Why do Cyclists Ride Recklessly?

If you live in Chicagoland, chances are you’ve seen a bicyclist that either violated a law or engaged in some type unreasonable or risky behavior. You may have even witnessed a crash, close-call, or other incident caused by an irresponsible cyclist. The rising trend of reckless bicycling is an issue that we have become increasingly concerned with in recent years. Some specific examples include speeding bicyclists, and cyclists that cross streets diagonally or against a signal. Bicycling while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another. Then, of course, there are the countless number of cyclists that attempt to navigate busy roadways while using a mobile device. Finally, we have the bicyclists that travel along pathways and trails with little or no regard for the safety of others.

So why then, you may ask, would a bicyclist endanger their own life or limb, let alone that of another? Well several studies have attempted to answer this inquiry by examining how cyclists justify reckless riding practices. Some of the reasons identified are:

  • The ‘others are doing it too’ rationale. Here, the cyclist feels justified in violating traffic laws and/or engaging in risky behavior because the see others doing the same.
  • The ‘loss of momentum’ rationale. Here, the cyclist justifies recklessness by explaining that the momentum lost by constant stops and starts requires more energy, increases physical exertion, and adds to commute time.
  • The ‘lack of enforcement’ rationale. Here, the cyclist disobeys traffic laws because they feel that the risk of receiving a citation is relatively low.
  • The ‘it’s not unlawful’ rationale. Here, the cyclist feels that if the law does not prohibit a specific action or behavior (i.e. texting while biking), then they should be able to ride as they see fit.
  • The ‘zone of danger’ rationale. Here, the cyclist defends their reason for running a red light by stating that doing so allows them to stay ahead of traffic.
  • The ‘lesser of two evils’ rationale. Here, the cyclist is impaired by alcohol or drugs, but rationalizes that bicycling under the influence is the safer alternative to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • The ‘no oncoming vehicles’ rationale. Here, the cyclist crosses against a signal (or diagonally at an intersection) because they see no danger in doing so when no vehicles are approaching.
  • The ‘adrenaline’ rationale. Here, the cyclist allows the rush produced by biking to overcome their rational sensibilities—their focus is on enjoying the ride, rather than safety.
  • The ‘audible notice’ rationale. Here, the cyclist feels justified in plowing by a pedestrian or group of persons gathered along a trail, so long as an audible warning is provided, even though such notice may be insufficient or ill-timed.

It is important to note that although the reasons bicyclists choose to ride recklessly are referred to above as ‘rationales’, they are anything but rational. Rather, they are excuses that bicyclists often use to validate unlawful, negligent, unreasonable, risky, and heedless behaviors. Nonetheless, our discussion on this topic is not provided needlessly. Despite the fact that we do represent bicycling accident victims, we cannot ignore that a bicyclist’s actions can also cause or contribute to accidents as well. And, as researchers have pointed out, understanding why cyclists choose to ride recklessness is an essential component to identifying potential solutions to remedy this issue, particularly in densely-populated urban areas like Chicago.

If you or a loved one were involved in a bicycling or automobile accident that you believe was caused by the negligence of another, contact the Chicago Injury Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, or send us a message online. Initial consultations provided free of charge in all personal injury matters.