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Why Don't Bicyclists Get Ticketed For Running Red Lights? These Guys Did

By Alisa Hauser | November 29, 2016 8:53am
 Police are stepping up enforcement of traffic laws and ticketing cyclists.  Two cyclists got tickets for crossing on the pedestrian walk instead of the using the traffic light around 8:15 a.m. Monday.
Cyclists Ticketed in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — For those who ask, "Why don't cyclists ever get ticketed?" the answer is sometimes they do. Two Monday morning rush-hour bike commuters got tickets for running a red light by a police officer who'd been stopped at the same red light.

One of the cyclists hit with a ticket said he entered Wicker Park's busy six-way intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee when the light allowing pedestrians to cross illuminated.

Steve Kehm, an Avondale resident, was cycling south on Milwaukee Avenue toward Downtown and stopped at the red light at North, Damen and Milwaukee avenues intersection around 8:15 a.m. Monday.

"I stopped at North Avenue, right next to a police car and waited until the crossing symbol changed, then continued on Milwaukee (with the crossing symbol illuminated) to a stop at Damen. The crossing symbol changes well before the light turns green," Kehm said in an email after the incident.

The police officer who'd been stopped at the same red light pulled Kehm over and a second cyclist who also had used the pedestrian crossing signal and ticketed him, too.

The handwritten narrative on the ticket Kehm provided to DNAinfo says, "Vehicle recorded incident subject was going eastbound failed to stop for a red light."

Both cyclists were cited for the same thing, violating city ordinance 9-52-010a.

The ordinance states that "Bicyclists must obey all of the rules of the road."

Fines for violating the ordinance range from $50 to $200, and the ticket cannot be contested by mail.

Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman, said "There are currently no concerted bicyclist traffic enforcement efforts underway in the [Shakespeare] district. However, please be advised that, per city ordinance and state law, bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws governing the rules of the road."

Kehm has a Jan. 20 court date at the city's Central Hearing Facility, 400 W. Superior St.

Kehm said he plans to contest the ticket on the grounds that he bikes through the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection several times a week on his commute and has seen "lots of cyclists do the same thing and cross with the symbol, but has never seen anyone get a ticket."

"This is also in an area that the construction barriers on Milwaukee block the bike lane with no warning or provision made for bikes, so it just seems more safe to get out ahead of the cars as the bike lane is blocked where I guess the officers thought bikes should wait (Milwaukee/North)," Kehm added.

That construction barrier Kehm was referring to was removed in October after being there for more than two years. The lane he was biking in — a "sharrow" (shared-use arrow) for bikes and cars but not a dedicated bike lane — had just returned to its normal width.

While Kehm was waiting for the ticket to be written, he captured photos of six jaywalkers headed south on Milwaukee Avenue toward North Avenue.

"I asked the officer what about them, are you not concerned with them?'

"He said, 'No, no we're not.'

"Seems like people jaywalking are in much greater danger than bikes crossing a street with the crossing symbol," Kehm said.

The number of tickets issued to cyclists for running red lights was not immediately available; however, according to a Sept. 30, 2016 Tribune article that cited Chicago Police Department statistics, 410 cyclists were issued citations for "traffic light" violations between 2006 and 2015.

In 2014, the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection was ranked in the top 10 most dangerous Chicago intersections for pedestrians by the nonprofit advocacy group Active Transportation Alliance.

Cyclist Steve Kehm captured a photo of jaywalking pedestrians as he was getting a ticket. [Provided]

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