Every urban bicyclist has them, those occasional, quick moments of terror where nothing happens, but could have. Those times when you suddenly find yourself in an unlucky situation from which you escape only thanks to quick reflexes, a "sixth sense" or dumb luck. Recently, I was going through some old video on my GoPro camera and came across one such moment where had things gone just a little differently . . . well, I wouldn't be around to tell you about it.
I was riding to work traveling south on Milwaukee Avenue as I do every day when the break lights of a car parked along the curb caught my eye. A split second later, I saw the back up lights flash. The driver must have just parked. I'm sure I wondered if the driver was about to open his door. Listening to the audio I heard myself apply the brakes. Thankfully I did not swerve left. As I continued to watch I suddenly realized why. I also realized that, yeah, I was probably terrified when I saw what had been coming up from behind me. Check it out:
I do not remember this event, but I am guessing that I heard the semi coming up on me from behind. But I easily could have swerved, fearful that the driver of the red car was about to throw their door open into my path. Glad I didn't.
A similar incident occurred a few years ago on Wells Street in Old Town. Then, the bicyclist, a young attorney named Neill Townsend, wasn't so lucky. The door did swing open and he did swerve left right into the path of a large truck which ran him down. He died at the scene.
Milwaukee Avenue is one of the most bike traveled streets in the United States. Yet, according to the City of Chicago's own study, it is also one of the streets in Chicago most prone to bicycle crashes. Our law firm presently represents more than 160 injured bicyclists. I haven't counted but I can assure you that a lot of those crashes occurred on Milwaukee Avenue. That thoroughfare is popular among cyclists, particularly bike commuters, because it links Logan Square, Bucktown, Wicker Park, and River West to the Loop. Parts of Milwaukee Avenue have protected bicycle lanes, but perhaps it is time for a much larger swath to become more accommodating for cyclists, especially given the amount of bike traffic it sees during the morning and evening rushes. The City should also consider banning large trucks and buses from Milwaukee Avenue, at least from North Avenue to Kinzie.