Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Love Riding In The City. . .

The new issue of Urban Velo is out and yours truly is in it.  You bet I love riding in the city!  All of the credit goes to my talented wife Maria Lopez for the photography.  Can any of you Chicagoans figure out where the photo was taken?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Resolution Reached In Case Of Bicyclist Doored In Bridgeport

A 30 year old female bicyclist doored in Bridgeport in May has received the full amount of insurance coverage from the driver's insurance company.  The cyclist suffered wrist sprains after a driver opened her car door with out looking for bike traffic near 2917 South Throop Street on the evening of May 9, 2011.  The cyclist was riding a "slow bike" with a functioning headlight and was obeying all traffic laws at the time of the crash.  My law firm represents the bicyclist.

Teenage Bicyclist Seriously Injured By Right Turning Driver In Darien

A 40 year old driver struck and seriously injured a teenage bicyclist at the intersection of Beller and Lemont roads in Darien on Sunday afternoon, according to the DownersGrovePatch.  Unconscious from the crash, the teenager was extracted from underneath the vehicle by paramedics before being rushed to the hospital.  The driver, Timothy J. Hagan, allegedly struck the cyclist while attempting to turn right from Beller onto Lemont.  The bicyclist "was crossing Beller in the crosswalk," according to the DownersGrovePatch.  The driver was ticketed for failing to yield to the bicyclist in the crosswalk.

Friday, February 24, 2012

South Side Cyclist Hit By Car While Riding Through Harold Washington Park

A 30 year old female cyclist was struck by a car while riding southbound along a bike path in Harold Washington Park on Chicago's South Side on February 12th.  The woman was crossing the path's intersection at East 53rd Street when a westbound Honda Civic traveling at about 20 mph struck the front of her bike.  The path continues on the south side of 53rd Street.  The impact sent the rider reeling along the right side of the car and onto the ground where she suffered a separated shoulder.  She was rushed via ambulance to the nearby University of Chicago Hospital.  She may require surgery to repair her badly damaged shoulder.

The driver claims that the bicyclist came off of the trail and crashed into the side of his car.  However, the damage to the woman's bike strongly suggests that it was she who was struck from the side.  My law firm is representing the injured bicyclist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Over 10,000 Fuji Bikes Recalled After Injuries

After reports of injured riders and at least a dozen frames breaking, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced yesterday the recall of about 10,500 Fuji Saratoga Women's Bicycles.  The Commission announced that "the bicycle's frame can break in the center of the downtube during use, causing the rider to lose control and fall."  There have been at least two reports of rider injuries, including "a head laceration requiring 20 stitches."  These bicycles, made in  China, were sold nationwide from late 2007 through the end of 2011.  If you own one of these bikes you should not ride it.  A Fuji Bicycle dealer will provide a free replacement frame.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bicyclist Injured In Bucktown By Motorist Who May Have Grown Impatient With Congestion

A 44 year old Chicago bicyclist was struck by an SUV and injured while on his way home from work on February 2nd in the Bucktown neighborhood.  The cyclist was riding southbound in the dedicated bike lane on North Damen Avenue at around 6:20 p.m. when he was hit.  The driver was stopped in traffic along southbound Damen when, perhaps growing impatient with the congestion, he suddenly peeled-off to the right in an attempt to turn onto West Willow Street hitting the cyclist.  The motorist did not signal his impending maneuver and claims that he did not see the bicyclist who was riding with an operating light on the front of his bike and lights attached to his wheel valve stems.  Also in the SUV was the driver's wife and child.  They told the cyclist they were on their way to the United Center for an ice skating show.

Despite the cyclist's split second effort to avoid the collision, the SUV banged into his left knee, the impact throwing him to the ground.  Immediately following the crash, the bicyclist attempted to stand but was unable to put any weight on the injured knee.  He was transported via ambulance from the scene to Resurrection St. Mary's Medical Center.  He is still undergoing treatment.  My personal injury law firm is representing the bicyclist.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bicyclist Doored On West Kinzie Receives Settlement

A claim arising from a dooring incident that occurred in front of Chicago's East Bank Club in May has settled. My personal injury law firm represented the bicyclist who was commuting home from work when he was injured.  The 38 year old cyclist was riding along the right side of West Kinzie Street when a driver parked along the curb opened the door of her 2010 Mercedes-Benz into his path without looking for bicycle traffic.  She was ticketed by police.

The car's door opened a sizable gash along the right calf of the bicyclist who was transported via ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  The wound was large enough that bone was visible to the naked eye and required 11 stitches to close.  The cyclist also experienced weakness in his right great toe since the incident which has slowly resolved.  He also continues to have some significant scarring to his lower leg which is likely permanent.

The incident occurred about a month before installation of the Kinzie cycle track which segregates bicycle traffic from motor vehicles and eliminates vehicle parking along the curb.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is There A Growing Movement To Allow Bicyclists To Treat Stop As Yield?

303Cycling
The way you ride is probably a crime. Illinois law requires all bicyclists to stop at every stop light and every stop sign:  Every single time.  Do you do that?  Right.  If you are like most reasonable Chicago bicyclists you stop and wait for the light to turn at busy intersections.  You never "blow through" stop signs.  You always look for traffic when approaching even the quietest intersections.  But you do not always stop.  You fairy consider yourself a safe cyclist.  In my opinion, there is a disconnect between what the law presently is, and the way many reasonable cyclists ride.  This is bad for cycling.  Criminalizing the way the vast majority of reasonable bicyclists ride does not help broaden the appeal of urban cycling nor the image of bicyclists in general among the non-biking public.  Thankfully, there seems to be a movement afoot to change this, one I would like to see Chicago and our state adopt.

Right now, more places are seriously considering allowing bicyclists to yield at stop signs and lights.  If these initiatives take root, cyclists would not have to stop at intersections under certain circumstances.  To be clear, no one anywhere is seriously talking about allowing bicyclists to recklessly blow through traffic lights and stop signs.  Rather, under measured consideration is permitting cyclists to yield if traffic is present at an intersection, but not waste time by stopping when nary a car is in sight.  These proposals are under serious consideration in London, several cities in France, and in Arizona.  In London, under consideration at some 500 or so intersections is the possibility of giving bicyclists an "early start," according to The Guardian.  Each intersection or junction is to be separately assessed by Transport for London (equivalent to the DOT) to determine if permitting an early start makes sense given the existing conditions and risks to bicyclists.  The plan could "include the installation of traffic lights set with an  'early start' phase for cyclists, allowing them to move ahead of the mass of motor traffic," according to The Guardian.  In France, permitting cyclists to treat lights and stop lights as yield indicators is being tested, according to Treehugger.  The relaxed rule is being tested at 15 intersections in Paris and at locations in the cities of Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nantes.  The law requires that "cyclists yield to pedestrians and opposing traffic," according to Treehugger, and bicyclists will, of course, need to rely on their own self-preservation instincts to avoid calamity with motor vehicles.  So far, "these experiments have led to no rise in the number of accidents," the website reports.

Some will scoff at these overseas measures.  Those goofy europeans; so permissive.  However, Arizona may be poised to become the second state in the nation to permit bicyclists to yield at traffic control devices.  For some time now Idaho has permitted bicyclists to do so.  Now, Arizona House Bill 2211, a bipartisan measure, "would allow bicyclists 16 and older to treat a stop sign as a yield sign.  Cyclists could ride through without stopping if there were no other cars around but would still have to stop and yield to any cars in the intersection," according to azcentral.com.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Patterson (D) and Rep. Vic Williams (R), in its present state would also establish that, "If after riding past a yield sign or stop sign without stopping the bicycle rider is involved in a collision in the intersection, the collision is prima facie evidence of the bicycle rider's failure to yield the right-of-way."  One supporter of the bill notes that the proposed law, "Isn't a green light to blast through a stop sign," according to azcentral.com.

Recently, our own state's legislature has demonstrated an understanding that traffic laws may require revision to reflect sensible human tendencies.  Earlier this year, a new Illinois law went into affect that permits bicyclists outside of Chicago to pass through red light controlled intersections where the light fails to detect their presence and when no other vehicles are present.  While obviously not as far reaching as the other initiatives described above, this law is an important step because it recognizes that it sometimes does not make sense to treat bikes just like cars.  Safety should not require a bicyclist to wait for a light to change when good sense and the circumstances permit safe passage through an intersection.

At the moment our state's traffic laws criminalize the way sensible, careful bicyclists ride.  This sends a terrible message and gives fringe anti-bicyclists something to scream about every time a cyclist rides through a light.  Cyclists should not be legally permitted to blast through stop signs, but let us consider where it might make sense to revise the rules of the road.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What About Western and Logan, Indeed?

When it comes to cycling around our city not much scares me.  This is not because I am particularly brave. It is just that I do it a lot and I am used to the congestion, the crappy roads and other challenges that exist in our urban streetscape.  There is one exception though:  The area around the intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue scares the hell out of me.  At the same time I find it necessary to ride through there fairly often.  Logan Boulevard provides a link to the Logan Square neighborhood and places where I shop frequently, Target, Pet Smart, Strack and Van Til, Microcenter, etc.  I suspect I am not the only one.  Logan Square is the sort of unofficial hub of Chicago bicycle culture these days.  If you live here you know.  If you do not, come on over and see what I mean.  We have The Bike Lane, Boulevard Bikes, Milwaukee Avenue, Coles and the Tour de Fat.  A lot of people here do not just ride bikes, they use their bikes as transportation year round to shop, get to work and just to go from place to place. Yet this important link -- Logan and Western -- between our neighborhood and an important shopping district is one of the most dangerous bicycle transit points in the city.

My friends over at Grid Chicago have attempted to analyze crash data from the area, but much information is missing.  There is no immediately apparent engineering solution to the problem; at least not without filling in the missing data points, which Grid Chicago's Steven Vance lists succinctly.

There are several factors which make the ride, both eastbound and westbound, on Logan across Western dangerous.  There is no bike lane, or sharrows designation in either direction.  The bicyclist must ride to the right side of the roadway and motorists are required to provide him or her with three feet of space when passing.  However, motorists face a changes in lighting, a blind curves and somewhat narrow traffic lanes in both directions.  There are no shoulders.  These factors mean that (1) it will be difficult for motorists to see the cyclist and (2) once seen, it may be challenging, depending on traffic conditions, for the motorist to give the cyclist the mandated three feet of space.  It may be prudent for the cyclist to take the lane to prevent the motorist from trying to squeeze by, but the lighting conditions and blind curves mean that a bicyclist in the middle of the lane could be struck from behind by an inattentive driver.

So what is a bicyclist to do?  Riding eastbound, I use the sidewalk.  It is illegal to do so.  In Chicago only children are permitted to ride on the sidewalk.  It is also inconsiderate to pedestrians.  However, I find that traveling east it is the most prudent course.  Just before getting to Western Avenue I hop off of the curb and back into the street, looking carefully behind me first.  Motor vehicles at the intersection are almost always preparing to stop at the light and are slowing down.  Once the light turns, I proceed along the right side of the road, just soaking up the bumps and pot holes on the east side of Western Avenue.  Again, the lane is tight so I am generally disinclined to veer to the left.  At the curb cut to turn into the Target parking lot a bike lane appears and I breath a sigh of relief.

The eastbound approach:

View Larger Map

Riding westbound is scarier.  I generally find myself taking the lane as I wait for the light at Logan and Western.  The lane is so narrow that there just is not much room to ride along the ride side of the road.  I then remain in the lane as I go around that terrifying blind curve past the skateboard park.  I pedal pretty hard through that section because I simply want to get through it as quickly as possible.  After the skate park I hang a right onto the inner section of Logan Boulevard then relax.

The westbound approach:

View Larger Map

Notwithstanding the risks I have described it is important to be absolutely clear about this:  Motorists traveling through this area must follow the law by watching for bicyclists and give them three feet of space.  That it may be more difficult to do so here than at other roadway spots is no defense.  If a driver fails to follow the law and injures or kills a cyclist he or she will and should face significant legal consequences.  (They certainly would if I am involved in the case.)  However, no cyclist wants a "good case."  We want to get where we are going safely.  At and near the intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue there is, I submit, a greater potential for the inattentive driver to cause harm.

The Chicago Department of Transportation, The Illinois Department of Transportation, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office are friendly to bicyclists and are working hard these days to make our infrastructure safer for cyclists.  At Logan and Western, I respectfully request that they roll up their sleeves and find a solution.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yes, The Chicago Bicycle Advocate has a different look.  Hope all of you like it!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Didn't Want It? Well, You Got It Anyway: A Bicycle Helmet That Folds

It seems to me that bicycle helmets are about as cool as they're ever going to be.  But what they are not is foldable. . .  That is until now. Behold:


Click here for more information and photos.

Video Shows Benefits Of Riding With A "Cyclecam"

I have noted before that one of the biggest challenges that comes with representing victims of bicycle accidents is finding a witness that can back-up the cyclist's version of events.  One solution, is to ride with a video camera affixed to your bike or helmet.  Recently, the BBC did a very nice piece about just that, detailing how some riders are using the devices with positive effect in London.  Check it out below.

Cheers to Rudolf G. Burger who posted a link to the video on The Chainlink, to Alleycat Fixed Gear for supplying the video, and to the BBC for creating it.

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