Friday, January 29, 2010

A Clear and Simple Way To Remind Drivers To Watch for Bikes

Every time you parallel park your car, check your mirror for bicyclists before opening your door. Every time you make a right turn, check your mirror first for a bike on your right. If you forget, you might just kill someone. Scary, but true. From time to time, however, we all need a little reminder to do the things we are supposed to do. VigilantVelo.com, a new not-for-profit endeavor, is here to help with an idea so cool and simple it might just catch on: Non-intrusive static cling decals for your side view mirrors or rear view mirrors that remind you to look for bicyclists. According to the group's website, "Proceeds of sticker sales will go to printing more and a donation to the League of American Bicyclists." While it has not officially launched yet, VigilantVelo.com hopes to have its stickers in local bike shops soon. To order them online click here. The price is $2 for 1 adhesive sticker + 1 static decal, $18 for ten of each, and $200 for two hundred of each.

Thanks to the folks at Turin Bicycle for alerting me to this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Evidence That Bicycling Without A Helmet Is Foolish

If you are still unpersuaded to wear a helmet while bicycling read this.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Date Set For 2010 Bicycle Ride of Silence

A date has been set for this year's Ride of Silence tribute to bicyclists who have been injured or killed: May 19, 2010. Riders are to gather at Daley Plaza in Chicago at 6:30 p.m. The ride will begin at 7 and will wind for about 10 miles through the city past the many ghost bikes honoring fallen cyclists. Click here to view the Ride of Silence website to learn more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Video Shows That "Idaho Stops" Are Common Among Motorists

I have advocated for a change in Illinois law to permit bicyclists to take the "slow and go" approach (sometimes called an "Idaho stop") with regard to stop signs and traffic lights. Presently, bicyclists in our state -- like motor vehicle drivers -- are required to come to a complete stop at traffic control devices. However, as I argued in August, the current state of the law does not reflect how bicyclists should reasonably be expected to operate on roadways, especially in crowded urban settings .

One objection to enacting an Idaho stop law in Illinois is that bicyclists should not receive special treatment. They are indeed treated by our law as "vehicles" and one might argue that all vehicles should be subject to the same rules. The driver may argue, If I have to stop so should Joe bicyclist. That position is not without logic. But in the city, don't motor vehicles usually slow and go themselves; at least at stop signs? The amusing video posted below (which I found at chicagobikeracing.com) reflects how city motor vehicle drivers tend to approach stop signs. I am not suggesting that stop signs be effectively turned into yield signs for motorized traffic. But let's stop pretending that "slow and go" is something radical. We all do it, motorists and bicyclists. I submit that for bicyclists the law should permit this practice. It is much easier for a car, truck or bus to come to a complete stop then proceed forward again. Unlike bicycles they do not rely upon the strength and physical dexterity of the operator to move. Also, bikes do not pose the same hazard to other roadway users and pedestrians that motor vehicles do. The risk of permitting bicyclists to adopt the Idaho stop is far less than permitting cars and trucks to slow and go. Finally, in crowded urban settings bicycle use should be encouraged as a means for getting around. They do not pollute the air and provide significant health benefits for the bicyclist. Permitting the Idaho stop may make the riding experience more pleasant and thereby encourage more folks to peddle to the store and to work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wednesday Is Winter Bike To Work Day

This Wednesday, January 20th, is Winter Bike To Work Day. So bundle up, suck it up, pull your bike out of storage this week and peddle your butt to work. If you can make your way over to the Active Transportation Alliance office at 9 W. Hubbard St. between 6:30 to 9 a.m. they'll give you some free coffee.

Motorists May Be Held Liable for Near Misses With Bicyclists

To horseshoes and hand grenades I would add bicycling in traffic to the list of activities in which close may be enough to do damage. While riding a bike, coming close to physical contact with a vehicle, i.e. a car door, may be enough to cause a crash and serious injury. Lack of physical contact with the vehicle will not preclude the bicyclist from receiving compensation for his or her injuries. Imagine lawfully riding along the right side of the roadway at an intersection when a vehicle suddenly turns in front of you, the driver failing to signal or look for bikes. In the course of taking evasive action you avoid the car but lose control of your bike and crash, suffering injuries. You subsequently make a claim against the driver, but his insurance company denies liability and refuses to compensate you because the vehicle never actually touched you. Now what?

File a lawsuit.

A motor vehicle need not come into physical contact with a bicyclist for the driver's conduct to give rise to liability. Rather, if the motorist's negligent conduct caused the bicyclist to sustain injury then the driver should be held liable. A few weeks ago I successfully resolved a case involving a near miss that caused serious injury to a pedestrian. At the time of the accident my client was walking within a crosswalk in the parking lot of a strip mall. She had just exited a store and was going to her car. As she did she noticed a car to her left come whipping out of an aisle of parked cars directly at her at a fairly high rate of speed. She could see through the car's windshield that the driver was looking down. She shouted toward the driver. When she did, the driver looked up suddenly and the car surged forward at an even greater velocity. It seemed that the motorist had depressed the accelerator rather than the brake. Fearful that she was about to be creamed, the pedestrian jumped backwards. Unfortunately she landed awkwardly on her tailbone and suffered a back fracture. The motorist's insurance company initially took the position that the driver should not be held liable because there was no physical contact made between the vehicle and the pedestrian. However, we were able to demonstrate that (1) the driver was negligent for traveling too fast in a parking lot and for not paying attention to where she was going. We also demonstrated that (2) our client, the pedestrian, was reasonable in fearing for her safety and that her injury was solely due to the defendant driver's negligent operation of her vehicle. As a result we resolved the case favorably for our client. Had our client been riding a bicycle rather than walking our analysis and approach would have been the same. If a motorist's negligent operation of his or her vehicle causes a bicyclist to sustain injury while taking evasive action then that driver will be liable for the cyclist's harms and losses. Another way to think about it is to ask; but for the driver's bad conduct would the bicyclist have been injured? If the answer is in the negative, then the motorist is liable.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help Needed In Haiti

Please forgive a divergence from bicycle law. The situation in Haiti is catastrophic and it seems that it will get worse before it gets better. As decomposing bodies continue to pile up (literally) a health disaster is expected. Please consider donating to Partners In Health, a group that has been working in Haiti for many years. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Safety Commission Orders Recall of Redline Cyclocross Bike

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced this morning the recall of all 2010 Redline Conquest Pro Cyclocross bicycles and framesets. The framesets, made of aluminum with carbon fiber forks, are white and blue. According to a Commission new release, "The bicycle's fork legs can separate from the fork crown and cause the rider to lose control, posing a risk of serious injury if the rider falls." Consumers who purchased this product are advised to stop using it and to contact a local Redline dealer for inspection and fork replacement. Click here for more information.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Road Rage Physician Sentenced

The former L.A. physician found guilty following a road rage incident that seriously injured two bicyclists has been sentenced to 5 years in prison. It's nice to see justice win out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Memorial Ride Tomorrow For Bicyclist Killed By Dualing Van Drivers

A memorial ride and ghost bike placement in memory of Jepson Livingston will take place tomorrow, January 9, 2010. Participants are to meet outside of West Town Bikes/Ciclo Urbano, 2459 W. Division St. in Chicago before 5:00 p.m. The procession will leave at 5, with ghost bike placement taking place at 5:30 at Kosciuszko Park, 2732 North Avers Avenue.

Jepson died on December 15, 2009 when he was struck by a van that was involved in an altercation with another vehicle as Jepson rode his bicycle on West Diversey Avenue in Logan Square. Click here to read more about this tragic event.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bicycle Insurance Options

Yesterday, Lindsay Caron of BikePortland.org posted a helpful article on insurance options for bicyclists. Back in September I wrote about the most common insurance coverage options available to the bicyclist injured in an accident. The focus of Ms. Caron's piece is a bit different. She writes about options available (and unavailable) to bicyclists who do not own cars. This is recommended reading for those bicyclists who do not have auto insurance coverage that might protect them in the event of a biking accident.

League To Hold Annual National Bike Summit

The League of American Bicyclists will hold its annual National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. from March 9-11, 2010. According to the group the Summit "is where advocates, industry executives and education experts gather to speak up for bicycling on Capitol Hill." Click here to learn more about it and to register to attend.

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