New way for cyclists to get out of a ‘ticket to ride’

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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. -- Bicyclists getting hit with tickets over the summer are finding a new way to pedal without paying the price.

Cyclists now claim riding is a 12-month a year sport in the Chicago area. For that reason, and its rise in popularity, some consider them nothing more than a nuisance, breaking laws like they own the road.

This past summer saw a hardcore push to get cyclists on the right track in the northern suburbs. Five northern suburbs essentially conducted a 10-day sting trying to nail cyclists -- or educate them, as officials say -- about the rules of the road.

The program grew out of complaints in cities where biking is so popular it has become a part of the landscape. And so goes that prickly relationship between riders and drivers.

Police are the ones left to handle the rift that plays out on the road. So they adopted a way to remind cyclists about the rules of the road while helping them get out of “a ticket to ride.”

The five towns teamed up to tackle cycling infractions from July 24 to Aug. 2, and they wanted to do more than just fine riders for running stop signs or hogging up the road.  They give violators a warning, or a ticket, and the chance to get out of all of it by answering a 33-question online quiz.

Taking a pass on the test will cost you $120 in fines plus court costs up to $350, not to mention a moving violation on your driving record. Taking the quiz at bikesafetyquiz.com lets you ride to the finish line free of charge … if you pass it. It’s called the League of Illinois Bicyclists' Ticket Diversion program.

In Highland Park, for example, cyclists knew all about the quiz. Police stopped 48 cyclists during that 10-day period. 30 of them were required to take the online bike safety quiz. 95 perfect of them did. The goal, police claim: education.

The key here: rules and enforcement with consistency from village to village as cyclists cruise from town to town so these weekend warriors might even learn something along the way.

Quizzes for younger kids and motorists as it relates to cycling are included on line. The quiz for drivers is being used in 60 high school drivers eductation programs around the state. One of the biggest gripes from riders: drivers don’t obey that 3-feet rule giving riders some space on the road too. Some scout troops, even PTA groups are using it too.

Twenty-five thousand people have completed the quiz in Illinois alone over the past two years.