27 bicyclists fatalities in 201, over 40% were 65 or older
- Younger riders often injured. Of the 2,930 injury crashes involving cyclists, 47% were under the age of 24
Promoting Bicycle Safety
All bicyclists need to use precaution and obey the laws when riding on the roads. While motorists have their responsibility as well, the rider of the bicycle is much more likely to be injured when a collision between a motor vehicle and bicycle does occur. Adult riders can lead younger riders by setting a good example when riding on the roads.
- Obey the traffic laws. Bicycles should follow all traffic laws when using the road, including signaling, stopping and waiting for traffic lights. Do not weave in and out of cars or pass on the right; drivers may not see you.
- Ride with traffic. One of the biggest safety issues is when bicycles ride against traffic. Cyclists should ride in the same direction as traffic and as far to the right as possible.
- Night riding. Many bicycle accidents happen at dusk and in the evening hours. Make sure you have a light that shines 500 feet on the front of your bike and a red reflector in the rear when riding after dark. Wear reflective or light clothing to make yourself more visible, regardless of what time of day you ride.
- Keep your eyes open! Being a defensive rider can save you from accidents. Keep an eye on motorists that may pull out in front of you or open their car door into your path.
With more riders than ever hitting the roads, it is up to everybody, both the cyclists and motorists to reduce the injury and fatality rates in Illinois. By adhering to bicycle safety rules and laws, bicyclists can look forward to a safe and fun summer out on their bikes.