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Looking out over the newly unveiled Chicago Riverwalk the city has never looked more vibrant. It’s alive with boats of every size and shape sharing the waterways, and bikes, Segways and pedestrians sharing the roads, sidewalks and paths. The City of Big Shoulders has opened its arms to every mode of transportation and residents and tourists alike are game to experience it. Whether you’re grabbing a Divvy bike, renting a party boat, hopping in a kayak or scheduling the next Segway tour, adventure, and for the unlucky few, potential disaster, awaits.

The way I see it, through the eyes of someone whose job it is to represent the unlucky few, the sharing/tourist economy is fraught with opportunities for novice vehicle operators to collide with peril. Too often people confuse access with skill and fail to appreciate the risks of endeavors like riding an unfamiliar bike in strange urban surroundings or operating a boat on a river filled with many and larger vessels while throwing back a few cold ones. So I’d like to offer some strategies to lower the odds that you’ll be the victim of personal injury.

Don’t approach these activities as if you’re immune to injury or mishap. Here are some basic steps to protect you.

STEP 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Vehicle. When you buy a new vehicle, the first thing you do is get to know how it operates. Rented or borrowed vehicles are no different. Every bike is not the same, no boat stops on a dime, so you need to know how to navigate the basic functions that ensure your safety. Go to a safe area and figure out how to stop, turn and maneuver the vehicle. Make sure it is working properly; return and report defective equipment.

STEP 2: Use Appropriate Safety Gear. Just because you’re on a Divvy bike doesn’t mean you don’t need a bike helmet. Renting a small boat on the river where you can see land very closely on both sides doesn’t obviate the need for a life jacket (anyone can hit their head falling off of a boat and sink to the bottom). At least make sure there are life preserver’s aboard.

STEP 3: Know the Rules. Make sure you understand the rules of operating your vehicle of choice. Follow posted signs for bike lanes and traffic. If you’re in a boat comply with “No Wake” zones, keep a close eye out for other vessels and always have a spotter to back you up. Leave the alcohol for after you park your bike or Segway, or hang up your captain’s hat.

STEP 4: Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks. Just because you’re out of your normal routine or being a tourist doesn’t mean you have to reenact a scene from the latest Marvel movie. One dart out into a lane of traffic or dive into unexpectedly frigid waters can spell disaster. Define fun as new and shared experiences with friends and family, not the rueful moment that ends with you on way to the hospital.

If you follow these rules, then in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, it is more likely that someone or something else is responsible, and if that is the case, please call me at 815.727.7700.