Thursday, December 11, 2014

CTA And City Must Do A Better Job Of Protecting Chicago Bicyclists

Riding with buses is no fun.  Until Chicago does a better job of segregating bicycle and bus traffic, like some other North American cities have, cyclists will just have to deal with it. Even experienced city bikers grit their teeth when a Chicago Transit Authority bus zips passed only to swerve right in front of them to pick up/drop off passengers.  More novice cyclists I've spoken with cite the presence of CTA buses as a major factor that keeps them from riding more.  

But there are rules that bus drivers must follow.  When they are disobeyed and a cyclist is injured as a result, the CTA may be held responsible.  Consider the video below shot earlier this week on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park:


The three buses presented a dangerous situation for bicyclists in the area, as well as for the people seeking to board the second bus.  The first bus driver did nothing wrong.  The driver activated his or her turn signal, passed the cyclists at a sufficient distance then pulled fully into the bus stop well ahead of the cyclists.  However, that bus's presence at the stop, plus the second bus driver's conduct created a dangerous situation.  The second driver boxed the cyclists in then opened the bus door inviting riders into the path of the bikers.

Let's look at the CTA's own rules regarding how drivers are to deal with bicyclists upon approaching a stop.

CTA Poster from 2004

Close up of section on Service Stops

Close up of section on Curbing
The above poster was published by the CTA in 2004 and was meant as a guide for drivers regarding safe interaction with bicyclists on the road.  Comparing the sections on Service Stops and Curbing to the conduct of bus #2 in the video we see a couple of violations.  Firstly, the driver should have let the two cyclists to the right of the bus pass the bus stop before bringing the vehicle to a halt. Secondly, he or she should not have opened the bus doors before allowing the cyclists to pass. Thirdly, after allowing the cyclists to pass, the driver should have pulled to the curb to discourage cyclists from passing on the right while picking up/dropping off passengers.  Thankfully, the bicyclists were traveling slow enough so as not to cause injury to themselves or the people attempting to board the bus.

The video shows a third bus adding additional danger to the mix.  With two buses at the bus stop and now a third bicyclist passing them on the left, the third driver decided to pass the buses and all three cyclists on the left rather than wait for the bus and bicycle congestion to clear.  Very foolish.  Yet this sort of mess is all too common in my experience as a daily cyclist.  Buses passing too close and too fast, zipping into and out of bike lanes without concern for the presence of cyclists is consistently frustrating and down right frightening.  City bus drivers are required to obey the same rules of the road as are other drivers.  When they fail to do so, and/or violate the procedures put in place by their employers, i.e. CTA, and their conduct causes harm, they may be held liable for so doing.  It should go without saying that bicyclists also have a duty to follow the rules of the road, the same rules applicable to drivers, and should appreciate that buses make frequent stops.  Extra caution should be taken around buses.  

While there are some lousy bus drivers out there, I do not mean to disparage them all.  Bus drivers are doing a job and generally try to and want to do so safely then go home to their families.  Much blame for dangerous interactions between Chicago cyclists and bus drivers must go to the state of our current infrastructure which too often requires them to share the road with each other.  That, plus the fact that the drivers are trying to maintain a strict time schedule sometimes leads to calamity.  Earlier this year I had the opportunity to use bike share in San Francisco.  I was impressed with that city's efforts to segregate bus and bicycle traffic by creating bus stop islands to the left of bike lanes.  With these buses need never enter bike lanes to pick up and drop off passengers.  Chicago would be wise to take note.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Postal Driver Nearly Delivers Right Hook To Chicago Bicyclist

An aggressive U.S. postal driver nearly delivered a right hook as I rode home in the Kinzie bike lane last night.


Illinois law generally requires bicyclists riding slower than motor vehicle traffic to travel along the right side of the roadway.  Right turning drivers who fail to look for bicyclists on their right are among the most common causes of bike crashes in urban areas.  These collisions are common enough in Chicago that the city's municipal code addresses them.  Section 9-16-020(f)  states:
When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.
The situation represented in the video above was particularly frustrating.  The driver must have seen me.  Firstly, I was riding in a clearly marked bicycle lane.  Secondly, I must have been very visible to any driver.  I had a red flashing light on the rear of my bike, panniers with reflective strips, tires with reflective sidewalls (Schwalbe Marathon), and a bright flashing white light on the front of my bike.  Thirdly, there is a sign located at the intersection (Kinzie and Jefferson) that instructs turning drivers to stop for bicyclists and pedestrians.  (Bicyclists are only required to stop at that intersection when pedestrians are present.)

I was able to avoid colliding with the mail truck because I was not riding very fast.  Also, the driver did use his/her turn signal.  Thankfully, I noticed it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chicago Cycling Club Loses Long Time Ride Leader

Joe Dickstein (in Blackhawks sweater) with
other members of the Chicago Cycling Club

by Anne Alt
Our local bike community lost someone special this week. Longtime Chicago Cycling Club member and ride leader, Joe Dickstein, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Tuesday.
Many of you may know him from his sports nostalgia rides and treks to restaurants serving excellent burgers and craft beers.  Joe was the ultimate sports fan with a great sense of fun.  His last trip was a hockey pilgrimage to Canada.
He has contributed so much to the club over the years.  We will miss him.

The memorial service will be at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd. at 12:00 NOON on Friday, December 5.  Shivah services will be at the Dickstein residence, 7447 N. Hoyne #1S, Chicago immediately following the service on Friday; Saturday night 6-9 p.m., Sunday 2-9 p.m., and Monday 6-9 p.m.  If you were friends with Joe and his wife Phyllis, she would welcome your support in this difficult time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Disturbing Video Of Car Slamming Into West Chicago Bicyclist Helps Bring About Resolution Of Legal Case

Screen capture of video showing the
moment before impact.
(Scroll down for full video.)
Persistent sleuthing, hard work and a little luck has brought about successful resolution of a bicyclist's legal claim against a driver that struck him from behind last year.  Our law firm represented the bicyclist, an active, physically fit 75 year old man.  The case resolved for the full amount of available auto insurance coverage.

The collision occurred on May 1, 2013 at around 6:30 a.m. on West Washington Street in West Chicago, Illinois.  As the video footage below shows the cyclist was pedaling his Trek mountain bike eastbound when he was hit from behind by the driver of a 2007 Toyota Camry.  Before impact he was well-established in the roadway and was cautiously merging left preparing to make a left turn.  In so doing he was fully compliant with the Illinois Vehicle Code.  The driver told police that she was traveling at about 30 mph at the moment of impact.

Soon after the bicyclist hired us we received the Illinois Traffic Crash Report created by the West Chicago Police Department.  It suggested that the bicyclist was at fault for causing the crash.  The report quoted the driver as stating that as she drove east "a man on a bicycle struck her vehicle and hit her windshield."  She also told police that, "She did not see the bicyclist and was not distracted by anything."  Witnesses apparently told police that, "The bicyclist began to enter the middle of the east bound lanes in front of" the car.  The report concluded stating, "No citations were issued." Unfortunately, our client was unable to provide us with much assistance.  Other than recalling that he had been eastbound on Washington, he was unable to recall much else having sustained a head injury that impacted his memory.  We got to work gathering evidence.  The first thing we did was carefully survey the area, looking for cameras that may have captured the incident.  We got lucky.  The crash took place in front of a jewelry store.  It was likely to have security cameras.  It was important to contact the store right away, before any existing footage of the crash was deleted or recorded over. Thankfully, the store owner was cooperative.  He had several cameras on the outside of the building and agreed to search the video archive for us.  It turned out that the cameras captured the crash from multiple angles, which were forwarded to us.  I have posted the best views below.  The first video is from the camera looking west and clearly shows the cyclist and car that hit him in the moments leading up to impact.  The second video shows the terrifying collision and its aftermath.  A warning:  Some will find the videos disturbing.   They are posted with our client's knowledge and permission.


The footage allowed us to rebut the suggestion in the police report that the bicyclist came out of nowhere and mindlessly ran into the car.  It shows that he was well established within the roadway so as to give a reasonably careful driver plenty of time and space to see him and avoid hitting him.

The cyclist made a downright remarkable recovery from what were very serious injuries.  He was knocked unconscious at the scene, his head having smashed the vehicle's windshield.  His lower left leg was badly broken, requiring surgical repair.  He also had several very large open wounds that required surgical closure.  After days in the hospital he spent more than a month in a rehabilitation facility. Though his medical bills were quite substantial, the driver only carried the minimum amount of insurance coverage permitted under Illinois law, $25,000.  After we provided the video of the crash to the driver's insurer, it quickly tendered the full amount of the policy.  We then looked to our client's own auto insurer to provide additional compensation pursuant to the underinsured motorist provision of his policy.  The video footage also persuaded our client's insurer to tender the full amount of available coverage, thereby maximizing his compensation. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Urban Velo Rides Off Into The Sunset

Urban Velo is calling it quits.  The online blog and print magazine that served as a forum for all things related to biking in the city for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, announced today that it has published its final issue.  Archived issues of the magazine will be available in digital format at

I am very proud to have periodically contributed to Urban Velo's Cycling Legalese column for the last two years.

Urban Velo came to be during the fixed gear heyday of the mid-aughties.  Based in Pittsburgh, editor, Brad Quartuccio, and publisher, Jeff Guerrero, created the go-to online and print source for all things urban cycling.  Uniquely its focus was the people who love to ride in the city, messengers, polo jocks, bike advocates, commuters, BMX kids, hipsters and plain old people who tended to favor steel and denim over carbon fiber and lycra.  Its popular, i love riding in the city section featured regular people doing what they loved on their bikes world wide.  The print edition of the magazine became regular reading in city bike shops nationwide.

It will be sorely missed.

Friday, November 21, 2014

1980s Bicycle Safety Rap Video (Just Because)

It's Friday so how about a kids bicycle safety rap video from the 1980s.  Nothing not to love here. Sugarhill Gang style rapping, school kid archetypes (bully with 'tude, nerd, rich kid, etc.), gaudy clothes, and Styrofoam bike helmets that look like re-purposed dime store beer coolers.  Enjoy, and ri... ri... ri... ride safe!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Aurora Bicyclist Remains in Hospital Following Hit And Run Crash

The driver of a red pickup truck struck and seriously injured a 58 year old man riding his bicycle on Thursday in Aurora before fleeing the scene, according to The Beacon-News.  The impact left the truck's front grill in the street, and the bicyclist in critical condition.  The bicyclist, whose name has not been reported, remains in Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

The collision occurred at around 5:45 p.m. as the cyclist was riding on Liberty Street, just east of Farnsworth Avenue.  No other details of the crash have been reported.  Police at still looking for the driver.  Anyone with information about the crash or who may have seen a red pick up truck missing its front grill in the area should contact the Aurora Police Department at 630-256-5330.

When searching for a hit and run driver it is critical that a proper investigation be undertaken immediately.  This means talking to area residents and business owners in the days, if not hours, following the crash.  The area around Liberty and Farnsworth is mostly residential.  However, there is a large church, St. Therese of Jesus Catholic Church, at that location.  It is not clear from looking on Google Streetview whether the Church has any security cameras which could have captured the crash, but an inquiry should be made immediately.

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