Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 Year Old Pontiac Boy Killed By Pick-up Truck While Bicycling

A 10 year old boy was struck and killed by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle with his family in rural Owego Township yesterday.  The boy, Bryan Baker, of Pontiac was hit as he rode along County Road 1900 East, while crossing Route 116 East.  According to the Pontiac Daily Leader, Bryan was traveling northbound when he was struck by the eastbound truck.

Monday, September 27, 2010

eXplaining eBikes And The Law

One of the hottest trends in the bicycle industry today is the e-bike, a regular looking bicycle with a small electric motor ("e") that can be switched on or off.  Switch it off when you want to pedal and on when you don't.  These are not at all like motorcycles, nor are they mopeds, both of which are substantially more powerful than e-bikes.  In Chicago, the law permits an e-bike rider to do pretty much whatever can be done with a old-fashioned peddle bike.  Recently, I received an email from a reader inquiring about this issue:

Was on your blog but can't find this: are motorized bikes allowed on the Lakefront path in Chicago? Thanks for any help. My son wants to ride his to work in South Loop from North Side.

Cyndi M.


* * * * *

Cyndi,

Thanks for your question.  Certain types of motorized bikes are governed by the same rules that apply to regular, old-fashioned pedal bikes, and are permitted on Chicago's Lakefront path.  "Low-speed electric bicycles" and "low-speed gas bicycles" are permitted on the path.  Mopeds and motorcycles are not.  To be considered a "low-speed" bike, the cycle must (a) have fully operable pedals, (b) an electric or gas powered motor of less than 1 horse power, and (c) have a maximum speed of less than 20 mph.

Hope this helps.

Brendan.
 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weird, Creepy Bicycle Safety Film From Yesteryear Shares Some Important Lessons

The bicycle safety video below is entitled One Got Fat and is from 1963.  All of the points and lessons shared in the video are relevant to Illinois bicyclists today. . . but, man is this a weird and creepy film.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Non-owners Car Insurance, An Option For Carless Bicyclists

Going carless; it seems like it is becoming more popular these days in Chicago.  Though traffic congestion seems as daunting as ever, a lot of city people are choosing to live, work, shop and play without a car.  Many use public transportation, bicycles or plain shoe leather to get around and find that they simply don't miss their old four wheeled motorized friend, and the cost and negative environmental impact that went with it.  For those occasions when a car or truck is necessary, renting a vehicle by the hour is easy and relatively cheap via services like iGo and Zipcar.  While I own a car, I must tip my hat to those who do without by choice.  However, there is at least one important downside to not owning a car, not having car insurance.

As I've described in the past, a bicyclist's own motor vehicle insurance may provide coverage if he or she is seriously injured by a motorist who either lacks insurance or who has insufficient coverage.  Even when riding a bicycle, the uninsured or underinsured motorist provision of a cyclist's own car insurance may protect him or her in this situation.  For example, a car owning bicyclist is out riding around when he is struck and injured by a driver.  The cyclist sustains $100,000 in damages as a result.  The driver only has a $20,000 insurance policy, and the biker has $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage.  In that circumstance, the driver's insurer should turn over the $20,000, and the cyclist's own insurer should cover the remaining $80,000 to fully compensate the bicyclist.  But what of the carless bicyclist?  To protect himself or herself, the carless person would be wise to purchase a non-owners car insurance policy.  These policies are offered by many insurance companies and tend to cost considerably less than a car owners policy.  Importantly, they will protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.  These policies may also protect the non car owning pedestrian who is injured by a driver.  The other nice thing about non-owners policies is that if you decide that the no car thing is not for you, you will have established an insurance history which may help you get a fair rate on car insurance.

Not all insurance policies are the same.  Non-owners car insurance policies may differ materially from one to the other, so make sure that you ask your insurance agent lots of questions, making sure you understand exactly when the policy you are buying will and will not cover you.

Click here to read more about non-owners car insurance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bicyclist In Critical Condition Following Lincoln Park Collision With Vehicle

A bicyclist was struck by a motorist this morning in Lincoln Park and is in critical condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.  The incident occurred  in the 2600 block of North Lincoln Avenue at around 9:30 a.m.  No further details have been released.

This matter was reported on the Chicago Breaking News Center.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Time Out On Drinking and Bicycling

The article below, written by John Greenfield, appears in the current edition of Time Out Chicago.  

(I do like to call myself the "Chicago Bicycle Advocate," especially when I'm alone, but my friends call me Mr. Chicago Bicycle Advocate;-)

When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law?


Photo: Andrew Nawrocki
Q When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law? Does it fall under the same blood-alcohol-content DUI regulations as operating a motor vehicle? —Easy Rider, Logan Square
A Crocked Chicago cyclists can’t be charged with a DUI, says Brendan Kevenides, a lawyer who specializes in bike cases and calls himself the Chicago Bicycle Advocate. In 1995, the Illinois Appellate Court decided this issue in People v. Schaefer, upholding the dismissal of criminal charges against a drunk bicyclist. Since state law doesn’t define a bike as a “vehicle,” the court found that Illinois’s DUI statute did not give cyclists fair warning they could face harsh penalties for pickled pedaling. Kevenides notes that cyclists can be charged with public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but the penalties for such offenses are substantially less than those for a DUI. Even so, Active Transportation Alliance’s Margo O’Hara says it’s “dangerous and irresponsible” to spin while sauced. But Mark Cuneo, a manager at the bike-centric Handlebar Bar & Grill, recommends one reason to choose two wheels over four for a night of carousing. “Instead of driving home drunk or leaving your car overnight, you can always throw your bike in the trunk of a cab.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Notes From Mayor Daley's Bicycle Advisory Counsel Meeting

Yesterday, I attended the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Counsel meeting.   I was once again impressed with the intelligence and earnestness with which the folks from CDOT, IDOT, the mayor's office and the Active Transporation Alliance go about trying to address issues important to bicyclists in our city.  They don't always get it right, but they are trying.  These periodic meetings, which are open to the public, provide a forum for anyone to let our leaders know when they've screwed up.  One veteran Chicago fire fighter, bicyclist and Northwest Side resident, Eddie Cortes, showed up yesterday and forcefully let all present know he wasn't happy about a recent failure by the city to install missing sections of bike lanes along Milwaukee Avenue.  I strongly encourage members of the general public to attend these City Hall meetings whenever possible.

Bits and pieces from yesterday's meeting. . .
  • During a 24 hour period in the summer/fall of 2009 over 3100 bicycles rode along Milwaukee Avenue, near the Ohio feeder.  That is an incredible number of bicyclists using just one roadway feeding into the Loop.  We aren't just traffic, we're a hell of a lot of traffic!
  • CDOT, always on the hunt for money, has had unexpected success in wresting $345,000 from Chicago aldermen to build 6.5 miles of new bikeways and 5.5 miles of restriped bike lanes.  
  • CDOT is ready to begin repairing some city bike lanes in need of repair, but a supposed "world wide shortage of thermoplastic" has delayed that.  Who knew?  
  • To create additional bike parking, the city is preparing to move orphaned bike racks from places where they are underutilized to areas in need.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SUV Claims Life of Des Plaines Bicyclist

Photo by Roman Bira
In what appears to be a horrific incident, 52 year old bicyclist, Alavaro Chavez-Farias, was struck and killed by the driver of a Cadillac Escalade at 8:07 p.m. on Monday in Des Plaines.  A photograph of Mr. Chavez-Farias's bike after the accident was posted on Facebook by a passer-by and demonstrates that he was struck with great velocity and/or that the SUV ran over his bicycle.  The cyclist was riding in the 500 block of North Wolf Road when he was struck by the vehicle traveling in the same direction.  Police are still investigating the matter.  The cause of the incident has not been reported.

This matter was reported by The Daily Herald.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bicyclist Killed In Rogers Park In Intersection Incident

A male bicyclist was killed yesterday in an incident in Rogers Park with a car.  Reports have placed the victims age at 40 and 69 and have offered little credible explanation for the cause of the incident.  According the The Chicago Breaking News Center, the man was riding westbound on West Farwell Avenue when his bike came into contact with a vehicle at the intersection with Ridge Boulevard.  Media sources have emphasized that the intersection was controlled in all directions by stop signs but have not stated whether independent witnesses contributed to claims that the cyclist ran a stop sign.  The biker was killed at the scene and it is not clear whether police statements about the cause were based solely on the motorist's account.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deceased Bicyclist May Have Been Victim of Vehicle Hit and Run

A 49 year old man, Greg Buckner, may have been the victim of a vehicle hit-and-run crash along the 8400 block of South South Chicago Avenue last night.  Chicago police are asking for witnesses to come forward.  Apparently, Mr. Buckner was found by a passerby at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.  He was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center a short time later.  It is not clear why police believe the bicyclist to have been victim of a collision with a motor vehicle.  Read the rest of the story here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Driver Strikes and Kills Bicyclist On Chicago's Northwest Side

A 35 year old Chicago man was cited for negligent driving and failure to provide proof of insurance arising from the death of a bicyclist at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Forest Preserve Avenue.  The driver, Kryzysztof Godlewski, allegedly struck the cyclist with his 2006 Infiniti around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening as he turned left from westbound Irving Park Road onto westbound Forest Preserve.  It is unclear at this time how the incident occurred.  It has been reported that the vehicle struck the as yet unidentified bicyclist "when the southbound bicyclist entered the intersection in front of the Infiniti."

I generally decline to speculate about the facts of such matters.  With regard to the driver being cited for lack of insurance, it may be that he is insured but was unable to provide proof of insurance at the scene.  It is not uncommon for drivers ticketed for this offense to provide proof to the judge at the citation hearing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Path To Safety In Chicago

Generally, Illinois bicyclists may ride in the street, and in most instances they should.  Our city's streets do not exist for motorized traffic, but for all traffic.  There is an important exception to this rule, however, at least in Chicago.  Section 9-52-020 of the Municipal Code states,
(d) Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
For you Chicagoans racking your brains to think of a place where this situation may exist, consider North Humboldt Drive. Between North Avenue and Augusta Boulevard, a distance of about a mile, Humboldt Drive slices through Humboldt Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the city.  The scenery is wonderful, with ball fields, duck ponds, trees and even a beach.  However, it is a very dangerous road on which to ride a bike.  The pavement is usually in poor condition, and there is no shoulder on this narrow four lane street.  But, there is a path that runs immediately adjacent to Humboldt Drive on the southbound side of the road.  Take a look:

video

Arguably, when riding southbound on Humboldt Drive between North and Augusta the cyclist must exit the roadway and utilize the path instead.  I must admit that section 9-52-020 does not make this perfectly clear.  The municipal code does not define the term "usable path for bicycles".  Does it mean any path on which a bike could possibly travel?  Or, does it mean a path specifically designated for bicycles?  The path depicted in the video above is not just a bicycle path.  It is used by pedestrians as well.  That ambiguity aside, it is certainly possible that a citation issued to a cyclist for riding in the road rather than the path could withstand judicial scrutiny.  That may not be a bad thing either.  I am certainly an proponent of cyclists' rights to use the roadway.  However, when I have seen bicyclists on southbound Humboldt Drive not utilizing the path just the their right, I cringe.  It is just a dangerous place to be.

I should point out that a sidewalk is not a "usable path for bicycles."  Section 9-52-020 is explicit that, "No person 12 or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any district, unless such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route."  Illinois bicyclists absolutely may ride in the street even if there is an adjacent sidewalk present.

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