Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Specialized Recalling Some 12,000 Globe Brand Bicycles

About 12,000 Globe branded bicycles are being recalled, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today.  The Globe brand is distributed by Specialized Bicycles and manufactured in China.  The recall was prompted by reports of injures caused when the forks on some  Globe bicycles broke.  The Commission's press release does not make it clear what part of the forks is prone to break, but the defect has apparently caused facial fractures, and head and shoulder injuries of unspecified severity.

If you own one of these bikes, please stop riding it and contact an authorized Specialized dealer for a free fork and installation.

Chicago Bicyclist Struck, Critically Injured By Hit and Run Driver

A Chicago bicyclist is in critical condition after being struck by the driver of a SUV yesterday afternoon on the city's North Side, according to ABC 7 Chicago.  The driver struck the male cyclist 4100 block of West School Street, throwing him onto the windshield of the vehicle, then fled the scene.    

No other details have been reported.  Police are looking for the driver.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist Hit By Red Light Running Taxi Driver To Be Compensated

She was riding her bike to a job interview at Chicago's Rainforest Cafe when the driver of an American United taxi did something stupid. The westbound driver ran the red light at West Ontario Street and struck the 25 year old female cyclist riding on North Clark Street southbound toward her nearby destination.  The collision in the intersection of Ontario and Clark at 12:30 p.m. last August 25th threw her off of her bike and onto her right side, causing injuries to her back and right foot, elbow and ribs.  Late yesterday, my law firm, retained to represent the bicyclist, successfully resolved the case against the driver and taxi company.

The woman's injuries were not life threatening, but the collision, caused only by the carelessness of the taxi driver, resulted in pain, and significant disruption to her life.  It also caused the uninsured woman substantial financial hardship.  She was left with medical bills she did not have the money to pay.  The compensation she will receive cannot erase these experiences, but will help her move on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Man Entering Car Doors & Injures Bicyclist On Milwaukee Avenue

It was one of those moments where faith that a fellow human would act attentively was tragically repudiated.  

On August 17th a 26 year old female bicyclist riding northbound in the shared bike lane on North Milwaukee Avenue trusted that the man who stepped into the bike lane in front of her would not just open his car door into her.  It was just before 5:00 p.m.  She was on her way home from work on that clear and sunny late afternoon.  There was no reason to believe that the man would not see her coming on her old mountain bike.  Nevertheless, no newbie to city cycling, the woman slowed and moved to her left to avoid the man standing next to his Toyota Corolla.  But just as she passed him he suddenly threw his car door open striking the the woman and her bike.  The impact sent her hurling into the street in the 2500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue.  

She was at first unable to move.  Her entire left side was in searing pain and her head hurt.  She was wearing a helmet but sustained a head injury.  A city ambulance rushed her to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center where a brain CT demonstrated evidence of a concussion.  She was admitted to the hospital, not to be released until the following day.  She continues to receive medical treatment.

My law firm has been hired to represent the bicyclist.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicago Alleged Terror Bar Target May Have Been Popular Bicycle Messenger Hangout

The Chicago bar targeted by alleged homegrown terrorist, Adel Daoud, is a popular afterwork hangout for city bicycle messengers.  Though federal authorities have not revealed which bar the teenager allegedly wanted to blow up on Friday night, the owner of Cal's Bar and Liquors at 400 South Wells believes it was his, according to CBS Chicago.  Based upon descriptions of the establishment in the media and the frenzy of evidence gathering activity by federal authorities on the night the attack was to happen, Mike Feirstein, the bar's owner, believes his place was the target.  (Click here to read more on CBS Chicago's website.)

Cals has been a bike messenger haunt for years.  At the end of any given work day, dozens of well-worn bicycles can be seen outside the bar.  Inside, tired bike messengers can be found throwing back brews, swapping stories and relaxing.  In 2007 Meddill Reports did a feature news piece about the bar's embrace of its bike messenger and counter culture clientele.  

There is no reason to believe that Mr. Daoud harbors a desire to wage jihad against bike messengers.  According to a federal complaint filed against him in the past few days the bar targeted by him was chosen because it would be filled with "the evilest people . . . all the kuffars are there."

Lakeview Bicyclist Seriously Hurt By Backing Driver

A 21 year old male bicyclist was seriously injured after being struck by a car as he rode his bicycle in Chicago's East Lakeview Neighborhood on September 8th.  The incident took place at around 4:20 p.m. in the 2800 block of North Broadway.  The cyclist was hit as he waited in the southbound lane behind the driver of a 2007 Mazda 6 who was waiting behind another vehicle attempting to parallel park.  The rider and his Schwinn Collegiate were about 10' to 15' behind the Mazda when the driver suddenly accelerated backwards -- seemingly aggravated at having to wait for the parking vehicle -- crashing into the cyclist.  The hard impact throw him to the street where he sustained a complex fracture to his left wrist.

The bicyclist was rushed from the scene via a City of Chicago ambulance to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.  He is presently awaiting word on whether his severe injury will require surgery.

My law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist In Serious Condition After Driver Runs Stop Sign In Lincoln Square

A Chicago bicyclist was rushed to Illinois Masonic Medical Center later yesterday afternoon in serious condition with a fractured leg and blood oozing from his mouth after being struck by a car while he rode in the bike lane on Lawrence Avenue, according to The Center Square Journal.  The collision occurred at around 5:00 p.m.  The cyclist, Ivan Villegas, was riding eastbound along Lawrence Avenue at the intersection with Washtenaw with he was struck by a southbound car, according to the Journal.  A friend of the bicyclist who saw the incident said that it appeared that the driver of the car just did not see his friend riding through the intersection.

North and south traffic traveling on Washtenaw at Lawrence is controlled by stop signs.  Neither a traffic light nor stop signs control east/west traffic on Lawrence at the intersection.  Evidently, the driver proceeded through the southbound stop sign, failing to yield the right of way to Mr. Villegas.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Illinois Court Rules That Bicyclists & Motorists May Sue Municipalities For Injuries Caused By Negligent Road Repairs

A decision handed down recently by the Illinois Appellate Court may help bicyclists bring suits against municipalities for injuries suffered due to poorly maintained roads.  On August 29th, the Third District Court of Appeals issued its decision in Robinson v. Washington Township.  The decision allowed a case to go forward alleging that Washington Township may be sued for injuries sustained because of its failure to properly fill potholes.

The case arose from a 2008 incident in which a motor vehicle being driven south on Stony Island Road in Washington Township hit a pothole causing the driver to lose control and flip over.  A child riding in the vehicle was injured, giving rise to the litigation.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendant Township started repair of the road but did a lousy job leaving the street with "potholes, pits and uneven surfaces."  It was this hazardous condition that caused the crash which injured the boy.  Soon after the lawsuit was filed the Township moved for dismissal citing Section 2-201 of the Illinois Tort Immunity Act which protects governmental entities from liability arising from an act of "discretion" or the "determination of policy."  The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the lawsuit on this ground.  

Generally, a discretionary act involves "the exercise of personal judgment in deciding whether to perform a certain act or in what manner the act should be conducted." Robinson.  The appellate court disagreed with the lower court's finding, allowing the case to continue.  The Court found that once the Township exercised its discretion and decided to go ahead and fix the street, the act of conducting the repairs was "ministerial."  As such the Township had to act with reasonable care in fixing the street or risk liability if its negligent repair work caused injury.  The Court stated that
A public entity or municipal corporation exercises discretion when it selects and adopts a plan in the making of public improvements.  However, once the public entity is carrying out the plan, it acts ministerially and is bound to see that the work is done in a reasonably safe and skillful manner.  A municipality's act of repair is generally considered a ministerial act for which it may be liable if negligently performed. (emphasis added).
In Robinson, the lawsuit alleged that after the Township did the repair work it failed to remove debris, neglected to cover potholes and "left an uneven pavement surface."  This negligence, the suit alleged, caused the crash and the minor plaintiff's injuries.  The Court held that these allegations, if proved, were actionable.

Though the Robinson decision arose from a single motor vehicle crash, the implications for Illinois bicyclists from the Court's ruling may be quite significant.  Uneven pavement, potholes and roadway debris pose a degree of danger to bicyclists that is greater than for motorists.  It most instances, a four wheeled motor vehicle will simply thump over uneven pavement, its heavy suspension safely absorbing the hazard. Faced with the same road defect, a thin wheeled bicycle may be sent careening, tossing the rider into danger.  With the Court's holding in Robinson a bicyclist may bring a lawsuit against a municipality where its negligent repair work caused a roadway hazard that resulted in injury.

But...

There are two important limiting factors that bicyclists and their attorneys should keep in mind:  First, attaching liability to a local governmental entity for its negligent road repair work will only be possible where the work and subsequence crash occurred on a part of the roadway specifically designated for bicycle use.  The Illinois Supreme Court's infamous holding in Boub v. Township of Wayne creates a hurdle for bicyclists that need not be overcome by motorists when attempting to sue a municipality.  The Boub Court held that bicyclists are permitted but not intended users of Illinois roads.  Unless the road defect is in a bike lane, or other bike specific area, the injured rider may not bring his or her suit.  (Click here to read more about Boub.)  Secondly, the appellate court's ruling in Robinson merely allowed the injured child's suit to proceed to the discovery, or fact finding stage.  The Court's decision did not equate to victory and compensation for the plaintiff.  Based on the evidence discovered as litigation moves forward, the injured boy's family may still face dismissal of his case.  That is indeed what happened in a similar case, Wrobel v. City of Chicago.  In that matter, the plaintiff was injured when another driver's vehicle careened out of control after striking a pothole that had been shoddily repaired by city workers.  The City also brought a motion to dismiss the case under Section 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act.  However, its motion was brought at the end of the discovery process, after evidence had been collected by both sides.  That evidence showed that city workers actually applied a great deal of complex decision making in how it went about repairing the pothole in question.  In light of that evidence, the appellate court held that the alleged act of negligence arose from the exercise of discretion and was not merely ministerial.  Therefore, the City was immune from liability.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

U.S. Retailer Announces Recall of 68,000 Bicycles

Big box retailer, Meijer, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced the recall of some 68,000 bicycles sold between March and August throughout the midwest.  The recall arises from what seems to be poor assembly of the bicycles' pedals on-site at Meijer stores by an outside company, Serv-U-Success.  Meijer has received "29 reports of pedals detaching or coming loose during use," with 16 reports of injuries, according to the Commission.  The recall applies to various models of Huffy, Iron Horse, Mongoose, Northwoods, Pacific, Razor and Schwinn bicycles.  Click here to view all of the models affected.

Owners of the bikes should stop using them immediately and return them to a Meijer store for a replacement bike or full refund.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chicago Sun Times Completes Major Analysis Of Dangers Faced By Chicago Bicyclists

The Chicago Sun Times today revealed the first part of a three part series: Mean Streets - Dangers Biking and Walking In Chicago.  I have posted the entire story below.  The article does a nice job analyzing the risks faced by Chicago bicyclists without hurling blame at cyclists or drivers.  Instead, the paper gathered numbers demonstrating where crashes occur and thoughtfully considered possible causes.  This is the kind of journalism that can foster thoughtful discussion and meaningful planning, devoid of the sort of unhelpful vitriol seen too often in the press.

My client, Cassandra Hornbuckle, graciously agreed to be interviewed at her accident site for the article.  It was not easy for her to relive the crash and I applaud her courage.

Two-wheel trouble: Bike crashes in city up 38% over the past decade

Leah Jones doesn’t know what she could have done differently.

The social-media marketer, then 33 and living in Edgewater, had been riding her rebuilt 1963 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bike south down Halsted Street on a gorgeous summer day nearly two years ago en route to pick up her paycheck in the West Loop.

Around noon on Sept. 10, 2010, she reached Halsted and Chicago Avenue — one of the most crash-prone intersections for cyclists in Chicago — and says she started pedaling through on a green light.

“It all squeezes into this intersection where there’s a ton of potholes and a really short yellow,” she says. “Even if you leave on a green, it could be really hard to get through the intersection before it goes red.”

Jones isn’t sure if the light on Halsted went from green to yellow to red while she tried to cross Chicago Avenue’s six lanes of traffic, a trip that was cut short when a woman driving an SUV east on Chicago crashed into her.

“She hit me full on,” recalls Jones, now 35. “Her bumper went into my thigh.”
Jones ended up on the pavement with a broken left ankle and a sprained left wrist. She is one of the more than 1,000 people to suffer “incapacitating” injuries since 2005 while biking in Chicago, according to state transportation department data analyzed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Another 43 have died in bike crashes citywide in that time, including seven last year, records show.
In all, the number of bike crashes reported to the Chicago Police Department rose by 38 percent between 2001 and 2011 — a reflection of the growing number of cyclists in Chicago.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.2 percent of Chicago commuters biked to work in 2009, up from a half-percent a decade earlier. The percentage of Chicagoans who take regular bike trips is probably actually two to four times higher than that because the census doesn’t count trips for recreation, shopping and other non-commuting purposes, according to John Pucher, a planning professor and transportation researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Studies show the number of cyclists on Chicago streets is sure to grow, given Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to invest an estimated $28 million on 100 miles of new protected and buffered bike lanes — lanes separated from moving cars by posts or pavement markings — by the end of 2015.
Also, a multimillion-dollar city bike-sharing program is set to debut next spring, making 3,000 bikes available for rental at 300 stations.
In Chicago — home to six-way intersections, pothole-forming winters and legendary rush hours — there already is plenty of animosity between bicyclists and drivers. Some drivers see cyclists as redlight-running daredevils, while some cyclists see motorists as oblivious to their existence.
Drivers also complain that the new bike lanes eat up space for cars, making traffic worse.
Gabe Klein, who as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation is Emanuel’s top transportation official, disputes that, saying tests have shown that the 12 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes installed since Emanuel took office aren’t delaying rush-hour trips.
“It’s important not to focus on these as bike-lane projects. They are safety projects,” says Klein. “If we do this well, automobiles will be able to move better.
“There’s some streets where . . . you need to segregate the bikes, the pedestrians, the buses and the cars. It makes a lot of sense to segregate users, and the operational efficiencies you get out of that are dramatic — and it’s much safer.”
Despite Klein’s assurances, even some bike advocates are questioning parts of Emanuel’s approach.
Most agree that the 33.5 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes that the mayor plans to have in place by the end of this year will make biking safer. But some say City Hall is failing to make simpler, lower-cost safety improvements — especially at crash-prone bike intersections.
Halsted and Chicago appears to be one of those. Between 2005 and 2010 — the most recent year for which intersection-by-intersection crash data is available — it saw 17 crashes, ranking it among the top 20 most crash-prone intersections citywide. It also ranked in the top 20 in terms of intersections with the most wrecks that left cyclists with incapacitating or fatal injuries, among them Jones’ 2010 crash.
Steven Vance — a former Chicago Department of Transportation Bicycle Program worker who co-writes the biking and pedestrian blog Grid Chicago — agrees with Jones’ assessment that fixing the pavement in parts of the Halsted-Chicago intersection would improve safety. (Since a Sun-Times reporter visited the intersection with Jones, some pothole filling has been done.)
Extending the yellow light beyond its current three seconds also might help, he says.
“I agree that the pavement conditions here are atrocious” at Halsted and Chicago, Vance says, adding that yellow-light timing issues plague other big intersections as well.
“Many intersections’ timing is such that you enter on green, are there for the entire yellow phase, there for the red phase, and are still there during the cross direction’s green phase. This is not right,” Vance says. “Each intersection should be looked at individually, and consider the slowest users — people walking and biking — in determining an appropriate phase length.”
There’s another problem: cyclists who don’t stop at red lights and surprise drivers who aren’t expecting them.
“People get impatient at three-way intersections and at complex intersections, and they try to outsmart traffic, to their own peril,” says Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation professor at DePaul University. “Bicyclists sometimes act as pedestrians and sometimes like motor vehicles, so there could be a sense of chaos at those intersections.”
Bike crashes have become so common in Chicago that there are personal-injury lawyers who specialize in them. Most of those crashes happen at intersections or involve “doorings” — instances where cyclists collide with doors opened by drivers who have parked in parallel-parking spots.

One of those lawyers, Brendan Kevenides, is working on eight cycling-related cases, six that happened at intersections, plus two doorings. He says all of the intersection-related cases “arose from the motorist allegedly not seeing the bicyclist.”
Jim Freeman, an attorney and bicycle mechanic who won an out-of-court financial settlement for Jones, says about a third of his cases involve doorings and another third involve what he calls “left crosses,” in which an oncoming car makes a left turn into a cyclist’s path. “Most, but not all, of those cases are intersection-related,” he says.
Told of the complaints about Halsted and Chicago, city transportation officials say that the yellow lights there — as well as all others in the city — are set according to federal standards based on the speed limit and that changing them would open up the city to lawsuits in the event of crashes.
Still, the standards “are time-tested recommendations developed over many, many years by many committees, so sometimes they’re not quite up to date in terms of how cities are changing quickly, especially with bikes,” says Luann Hamilton, a CDOT deputy commissioner.
Halsted and Chicago, which is at the top of a viaduct, is slated to be rebuilt within the next few years as federal funds become available, Hamilton says.
City officials say cyclists should call 311 if they see dangerous conditions on a bike path so they can assess whether work needs to be done.

Many of the crash-prone intersections for bikes are on Milwaukee Avenue, which runs through neighborhoods with relatively high concentrations of bike commuters.

Milwaukee, Ogden and Chicago is the most crash-prone, with 38 crashes between 2005 and 2010. It’s the area where a pedestrian, Eric Kerestes, 30, was killed by a speeding cab while waiting for the bus on Aug. 14.

Cassandra Hornbuckle, a 25-year-old salon desk manager, knows the intersection well. Last summer, she was riding her Schwinn Hollywood to work southeast on Milwaukee at 8 a.m. when a pickup truck driver turning left onto Ogden didn’t see her. The crash left Hornbuckle in the hospital for two days with an injured spleen and a sprained wrist. She later hired Kevenides and won an out-of-court settlement.

On a recent visit to the intersection, Hornbuckle pointed out that parts of it need repaving but that its inherent dangers are hard to fix: several lanes of traffic combined with a steady stream of cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians and bikes.

“Drivers hate bikers, and bikers hate drivers,” she says. “Everybody wants their space, but there’s not enough space for everyone. And I don’t know what the solution is.”

CDOT is taking steps to give cyclists on the North Side and Northwest Side more routes to the Loop. By early next spring, the city plans to install protected bike lanes on Milwaukee between Kinzie and Chicago. Cyclists then will be able to link to Elston, where more protected bike lanes can take them further northwest.
By the end of 2020, the city plans to make Milwaukee one of a half-dozen “spoke routes” into downtown, adding more protected lanes and maybe also bike-only traffic signals.

Pucher, the Rutgers professor, says those new routes and the addition of bike-sharing might actually make cycling in the city less dangerous.

“As you have more and more people cycling, you have this notion called safety in numbers,” he says. “Motorists start to expect to see them crossing at intersections, and that generally makes it safer.”

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