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Biking safely this summer in Illinois

Summertime means nice weather, which means more bikes on Illinois roads. Unfortunately, that also means more accidents between cars and bikes, which can result in catastrophic injuries. Already, nine cyclists have been in accidents in Springfield this year, and one crash resulted in the death of a cyclist. This year is no outlier: Every year, dozens of people are injured or killed in accidents between cars and bicycles. The best thing that a cyclist can do to stay safe is to follow the rules of the road. Here’s a quick look at the rules and how they differ for cyclists.

Springfield city ordinances outline the requirements for bicycles with an eye toward staying safe. Bikes must be equipped with a light in the front and reflectors in the back if you are riding at night. Local ordinances also require cyclists to follow all of the same rules of the road as cars, including stopping at all stop signs and traffic lights and obeying “no left turn” and “no U-turn” signs.

The city allows bikes to ride on the sidewalk everywhere except the downtown business district. Still, experienced cyclists say that this isn’t a good idea. Cars aren’t as likely to see you if you are on the sidewalk and they are making a turn, setting up a possible crash. Also, a cyclist on the sidewalk has to dodge slower-moving pedestrians and could run into them. Instead, if traffic allows, it’s best to stay on the road.

City law doesn’t require you to wear a helmet, but you should anyway. A helmet can be the difference between a serious, possibly fatal injury and a minor one.

Finally, you should stick to routes that are bike-friendly as much as you can. Springfield publishes a map of all streets with dedicated bike lanes or other bike-friendly improvements, which may be useful in planning your route.

Even if you follow all of the rules, motor vehicle accidents can happen. Careless drivers hit cyclists all the time. If you are injured in an accident with a car, the driver’s insurer might make you an offer to help you pay for your medical bills, but the insurance company’s first offer usually isn’t going to fully compensate you. A lawyer might be able to better negotiate with the insurance company and get you the compensation that you deserve.