Thursday, November 26, 2009

Learn To Ride In Traffic Without The Traffic

What if it were possible to teach children how to ride their bicycles in heavy traffic without them having to. . . well, ride in traffic? Honda has come up with a way. It may be worthwhile for school districts and local government to consider investing in this simulator.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CTA Bus Strikes and Critically Injures Chicago Bicyclist

A Chicago bicyclist was struck by a CTA bus yesterday during evening rush hour. The website,, reported that, "The man was struck by a westbound No. 76 Diversey bus at the intersection of Lincoln and Diversey avenues." The website stated that though Chicago Fire Department officials said the bicyclist was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in "serious-to-critical condition," a CTA spokesperson described his injuries as "minor." Sun-Times Media also reported the story online.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Join The Discussion On Bicycle Parking In Chicago

Over the past few years the issue of bicycle parking has become a friction point between Chicago bicyclists and the City. Simply put; there isn't enough. There seems to be a two-fold cause of this problem: First, the number of bicycle commuters has risen significantly of late. This means more folks who need to lock their bikes for prolonged periods. Secondly, the City has been replacing old school parking meters with electronic pay-and-display boxes. While some of the old meters have been left as a courtesy to bicyclists, many have disappeared and have not been replaced with bike racks. What we now have is a situation of increased demand being met by a decreased supply of fixtures to which a bike can be locked. Problem.

Over at The Chainlink John Greenfield, a former Active Transportation Alliance employee and bike parking manager for Chicago Department of Transportation’s Bike Program, has posted a helpful update on how the City is addressing this issue:

The City [has adopted] a policy of leaving 1/6 of the parking meters in place on blocks without bike racks in business districts. In some cases where there is high bike parking demand, meters are retained even if there are existing racks. The City removes the coin mechanisms of the retained meters and labels them so that bicyclists know that they have been left for their convenience.

In addition, CDOT is currently installing additional bike racks on some blocks where meters were removed to help mitigate the loss of bike parking in areas with high bike traffic, e.g. Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.

In the future, CDOT may retrofit the retained meters. The meters may have their heads removed and have rings bolted on to the poles to create “post-and-ring” bike racks. This would make it easier to park two bikes on a meter.

Mr. Greenfield notes that an article on this subject will appear in a bicycle magazine and he would like to include quotes from local bicyclists. To add your comment to his discussion thread click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Way Bike Thieves Use Craigslist

I love tinkering with my bike. I can't keep my hands off the thing. I upgrade and replace components at a rate that keeps my wife in near constant eye roll mode. Therefore, I of course love Craigslist. I have bought and sold parts on the website quite often and have always (knock on wood) had a good experience. However, there are some regular sellers that use the website that seem a bit shady. Why do some of these folks consistently have so many used bike parts? Right, take a guess.

I was reading the One Less Car blog recently when I came across a post about a scam that utilizes Craigslist. Apparently, thieves steal your bike, or a part of your bike, wait for you to go to Craigslist looking for it, then basically try to sell it back to you claiming to be good Samaritans. Read the full post by clicking here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Personal Jurisdiction Over A Foreign Bicycle Component Part Manufacturer

Bicycle components can and do fail, sometimes causing serious injury to the cyclist. Imagine flying down technical single track and having your stem break. Try to wrap your brain around what it would be like to have your steering tube fail while in a packed peloton. How horrifying to attempt to stop your fixed gear bike in city traffic and your chain breaks. When incidents like these occur causing serious injury a product liability lawsuit may be filed against the manufacturer of the failed component. Such lawsuits offer challenges aplenty to even the most experienced personal injury lawyer. One significant challenge is establishing personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer in Illinois.

Many, if not most, bicycle parts are manufactured overseas, often in Taiwan, China and Japan. That not necessarily a bad thing for the consumer. By my observation a lot of high quality parts are made in Asia, notably Taiwan and Japan. However, for the attorney attempting to haul one of these manufacturers into an Illinois courtroom, a defendant with such a far flung home base may present a challenge. One cannot simply decide to sue someone, whether an individual or corporation, in any old place. There must be some connection between the person or entity being sued and the place where the lawsuit is filed. It is the burden of the person filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff, to establish that the court where the suit is filed has personal jurisdiction over the defendant manufacturer. Without personal jurisdiction a court has no power to render a judgment against the putative defendant. A corporation need not have its headquarters in the state in order to be hauled into court here. A foreign corporation may submit to the jurisdiction of Illinois courts by simply doing some business in the state. 735 ILCS 5/2-209. The corporate defendant must have minimum contacts with the state to be sued here. In March, 2009 the Illinois Appellate Court had the opportunity to determine whether an Illinois trial court had personal jurisdiction over a bicycle component part manufacturer located in Taiwan. In Dickie v. Cannondale Corporation, et. al., 388 Ill.App.3d 903 (1st Dist. 2009), the court found that personal jurisdiction had not been established. The plaintiff in that case had been riding his cyclocross bike with "CODA" clipless pedals, a product of Cannondale Corporation, that were manufactured by Wellgo Corporation when he crashed and was thrown forward over the handlebars. He allegedly suffered injuies to this left hip and leg which twisted because his left foot did not disengage from the pedal. He sued Wellgo in Illinois for negligence in the way it designed and manufactured the pedals. Wellgo moved to have the claim against it dismissed on the basis that it had no minimum contacts with Illinois and that the court, therefore, had no jurisdiction over the corporation. In support of its motion to dismiss, Wellgo submitted an affidavit from its sales director which stated that:

Wellgo is in the business of designing and manufacturing bicycle pedals, including the clipless pedals in the case at bar. Wellgo's pedals are manufactured at a Wellgo facility in Taiching, Taiwan. After being manufactured, the pedals are sold and shipped to Cash Crest Co., and Wellgo has no further involvement with the distribution of the product. . . Wellgo is not licensed, authorized or registered to do business in any state of the United States. It further states that Wellgo, in Illinois, has never sold or shipped products, executed a contract, provided services, paid taxes, possessed assets, maintained a telephone or fax number, employed any individuals, attended trade shows or meetings, advertised, or otherwise solicited business in Illinois. 388 Ill.App.3d at 904-5.

In response, the plaintiff argued "that personal jurisdiction existed over Wellgo under a 'stream of commerce theory'." 388 Ill.App.3d at 905. He asserted that though Wellgo's entire operation was located outside of the United States, it was well "aware that Cannondale was an American company that distributed its products throughout the United States," including Illinois. In other words, Wellgo must have known its products would be marketed and sold in Illinois, thereby establishing minimum contact with the state. The appellate court was unpersuaded by this argument. It noted that "no evidence shows that Wellgo was otherwise aware of specifically where and how Cannondale's products were marketed or sold. Wellgo sold the pedals to Cash Crest Co., a Taiwanese trading company, and from there had no control over or knowledge regarding the distribution of the pedals." Id. at 908. The court also noted that "Wellgo never shipped the subject pedals directly to a distributor in the United States. . . Wellgo has no presence in Illinois." Id. Wellgo's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction was, therefore, upheld.

What Illinois lawyers representing injured bicyclists may take away from Dickie is that in order to establish personal jurisdiction over a component part manufacturer, the corporation must have some contact with the state greater than simply releasing its product into the general marketplace. When no such minimum contact exists, however, there is another option. In Illinois, a component part supplier can be held liable for distribution of a dangerous product into the stream of commerce under negligence and strict product liability theories. (A seller may not be held liable under a strict product theory, however.) Lewis v. Lead Industries Ass'n, 342 Ill.App.3d 95 (1st Dist. 2003). It is not clear from reading the Dickie decision whether Cash Crest Co. was added as a defendant to the lawsuit. But it apparently had direct contact with Cannondale thereby perhaps establishing contact with Illinois, where Cannondale certainly does a great deal of business. In any event, an inability to bring a remotely located component part manufacturer into the case does not mean that all is lost.

Easton Bicycle Stem Recall

Yesterday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of Easton's EA30 threadless stems. The company has received at least one report of the stem cracking and failing causing a rider to lose control of his bike, according to the Commission. The stems are described as "black with white-and-gray graphics and feature a four-bolt stem face cap. 'EA30' is printed on the stem." If your bicycle has this stem contact Easton Sports for a free replacement.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two Blogs From Chicago Bicycle Messengers

It has become a bit of a cliche to pay homage to bicycle messengers. However, their influence on bicycling and even popular culture cannot be overstated. They have impacted film, fashion and cycling itself. They are the folks who ride every day in city streets all over the world fighting traffic, bad roads and weather to deliver the stuff business needs to survive. Some do it simply to earn an living. Some do it to experience of joy of riding daily. Many do it for both. To some the way they ride may seem reckless. But those with experience are usually damn good cyclists who ride the way they do based upon a fine tuned understanding of what traffic and pedestrians will do under given circumstances. Mistakes happen. However, by my observation these guys and gals usually know quite well how to get around quickly, efficiently and safely. I recently came across two interesting and informative blogs by Chicago based bicycle messengers, Dispatch 101 and Chicago Couriers Union. The former offers insight into daily messenger life, the good, the bad and the ugly. The later provides much helpful information and resources to messengers and would be messengers (including a bike law primer and the location of public bathrooms in the Loop).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Urban Cycling's Today Is So Yesterday

Speedy, aggressive cyclists zipping along city streets on fixed gear bicycles without brakes causing consternation among pedestrians and other roadway traffic is a scene that is sooo today. Well, yes. But it is also soooo 1895. A very interesting piece appeared in yesterday's New York Times about the beginnings of the long standing conflicts that exist between urban bicyclists and virtually everyone else trying to make their way around the big city. Check it out.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Headphones Are Legal But Not Smart

Yesterday, the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago based bicycle advocacy group, started an informal online discussion regarding the legality of riding a bicycle while wearing music headphones. While I do not wear headphones while cycling, I realized I was not quite sure myself what the law actually was. I knew it was illegal to wear them while operating a motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/12-610). I recalled that it was illegal to bike with headphones somewhere. But, what about here? As it turns out, neither the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code nor Chicago Ordinance prohibit wearing headphones while bicycling. (I do not know of any other local municipalities in the state that prohibit them either, though I have not searched every local ordinance.)

One might argue that if drivers are prohibited from wearing headphones, bicyclists are too. Afterall the Vehicle Code states that, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall. . . be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." (625 ILCS 5/1502) True enough. However, the state statute dealing with headphones (the law refers to them as "headset receivers") is quite specific. It states that, "No driver of a motor vehicle on the highways of this State shall wear headset receivers while driving." Under the law, a bicycle is not a motor vehicle. Therefore, the prohibition of headphone use does not apply to bicyclists.

So you may legally listen to your iPod while riding your bike in Chicago. The law says nothing about wearing a blindfold while cycling in the city either. Right; not a good idea. There are so many things the urban bicyclist must be attuned to while riding in the city: Trucks, cars, buses, potholes, pedestrians, lights, signs, little dogs, the weather, etc. I think it is crazy to diminish one of your senses while navigating a bicycle through this gauntlet of hazards and distractions. By plugging your ears and pouring music into your fully occupied brain while biking you are just asking to get into an accident. Just leave the iPod at home. Or, better yet, if you really must have music, sing while you ride. Maybe then the pedestrians with their little dogs will hear you coming.
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L.A. Physician Convicted In Road Rage Incident

A former emergency room physician now faces up to 10 years in prison after being found guilty for causing serious injury to two cyclists in Los Angeles in a road rage incident. The motorist was accused of speeding in front of the two then intentionally braking, causing the bicyclists to slam into the back of his car. He had apparently become enraged at the cyclists for "cutting him off." Read the full story here.

Hopefully, had this incident occurred in Chicago the state's attorney's office would have been just as aggressive as their L.A. counterpart in prosecuting this matter. It is important that a strong message be sent to motorists: Share the road, or face the consequences.
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