Bicyclist group rates C-U streets

Some areas in Champaign-Urbana are better for bicyclists and pedestrians than others, a state advocacy group says, but overall, local governments are doing OK when it comes to making streets safe and convenient for all kinds of roadway users.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists last week released an audit of 16 area road segments, which scored an average 70.4 out of 100 possible points awarded for pedestrian, bicycle and crosswalk safety.

It is the second such audit the league has generated. Its first, in 2009, studied the Chicago area, where 46 road segments scored an average 52.1 out of 100.

"This area has really done a lot in terms of policy," said Ed Barsotti, the executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists.

Barsotti said each local government has policies in place to make non-motor vehicle modes of transportation easier and safer. But some have come along faster than others, he said.

The best place for bicyclists and pedestrians in Champaign-Urbana, according to the report, is First Street between University Avenue and Gregory Drive. It scored a 90 overall, and a perfect 35 out of 35 in the bicycle category.

The worst place is also First Street, but in Savoy, between Curtis and Old Church roads. That segment scored a 36 overall and a nine out of 40 possible points in the pedestrian category.

In Urbana, Goodwin Avenue south of Green Street is a "perfect model" of what the league would like to see, Barsotti said. The reason it was not rated as the best in the area is that a portion north of Green Street was included in the scoring.

"Urbana's master bike plan, their vision is very excellent," said Holly Nelson, a University of Illinois graduate student and a league intern who did much of the scoring.

In many cases, the scoring was based on whether the features of the road fit its context. Take, for example, Bradley Avenue between Mattis Avenue and Duncan Road, which scored a 62 overall and a dismal 6 out of 35 in the bicycling category. Nelson said it may have scored higher were it not for the fact that the road segment is one of the only access points to Parkland College.

Barsotti said the overall conclusion of the report is that area government agencies are encouraging "complete street" designs, which take into account all the ways residents use roads, and he would like to see that continue.

A recent Champaign City Council decision, however, showed how hard that can be given the economic times. Whenever city officials plan a major road project, they look to include the "complete street" strategies discussed in the report. But with Staley Road between Springfield Avenue and Bloomington Road slated for improvements, the city council had to chop sidewalks and bike lanes from the plan.

A complete street with a lifespan of 20 years, in the case of Staley Road, would have cost $8 million. As it stands now, a repaving of the road expected to last 10 years will cost about $3.4 million.

"It's really just a financial issue," Assistant Planning Director Rob Kowalski said. "We just don't have enough money."

That worries Barsotti. He said governments tend to think of pedestrian and bicycle features as "frivolous extras."

The irony of the situation is that as the economy worsens and city budgets get tight, more travelers are using modes of transportation other than motor vehicles.

"There's a whole lot of people nowadays who have to use their bike," Barsotti said.

Champaign planner Mishauno Woggon said the city still budgets $95,000 every other year to add bicycle facilities to streets, which in many cases requires relatively inexpensive road striping.

"We're very happy about that, considering how many things have been cut," Woggon said.

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cats kradle wrote on September 27, 2011 at 9:09 am

"I'm a pedestrian using the cross walk!... Now I'm a vehicle taking a right on a red!... Now I'm a pedestrian on the sidewalk again!.... Now the sidewalk is crowded so I'm a vehicle again!... Pedestrian!... Vehicle!... Pedestrian!... Vehi--" BLAM! "Hey, watch out for bikers, we have every right that cars have!"

UIUCHoopFan wrote on September 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

And you have every responsibility to obey the rules of the road just like a driver behind the wheel of any car or truck.

Joe American wrote on September 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

Along with rights come responsibilities, but very few local bicyclists seem to realize this. These responsibilities are spelled out in the Illinois Rules of the Road and Bicycle Rules of the Road. That means you STOP at stop signs. That means you SIGNAL when changing lanes. That means you DO NOT slip up along the curb side past waiting cars at a stop sign. That means as a slower moving vehicle you ride AS FAR TO THE RIGHT AS POSSIBLE. (It's in the regulations - look it up.)

I more often than not see bicyclists blatently disobeying the rules of the road and it makes driving for the rest of the law-abiding population difficult and potentially very dangerous. I see bicyclists weaving in from street to sidewalk. I see them frequently blowing through stop signs. I see them driving down the LEFT side of Church Street from Westside Park all the way to Mattis during the 5:00 rush hour. I often have them driving up along the curb past waiting cars at a stop sign to jump the line.

The local police really need to be more diligent in enforcing the illegal activities of these scofflaws. Here's the law, read it. Page 39 to be exact.

http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/dsd_a112...

AerieDweller wrote on September 28, 2011 at 7:09 am

Yes, many bicyclists are "scofflaw" riders and apparently don't understand or ignore the laws related to travelling on the sidewalks and streets. If you want action, call your local police and politicians and complain! The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

And please be advised: there are many bicyclists out there who are also offended by the scofflaws' antics. Local advocacy groups (such as ChampaignCountyBikes.org) as well as state and national organizations (such as the League of Illinois Bicyclists and League of American Bicyclists) are strong supporters of enforcing traffic laws to make the roads safer for ALL users.

However, Joe American apparently has some misconceptions when it comes to Illinois traffic law for bicyclists. In particular, bicyclists must ride as far right as PRACTICABLE, not "possible." This means, in the roughest sense, what is SAFEST for the bicyclist. The law specifically allows the bicyclist to use the full lane when it is unsafe to ride to the right of the lane. This might include when the edge of the road is damaged or full of debris, when passing parked cars along the roadway (many bike lanes put the bicyclist right in the "dooring zone" of parked cars), or when the roadway is not wide enough to accommodate both the bicyclist and any motor vehicle trying to pass (such as under the Springfield viaduct, or the I57 / I74 overpasses on many local roads). Most roadways in Champaign-Urbana do not fall into the category of "wide enough to accommodate all users." In these cases, it is safer for all if the bicyclist uses the full lane, instead of letting motor vehicles attempt to squeeze past.

I invite any person to stand near a 4-way stop intersection and count how many motor vehicles actually stop at the stop signs. Without cross-traffic, I believe you will find that most perform "California Stops" or "slow-and-go-stops" instead of actual, "complete" stops. Many motor vehicle drivers also disobey red lights, or turn right on red without stopping. Many motor vehicle drivers fail to yield the right-of-way to legal bicyclists at stop signs or intersections. Many motor vehicle drivers will speed up to pass, then immediately turn right in front of a bicyclist, or will turn left in front of an oncoming bicyclist. Bicyclists are in no way elitists when it comes to ignoring traffic law!

There is also no law governing when bicyclists may switch between the sidewalk and the roadway, although most reasonable bicyclists believe it is very rude to do so often. There is some contention in local law enforcement whether it is legal to curb-pass a line of cars at a light. Again, many bicyclists consider this to be rude behavior. I fully agree with Joe's (and others) comments about the stop signs, turn signals, and lane choice when riding -- it's very important to be a predictable, law-abiding bicyclist (whether trying to be safe or just being nice).

As an avid bicyclist, I wish more people would ride (it's great exercise, great for the wallet, and great for the planet!), but I fervently wish that all the people who bicycle would do so safely and legally. I also wish that motor vehicle operators drove safely and legally, especially when riding near bicyclists and pedestrians.

In the end, it's all about sharing the road. Yes, we all have the same rights and the same responsibilities. Yes, many bicyclists ride poorly (just like many motor vehicle drivers). Save the indignation and complaints for the actual scofflaws, not the bicyclists who are riding responsibly.

dw wrote on September 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

It should also be noted that the "Rules of the Road" pamphlets are NOT the law, they are an interpretation of the law, and in many instances a very poor interpretation of the law. For example, the following appears in the Rules of the Road pamphlet: "Low-speed electric and gas bicycles may only be driven on streets where the posted speed limit does not exceed 20 mph." Think about that a minute: how many streets do you know of where the posted speed limit is 20mph or less? The Illinois Vehicle Code also known as"compiled statues" aka "statutory law" or just "the law" makes no such restriction (625 ILCS 5/11‑1516). An accurate reference to Illinois Law -- or a *good* interpretation of it -- will always have the statute identifier on it that it refers to, such as (625 ILCS 5/11‑1505) where it states:

(625 ILCS 5/11‑1505) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑1505)
Sec. 11‑1505. Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways ‑ Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(a) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable and safe to the right‑hand curb or edge of the roadway except under the following situations...

"practicable and safe" being the operative words to focus on. In many cases for visibility (especially on higher speed streets where there are two lanes in each direction) it is safer to "take the lane" and bike in the left-hand wheel track than be a curb bunny: It is better to sit right in front of a driver's face then blend in with the dead squirrels off to the right in the gutter. So in this case "as close as practicable and SAFE to the right-hand curb or edge" is actually quite far away from it! Is it annoying as a vehicle driver? Yes. But ask any 2-year-old: learning to share (the road) and be patient (with others) often is difficult.

The REAL compiled statutes of the State of Illinois pertaining to vehicles can be found by googling for "Illinois Vehicle Code" or at http://www.illinois.edu/goto/ivc

happyful wrote on September 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

I am glad so many people in Champaign-Urbana are willing to cycle instead of drive!

That said, I do think there's a serious misunderstanding among many cyclists that the rules of the road do not apply to them. Around campus, I see *far* more bicycles run stop signs without even slowing down than actually stop. I routinely see people riding bicycles the wrong way on one way streets. I've encountered both at the same time: cyclists shooting out in front of me when I'm just taking my foot off the brake at a stop sign, and they're going the wrong direction. One time I even said--more surprised than angry--"Hey! You didn't even stop!" To which the reply was "I'm on a bike, a**hole!"

BigTenFan wrote on September 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

This photo is very telling. The bicyclist at the front obviously has a full head of steam taking the corner. I believe there is a stop sign at that corner which he is disobeying. Bicyclist do deserve the same rights as motorists, so start giving them tickets as well.

charliehorse2 wrote on September 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Bikers on campus here are nuts, but the image suggests exactly the opposite of what you think. When taking a right-angle turn at speed, the last thing you'll see any biker do is stand up and lean in the direction of the turn; in fact it's very difficult to do this because it makes you top-heavy and thus unstable. Furthermore, when taking a right turn, you place your left pedal down and your right pedal up since your bike is leaning to the right; this prevents the right pedal from hitting the pavement.

The fact that the biker is standing and is actively pedaling suggests that he is accelerating from a stopped or slowed position. Google "bicycle turning" and you'll see images of bikers turning at speed, all of them seated with the opposite pedal down. They also won't be wearing Grandma sunglasses and have an "AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" look on their faces.

EMS949 wrote on September 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

I could not agree with Big ten fan more. That is usually the reason pedestrians and bikers get hit by motorist, they dont stop at stop signs and ignore traffic laws.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on September 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

The riding of bicycles the wrong way on one way streets in the campus area is out of control! Local law officials could have a field day writing tickets to the students, staff, and other members of the general public breaking the law and causing problems on public streets shared by vehicles and pedestrians alike. If you can't obey the rules then get off of the road! A contest between a non-compliant cyclist and a truck or SUV is no contest and not difficult to ascertain the guilty party when issuing a citation.

Make a note of it. wrote on September 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Has anyone seen how confusing even campus is compared to the rest of town? People stopping for no reason at the 'new and improved' crosswalks when no one is crossing. Unbelievable. Try and find out what happens if you were to accidently hit one of the many campus sofflaws. My guess would be the CCSA would be taking a hard look at the driver as opposed to the bicyclist.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on September 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm
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I am both a driver and a cyclist. I think cycling is a great way to get around on nice days, and it's always nice to help the environment a little and save some gas money.

That being said, I think cyclists have an obligation to take the least busy route possible so as not to obstruct traffic on arterial roads if possible. I really don't think you have any business being on a street where you can't even go 20 under the speed limit unless it is the only possible or the only safe route. I have heard so many conflicting answers on whether biking on sidewalks is legal, but why on earth not do it if you can help it? It's safer for you and safer for drivers. I must say, I am a little irritated at how entitled some bikers around here feel about their right to do whatever they want on the road. I saw a young man biking in the left lane of Prospect the other day. I politely asked him what he was doing in the left lane when we were stopped at a light and he spit on my car...

Feltrino wrote on September 30, 2011 at 7:09 am

I don't mind if they ride on the road as opposed to the sidewalk and I think their speed is irrelevant as well. Their choice of road is one they might want to give careful consideration to but that is up to them. All I would like to see is that they follow the rules. I laugh everytime I see the same group of 6-8 cyclists wearing their bicycling shirts with sponsors on them taking over the whole lane on Duncan road. They ride in a pack like it is the Tour de France. You're not fooling anybody, you just look ridiculous. To the riders who feel the need to pull up along side the curb next to me at a red light I would suggest that you make sure your handlebars are well taped. It will cost you less to repair the scratches on my car when I make a right turn into you.

John O'Connor wrote on September 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

Regardless of mode of transportation, there are people who are willing to share the road and sidewalks and behave in predictable, rational, and civil ways and then there are others who, well...not so much. Just remember, especially on campus, there will be witnesses to your behavior.*

I agree with those who have said here and elsewhere that the new "stop" signs on the big white placards are confusing and extremely dangerous. Many people don't know what to do and will sit and stop there when they don't have to. Just yesterday on campus, I had to practically beg two drivers to proceed before I turned left; if I had disobeyed the law and turned left in front of them and they decided to proceed while I was turning and we collided, I would have received the ticket. But it took each of them literally 5-8 seconds to go.

This causes frustration and makes people disobey the laws, ambiguous and confusing as they now are. Take down the extremely unclear white placard "stop" signs. Why not replace them with lights? They'd be just like normal intersections with lights except one way would be for motorized vehicles and the other way would be for pedestrians and non motorized vehicles.

*Well, I guess if you kill a cyclist you'll be okay, but other than that, you'll be held responsible for your actions.