Monday, March 18, 2019

Chicago Seeks To Clarify E-Bike Rules

A rider on an e-bike. (Abel Uribe/
Chicago Tribune)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced amendments to Chicago's municipal code clarifying where electric assist bicyclists may legally roam the City's streets.  In 2018 a statewide law went in affect creating a three class system for e-bikes but mostly left it to municipalities around Illinois to decide for themselves how to regulate use of the different bike classes.  The proposed Chicago ordinance attempts to address where the bikes falling under each class may be used.

Here are the highlights of the proposed ordinance:

  • Class 1 e-bikes (pedal assist under 20 mph and bike weighing less than 125 pounds), may travel in City bicycle lanes.  Class 2 and 3 bikes may not.
  • The rider of a class 1 e-bike "is permitted to pass on the right side of a slower-moving or standing vehicle or bicycle, but must exercise due care when doing so."  Riders of class 2 and 3 e-bikes are not permitted to do so.
  • Riders of class 2 and 3 e-bikes may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle but only under the same conditions as motor vehicle drivers as set forth in 9-36-020.
  • Class 2 and 3 e-bikes may not be ridden on any sidewalk.  Class 1 e-bikes may be ridden on sidewalks by persons under the age of 12.  Persons 12 and over may only ride class 1 e-bikes on sidewalks marked as bike paths, to access a bike share station or to access a roadway.
  • Except where otherwise stated, people riding e-bikes, particularly class 1 e-bikes, may use them anywhere, and in the same manner, as traditional bicycles.
The clarifications proposed in the new ordinance are welcome.  Many people in Chicago's bicycle community assumed that class 1 e-bikes were allowed to travel in bike lanes, but confirmation in the form of an ordinance is appreciated. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Video Shows Driver Fleeing From Hit and Run Bicycle Crash

Hit and run crashes are especially frustrating all around.  The horror of being hit by a motor vehicle is compounded by the insult of a driver speeding away while you are left laying in the street as if your life does not matter.  As an attorney who has represented far too many victims of hit and run crashes, it can be disheartening when the offender cannot be found.  We generally rely on the existence of good quality video or of a clear photograph of the vehicle, showing either the license plate number or identifying markings, to track the driver.  Eye witnesses can help too.

Back on February 25th, the Chicago Tribune featured one or our clients, Jonathan Rogers, in a piece by Mary Wisniewski about the increase in hit and run crashes in Chicago.  It referred to two sisters, Keyannah Wolf and Dontalisha Hodges, who saw him get hit by a car which then left the scene.  They gave chase to the driver that hit Jon while recording video.  It was thanks to these caring and responsible citizens and the video they took that we were able to trace the driver and file a lawsuit against him.  While the Tribune piece made reference to the video it did not include it.  Here it is:

The police cannot be everywhere.  Our firm is good at tracking down hit and run drivers but we need something, a license plate or distinguishing detail of the vehicle, to find the offender.  So if you see something, follow the example of the sisters Wolf and Hodges; pull out your phone and snap some photos, record video, and give it to the victim or the police.  If you're not sure what to do with it, contact us.  We will make sure it goes where it is needed.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Illinois E-Bike Laws

The new Illinois e-bike law regarding electric assist bicycles was clarified earlier this month when Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill outlining their use on roads and paths. The new law, however, leaves the door open for . . . [Click to continue reading.]

Monday, January 18, 2016

City of Chicago Fails In Attempt to Immunize Itself From Responsibility For Injuries Caused by Bike Lane Hazards

In a hearing last week in the Circuit Court of Cook County the City of Chicago sought to have all of the bicycle lanes installed throughout the City declared "recreational facilities."  The effect of this creative legal maneuver would have been to immunize the municipality for injuries to bicyclists caused by the City's failure to keep its bike lanes safe for riders.

The matter arose from a lawsuit filed against the City where a Chicago bicyclist was . . . [Read more.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Resolution of a Case That Highlights Car Door Danger

"Your client has a duty to pay attention to where she is going."  That was the response we received from an insurance company after its driver doored a woman whom we represented as she rode her bicycle on a residential road in Chicago last summer. The 39 year old business owner, wife and mom sustained serious injuries, racking up more than $37,000 in medical bills.  Upon receiving a dismissive letter from the driver's insurer, GEICO, we filed a lawsuit.  The case recently settled for . . . [Read more]

Hit & Run Driver Leaves License Plate Behind, Pays In the End

Here's a tip for any would-be hit and run drivers out there:  Make sure you do not leave your vehicle's license plate at the scene before you flee.  We will find you.

That's what happened after a husband and wife struck a Chicago bicyclist at the intersection of North Franklin Street and West Hubbard Street.  Recently, we made them pay, resolving the case for more than eleven times the amount of our client's medical bills.  It is very unusual for an Illinois personal injury case to . . . [Read more]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cook County Jury Finds For Injured Bicyclist Ticketed By Police

After deliberating for more than five and a half hours on Friday, a Cook County jury decided to compensate a male bicyclist injured in a 2011 collision with a SUV in Palos Heights.  Our firm represented the cyclist at the week long trial.

The case was a tough one and the verdict of $37,000 reflects the jury's finding that our client contributed significantly to cause the crash.  Police had ticketed the cyclist at the scene for causing the collision.  The defendant driver's insurance company had sent the cyclist a bill for the substantial damage done to his Lexus SUV.  No settlement offer was ever made by the defense.

The crash occurred at around 8:00 a.m. on May 21, 2011 at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and 131st Street at the northern edge of the Burr Oak Woods Forest Preserve.  The then 59 year old cyclist was riding his bike on the Tinley Creek Bike Path which winds through the preserve.  The defendant driver, a retired surgeon, and his wife were driving north on Harlem.  The bike path crosses Harlem a few feet south of 131st.  Here is a depiction of the intersection used at trial:

The cyclist approached Harlem from the east.  When he reached the crossing, marked with thick white diagonal lines, he saw that the light controlling cross traffic was red so he proceeded.  At the same time, the defendant was stopped in the left turn lane on Harlem waiting for the light to change so he could proceed west on 131st Street.  As the cyclist entered the crossing, the left turn arrow controlling the driver's lane turned green and he proceeded.  The bicyclist struck the left side front quarter panel of the vehicle and fell to the ground breaking his left wrist.  The break was bad, requiring surgery.

Our biggest challenge at trial was overcoming the defendant's assertion that our client knew the traffic signal was changing and attempted to speed across the intersection to beat the light.  The defendant's attorneys had two important pieces of evidence to support that position.  One, was the testimony of a witness, an emergency medical technician, who happened to be in an ambulance stopped at the intersection facing east on 131st Street at the time of the crash.  He testified that while his vehicle was stopped at a red light at 131st and Harlem he saw the man on the bike cross at what seemed to be a high rate of speed just before the collision.  The implication was that if the ambulance had a red light then so must have the cyclist coming from the opposite direction.  Secondly, the defendant argued that the extensive damage to the SUV and the severity of the bicyclist's injury suggested a relatively high speed collision; again, supporting the notion that the cyclist was trying to beat the light.

Honestly, we were worried.  It was based on the witness's observations that the responding police officer laid fault at the feet of our client.  Would a jury do the same?

The jury never heard that the cyclist was ticketed.  The citation was thrown out and generally the fact that one party or another received a traffic ticket is not admissible evidence at trial.  It is the province of the jury to determine fault based on the evidence, not that of a police officer making a snap decision based on someone's observations.  We were able to demonstrate that the witness was very unsure of what he saw and when he saw it.  Also, the law and evidence strongly supported our position that the driver failed to look before proceeding into the intersection.  The witness felt certain that his vehicle was stopped at a red light facing east on 131st Street when the collision occurred.  However, he could not say that the ambulance had quite reached the intersection when the cyclist first started across Harlem.  This allowed us to argue that our client entered the crossing when it was still legal for him to do so, but that he simply got caught in the change of lights.  During my closing argument I showed the jury a blow up of a portion of the Illinois Vehicle Code which instructs drivers how they must proceed when facing a light that has just turned green.  Section 11-306 requires that a motor vehicle facing a green arrow signal, "Shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection."  Certainly bicycles are "other traffic."  Since the point of impact was with the front side of the SUV, had the driver looked before proceeding the cyclist would have been visible to him just a couple of feet to his right.  Therefore, he either did not look, despite his insistence to the contrary, or he looked but did not see our client.  Either way, I argued that the defendant violated section 11-306 and was negligent.

The jury clearly had a hard time figuring this case out having spent so long deliberating.  In the end they reached a compromise verdict.  They felt that the driver was indeed negligent, but so was our client.  It is hard to see the result as unfair.  

Getting caught in the change of lights is a consistent problem for bicyclists.  When crossing a wide intersection -- Harlem at 131st is five lanes wide -- there is a good chance that you will get caught in the change of lights.  Bicyclists should be mindful of any crossing countdown, if there is one, before starting into an intersection.  Consider whether your light will remain green, or at least yellow, until you reach the other side.  On the other hand, drivers simply must look before proceeding.  The law, and common sense for that matter, makes it clear that a driver cannot simply charge forward on a green light.     

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