In search of marauding cyclists


I spent a half hour early Wednesday afternoon walking around downtown Evanston watching bicyclists.

If I didn’t know better — based on the complaints at Tuesday night’s 1st Ward meeting, I would have expected to see bands of marauding cyclists bowling over pedestrians on sidewalks like ten pins.

But I did know better, because I frequently walk downtown.

He’s what I observed while walking down Church Street from Ridge to Sherman avenues, pausing for several minutes at Sherman and then retracing my steps.

I saw 14 bikes in motion, and a lot more chained to bike racks.

Of the bikes in motion:

  • Seven riders were riding eastbound in the Church Street bike lane — the direction the lane is signed for use. One of those left the bike lane to make a left-hand turn into a cross street. Looked legal to me.
  • One rider rode westbound in the Church Street bike lane — against the signage, but perhaps understandable given how torn up Davis Street is this summer.
  • Four riders were riding legally with traffic in north-south streets that lack bike lanes.
  • One person was legally walking a bike on the sidewalk along Sherman Avenue.
  • One youngster, perhaps 12 years old, was sitting astride his bike and it pushing with his feet on the ground like you would a scooter as he worked to keep pace with a woman — perhaps his mother — walking beside him on the Church Street sidewalk near Benson Avenue.

Top: Cyclist in bike lane on Church Street near Maple Avenue. (Wonder if those earbuds violate 10-9-4 (K): "No person shall ride a bicycle on a public roadway or sidewalk while using any device which would impede awareness of auditory or visual warning signals."?) Above: Cyclist crossing Church Street at Benson Avenue.

So I saw no pedestrians actually endangered by bicyclists and only one cyclist who appeared to be in technical violation of the rule barring the riding of bikes on downtown sidewalks.

It’s only a snapshot of life on our downtown streets and sidewalks — but I think it offers support for two thoughts:

  • Protected bike lanes are a good idea. They help shelter bikes from cars and encourage riders to leave the sidewalks to pedestrians.
  • Asking police to spend more time issuing tickets for riding bikes on sidewalks would be a misuse of scarce taxpayer resources.

Of course, then just as I was ending my sojourn I spotted the SUV driver who'd been holding his cellphone to his ear as he approached the intersection of Church Street on Ridge Avenue and distractedly pulled into the pedestrial crosswalk before stopping.

He wasn't totally distracted, though — and motioned to me with his free hand to walk around in front of him.

Where's a cop when you need one!

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