Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Man Attacked on Bike; Caught on Helmet Cam.

This is a shocking video to me.  A man is subject to a beating for no other reason than entertainment.

I've had rocks thrown at me.  It actually doesn't hurt to get pegged with a small rock when you're biking.  I find it rather natural to protect my face with my shoulders when in a tuck.  You just kind of shrug in the direction of the incoming projectile. 

People have thrown bottles.  Once a kid threw a bottle that was a little short and it exploded underneath me, flattening my rear tire.  Another person threw a bottle from a moving car.  I followed him home (just a few stupid blocks away) and called the cops, but they didn't think he was throwing the bottle at me; he was just throwing out the window.  They declined to so much as cite him for littering.  

I had a person act like they were going to kick me as I rode by.  That did nothing. 

I once was riding home with my girlfriend when we came upon the tail end of a cyclist being beaten down in the street by a bunch of kids.  As we rode up there were hearty laughs coming from the wolf pack.  The cyclist was in the process of escaping. 

One time someone threw a pipe at a friend I was riding with; I remember seeing the pipe spiral seemingly slowly through the air as it gracefully arched toward my friend.  It struck the ground and bounced into his rear wheel, taking him down.

I once had a driver wave me through a small hole in traffic, only to hit the gas once I was in front of his car in an apparent attempt to run me down.  I'll never forget the sensation of the heat coming from his radiator.  It was a cold winter day, and he came that close to hitting me. 

One time I had a guy run out into the street and punch me in the helmet.  I'll take a hit to the helmet over almost any other offense.  That was when I learned that when you spray someone with tear gas you need to aim for their center mass and move upwards to the face.  I shot for his face and missed off to one side.  He got the idea and backed off, but it was a miss nonetheless.

That incident inspired a friend to carry a can of bear repellant.  He has thwarted a couple attempted assaults and two attempted robberies with the judicious use of bear spray.

I'm glad to see that this guy is using a helmet cam.  I'm a big advocate of helmet cams.  A few weeks ago I bought one for my paralegal, Bob, who commutes every day from Hammond, Indiana.  Once a week he has some new video of someone willing to risk Bob's life so they can get around just a little faster.

I can't tell you how many times I've had a car pass me so close that I was sure I would be hit.  Once it actually happened.  Sometimes it is just an oblivious driver, other times it's a crystal clear threat.  

Any regular commuter is subject to offenses that most people would find shocking, but they know stuff like this happens all the time.  If you're an urban commuter I bet you feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you see this video.   

Friday, April 11, 2014

Women Bike Chicago To Hold Day of Dialogue and Demonstrations

By Anne Alt

It started with a conversation about a year and a half ago, when several of us shared a thought that had been troubling each of us.  In our travels and on volunteer shifts doing CDOT bike traffic counts, we noticed that the percentage of women we saw among everyone we saw riding bikes on the street was very low, usually 25-30% or less.  We started asking questions to discover the reasons why and brainstorming to develop ways to encourage more women to ride. That led to our first event a year ago and motivated us to continue.

Women Bike Chicago is holding its second annual Day of Dialogue and Demonstrations tomorrow,  Saturday April 12.  This year, it’s in a new location: Dvorak Park at 1119 W. Cullerton in Pilsen.

A wide spectrum of women and experiences will be represented.  The event is exclusively for women presented by women.  If you are a woman who would like to learn more about buying a suitable bike for you, using a bike for transportation, meeting other women to ride with, and more, we hope that you will join us on Saturday.  Please share this info with other women who might be interested.
If you’re a guy, please encourage female family members, friends, co-workers or other women in your life to attend. 

We’ve organized rides, social events and presentations since last year’s event, and we’re offering a slightly larger event this year.  Child care is available for those who need it.  The event is free, but we encourage you to make a donation if you’re able to help out with the costs of holding the event.

For a complete schedule and other info, click here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bicyclist In Serious Condition After Being Struck By Rampaging Driver In Skokie

The mangled bike. Courtesy
Evanston Now
A bicyclist in his 50s was seriously injured yesterday in Skokie when he was struck by a 63 year old driver, according to Evanston Now. Video from ABC 7 Chicago shows the bike laying in the street in the 700 block of Main Street, the red carbon fiber frame sliced in half.  As of yesterday evening the bicyclist was in serious condition in St. Francis Hospital with a head injury.

The collision with the bicyclist reportedly came at the end of a three mile rampage in which the female driver struck several other motor vehicles and a woman on a motor scooter.  Witnesses apparently describe the woman as muttering to police that she did nothing wrong.  Drugs and alcohol were reportedly not found in her system.  No word as to whether she was experiencing a mental or physical calamity of some sort at the time of the crash.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicago Bicyclist Left-Crossed By Driver, In Critical Condition

This post was updated at 11:27 a.m. to reflect that different times for the collision have been reported.

A 22 year old Chicago bicyclist was critically injured last night by driver who left-crossed him at the intersection of North Milwaukee Avenue and West Addison Street, according to CBS 2 Chicago.  The driver was cited by police for failing to yield to the bicyclist.  

The driver of the Chevrolet Suburban was driving northwest on Milwaukee at around 9:45 p.m. (The Chicago Tribune reports that the crash was at 11:30 p.m.) when he or she turned left, crashing into the male cyclist.  The man was rushed from the scene to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center.  His present condition has not been reported.

A "left cross" occurs when a motorist turns left into a bicyclist who is riding in the opposite direction.  Under Illinois law and Chicago ordinance, the bicyclist has the right of way in this circumstance just as a motorist would.  It is one of the most common types of crashes occurring between cyclists and drivers in an urban setting.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bicycle Crashes and Brain Injury

Courtesy of Sunday Is For Lovers
It may not take much to injure that gelatinous cauliflower inside your cranium.  Suffering even mild trauma to your head can begin a process that leads to years of muddled thinking, spotty memory and poor focus, among other things.  That was the message delivered and received at a conference on traumatic brain injury that I attended last week in San Francisco, hosted by the North American Brain Injury Society.

A traumatic brain injury is a disease process that begins with an event, i.e., an impact, a skull fracture, a cut or laceration.  Having your head whacked may begin a long term condition that never goes away, and may indeed get worse over time.  Often, the severity of the brain injury is measured by the size of the whack, the degree of impact, the amount of blood.  This is wrong.  The severity of the injury is to be measured by the effect it has on the injured person's life over time.  Sometimes a seemingly minor whack can have profound consequences.  These consequences may include problems with attention and concentration, poor memory, problems with initiating a task, problems with organization, difficulty stopping a particular behavior, increased anxiety, mood changes and problems with impulse control.  There may also be an increased risk of Alzheimer's type dementia and/or earlier onset of age related dementia.  One need not lose consciousness or suffer intracranial bleeding to have sustained a brain injury.  The damage is often at the microscopic level that cannot been seen on CT or MRI scans.  It is enough, that there was an incident, an impact, and symptoms.

Once concern has been raised by the presence of symptoms, specialized medical testing can be run to determine if there is indeed a traumatic brain injury, or what is termed neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury in the latest edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  This is done by having a properly trained expert run neuropsychological testing.  This battery of tests is designed to run the test taker through a series of tasks used to measure particular functions that are know to be linked to a particular brain structure or pathway.  If testing reveals a problem with a particular function then that is powerful evidence of damage to a specific area or area(s) within the brain.  Specialized radiological testing can also be done to uncover additional objective findings of brain injury.  Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), sometimes also called diffusion MRI, looks at microscopic details about the brain's tissue architecture to highlight areas of injury.  These tests are very helpful in assisting physicians and psychologists to determine where the brain has been harmed and how.

If you are involved in a crash it is important for you and those close to you to pay attention for possible signs and symptoms of a significant brain injury.  Some 15 years ago the first case I ever tried involved a mild traumatic brain injury.  The defense in that case asserted that because my client looked fine and sounded fine he was fine.  It was only after speaking to the people who new him best, his wife and children, who discribed disconcerting changes in the man's behavior since the incident that we worried that the injury was more severe than initially thought.  We had neuropsychologists test him and learned that he indeed sustained a major brain injury.  Do not hesitate to follow up with your physician if you are continuing to have problems even several months following a crash.  He or she may decide to refer you for testing to determine whether you have a brain injury.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taking Bicycle Advocacy To the Next Level (Ms. Alt Goes To Washington)

by Anne Alt
I never thought I would ride a train from Chicago to Washington D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill.   As part of the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit, I joined a delegation of Illinois cyclists who met with several senators and representatives to discuss three bills currently in Congress:  the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Act, the Safe Streets Act and the New Opportunities (Equity) Act.  We asked each senator or representative who was not already part of the Congressional Bike Caucus to join, and discussed other issues that might be of interest to them.
One of my meetings was with my Representative Daniel Lipinski whose district includes part of the southwest side and many southwest suburbs, including the western end of the Cal Sag Trail route. He is a fellow cyclist who has historically been an ally on bike and pedestrian funding.  I noticed his road bike, pump and related items in his office during our meeting. 
My other meeting was with Representative Robin Kelly.  Her district includes much of the southeast side and many south suburbs, as well as the eastern end of the Cal Sag Trail route.  We hope that she will become an ally and support bike and pedestrian projects and funding.
Prior to Lobbying Day, attendees interested in lobbying were organized by state, with a designated coordinator for each state’s meeting.  We exchanged emails prior to the Bike Summit and met at the end of the Bike Summit programming to confirm who would attend meetings with each representative and senator.  We reviewed the details of each bill that we would be discussing in our meetings and who would cover various talking points in each meeting.
The Bike and Pedestrian Safety Act is a revision to the highway safety improvement program.  It would require the creation of separate goals and statistics for states for non-motorized and motorized fatalities and serious injuries.  In recent years, the rate of fatalities for motor vehicle drivers and passengers has decreased, while the rate of non-motorized (bike and pedestrian) fatalities and serious injuries has stayed steady or increased.  It’s important to create separate targets for bike and pedestrian traffic so that all states take the problem seriously and actively work to reduce these crashes.
The Safe Streets Act would require all states to have a law or department of transportation (DOT) policy within two years mandating that federally funded transportation projects on roads that allow all types of users follow Complete Streets policies.  It would also require a mechanism for assuring compliance.  If roads are built to safely accommodate all types of users when they are first constructed or reconfigured, they don’t need to be rebuilt later to meet Complete Streets standards.  Including appropriate features during construction usually adds little or no expense to the construction.  Modifying existing infrastructure at a later date is significantly more expensive.   This bill would help improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians and get the most bang for the buck out of available funding.
The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act would create a new source of funding (long-term low interest loans) for biking and walking networks.  25% of the funding must be spent in low income communities.  It is a set aside from the $1 billion dollar TIFIA loan program funded in the MAP-21 transportation bill (which eliminated dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects).
You can use links attached to each of the bill numbers if you’d like to learn more and track the progress of these bills in Congress: Safe Streets Act (HR 2468/S 2004), Bike and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494/S 1708) and New Opportunities (Equity) Act (HR 3978/ Senate bill to be introduced).
The Summit is an annual advocacy event featuring panel discussions, presentations, and keynote speakers on a wide range of topics and included a Women’s Bicycling ForumTerry O’Neill of the National Organization for Women was featured as a keynote speaker.  She led a discussion on building coalitions to get diverse groups working together.  A lunchtime keynote included Gabe Klein, former commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Transportation, and Anthony Foxx, our new U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  
Each breakout session offered several choices, such as Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception, Bike Advocacy as a Political Platform, Quantifying Bike Benefits, Building a Broad Transportation Coalition, Moving Beyond the "Bikelash," the Role of Enforcement in a Vision Zero Strategy and Expanding Bicycling Options.  I found myself wishing I had a clone or two, as there were usually 2 or 3 programs in each time slot that I would have liked to attend.  A different mix of pop-up shops appeared each day in the hallway connecting event locations.
Clarence Eckerson, the founder of Streetfilms, led a session on the basics of documentary film making.  I hope to put that knowledge to good use.  I gained a lot of helpful information from the event and made several valuable connections that I hope will be beneficial for future advocacy work.
If you’d like to reinforce our efforts, please send your own message to your members of Congress.  Use this link to ask your senators and representative to support the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Act.  Feel free to use the following links to send messages requesting their support for the Safe Streets Act and the New Opportunities (Equity) Act.  If they hear from you on these issues, your voice can help make a difference.
I highly recommend the National Bike Summit to those who have a serious interest in advocacy work.  It’s a great opportunity to take your work to the next level.

-          Anne Alt is a paralegal at Freeman KevenidesLaw Firm, president of Chicago Cycling Club, board member of the ActiveTransportation Alliance, secretary of Friends of the Major Taylor Trail and a member of Women Bike Chicago.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

City Policy Makers May Hear Concerns Today About Winter Maintenance of Bicycle Lanes

Today is the perfect day to voice concerns to the City over how it has maintained (or not) Chicago's bike lanes over the winter.  From 3:00 to 4:30 this afternoon the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) will meet at City Hall to discuss the state of all things bicycle.  The meeting is open to the general public and will take place in Room 1103, 121 North LaSalle Street.  MBAC meetings are held four times a year and provide an excellent opportunity to hear about the latest bikey happenings and to discuss issues with actual policy makers.

There is much to discuss about how the City has dealt with a difficult winter season.  Judging solely by appearances, the City seems to have largely thrown in the towel when it comes to maintaining our (no longer) shiny new bicycle infrastructure.  Our bike lanes, particularly our protected bike lanes, are in terrible shape. Plastic posts meant to separate bikes from cars have in numerous instances been ripped from the asphalt, often by the City's own snow plows.  Potholes, are not merely an annoyance but are so deep and prevalent in areas designated for bike traffic that they are down right dangerous.  In the Kinzie protected bicycle lane there is a sewer cover that has recessed deeply into the ground so as to present a hazard to cyclists using what was once a gleaming example of where the we wanted to go as a city.  Someone placed a orange safety cone in it some weeks ago.  It now lays mashed in the hole, a limp symbol of our present sad state.

As my law partner, Jim Freeman, documented a short time ago on this blog, snow removal in Chicago bicycle lanes has been inconsistent this winter.  This morning conditions in both the Kinzie bike lane and the Loop's Dearborn bike lane were down right treacherous.  Both were filled with a thick mix of slush and ice that probably could have been avoided had the City simply placed salt in the bike lanes.  This is what Kinzie looked like at around 8:30 a.m.:
Chicago's Kinzie Bike Lane this morning
Many cyclists were forced to abandon the lane and ride on the sidewalk.

This is what the Dearborn bike lane looked like a short time later:
Chicago's Dearborn Bike Lane this morning
It was accurately worse than it looks and it looked bad for the lane's entire length through the Loop.  In the case of Dearborn, the City does not seem to have attempted snow removal.  Also, the situation was made worse by building property managers along the route pushing snow directly into the bike lane.  (I'm looking at you Monadnock Building.)  This has been a problem all winter long and the City is quite aware of it.  After snow storms Chicago police should be patrolling Dearborn handing out tickets to those dumping snow in the bike lane.  

My guess is that the City's response to many of these concerns will be that, you know, this was an exceptionally bad winter.  It was.  But the weather was certainly not unprecedented.  No one should be surprised when a Chicago winter is cold and snowy.  Perfection is not expected, but the current state of affairs is unacceptable and worrisome.  Is Chicago truly committed to making cycling safe and accessible for people "8 to 80" year 'round, or not?  If it is, then hard work and planning is required.

If you share the concerns raised here, or have additional concerns, show up today and make yourself heard. I know, the winter is nearly over and everyone is sick to death of thinking about snow and the removal thereof.  But the time is now to start making sure that next winter the City does a better job of making our bike lanes safe for everyone to use.

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