Oct 30, 2008

First Article Published on group's efforts

Suburban bicyclists to meet over safety fears
Published: October 30, 2008

Jay Fried suffered a severe break in the scapula bone of his shoulder when he was knocked off of his bicycle by a horse trailer during a bike ride on Bateman Road in Barrington Hills on Aug. 3.

It's the second time the Northbrook resident has been hit by a vehicle while riding his bike and he still suffers severe pain from the most recent accident.

"This time when it happened it was serious. I was in the emergency room," said Fried, showing an X-ray of the 29 staples that were placed in his shoulder to hold the incision. Another bicyclist on the ride with Fried also went down and was injured.

Only a few days later on Aug. 12, Brendan George of Deerfield was knocked to the ground by a pickup truck during a bike ride on St. Mary's Road north on Illinois Route 60.

"I went down and skidded down St. Mary's Road, sliding on my back in a fetal position," he said.

Fortunately, George was not seriously injured, but he still has scars from the accident.

"I have road rash that's still not healed and it's been three months," said George.

Accidents like these are a growing concern to cyclists in the northern suburbs, and two local bicycle clubs are spearheading new efforts to improve bicycle safety.

Clubs campaign

The effort is being headed by Velo Club Roubaix, which has more than 100 bicycle club members in Lake and northern Cook counties and rides out of Lake Forest and Deerfield.

Alberto's bicycle club in Highland Park is also championing the cause.

The clubs have invited about two dozen bicycle clubs and bike shops throughout Lake County to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Alberto's Cycles, 1770 First St. in Highland Park, to discuss ways to improve safety for cyclists. Representatives of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and Lake County Division of Transportation also have been invited to attend.

Daryl Kunz of Deerfield, a member of Velo Club Roubaix and the club's former president, said the goal of the meeting is to "network to make the area suburbs better for cycling through advocacy, education, enforcement and other efforts."

Kunz said part of the effort is to educate motorists about the rules of the road when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists. He said a new state law requires motorists give at least three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road.

Fried is a member of Velo Club Roubaix and George is a member of Alberto's bike club and owner of Alberto's Cycles in Highland Park. Both say the drivers of the vehicles who hit them and caused them to fall never stopped. They believe it's important that motorists be educated about the law and the three-foot rule.

Kunz said the clubs also hope to raise funds for increased advocacy in Lake County through the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and for lobbying county transportation officials to incorporate more bicycle/pedestrian paths when new roads are built, or existing ones are improved.

"It's not just the hard-core bicyclists like us that it will benefit. It will also benefit the casual riders," he said. "There's so much reconstruction planned in the next four to five years and this is an opportunity for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation to influence how those (roads) are rebuilt."

Resources needed

Pamela Brookstein of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation said the federation currently has a coordinator for the northern suburbs but that person only works a few hours a month because resources are limited.

Brookstein said clubs such as Velo Club Roubaix are trying to raise funds to expand the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's advocacy efforts in Lake County as well as northern Cook and McHenry counties. Clubs interested in donating to the cause are encouraged to visit the federation's Web site at www.biketraffic.org.

"There is a lot of energy in the north suburbs, people that would really like to see some bicycle improvements happen," she said. "We'd love to be a part of that."

Bruce Christiansen, transportation coordinator for the Lake County Division of Transportation, said that department recently received approval for nearly $190,000 in federal funds to do a "complete streets study" of county roads.

Christensen said the study, which will start in January, will include a complete inventory of county highways and will develop a policy for future highway improvements to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. He said the county will seek input from bike clubs and bicycle advocacy groups as it plans.

"Generally speaking, pedestrian and bicycle travel isn't as safe as it could be in most parts of the region, and the study is hopefully going to help us come up with recommendations to improve safety for all users of the highway system," he said.

Copyright 2008, Deerfield Review, Pioneer Press. All rights reserved. REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED.