Bike Safety

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

Riding a bike in Chicago isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s this innate animosity that exists between cyclist and motorist – a tug of war over who has the right of way.

I’ve been riding a bike for seven years now, and a courier for 4 months. Whether I’m working, going to school or just going for a ride, every time I walk down the steps of the back porch with my bike on my shoulder, I’m mentally preparing myself for battle.

All cyclists lose battles every now and then. The last time I got hit by a car was two Fridays ago, and it wasn’t my fault at all.

So here are tips for cyclists to stay safe, and some tips for motorists to put cyclists in less danger.

If you have two feet off the ground:

  • I’m going to skip the “wear a helmet, stay on the right side of the road, use hand signals when turning” tips. Those are the obvious safety tips.
  • Be aware. This should go without saying, but I need to emphasize this. Be in-tune with the flow of traffic. Don’t just look at the road ahead of you to avoid potholes. Look at the road ahead of you to see if there are any cars making a right or left onto your lane. Look ahead to see if people are crossing. Look ahead to see if anyone’s getting out or about to get out. Peer behind your left shoulder to catch a glimpse of what’s going on around you. Pay attention to the smells too, because it can be lifesavers if you have your headphones in and don’t hear that truck or bus coming from behind you. Use your five senses – six if you’re cool like that.
  • Think like a motorist. Sometimes motorists can’t be bothered to flick on their turn signal or they hit the gas when the light’s already on yellow. Be aware of their common tendencies and keep that at the forefront of your mind when you’re cruising.
  • Know your limits. If taking a stop sign, going in between cars or making a lane change into the left turning lane makes you nervous, anxious, scared or all three, then simply don’t do it. When you’re confronted with situations where you feel that way, you’ll be hesitant and unsure. That’s typically when accidents happen. Your health and life are on the line. Know your limits.

If you’re in a cozy metal box:

  • Cyclists live in your blind spot. Check your blind spot if you happen to pass us up. We’re faster than you think.
  • Have some patience. Don’t try to squeeze between a car and a cyclist. Don’t try to rush past us to make that right turn. You’re in a nice, safe metal box. We’re not. The only thing protecting us from impact is our flesh. Have a bit of patience and be considerate of our lives.
  • Use your turn signals when we’re around. No one’s a mind reader. A turn signal is the equivalent of an “excuse me.” This is the reason why I got hit two Fridays ago. The driver didn’t use their turn signal.
  • Check before you open your door, especially if your door opens up into a bike lane. Getting doored isn’t fun and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.


A bike is every bit the mode of transportation that a car is. Cyclists bear their responsibility on the road and motorists carry a responsibility for acting in the interest of the well-being of the cyclist. The consequences for us cyclists are gargantuan compared to drivers in accidents.


So, if you’re riding, heed my tips. If you’re driving, I urge you to practice a bit of patience and be considerate.