Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
And now the latest score: Bus 1, Bike 0. No surprise. Until the new bulletproof Krypyonite (sic.) bikes are marketed bike users need to be more careful. Might usually makes right and busses (sic.) are pretty mighty.
Stupid, but an attitude that is neither unique nor new. I recently came across an old essay authored by conservative satirist, P.J. O'Rourke. Written in 1987, it predicts the end of -- and wishes good riddance to -- the bicycle on America's streets. The piece, A Cool and Logical Analysis of the Bicycle Menace, is worth reading. In my opinion, its over-the-top tone makes it entertaining:
A Cool and Logical Analysis
of the Bicycle Menace
And an Examination of the Actions Necessary to License, Regulate,
or Abolish Entirely This Dreadful Peril on our Roads
by P.J. O'Rourke
Our nation is afflicted with a plague of bicycles. Everywhere the public right-of-way is glutted with whirring, unbalanced contraptions of rubber, wire, and cheap steel pipe. Riders of these flimsy appliances pay no heed to stop signs or red lights. They dart from between parked cars, dash along double yellow lines, and whiz through crosswalks right over the toes of law-abiding citizens like me.
In the cities, every lamppost, tree, and street sign is disfigured by a bicycle slathered in chains and locks. And elevators must be shared with the cycling faddist so attached to his "moron's bath-chair" that he has to take it with him everywhere he goes.
In the country, one cannot drive around a curve or over the crest of a hill without encountering a gaggle of huffing bicyclers spread across the road in suicidal phalanx.
Even the wilderness is not safe from infestation, as there is now such a thing as an off-road bicycle and a horrible sport called "bicycle-cross."
The ungainly geometry and primitive mechanicals of the bicycle are an offense to the eye. The grimy and perspiring riders of the bicycle are an offense to the nose. And the very existence of the bicycle is an offense to reason and wisdom.
PRINCIPAL ARGUMENTS WHICH MAY BE MARSHALED AGAINST BICYCLES
1. Bicycles are childish
Bicycles have their proper place, and that place is under small boys delivering evening papers. Insofar as children are too short to see over the dashboards of cars and too small to keep motorcycles upright at intersections, bicycles are suitable vehicles for them. But what are we to make of an adult in a suit and tie pedaling his way to work? Are we to assume he still delivers newspapers for a living? If not, do we want a doctor, lawyer, or business executive who plays with toys? St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, 13:11, said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." He did not say, "When I became a man, I put away childish things and got more elaborate and expensive childish things from France and Japan."
Considering the image projected, bicycling commuters might as well propel themselves to the office with one knee in a red Radio Flyer wagon.
2. Bicycles are undignified
A certain childishness is, no doubt, excusable. But going about in public with one's head between one's knees and one's rump protruding in the air is nobody's idea of acceptable behavior.
It is impossible for an adult to sit on a bicycle without looking the fool. There is a type of woman, in particular, who should never assume the bicycling posture. This is the woman of ample proportions. Standing on her own feet she is a figure to admire-classical in her beauty and a symbol, throughout history, of sensuality, maternal virtue, and plenty. Mounted on a bicycle, she is a laughingstock.
In a world where loss of human dignity is such a grave and all-pervading issue, what can we say about people who voluntarily relinquish all of theirs and go around looking at best like Quixote on Rosinante and more often like something in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade? Can such people be trusted? Is a person with so little self-respect likely to have any respect for you?
3. Bicycles are unsafe
Bicycles are top-heavy, have poor brakes, and provide no protection to their riders. Bicycles are also made up of many hard and sharp components which, in collision, can do grave damage to people and the paint finish on automobiles. Bicycles are dangerous things.
Of course, there's nothing wrong, per se, with dangerous things. Speedboats, racecars, fine shotguns, whiskey, and love are all very dangerous. Bicycles, however, are dangerous without being any fun. You can't shoot pheasants with a bicycle or water-ski behind it or go 150 miles an hour or even mix it with soda and ice. And the idea of getting romantic on top of a bicycle is alarming. All you can do with one of these ten-speed sink traps is grow tired and sore and fall off it.
Being dangerous without being fun puts bicycles in a category with open-heart surgery, the war in Vietnam, the South Bronx, and divorce. Sensible people do all that they can to avoid such things as these.
4. Bicycles are un-American
We are a nation that worships speed and power. And for good reason. Without power we would still be part of England and everybody would be out of work. And if it weren't for speed, it would take us all months to fly to L.A., get involved in the movie business, and become rich and famous.
Bicycles are too slow and impuissant for a country like ours. They belong in Czechoslovakia...
5. I don't like the kind of people who ride bicycles
At least I think I don't. I don't actually know anyone who rides a bicycle. But the people I see on bicycles look like organic-gardening zealots who advocate federal regulation of bedtime and want American foreign policy to be dictated by UNICEF. These people should be confined.
I apologize if I have the wrong impression. It may be that bicycle riders are all members of the New York Stock Exchange, Methodist bishops, retired Marine Corps drill instructors, and other solid citizens. However, the fact that they cycle around in broad daylight making themselves look like idiots indicates that they're crazy anyway and should be confined just the same.
6. Bicycles are unfair
Bicycles use the same roads as cars and trucks yet they pay no gasoline tax, carry no license plates, are not required to have insurance, and are not subject to DOT, CAFE, or NHTSA regulations. Furthermore, bicyclists do not have to take driver's examinations, have eye tests when they're over sixty-five, carry registration papers with them, or submit to breathalyzer tests under the threat of law. And they never get caught in radar traps.
The fact (see No. 5, above) that bicycles are ridden by the very people who most favor government interference in life makes the bicycle's special status not only unfair but an outright incitement to riot.
Equality before the law is the cornerstone of democracy. Bicycles should be made to carry twenty-gallon tanks of gasoline. They should be equipped with twelve-volt batteries and a full complement of taillights, headlamps, and turn signals. They should have seat belts, air bags, and safety-glass windows too. And every bicycle rider should be inspected once a year for hazardous defects and be made to wear a number plate hanging around his neck and another on the seat of his pants.
7. Bicycles are good exercise
And so is swinging through trees on your tail. Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.
What must be done about about the bicycle threat?
Fortunately, nothing. Frustrated truck drivers and irate cabbies make a point of running bicycles off the road. Terrified old ladies jam umbrella ferrules into wheel spokes as bicycles rush by them on sidewalks. And all of us have occasion to back over bicycles that are haplessly parked.
Bicycles are quiet and slight, difficult for normal motorized humans to see and hear. People pull out in front of bicycles, open car doors in their path, and drive through intersections filled with the things. The insubstantial bicycle and its unshielded rider are defenseless against these actions. It's a simple matter of natural selection. The bicycle will be extinct within the decade. And what a relief that will be.
© P.J. O'Rourke
from 'Republican Party Reptile', The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1987
I wonder if P.J. O'Rourke's childish complaints about bikes and those "organic-gardening zealots" who ride them were actually made to ridicule those who, in all seriousness, protest with red-faced hysteria about the "bicycle menace." Perhaps he was creating a satirical strawman. I don't know. Regardless of whether P.J. O'Rourke meant what he wrote or not, I have enough experience as a bicyclist and a lawyer representing bicyclists to know that a great many motorists do believe strongly in the viewpoints set forth in the essay.
How are these unreasonable folks to be dealt with?
RIDE -- O'Rourke's cheeky predication did not come true, of course. Far from disappearing from American roadways, bicyclists' numbers are increasing. Our new Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, seems committed to policies meant to increase our numbers even more. The future looks bright for bicyclists. Continue to ride. Recruit others to ride. The more people ride, the louder our collective voice will become and the more likely it is that those who are in a position to initiate change -- and fund and build "complete streets" -- will take notice and respond.
ADVOCATE -- Truth is, riding alone will not affect change. A safer and smarter traffic infrastructure will come about with organization. Motorists who think bicyclists do not belong on our streets will not learn better without it either. Join some of the many excellent, committed groups out there actively fighting on behalf of bicyclists. Many of these groups are staffed by smart, committed people who have the ear of legislators. They give bicyclists access to the mechanisms of change. A list of many such groups are listed down the right side of this blog. Locally, I recommend the Active Transportation Alliance. It is a fantastic group of Chicago bicyclists for Chicago bicyclists.
FIGHT -- Motorists should be placed on notice that negligent conduct comes with consequences. If you open your door without looking, make a right turn without paying attention, fail to give cyclists three feet of space, or otherwise drive like a knucklehead and hurt a bicyclist you will be sued. You will pay for your mistake.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
The trial court dismissed all three of the woman's allegations and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed that decision. With regard to the allegation that the boy himself was negligent, the court reaffirmed the well-established "tender years doctrine." The court stated, "The rationale for the tender years doctrine is the belief that a child under the age of seven is incapable of recognizing and appreciating risk and is therefore deemed incapable of negligence as a matter of law. The child's immaturity limits his liability regardless of whether, as a litigant, he is the plaintiff or the defendant." Id. at 236. The court noted that had the child been between the ages of seven and 14 a jury would have been asked to consider the child's conduct considering his "age, capacity, intelligence, and experience." Id. at 238. Between seven and 14, the presumption that a minor is incapable of negligence is rebuttable. Once a person is over the age of 14, in Illinois he or she will be held to the same standard as an adult. However, under the facts it was asked to consider, the Appelhans court held that the five year old defendant could not be found guilty of negligence.
With regard to the allegations against the boy's parents for negligent supervision, the court noted that the parents had no reason to believe that their son might cause someone harm. The court stated:
In Illinois, the parent-child relationship does not automatically render parents liable for the torts of their minor children. Parents may be liable, however, if they do not adequately control or supervise their child. To prove a claim of negligent supervision, a plaintiff must show that (1) the parents were aware of specific instances of prior conduct sufficient to put them on notice that the act complained of was likely to occur and (2) the parents had the opportunity to control the child.
Id. at 238-40.
In Appelhans, the plaintiff did not allege that the parents were aware of their son striking anyone with his bike on a previous occasion. Therefore, they could not be held liable for the woman's injury. The court stated that, "We conclude that holding parents strictly liable for failing to prevent their child's negligence is unreasonable and unsupported by the law." Id. at 240.
Notwithstanding the facts alleged in Appelhans, I am inclined to believe that five-year-olds rarely cause harm to others while learning to ride their bikes. Certainly, they pose a much greater risk to themselves then to others. Unless they know that their child is prone to exceptionally devilish conduct, parents need not be too concerned about liability arising out of their young children learning to pedal around the neighborhood.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
“The right of way doesn’t just belong to cars,” he said. “It belongs to pedestrians and bicyclists as well.”
- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHoodTo help facilitate creation of transportation infrastructure that will accommodate all users -- pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles -- the League of Illinois Bicyclists will conduct bike planning seminars throughout the winter. According to the League, "Everyday decisions by planners, engineers, and others affect how safe and convenient it is to bike for recreation or transportation. The seminar, a condensed version of LIB’s Summer 2009 four-week University of Illinois-Chicago urban planning course, will familiarize attendees with car/bike interactions, relevant national standards, best practices, planning tools, related “political” issues and policy techniques, tips on available funding sources, and implementation strategies."
The seminars will take place throughout the state, and in St. Louis, at various times. Click here for dates, times and locations.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Over at The Chainlink John Greenfield, a former Active Transportation Alliance employee and bike parking manager for Chicago Department of Transportation’s Bike Program, has posted a helpful update on how the City is addressing this issue:
The City [has adopted] a policy of leaving 1/6 of the parking meters in place on blocks without bike racks in business districts. In some cases where there is high bike parking demand, meters are retained even if there are existing racks. The City removes the coin mechanisms of the retained meters and labels them so that bicyclists know that they have been left for their convenience.
In addition, CDOT is currently installing additional bike racks on some blocks where meters were removed to help mitigate the loss of bike parking in areas with high bike traffic, e.g. Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.
In the future, CDOT may retrofit the retained meters. The meters may have their heads removed and have rings bolted on to the poles to create “post-and-ring” bike racks. This would make it easier to park two bikes on a meter.
Mr. Greenfield notes that an article on this subject will appear in a bicycle magazine and he would like to include quotes from local bicyclists. To add your comment to his discussion thread click here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I was reading the One Less Car blog recently when I came across a post about a scam that utilizes Craigslist. Apparently, thieves steal your bike, or a part of your bike, wait for you to go to Craigslist looking for it, then basically try to sell it back to you claiming to be good Samaritans. Read the full post by clicking here.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Many, if not most, bicycle parts are manufactured overseas, often in Taiwan, China and Japan. That not necessarily a bad thing for the consumer. By my observation a lot of high quality parts are made in Asia, notably Taiwan and Japan. However, for the attorney attempting to haul one of these manufacturers into an Illinois courtroom, a defendant with such a far flung home base may present a challenge. One cannot simply decide to sue someone, whether an individual or corporation, in any old place. There must be some connection between the person or entity being sued and the place where the lawsuit is filed. It is the burden of the person filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff, to establish that the court where the suit is filed has personal jurisdiction over the defendant manufacturer. Without personal jurisdiction a court has no power to render a judgment against the putative defendant. A corporation need not have its headquarters in the state in order to be hauled into court here. A foreign corporation may submit to the jurisdiction of Illinois courts by simply doing some business in the state. 735 ILCS 5/2-209. The corporate defendant must have minimum contacts with the state to be sued here. In March, 2009 the Illinois Appellate Court had the opportunity to determine whether an Illinois trial court had personal jurisdiction over a bicycle component part manufacturer located in Taiwan. In Dickie v. Cannondale Corporation, et. al., 388 Ill.App.3d 903 (1st Dist. 2009), the court found that personal jurisdiction had not been established. The plaintiff in that case had been riding his cyclocross bike with "CODA" clipless pedals, a product of Cannondale Corporation, that were manufactured by Wellgo Corporation when he crashed and was thrown forward over the handlebars. He allegedly suffered injuies to this left hip and leg which twisted because his left foot did not disengage from the pedal. He sued Wellgo in Illinois for negligence in the way it designed and manufactured the pedals. Wellgo moved to have the claim against it dismissed on the basis that it had no minimum contacts with Illinois and that the court, therefore, had no jurisdiction over the corporation. In support of its motion to dismiss, Wellgo submitted an affidavit from its sales director which stated that:
Wellgo is in the business of designing and manufacturing bicycle pedals, including the clipless pedals in the case at bar. Wellgo's pedals are manufactured at a Wellgo facility in Taiching, Taiwan. After being manufactured, the pedals are sold and shipped to Cash Crest Co., and Wellgo has no further involvement with the distribution of the product. . . Wellgo is not licensed, authorized or registered to do business in any state of the United States. It further states that Wellgo, in Illinois, has never sold or shipped products, executed a contract, provided services, paid taxes, possessed assets, maintained a telephone or fax number, employed any individuals, attended trade shows or meetings, advertised, or otherwise solicited business in Illinois. 388 Ill.App.3d at 904-5.
In response, the plaintiff argued "that personal jurisdiction existed over Wellgo under a 'stream of commerce theory'." 388 Ill.App.3d at 905. He asserted that though Wellgo's entire operation was located outside of the United States, it was well "aware that Cannondale was an American company that distributed its products throughout the United States," including Illinois. In other words, Wellgo must have known its products would be marketed and sold in Illinois, thereby establishing minimum contact with the state. The appellate court was unpersuaded by this argument. It noted that "no evidence shows that Wellgo was otherwise aware of specifically where and how Cannondale's products were marketed or sold. Wellgo sold the pedals to Cash Crest Co., a Taiwanese trading company, and from there had no control over or knowledge regarding the distribution of the pedals." Id. at 908. The court also noted that "Wellgo never shipped the subject pedals directly to a distributor in the United States. . . Wellgo has no presence in Illinois." Id. Wellgo's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction was, therefore, upheld.
What Illinois lawyers representing injured bicyclists may take away from Dickie is that in order to establish personal jurisdiction over a component part manufacturer, the corporation must have some contact with the state greater than simply releasing its product into the general marketplace. When no such minimum contact exists, however, there is another option. In Illinois, a component part supplier can be held liable for distribution of a dangerous product into the stream of commerce under negligence and strict product liability theories. (A seller may not be held liable under a strict product theory, however.) Lewis v. Lead Industries Ass'n, 342 Ill.App.3d 95 (1st Dist. 2003). It is not clear from reading the Dickie decision whether Cash Crest Co. was added as a defendant to the lawsuit. But it apparently had direct contact with Cannondale thereby perhaps establishing contact with Illinois, where Cannondale certainly does a great deal of business. In any event, an inability to bring a remotely located component part manufacturer into the case does not mean that all is lost.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
One might argue that if drivers are prohibited from wearing headphones, bicyclists are too. Afterall the Vehicle Code states that, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall. . . be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." (625 ILCS 5/1502) True enough. However, the state statute dealing with headphones (the law refers to them as "headset receivers") is quite specific. It states that, "No driver of a motor vehicle on the highways of this State shall wear headset receivers while driving." Under the law, a bicycle is not a motor vehicle. Therefore, the prohibition of headphone use does not apply to bicyclists.
So you may legally listen to your iPod while riding your bike in Chicago. The law says nothing about wearing a blindfold while cycling in the city either. Right; not a good idea. There are so many things the urban bicyclist must be attuned to while riding in the city: Trucks, cars, buses, potholes, pedestrians, lights, signs, little dogs, the weather, etc. I think it is crazy to diminish one of your senses while navigating a bicycle through this gauntlet of hazards and distractions. By plugging your ears and pouring music into your fully occupied brain while biking you are just asking to get into an accident. Just leave the iPod at home. Or, better yet, if you really must have music, sing while you ride. Maybe then the pedestrians with their little dogs will hear you coming.
Hopefully, had this incident occurred in Chicago the state's attorney's office would have been just as aggressive as their L.A. counterpart in prosecuting this matter. It is important that a strong message be sent to motorists: Share the road, or face the consequences.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Bicyclists may "take the lane" when it is reasonable to do so. City streets do not exist for motorized traffic, but for all traffic. That is the law. That fact noted, I must caution that taking the lane does not mean darting into traffic, not looking before merging left. The Municipal Code of Chicago, and good sense, states, "Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right-hand side of the roadway, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same same direction and at all times giving the right-of-way to other moving vehicles." 9-52-040(c) If there is a motor vehicle coming up on your left that vehicle will have the right of way and the cyclist must yield. However, the motorist owes the cyclist a duty of care as well. Chicago's Municipal Code states, "The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual." 9-36-010(c) When a bicyclist moves to his or her left to go around an object along the right side of the roadway cars and trucks may not crowd or buzz the cyclist, but must give three feet of space at minimum.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Woman killed on bicycle loved freedom of riding
Loyola University student Liza Whitacre loved life -- especially one where she could roam freely through Chicago's streets on a bicycle.
But a freak accident ended her life on Wednesday as she and her roommate rode their bikes through the Lakeview neighborhood.
Whitacre, of the 4900 block of North Winthrop Avenue, fell from her bike, landed underneath a truck and was run over by the vehicle outside Hamlin Park on Damen and Wellington Avenues. Police said she was trying to pass between the truck and a CTA bus when she fell off her bike.
Chicago police today said no citations would likely be issued against the driver of the truck. After the accident at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Officer John Mirabelli, a police spokesman said, "The truck driver was apparently unaware that the woman had fallen underneath."
Whitacre was pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
"She rode her bike everywhere. She loved riding her bike," said Tony Dreyfuss, Whitacre's boss at the Metropolis Coffee Company, 1039 W. Granville Ave., where she worked.
Dreyfuss said Whitacre participated in Critical Mass, a monthly biking event that draws up to 3,000 cyclists who ride through Chicago's streets. But Dreyfuss, who has ridden with Whitacre, described her as a careful rider who wouldn't dart into traffic or travel in between moving cars.
Dreyfuss said Whitacre planned on making coffee her career. Whitacre worked as a retail and wholesale trainer at the shop, training other employees how to make specialty coffee drinks and promoting the shop's products to customers, he said.
The coffee shop was closed today because of Whitacre's death and expected to reopen Friday morning, Dreyfuss said.
Whitacre's family members said she was fluent in French, studying the language at Loyola University. She also enjoyed knitting, sewing and cooking.
Whitacre's younger sister, Lauren Whitacre, said she and Liza were inseparable while growing up.
Lauren, 18, said she and her sister always sat next to one another at birthday parties. As children when they'd ride bikes together, Lauren said, Liza would always hide in bushes and pop out from them just to scare her.
"I don't think we ever didn't do anything together," said Lauren, a student at Columbia College, who jokingly described her big sister as "bossy."
Liza Whitacre was born in Phoenix, Ariz., but spent her formative years in the northwest suburb of Palatine, where she attended Fremd High School.
Other survivors include Liza's mother, Cecilia Whitacre, her father, David Whitacre, a younger brother, Max, two grandmothers, a grandfather, two uncles and an aunt.
A wake is scheduled for Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Loyola's Madonna della Strada Chapel, 6525 N. Sheridan Rd. Her funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Willow Creek Community Church, 67 E. Algonquin Rd., South Barrington.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Here is an additional link with a bit more information on this tragic incident.
Chicago bicyclists should report roadway hazards to the city, especially when the hazard, e.g. a pothole or sinkhole, is present in a bike lane. I recently inquired via email with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) as to how residents may report hazards in the city's bike lanes. There are two ways to do so, by calling Chicago's help line at 311 or online at www.servicerequest.cityofchicago.org. Here is the email thread:
1) To whom should I report hazards or dangerous conditions, i.e. sink holes, debris, etc., in bike lanes, paths and bike ways in the City of Chicago?
2) How should I make such a report?
Dear Mr. Kevenides ,
Thank you for your letter. We appreciate your dedication to bicycling and your enthusiasm for improved bicycling facilities in the City of Chicago.
It would seem that the online reporting option creates a clear record of a complaint about a hazard. After submitting a report you will receive a message that states:
Service Request Entry Complete!
Thank you for reporting your city service needs. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with your service request tracking number and a link to the status query page once your service request has been added to the primary service request tracking system. . .
There is a "tracking system"! This is significant because it means that the injured cyclist's attorney can make a request to CDOT for any and all electronic "service requests" within the "primary service request tracking system" to obtain proof the city knew of a particular hazard. Perhaps CDOT creates written documentation of service requests that are made via telephone. But it is clear that there is typewritten documentation of such requests that are made online. Having typed complaints about a particular hazard that the city failed to respond to would be a tremendous help to the injured bicyclist and his or her attorney. When making an online service request please be as specific as possible. For example, if you are reporting a pothole in a bike lane, when the online form asks, "What size and shape is the pothole?" you should respond with something like, "Pothole is in the bike lane in front of ABC store, is quite large and presents a hazard to bicyclists." With this kind of description who could argue credibly that the city was not on notice of the hazard and the danger it posed to cyclists?
One thing was not made clear to me from my inquiry with CDOT: For how long service requests are kept in the "system". Does CDOT keep such requests for 30 days, 6 months, 7 years? One would hope that requests are kept until such time as the hazard is repaired or corrected, but who knows. In any big organization data, information, documents can just disappear by accident or not. In light of that reality I propose that if you submit an online service request to CDOT regarding a bicycling hazard that you send a copy of the confirmation email you will receive following your request to The Chicago Bicycle Advocate at firstname.lastname@example.org. In that way we will have a data source to look to when clients come to us with a case arising out of a roadway hazard. Working together we can make Chicago safer for bicyclists.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Notify - Pull out your mobile phone (you'd be nuts to go biking without one), dial 911 and request both an ambulance and the police. Do this even if you are not sure if you are hurt or think that you have only minor injuries. Right now your adrenalin is pumping and your body maybe masking symptoms of a serious injury. Play it safe. Don't forget to tell the 911 operator where you are to the best of your ability and provide your mobile phone number. If the paramedics have a hard time locating you, the dispatcher may call you back. Do not turn away medical care offered by paramedics and let them take you to the hospital. If your injuries turn out to be minor, you won't be there too long. If the police ask you if you wish to make a report your answer should be an emphatic "yes." If your injuries are severe and you cannot make a report at the scene, go to the police department and make a report as soon as you are able to do so.
Gather - After gathering yourself, and your bike, it's time to gather as much information at the scene as possible. While you have your mobile phone out, click a few photos of whatever it was that caused your crash, e.g. the driver's vehicle and license plate, the road hazard, the broken bicycle component, etc. If there are people around you, ask if anyone saw the accident. If so, get their name and telephone number. If you were struck by a motor vehicle ask the driver for his or her name, address and telephone number. Ask to see a driver's license and insurance card.
Shortly after being involved in bicycle accident you may be contacted by a representative of an insurance company who will ask you to give a recorded statement. Questioning will focus on how the accident happened and the nature and extent of your injuries. This is most likely to occur where you have been hit by a motor vehicle. You may even be contacted, in person or via telephone, while you are still in the hospital. Do not give a statement until you have sought legal advice. Why? Because you need time to recover physically and collect your thoughts before making a statement to which you will be bound later. You may not at that point even fully appreciate the full extend of your injuries or the care and treatment that you will need. There is no good reason not to wait before giving a statement. The driver's insurance company may even make a quick offer to settle your claim and ask that you, in return, sign a document releasing its insured from further liability. Do not do it without seeking legal advice. Again, there is no good reason not to wait until after you can fully appreciate what happened and what the repercussions are or will be. The driver's insurer will want to take it fast to resolve the claim quickly for as little as possible. You take it slow.
Talk to a lawyer - Speak with an attorney even if you believe your injuries are minor. It should be noted that following a cycling accident you may not be best served by seeking legal advice from Uncle Bernie who handles bankruptcy cases. Seek advice from a personal injury lawyer, preferably one with experience handling bicycle accident cases. The initial consultation with an attorney should not cost anything. If the attorney decides to take your case, he or she will -- or should -- only receive a fee when and if the case resolves in your favor. This is called a contingency fee agreement. A lawyer is most likely to agree to represent you when your injuries are severe, with significant medical bills. Again though, call a lawyer even if your injuries seem minor. When I've received such calls I spend time offering guidance on how I think the victim should proceed, then recommend that he or she negotiate with the driver's insurer on their own. There may be no point in an attorney taking a piece of the pie in a claim that can be resolved quickly and easily for a relatively small sum of money.
Compensation - Many people ask me what kind of compensation they are entitled to following a bicycle accident. The money "damages" to which you will be entitled include reimbursement for:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Cost to have your bicycle repaired;
- Pain and suffering (both past and future);
- Loss of a normal life; and
- Loss of financial support that you would have provided to them; and
- Loss of consortium/society; that is their loss of the love, guidance and services you would have provided to them.
Litigation - Sometimes it is necessary to file a lawsuit in order to wrest fair compensation from the at fault person's or entity's insurance company. Generally, this occurs where the insurer believes that its insured is not at fault based on the facts, or where there is strong disagreement over the amount of compensation that the injured bicyclist should receive. It can also occur where the at fault person has "substandard insurance," coverage from a crumby insurance company that tends to litigant every case in order to delay payment for as long as possible. Depending upon the type of accident at issue, the attorney will take differing steps in his or her investigation. If the accident involved a motor vehicle, an accident reconstruction expert may be retained. If the crash was caused by a defect or hazard in the roadway, a different sort of expert may be consulted. In a product liability case, involving failure of a bicycle component, an engineer or metallurgist will probably need to be retained. Most bicycle accident cases, however, do not require retention of experts. A thorough and aggressive investigation of the facts by the law firm will suffice. In all cases, the cyclist's medical bills and records will be obtained from care providers. After the lawsuit is drafted, filed and served on the defendant(s), your attorney and the defendant's attorney will trade written questionnaires called interrogatories, request production of relevant documents, photos and other materials, and interview all those involved in the matter, including parties, witnesses, physicians and experts, in a deposition. After that, the matter will proceed to trial if a settlement agreement cannot be reached. The vast majority of cases filed settle without going to trial, but trials certainly do occur. It is important to make sure you hire an experienced trial lawyer just in case.
Criminal prosecution - In bicycle accidents involving a motor vehicle, the driver will often receive a traffic citation and will need to appear in court to defend himself or herself. What happens in the traffic or criminal case will have little if any bearing on what occurs in a civil lawsuit. In fact, I have successfully resolved bicycle accident personal injury cases in which the at fault driver was found not guilty of violating the motor vehicle code.
Every case is different and will be resolved on its specific facts. If you have any questions that have not been sufficiently answered in this post feel free to contact me directly or post a comment.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A report about the findings can be found at Reuters.com with quotes from the lead study researcher.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
- Where have cyclists experienced close calls?
- Where have cyclists been hit and injured?
- Where have cyclists been killed?
- Where have dogs chased cyclists?
- Where are the pot holes located?
- Where have cyclists been harassed by motorists?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Our client was treated after the incident at Swedish Covenant Hospital where he was diagnosed with two badly sprained wrists. The injury, for which he is forced to wear immobilizing splints, has understandably kept him from his job as an airport baggage handler. Our firm is taking this matter seriously and will aggressively pursue the at fault driver and make sure she is held accountable.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
What duty does the private landowner owe to children engaged in this sort of bicycling on his or her property? The answer boils down to foreseeability. In Grant v. South Roxana Dad's Club, 381 Ill.App.3d 665, 886 N.E. 543 (5th Dist. 2008) an 8 year old boy was seriously injured while using a pile of dirt as a bike ramp in the parking lot of a privately owned playground that was open to the public. In response to the lawsuit filed by the boy's parents, the defendant landowner asserted that the case should be dismissed because the pile of dirt was an open and obvious danger that even an 8 year old could appreciate. If the child chose to risk launching himself through the air via the dirt mound, the landowner felt it should not be held responsible where injury resulted. The problem for the landowner, however, was that it knew ahead of the boy's accident that children were legally on its property, engaged in dirt jumping and that they were likely to get hurt while doing so. The appellate court noted that while the dirt was perhaps open and obvious, an 8 year old boy may not fully appreciate the danger of using it as a bicycle ramp. In any event, the Court stated that the ability of the boy to have recognized the danger was not the only issue in determining whether the landowner had a duty to correct or warn against the hazard. The Court stated, "In order to find that a landholder owes a duty to a child injured on its premises, a court must also find that (1) a dangerous condition exists on the property, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that children would be present on the premises, and (3) the risk of harm to children outweighs the burden of removing the danger." Grant, 381 Ill.App.3d at 670. The Court found it damning to the landowner that the park's commissioner testified that he had seen children jumping their bikes on the dirt, had shooed them away because he recognized they could get hurt and observed them return to the mound with their bicycles despite his admonition. In light of that knowledge, the Court held that the danger to the boy was foreseeable and that the landowner, therefore, owed him a duty to remove the hazard, especially given the nominal cost involved in dismantling the pile by just spreading the dirt around.
In Grant, the boy was legally permitted to be on the property at the time he was injured. But what if he had been a trespasser? Again, knowledge is key. Given the facts presented in that case, the landowner still could have been held liable. The general rule in Illinois is that a landowner owes no duty of care to trespassers except to avoid purposefully injuring them. However, our courts have carved out a "frequent trespass exception" to this rule. "Under this exception, a landowner is liable for injuries to a trespasser proximately caused by its failure to exercise reasonable care in the course of its activities, where the landowner knows, or should know from the facts within his knowledge, that trespassers are in the habit of entering his land at a particular point or of traversing an area of small size." McKinnon v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, 263 Ill.App.3d 774, 777, 635 N.E.2d 744 (1st Dist. 1994). A failure to object to trespassers coming on the land may be viewed as "tacit permission" for them to do so. The landowner may be liable to such "tolerated intruders" for injury "where the harm to be anticipated from a risk for which the defendant is responsible outweighs the inconvenience of guarding against it." Id. at 778. The facts presented in Grant were that the landowner knew the boys continuously came onto its property specifically to jump their bikes on the pile of dirt. The park commissioner had seen them do so on more than one occasion. The commissioner had asked the boys to leave on one occasion, but on others he failed to do so. He testified that he saw the boys return to the pile with their bikes even after he asked them to leave. After the boy suffered his injury the dirt pile was spread out with little cost or effort. Pursuant to the "frequent trespass" exception, the landowner in Grant could have been held liable under these facts even if the injured boy had been a trespasser. The owner know the boys continuously entered a specific portion of its property to play on the dirt mound. Also, the cost of preventing the harm, i.e. by flattening the pile, was slight.
Children on their bicycles tend to be endlessly creative, and that's a good thing. Kids will always gravitate toward danger. As parents, we of course hope they will survive their natural inclinations for fun and adventure seeking. Landowners must recognize that they simply cannot turn a blind eye to children playing on their property. There is no need to be the angry neighbor who constantly yells at children to stay away. At the same time, if there is a dangerous condition on your property that you know children encounter you must take reasonable steps to correct the hazard.