This week I am sharing a few observations made while driving in and around downtown Naperville, including the North Central campus.
Since I live a few blocks east of the college, my errands often include cruising down Benton and cutting through downtown. To set the stage for the next few hundred words, and as a sexagenarian (get your minds out of the gutter — it means I am in my 60s), this will probably fall somewhere between what might be tolerated as the musings of a colorful curmudgeon and the crankiness of another old guy with selective memory about his own youth.
I think I will start with bicycles.
The Illinois Rules of the Road for bicycles clearly state, “when riding your bicycle on Illinois roadways, you must obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals that apply to motorists.” This means cyclists will go in the proper direction on one-way streets; yield the right of way to pedestrians, other cyclists and motor vehicles; and despite the inconveniences of Newton’s laws of motion, obey stop signs and stoplights.
It is ignoring this last one that is particularly troubling. While expending the energy required to place the bike back in motion after a complete stop might be time consuming and tiring, this is trivial compared to what happens when a bike and rider encounter a vehicle with significantly more mass travelling in a different direction.
Then there are pedestrians and crosswalks.
One of the things I learned when walking to kindergarten (no, it was not uphill both ways nor was it always snowing, and we did have shoes) was to stop at the corner and look both ways before venturing across the street. While crosswalks were painted to identify a safe zone, this pavement marking was not an invisible force field that would keep a ton of metal from hitting me.
The new paradigm, particularly for college students engrossed in their tablet or cell phone, seems to be strolling, head down, as if the crosswalk were an extension of the sidewalk. This is not to say drivers do not need to be careful and yield to pedestrians, just that safety is a shared responsibility. It is never a good thing to completely trust someone else to do the right thing.
Linking both of the above, we have cyclists riding through crosswalks. Many bike riders seem to believe they should enjoy the best of worlds, streets and sidewalks, as they speed to their destination.
While I appreciate that busy streets are not the most hospitable place to ride a bike, safely navigating the traffic lanes is not easy for cars either. There is nothing scarier than a bike literally speeding out of nowhere after a driver had, moments earlier, assumed the way was clear of cross traffic whether from pedestrians or other vehicles.
Other than a plug for obeying 25 mph neighborhood speed limits, this covers it. Oh, one last thing — you kids better stay off my lawn!
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact Bob at email@example.com.