Chicago Bicyclists, Drivers Issued Warnings in Bucktown Crackdown
BUCKTOWN — Commuters passing through a Bucktown intersection during the early evening rush hour had more than a few sets of watchful eyes on them Tuesday.
Some 20 "contacts," or warnings, were issued Tuesday evening by a team of five police officers and three Chicago Department of Transportation "bicycling safety ambassadors" who stood watch at Armitage and Damen avenues or patrolled on bicycles within a few blocks of the busy intersection.
The safety enforcement effort, between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., was one of about 100 planned for the year citywide in an effort to make cyclists and motorists "aware of the rules of the road," said Shakespeare District Sgt. Joseph Giambrone.
After spotting violations such as drivers talking on a cell phones or cyclists riding against traffic, members of the group delivered warnings in the form of two-sided fliers.
One side of the flier warns motorists to check for cyclists before opening doors and refrain from talking, texting or eating, For bicyclists, the flier encourages use of a headlight for nighttime visibility and obeying traffic signals and rules.
While the enforcement efforts have been ongoing for the last four years, Giambrone said more cyclists sharing the road with motorist and pedestrians make the work "even more important."
The City Council earlier this month passed a new 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance hiking fines on cyclists from $25 to a range of $50 to $200 for violations.
Giambrone said some of the biggest safety violations spotted Tuesday were cyclists riding into oncoming traffic in order to turn into a left turn lane (rather than stopping at the crosswalk and dismounting). Citations were also issued for bicycling on sidewalks — which city law does not permit for anyone older than 12 — and ignoring red lights.
One warning was issued to a motorist for an "attempted dooring."
The dooring almost happened on Damen, as a woman opened her car door within a few feet of the approaching bicycle of Heather Hain, a CDOT ambassador.
"I was riding very slow, so she didn't hit me, but if I had been riding any faster she would have doored me," Hain said.
Though the woman received only a warning from Hain and the officer she was teamed with, under the terms of the 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance, she could have received a costly ticket.
The ordinance doubles fines for cars that cause dooring accidents to $1,000. The penalty is $300 for leaving a door open in traffic.
Another safety violation observed by Giambrone was cycling in a crosswalk. The law requires riders to dismount their bikes when joining pedestrians in a crosswalk.
After following a cyclist into a crosswalk, a man, upon noticing Giambrone, said, "It's Bike to Work week!"
Giambrone said he was unclear as to why the man brought that up, though suggested he could be "new to cycling" and was unaware of the law.
Giambrone, who was observed giving "thumbs up" to cyclists as they passed, said riders were "mostly on good behavior" and estimated that 60 percent of the some 100-plus cyclists passing through Armitage and Damen were wearing helmets.
While a safety enforcement at Armitage and Milwaukee avenues in May yielded eight tickets that carried fines, known as Administrative Notices and Violations, there were no ANOVs issued Tuesday in Bucktown.
Though the enforcement times and dates are not made public, Giambrone said that cyclists can expect to see officers at the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection in Wicker Park sometime before the end of June.
Three other safety enforcements are planned for intersections in Wicker Park and Logan Square in July, Giambrone said.