Thursday, July 28, 2011

After A Bike Crash, Go To The Damn Hospital

I've been representing injured people for some 15 years and if anything drives me nuts it is when someone blows off going to the hospital after an accident.  This frustration was driven home last week when I read about the death of Francisco Moreno.  After he was struck by a van while riding his bicycle a trip to the hospital was delayed until he lost consciousness at home many hours after the incident.  One has to wonder if he would be live today if he had been taken to the hospital right after the crash.

Let me be succinct, if your are involved in a bicycle crash and some part of your body hurts, go to the damn hospital.  The seriousness of your injuries may not be immediately apparent.  After a crash your adrenaline may be flowing.  You may not be thinking straight, so just play it safe a get to the ER.  This is especially true if you even lightly hit your head, with or without a helmet.  If it turns out that you are fine, good.  Don't worry about wasting your time or anyone else's time.  Don't feel embarrassed.  Just do what has to be done to rule out a serious injury.

Aside from protecting your own health, seeking immediate medical care following a crash will help you or your attorney later if a claim or lawsuit arises from the incident.  Time and again I see insurance companies fail to take seriously a claim brought where the injured bicyclist did not seek treatment right away following a crash.  Their thinking is, how serious could the injury be if he/she didn't go to the hospital.  Insurance adjusters tend to be cynical people.  Delayed medical treatment tends to raise a red flag in the adjuster's mind:  Maybe we're being scammed.  Maybe the injury happened after the bike accident.  Don't give an insurance company any reason to be doubtful about your claim and the cause of your injuries.  Seek immediate medical treatment.

There are all sorts of reasons, in my experience, to explain why the bicyclist blows off a trip to the hospital after a crash.  Lack of medical insurance coverage is one big reason.  All I can say is cost is just something you'll have to worry about later.  Take care of yourself first.  A hospital ER will not turn you away for lack of insurance.  Also, most hospitals will work with you on a sensible payment plan if you cannot afford to pay the bill.  If you have a claim against an at fault driver, the hospital will lien your claim and your lawyer will help you make sure your bill is paid at the end of your case.  Whatever concerns or fears you might have about going to the hospital after a crash, remember Francisco Moreno.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Raw Video Of A Ride Along Chicago's New Kinzie Bicycle Lane

Courtesy of chainlinker, Travis Kluska, here is a video of a ride eastbound along Chicago's new Kinzie cycle track.  The video comes with warts:  Mr. Kluska runs numerous stop signs and the light at Kinzie and Milwaukee.  At one point another bicyclist briefly approaches him in the bike lane in the wrong direction.  But is video is honest.  I've ridden Kinzie several times now since completion of the new bike lane and the way it is ridden in the video is consistent with how I've seen the majority of bicyclists ride it.  The conditions it demonstrates are typical in my experience.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Logan Square Bicyclist Killed By Van

A 46 year old Logan Square bicyclist died this morning after being struck by a van.  After the collision the van allegedly fled the scene.  The Chicago Sun-Times reported this event but did not report the date of the collision.  The paper simply noted that it occurred at "2 p.m."

The cyclist, Francisco Moreno, was helped to his home after the crash.  He was later taken to Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center by family members after he lost consciousness.  The location of the crash has not be reported.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recumbent Bicyclist Struck By Motorist Along Lakefront Bicycle Path, Suffers Head Injury

A bicyclist on a recumbent suffered a head injury when she was struck by a motor vehicle as she crossed West Wilson Avenue along Chicago's lakefront bicycle path.  The crash occurred just before 1:00 p.m. on June 26th.  The bicyclist was traveling northbound on the path.  When she reached the intersection with Wilson Avenue she slowed when she saw a vehicle at the eastbound stop sign.  Bicycle traffic at that location is not required to stop or yield to motor vehicles and has the right of way.  The cyclist proceeded across Wilson.  As she approached the median dividing east and westbound traffic the car that had been stopped at the sign suddenly accelerated forward and crashed into her.  She was propelled from her recumbent bicycle up onto the car's hood, smashing the windshield with her helmeted head.  She was then thrown to the ground where she slid along the pavement before loosing consciousness.  She was taken via ambulance to Weiss Memorial Hospital where she received an extensive workup.

Our law firm is representing the bicyclist against the driver.  This is the second time within the last year that we have represented a bicyclist injured at West Wilson Avenue's intersection with the lakefront path.  The bicyclist continues to receive medical treatment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Motorist Fails to Yield to Bicyclist In Oak Park, Rider Seriously Injured

A female bicyclist lays in intensive care with a serious head injury after being struck by a left turning motor vehicle in Oak Park at around 7:30 this morning. Apparently, the cyclist was riding westbound on Washington Boulevard when a motorist driving eastbound attempted to turn left onto Ridgeland Boulevard, crashing into the bicyclist. The Chicago Tribune reported this story but does not make it entirely clear whether the cyclist was on Washington or Ridgeland when she was struck.

Illinois law mandates that left turning motor vehicles yield to bicyclists approaching from the opposite direction. The driver was cited by police following this incident.

The name of the cyclist has not been reported. It seems that though serious her injuries are not life threatening.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chicago Bicyclists Are Not Barred From Using City Crosswalks

Katherine Hitt
Defense attorneys, insurance adjusters and even some well meaning bicycle advocates have suggested to me that  riding a bicycle in Chicago in a crosswalk is illegal.  It is not.  Neither local ordinance nor state statute prohibit riding a bicycle in a crosswalk.  The matter is not addressed at all in Chicago's municipal code.   In the Illinois Compiled Statutes, however, it is expressly permitted, with some caveats.  The state statute states:
(a)  A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. (b)  A person shall not ride a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, where such use of bicycles is prohibited by official traffic-control devices. (c)  A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
625 ILCS 5/11-1512.

A bicycle may be ridden in a crosswalk, but pedestrians have the right of way, unless authorities have explicitly chosen to bar bikes.  In Chicago, local ordinance bars adults from riding on city sidewalks, but not crosswalks.

It is not clear to me why some folks believe it is always illegal to ride in a crosswalk.  Perhaps this misunderstanding comes from Chicago's sidewalk prohibition.  Many of us tend to think of a crosswalk as a natural extension of a sidewalk.  There is some logic in this thinking, but the law defines crosswalks and sidewalks differently.  Chicago ordinance defines a crosswalk as
[T]hat portion of a roadway ordinarily included within the prolongation or connection of sidewalk lines at intersections, or any other portion of a roadway clearly indicated for pedestrian crossing by markings.
Municipal Code of Chicago 9-4-010 (emphasis added).

State statute defines a crosswalk as
(a)  That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs, or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway, and in the absence of a sidewalk on one side of the highway, that part of the highway included within the extension of the lateral lines of the existing sidewalk to the side of the highway without the sidewalk, with such extension forming a right angle to the centerline of the highway;
(b)  Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface placed in accordance with the provisions in the Manual adopted by the Department of Transportation as authorized in Section 11-301. 
625 ILCS 5/1-113.

A sidewalk, pursuant to both local ordinance and state statute, is
[T]hat portion of a public way between the curb, or the lateral lines of the roadway, and the adjacent property lines, intended for the use of pedestrians.
Municipal Code of Chicago 9-4-010; 625 ILCS 5/1-188.

A crosswalk is a part of the roadway.  A sidewalk is not.  If lawmakers had meant for crosswalks to be considered a part of sidewalks presumably they would have said so.  They have not.  Also, though crosswalks are intended primarily for pedestrians, I am not aware of any statute, ordinance or case that states that pedestrians are the only permitted users of crosswalks.  (As we saw in Boub v. Township of Wayne one may be a permitted though not an intended user of a roadway.)  There simply is no legal reason that supports the notion that just because it may be illegal to ride on a sidewalk that it is also illegal to ride in a crosswalk, especially in light of the language in Sec. 11-1512 which permits bikes in crosswalks so long as pedestrians are given the right of way.

Even if crosswalks exist primarily for pedestrians rather than bicyclists, there are often legitimate reasons for a cyclist to ride in a crosswalk.  An urban bicyclist will often do so when preparing to make a left turn at an intersection.  Sec. 11-1510 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code describes one way in which a bicyclist may legally make a left:
A person riding a bicycle . . . intending to turn left shall approach the turn as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.  After proceeding across the intersecting roadway to the far corner of the curb or intersection of the roadway edges, the bicyclist . . . shall stop, as much as practicable out of the way of traffic.  After stopping the person shall yield to any traffic proceeding in either direction along the roadway such person had been using.  After yielding, the bicycle . . . shall comply with any official traffic control device or police officer regulating traffic on the highway along which he intends to proceed.
In other words, simply cross the road onto which you wish to travel and wait with cross traffic.  When doing so the bicyclist may find, depending on the specific roadway design and traffic circumstances, that the safest and perhaps only place in which to accomplish this maneuver is in a crosswalk.  In Chicago, and in parts of Illinois, this is perfectly legal.

I am not advocating that bicyclists unnecessarily occupy crosswalks that are clogged with pedestrians.  Doing so will often place pedestrians at unnecessary risk for injury.  On the other hand, where few or no pedestrians are present and the circumstances require it, a bicyclist should not hesitate to use the crosswalk to his or her advantage.

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