Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist Killed This Morning, Driver Ticketed

A right turning driver struck and killed a bicyclist this morning in Chicago's Noble Square neighborhood, reports The Chicago Tribune. This is the second time this month that a motorist has killed a cyclist in the City.

This morning's death occurred at around 10 a.m. at the intersection of Ashland Avenue and Augusta Boulevard.  Truck driver, Danny Darling, and a male cyclist in his 50s were both traveling westbound on Augusta when they crashed as Mr. Darling allegedly attempted to make a right turn onto Ashland, according to the Tribune.  Chicago police ticketed the driver for making an improper right turn.  The cyclist, whose name has not yet been released, was pronounced dead about a half an hour after the crash.

On October 5th a Chicago bicyclist was killed by a truck on North Wells Street after swerving to avoid a car door opened suddenly into his path.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Driver Smashes Into Commuting Bicyclist In Skokie

There was a moment a shear terror just before being launched into the air by the front end of a Plymouth minivan.  Fear was swept away by pain, and the loud crunch of his helmet breaking against the hard ground.  Confusion flooded in.  What the hell just happened?

At around 8:30 a.m. on October 24th, a 33 year old lab technician was riding his bicycle to work on Lincoln Avenue in Skokie when he was hit by the front end of a 1999 Plymouth Voyager minivan.  The crash occurred mid-block, near 7501 North Lincoln, in front of Sigler's Auto Center.  The minivan driver had shot across four lanes of traffic, attempting to go from the driveway of an apartment complex into the parking lot of Sigler's, when he smashed into the left side of the cyclist, pedaling northbound in the curbside lane.  The impact threw him high into the air before planting him on his head and shoulder on the sidewalk that had been on his right.  He was transported from the scene via ambulance to Skokie Hospital.

The driver admitted that he failed to see the cyclist before attempting his maneuver and was ticketed by police at the scene.  My law firm is representing the injured cyclist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicago Cyclist Is Collateral Damage In Driver's Conquering Of Parking Space

A Chicago cyclist was riding along the right side of the road when a driver traveling in the same direction saw an open parking space along the curb.   He swerved to grab it, turning directly into the bicyclist's path.  Alert, the cyclist grabbed his brakes and avoided a terrible collision with the darting driver's car.

What should have been moment of personal victory for the biker turned into a calamity.  To avoid impact the cyclist had to squeeze his brakes hard.  The sudden stop pitched him over his handlebars and onto the hard tarmac which chewed up his face and fractured his arm.  Police arrived at the scene only to add insult to his injuries, ticketing him for speeding.

The incident occurred before 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 13th along the 1800 block of North Clybourn Avenue.  The 28 year old male bicyclist was riding southbound along the right side of road.  The street was wet but it had stopped raining.  An experienced city cyclist he was not riding fast.  As he approached a 2007 Mazda also traveling south on Clybourn the vehicle suddenly darted into his path in an effort to capture a parking spot along the right curb.  About a bike length away when the driver swerved into his path without signaling, the cyclist squeezed his brakes and flew forward into the street landing on his right arm and face.  After finishing his parking maneuver the driver called 911.

Emergency medical personnel arrived quickly.  The bicyclist was already in the ambulance when he saw the driver speaking with police.  An officer then spoke with him and told him he had concluded that the crash was due to his failure to properly deploy his bike brakes, accusing him of "user error."  He was ticketed for riding too fast, apparently based only upon the driver's description of events.  At the hospital, he was diagnosed with a fractured radius and received sutures to his forehead.

The bicyclist has retained my law firm to represent him.  We will fight the traffic citation as meritless.  The cyclist was not riding too fast.  If he was he would not have been able to avoid impact with the vehicle like he did.  Also, if the driver intends to testify that he saw him riding fast, he may indict himself for swerving carelessly even though he was aware of the cyclist's presence.  We will also pursue a personal injury case against the driver for failing to use his turn signal and for blindly swerving into the bicyclist's path.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Settlement Reached In Bicyclist's Case Against Driver Who Claimed Sun Blinded Him

The driver of an SUV, who claimed that the rising sun prevented him from seeing a bicyclist, has agreed to resolution of a claim brought by my law firm on the cyclist's behalf.  The settlement will compensate the bicyclist for his injuries and enable him to have his custom bicycle rebuilt.

At around 6:30 a.m. on August 7th the male bicyclist was riding west bound on Howard Street on his way to work.  The driver was traveling east bound on the same road when they both entered the intersection with Dodge Avenue in Evanston.  The cyclist should have been easily seen by the driver as they both traveled through the middle of the intersection.  However, the driver of the 2004 Chevy Blazer claims that the morning sun partially blinded him as he began to turn left onto north bound Dodge.  When he did he crashed hard into the left side of the bicyclist.  The impact was so heavy that the rider's left hip left an imprint in the middle of the SUV's front grill.  Unable to walk following the crash, the cyclist was taken to Resurrection St. Francis Hospital later than morning.

The weight of the impact also demolished the man's brand new, custom built Rivendell bicycle, just over a week old.  The bike has been assessed as a total loss, it's steel frame and many of its components badly damaged.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chicago Bicycle Suffers Serious Leg Injury After Dooring

As the bicyclist lay in the street he looked down at his limb and saw a huge bloody curtain of skin and muscle drawn back revealing the two large bones of his lower right leg.  It seemed as if a shaky surgeon cut a large slab from the side of his leg below the knee.  The instrument of this carnage, however, was a car door.

At around 4:00 p.m. on July 10th, a 34 year old male cyclist was doored on his way home from work on North Lincoln Avenue, just north of West Webster Avenue, in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. He was pedaling at a leisurely pace in Lincoln Avenue's dedicated bicycle lane when the driver of a 2002 Mitsubishi parked along the curb carelessly open her door just as the cyclist was riding by.  The bottom of the door sliced open the man's leg as he passed and caused him to crash hard to the street.  Thankfully, he avoided being hit by passing vehicles.  The wound to his leg was very serious however.  He was rushed via ambulance to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center where he underwent surgery that evening.

After extensive treatment, the bicyclist retains an ugly scar on his lower leg and suffers from numbness that radiates into his right foot.  He has recovered full use of the leg, however.

My law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chicago Bicyclists Gather To Remember Cyclist Killed In Dooring Incident

Chicago cyclists gathered under a gray, somber sky this morning in Old Town to honor and remember Neill Townsend, a bicyclist killed on North Wells Street two weeks ago.  Several members of Neill's family, his friends and many others that never knew him stood in silence in a light drizzle to gaze at a ghost bike placed at the site in his memory. Speakers at the the memorial appealed to those in attendance, and, via members of the media, to the many thousands not in attendance, to never allow deaths like Neill's happen again.  He was killed riding to work in the dedicated bicycle lane near Wells and West Oak Street when a semi tractor trailer ran him down after Neill swerved to avoid a car door carelessly opened into his path by a motorist parked along the curb.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Now Available In Illinois: Bicycle Insurance

Bicycles are fun, healthy and environmentally neutral.  They are also cheap transportation, particularly in the city where relatively short distances make the use of bicycles to run errands, get to work and drop off the kids very doable.  More often these days it seems that lots of people are forgoing the considerable costs of car ownership and using their bikes, along with public transportation and their own feet, to get around.  Great.  But, one risk that comes with not owning a car is not having car insurance.  If you are injured by a motorist while riding your bike your own auto insurance may provide you with some important protection.  It may protect you if the driver either lacks insurance or has insufficient insurance coverage.  If you do not have health insurance, the medical payment provision of your auto policy may help cover your treatment costs.  Without auto insurance, the bicyclist is more vulnerable to financial calamity should he or she require medical care after being injured by a motorist.

Increasingly, however, there are options out there for the non car owning bicyclist.  One option that has been around for a while is non-owners car insurance.  I have written about that before and I recommend looking into it.  Recently, I became aware of another option available to Illinois cyclists:  Bicycle insurance.  This year one insurance company, Markel American, began offering these policies to cyclists in our state.  The company's website offers the means to get a detailed insurance quote.  Curious, I investigated. What I found was that for $310 a year, $25.83 a month, I could receive $25,000 in "bicycle liability" and "vehicle contact protection." Markel defines bicycle liability coverage as "protection for bodily injury or property damage" for which the insured cyclist becomes liable to another person such as a pedestrian, another bicyclist, or motorist.  Vehicle contact protection is coverage to benefit the bicyclist should he or she be injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.  That $310 price also includes $10,000 in medical payments coverage defined by Markel as coverage providing "protection for the reasonable charges for necessary medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, ambulance, hospital and professional nursing services and funeral service expenses incurred within one year form the date of an accident causing bodily injury to an insured while using an insured bicycle."  Generally, the insured may receive compensation under a medical payments provision of an insurance policy regardless of who was at fault for causing his or her injuries.  The quote I received also provided some nice benefits should the insured bicycle become damaged in a crash.

What Markel is offering sounds good.  However, whether it really is good will of course depend upon how it works in action.  Will the company honor its promise to a bicyclist that purchases one of its bicycle insurance policies?  I really do not know anything about Markel nor, to the best of my recollection, have I dealt with them on any claim or case I have worked on over the past 16 or so years.  Please do not accept anything I have written here as an endorsement of Markel or any service or policy it provides.  I encourage readers to investigate for themselves whether purchasing one of its bicycle insurance policies makes sense for them.  I invite anyone who does purchase a policy to comment on this blog about their experience, whether good or bad.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Teachable Moment Arises From Death Of Chicago Bicyclist

That could have been me.

That sickening current of feeling has been lingering through Chicago's bicycling community since the tragic death of 32 year old bicyclist Neill Townsend on Friday.  Neil was riding southbound in a dedicated bike lane on North Wells Street in Old Town when the driver of a parallel parked car opened his door into Neil's path.  The door suddenly appearing in front of him, Neill apparently swerved left into the path of the semi truck which ran him over and killed him.  He was an attorney, avid city cyclist and lover of soccer.  (Click here to read more from The Chicago Tribune's excellent coverage of this incident.)

City cyclists know that it is common for drivers of parked cars to carelessly open their doors into the path of bicyclists riding along the ride side of the roadway.  Injuries from this type of incident are plentiful in Chicago.  In my bicycle law practice dooring incidents account for roughly half of all of the cases in which I have represented bicyclists over the years.  This year I represented a bicyclist doored in April who easily could have ended up like Neil.  He was riding southbound on North Halsted Street in a dedicated bicycle lane in Lakeview when the driver of a parked car opened her door into his path.  An experienced bicycle delivery rider, the cyclist swerved to the left where he was hit by  a passing car and thrown off of his bike.  He was lucky not to have been killed, walking away with significant but not life altering injuries.  Had the vehicle to his left been a large truck or bus, he would have faired much worse.  In October, 2010 a bicyclist was riding on North Clark Street in Lincoln Park when the driver of parked vehicle opened his door into the cyclist's path.  The rider was thrown to the left where the No. 36 CTA Broadway bus ran him over.  That cyclist suffered "many broken bones."

Dooring incidents are easy to prevent.  Motorists already have the tools necessary to avoid them entirely:  their eyes and their vehicles' side view mirrors.  But dooring incident keep happening day after day. This weekend Chicago's WBEZ published a map demonstrating where and how many doorings occurred in Chicago from 2009 to September 7, 2012.  There have been 577 incidents reported.

There are things that bicyclists can do to reduce their chances of getting doored.  One important thing involves lane positioning. Illinois bicyclist are not required to ride in the dooring zone, that few feet to the left of parallel parked cars.  The rules of the road require bicyclists to ride "as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb." 625 ILCS 5/11-1505 (emphasis added).  Many bicyclists understandably interpret this law to require them to hug the right side of the street, even if doing so means riding very close to parked cars.  The statute, however, requires no such thing as demonstrated by the words I have highlighted, "practicable and safe." Simply put, it is neither practicable nor safe to ride in the dooring zone as Neil's death tragically highlights.  Therefore, bicyclists need not, and should  not, ride too closely to parked cars.  If riding in a dedicated bike lane, ride on its outer left edge.  If the street is narrow and lacks a bike lane, you may ride in and with motor vehicle traffic.  You may "take the lane," so to speak.  Bicyclists in Illinois have just as much right to do so as do cars and trucks.

Of course taking the lane is just not going to be something every bicyclist feels comfortable doing.  In fairness, doing so requires a certain amount of aggressiveness that not everyone has.  Having an impatient motorist behind you laying on his or her horn while you take the lane may prompt some cyclists to throw in the towel entirely. Really, who wants to deal with that kind of constant stress and hassle while out running errands or riding to work.  The city bares significant responsibility to its cycling community to create an infrastructure that reduces the chances of a bicyclist getting doored. Chicago is doing that, creating many new bicycle lanes positioned to the right of parked cars with a buffer zone to the cyclist's left that allows room for a car door to open outside the path of a passing rider.  The protected bike lane on Kinzie Avenue is a good example of this.  Unfortunately, these changes to our infrastructure are happening too slowly.  Had a protected bike lane been in place along Wells Street last Friday Neill Townsend would still be with us today.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist Killed This Morning In Old Town

Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune
Update: 2:00 p.m.:  The Chicago Tribune reports that the bicyclist was a 32 year old male who was forced to swerve out of the way of a car door that had opened suddenly when he was crushed by the semi.  The driver that opened the door was ticketed.  Both the state and city have laws in place that require motorists to look for oncoming vehicles, including bicycles, before opening a door into the roadway.  The name of the bicyclist has not yet been released.

A male Chicago bicyclist was killed this morning by the driver of a semi truck in front of Walter Payton High School in the City's Old Town neighborhood, according to The Chicago Tribune.  The cyclist was pinned under the wheel of the heavy vehicle just before 9:00 a.m., according to The Chicago Sun-Times.  As of 9:45, rescue crews were still trying to remove the bicyclist's body from under the vehicle.

The deadly collision occurred as the bicyclist was riding southbound on North Wells Street, just north of West Oak Street.  That portion of Wells has a dedicated bike lane.  Photographs of the scene from The Tribune and the Sun-Times show the victim's bicycle at rest in the bike lane with the red semi stopped close by.  The name and age of the victim has not been reported.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist Critically Injured In Hit & Run Remains In Hospital

A few minutes ago I spoke with a friend of the 52 year old bicyclist who was critically injured by a hit and run driver on September 24th. Having read yesterday's blog post about the incident, the man, Joe, wanted to let readers of this blog know that his friend remains in the hospital recovering from his injuries.  On September 25th, an anonymous comment was left on this blog stating that the cyclist had "apparently died."  Thankfully, that seems not to be the case.

The bicyclist still has a long road toward recovery, Joe said.  He sustained a serious head injury and has endured at least 8 hours of brain surgery.  After the collision the injured man's condition was touch and go to the point that a priest was brought to his hospital bed to administer Last Rites.

Police are still looking for the driver.  Click here to read more about this incident.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicago Police Release Description Of Driver, Photo Of Vehicle That Critically Injured Bicyclist

Chicago police are looking for the driver of the vehicle pictured below who allegedly struck and seriously injured a bicyclist before fleeing the scene on September 24th, according to NBCChicago.com

Chicago Police Department
The incident occurred at around 4:00 p.m. in the 4100 block of West School Street.  The impact reportedly threw the 52 year old cyclist up onto the windshield of the vehicle.  The bicyclist was in critical condition after the collision though no updates on his present condition have been reported.  Soon after I posted about this event on September 25th an Anonymous person left a comment on this blog that the cyclist had "apparently died."  I have been unable to confirm that.

The CPD believes that the vehicle is a silver Toyota RAV4, of 1998-2000 vintage.  "The driver is described as a male Hispanic about 29-30 years old standing about 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-19 with a forearm tattoo wearing a black or gray graphic T-shirt," according to NBCChicago.com.

If you have any information please contact the CPD at 312.745.4521.

Monday, October 1, 2012

New iPhone App Allows Chicago Cyclists To Report Road Hazards

There is a new must have iPhone app for Chicago bicyclists and it comes from one of the unlikeliest of sources. . . the office of 47th Ward Alderman, Ameya Pawar.  This well designed and visually appealing application allows any citizen with an iPhone (sorry Android users) to snap a photo of a problem, such as a pothole or debris in the road, and have it reported instantaneously, via GPS tracking, to the relevant city agency and the area alderman.  The sender also receives a response and can follow the City's progress addressing the complaint.

It turns out that Ald. Pawar is quite the techy.  According to information on the app itself, Chicago Works was developed by 2pensmedia and Pawar, and came out while he was running for alderman.  "After the election, 2pensmedia and Ameya worked with the Mayor's office and fellow alderman to develop a more robust app that plugs into the Open 311 framework."

I have just started playing around with the free app and so far am mightily impressed.  It is simple as can be to use and the user is able to view not just his/her report but others made around the city within seconds of their submission.  A technological innovation like this from a city alderman's office is unexpected but one must give credit where it is due:  This is a great idea.  Of course, the hard part will fall to the various city agencies to actually act on reports made via the app.  Only the coming months will tell if the city is able to step up in this regard.

This could be a very useful tool for city cyclists who often find themselves beating their heads against a wall to get the city to address roadway hazards like potholes.  Calling 311 to report a pothole can just be a pain.  Sending a photo of a road hazard via Tweeter is akin to simply shouting out of an open window, and just about as effective.  Hopefully, Chicago Works 2.0 will prove an easy and effect means for keeping our streets in better shape.

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