Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh Those Inconsiderate Bicyclists. . .

It turns out that motorists owe a great debt to those "inconsiderate" bicyclists. has posted a very interesting piece about the vital role cyclists played in the creation of modern traffic infrastructure.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Look Back At The Biggest Chicago Bicycling Stories of 2010

It's time for the obligatory end-of-the-year look back.  What were the top five happenings of the year in Chicago bicycling?

5.  Federal case made of road rage incident:  A lawsuit was filed in federal court alleging that Chicago police officers who responded to the scene of a SUV vs. bicycle road rage incident tried to protect the driver "because of his political connections and family influence."  The complaint also alleged that the driver, Matthew Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, was guilty of assault and battery, negligence and willful and wanton misconduct arising from the 2009 incident which took place near North Avenue and Segwick.  According to the complaint, Mr. Pritzker, "driving an SUV with a vanity plate of 'P'," tried to run the cyclist off the road before fleeing the scene.  Full story.

4.  Hotline created for bike crash victims:  Longtime leaders in Chicagoland bicycle advocacy, The Active Transportation Alliance created another helpful resource for the benefit of Chicago bicyclists, a hotline providing post-crash advice and guidance.  Bicyclists are among the most vulnerable users of our city's roads.  It's nice to know that someone with the resources of Active Trans has our back after a crash.  Learn more.

3.  Bike safety bill becomes law:  Declaring, "The road belongs to everyone," Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed tough new bicycling safety legislation into law on July 5th.  The law, which takes effect next week, strengthens Illinois' anti-buzzing law which prohibits motor vehicles from passing less than three feet from a bicyclist on a roadway.  It also provides for the creation of "Share The Road" license plates to be purchased through the Illinois Secretary of State's office.  Full story.

2.  Mayor Daley stepping down:  It's become something of a cliché to note the friendship between the departing Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago's bicycling community.  However, it would be hard to overstate the importance of his leadership in developing and building a bike friendly city.  According to WTTW's Biking the Boulevards website,
In 1991, Daley created the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council in an effort to promote cycling and the extension of biking programs and resources. Within one year, the Council prepared the Bike 2000 Plan, which presented 31 recommendations to encourage bicycling in Chicago. Based on these recommendations, the City of Chicago established a network of 100 miles of on-street bike lanes and 50 miles of bike trails, install 10,000 bike racks throughout the city, produce educational biking publications; and create outreach programs. In addition, the City has worked with the Chicago Transit Authority to permit bikes on CTA trains and equip more than 2,000 CTA buses with bike racks. By 2002, the mayor’s administration had begun collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, now the Active Transportation Alliance to present the Bike 2015 Plan. The 2015 Plan has two main objectives. The first is to increase bicycle use so that five percent of all trips of less than five miles are by bicycle. The second is to reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent. Mayor Richard M. Daley has also been instrumental in other cycling programs including the Bike Chicago Program, the Bike to Work Rally, Mayor Daley’s Bicycling Ambassadors, and the annual Bike the Drive event.
We're not perfect.  We're not Portland, Oregon, a city with a lauded biking infrastructure but with about a 5th of the population of Chicago.  But let's hope that who ever our next mayor is, that we keep peddling forward.

1.  The Brookfield sentencing debacle:  Nothing inflamed the passions of Chicagoland cyclists in 2010 quite like the weak sentences handed down to two young motorists who, in 2009, intentionally hunted down and struck a bicyclist in Brookfield.  One of the men received a sentence of ten days in jail and the other received zero jail time for his role.  Both men had been drinking before deciding to drive around looking for bicyclists to hit.  Both were sentenced by Cook County Judge Carol Kipperman.  What made this the biggest story of the year was the incredible response that the sentences generated.  Shortly after they were handed down, the Active Transportation Alliance expressed outrage and initiated a letter writing campaign directed at the Cook County State's Attorney's office demanding that they justify the negotiated sentences.  The prosecutor's office was so inundated emails that it felt compelled to respond, blaming the judge for ignoring recommendations for stiffer sentences.

In the end, though, there was a silver lining:   new relationship grew between the State's Attorney's Office and the Active Transportation Alliance due to the letter writing campaign and the media attention it brought.  We may now hope that the prosecutor's office will let Active Trans know in advance of sentencing in future cases, which in turn can communicate with the broader cycling community.  Even a modest presence of concerned bicyclists at a sentencing hearing can make a difference when a judge is considering punishment for an attack on a cyclist.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Funny Video Promotes Bicycle Helmet Use

Here is a great, and funny, video from the Brain Injury Association for anyone who has ever felt a little self conscious about wearing a bicycle helmet:

Thanks to the folks at Go Means Go! for making me aware of this video.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chicago Red Light Cameras May Assist Bicyclists After Intersection Crashes

One of the more challenging aspects of representing injured bicyclists is finding a witness to corroborate the facts.  Sometimes good witnesses just do not exist.  Bystanders -- if there were any -- often end up admitting that they did not actually see the crash, and only turned to look when they heard the collision.  If the incident involved a motor vehicle, passengers of the vehicle are rarely helpful witnesses for the bicyclist.  There is one tool, however, that attorneys may use to overcome the "he said, he said" conundrum, at least in cases involving Chicago intersection crashes: red-light traffic camera video.  According to the Chicago Department of Transportation there are red-light cameras located at 190 intersections in the city.  Here's how they work:
The digital cameras are tied into the traffic signal system and sensors beneath the pavement, just before the white stop bar.  The cameras are triggered by a vehicle passing over the sensors only after the light turns red.  The cameras take still and video pictures of the rear of a vehicle, including the license plate. . .  The images receive an initial review by the camera venter to make sure the image quality is sufficient.  The images are then forwarded to the city's Department of Revenue for review and processing.  Citations are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle shown in the pictures.  Any motorist who receives a red-light camera ticket can review a video of their red-light violation on the city's web site:
Of course there are a lot of "ifs" involved in determining whether photos and video was taken of the bike vs. car incident under investigation.  Images may exist if (1) the crash took place at a Chicago intersection (2) with a red-light camera in place (3) where the crash was caused by a motorist's red light violation.  CDOT has created a website containing a map with an overlay depicting intersections with the cameras.  If the right circumstances exist, the bicyclist's attorney should subpoena a copy of the video and still photographs.  Pre-suit  the attorney should consider bringing a petition seeking entry of a protective order to preserve a copy of the images.  If video of the incident exists it may make all the difference in the outcome of the cyclist's case.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bicyclist Struck In October Continues Recovery

Our firm has been retained to represent a 24 year old man who was struck by a motor vehicle while riding his bicycle at the intersection of North Halstead Street and West Webster Avenue in Chicago early on the morning of October 3rd.  Prior to the crash, the bicyclist was traveling west bound on Webster.  The motorist was traveling east bound.  Upon reaching the intersection the cyclist signaled his intent to turn left onto south bound Halstead.  As he approached the center of the intersection he saw the motor vehicle approaching and slowed to allow it to pass.  The vehicle did not signal an intent to turn.  However, when it reached the middle of the intersection the vehicle suddenly executed a left turn, crashing into the man on his bike.  The bicycle's front light was on at the time.

Though he was wearing a helmet, the bicyclist was knocked unconscious by the impact.  He awoke many hours later at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.  More than two months following the crash, he continues to suffer effects from the incident.  We are aggressively pursuing a claim against the driver.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Motorists Do Not Expect To Encounter Winter Cyclists

It is winter time in Chicago.  The temperature hovers in the teens, or lower for days on end.  The streets are icy, snowy, slushy, lousy.  The wind blows frigid and raw.  Lips are chapped, toes are numb.  Cars may not start and the CTA may be more f'd up than when the weather is kinder.  Due to these insane conditions we've all put our bicycles away until the lambs of March emerge from hiding. . .  Right?  Well, no.  Lots and lots of folks here in Chi-town ride in the the winter.  We ride to work, along the lake front and to the store.  Some even do their holiday shopping by bike.  But in my experience many, perhaps most, drivers tend to think bicycles disappear with the nice weather.  This means that they are less liking to expect you to be out on the road when the weather is bad.  This creates a dangerous situation for the winter cyclist.  Some years ago I represented the family of a man who was struck and killed by a motorist in December.  At the time, it was very cold, but sunny and dry.  The man was riding in plain sight.  There was little apparent reason for the driver not to have seen him.  When I took the driver's deposition during the course of litigation one of her excuses for not having seen him was that she did not expect anyone to be out riding their bicycle in December.  It's a stupid excuse, but illustrative of an attitude of which winter bicyclists should be aware.

When you ride during the winter -- and, damn it, you should -- make an extra effort to be visible.  Use bright, blinking lights on the front (white) and back (red) of your bike, even during the day.  The gray, dreary skys that prevail through the Chicago winter tend to make you blend into the landscape, and that's a bad thing.  Wear bright colors.  Use that florescent ski jacket you bought back in '86 when you ride.  Adorn your bike and your person with reflective tape.  Also, do not be afraid to take the lane.  Do not feel that you must ride in the slush and filth along the side of the road.  Doing so is dangerous and unnecessary.  Illinois law permits riding in the "regular" traffic lane when riding along the right side of the roadway is dangerous.  As the good folks over at Bike Winter point out, "If someone is honking behind, that's a good sign.  At least they see you."  Finally, be extra cautious in trying to avoid acting unpredictably.  For example, salmoning, always a bad idea, is especially so in the winter.  Remember, motorists do not expect you to be out riding at all in the winter, let alone riding the wrong way down a one way street.

Keep riding.  Breath the frosty air, and be seen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Head Tube Separation Prompts Recall of Redline Bicycles

This morning, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered the recall of Redline D640 Bicycles.  It is reported that the head tube can become separated from the rest of the frame, posing "a risk of serious injury."  The importer of these Chinese made bikes, Seattle Bike Supply of Kent, Washington, is aware of eight reports head tube separation.    Consumers are instructed to "immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact a local Redline Bicycle dealer to receive a free frame replacement."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bicyclist Struck By Car In Des Plaines Suffers Head Injury

A 24 year old bicyclist was struck by a motorist on Pearson Street in Des Plaines on November 9th sustaining a head injury and multiple cuts and contusions.  The crash occurred at around 7:45 a.m. just south of Pearson's intersection with Miner Street.  The cyclist was riding near the left side of southbound Pearson Street in anticipation of making a left turn on Ellinwood Avenue.  Illinois law permits cyclists to ride along the left side of a roadway when preparing to turn left.  (625 ILCS 5/1505)  He was riding behind a bus which was also signaling to turn left.  As the cyclist followed the bus a 2004 Toyota Corolla, also traveling south, suddenly appeared to his left and crashed into him.  The intent of the motorist is not yet clear. The impact threw the cyclist to the ground where he struck his head.  He was wearing a helmet.

The bicyclist received medical treatment at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.  He continues to experience pain and pressure, especially on the left side of his head.  An unusual sense of drowsiness and poor balance have plagued him since the incident.  It is not yet known whether his injuries are permanent.  Our law firm is representing the bicyclist.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chicago Bicyclist Struck By Van Near Cortland, Clybourn and Racine; Driver Sought

On November 12th at around 11:45 a.m. a man riding his bicycle to work was struck by a van just west of the intersection of West Cortland Street, North Clybourn Avenue and North Racine Avenue in Chicago.  With weather conditions nearly ideal for riding, the cyclist was signaling that he was merging to turn left when he was struck from behind by the van.  The collision slammed him to the ground where the impact broke his nose.  The bicyclist was wearing a helmet.

Initially, the driver of the van stuck around but left the scene before police and emergency personnel arrived. The cyclist made a record of the van's license plate number and reported it to police before being transported to Illinois Masonic Medical Center for treatment.  Our law firm is representing the bicyclist and anticipates being able to identify and locate the driver.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

FSA Crank Sets Recalled, Injuries Reported

FSA crank sets used on many popular bicycle brands were recalled yesterday by the manufacturer and the U.S. Product Safety Commission. Cracking on the non-drive side crank arm has been reported with over tightening of the crank bolt. Injuries have been reported. Click here to learn more about this recall.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bicyclists Should Put Themselves On ICE

You've crashed and lay unconscious, bleeding on the side of the road.  A passerby calls for help and rescuers arrive.  They can transport you to the nearest hospital but who else do they notify that you've been in an accident?  Though you cannot communicate with them, you wisely brought your cell phone with you for the ride.  Finding it, rescue personnel will immediately search for one thing among your list of contacts:  "ICE".

About five years ago, first response rescue professionals began the ICE, or "in case of emergency," program which encourages all persons to create an ICE contact in their cell phone contacts list which can be quickly accessed to notify someone close to you that you've been in an accident.  Great idea, especially for people who engage in risky activities like cycling.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giant Mountain Bike Recall Announced

Giant Bicycle, Inc. and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced on Friday the recall of the company's 2011 Anthem X 29er mountain bike.  "The frame can crack at the junction of the seat post and top tube, posing a fall hazard to riders," according to a release from the Commission.  No injuries were reported due to the defect.  If you have one of these bikes, stop riding it and contact an authorized Giant dealer for more information.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago Tribune Publishes Reader's Anti-Bicycle Rant

In the print edition of today's Chicago Tribune, editors published an anti-bicycle rant by a reader.  The Tribune included the angry letter at the top of the "Voice of the People" section along with a cartoon of a road raging motorist next to a cyclist.  The screed, titled "Dangerous bikers," contained the tired old anti-bicycle rants heard many times before:  Bicyclists are anarchist rogues who do not pay to use the roads that belong to cars and cars only.  Bicyclists are "dangerously selfish" and pretty much deserve whatever abuse they receive from motorists, writes the bitter author.  They should have to buy licenses and city stickers.

The letter contains little thoughtful reflection from a person whom I'm guessing doesn't ride.  City bicyclists face chaos and hostility at nearly every turn.  Illinois law requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right curb as possible, but that is not as simple as it sounds.  The right side of the road often contains potholes, torn-up pavement, parked cars, double parked delivery trucks and disembarking taxi cabs, among other hazards.  Staying out the "traffic lane" isn't always avoidable and bikes sometimes find themselves needing to take the lane.  Apparently, some see this as bikers acting like they "own the road."  This is something Illinois law permits bicyclists to do when circumstances require it.  Even when a bike lane exists, a cyclist utilizing it finds himself or herself in close proximity to parked cars which may at any moment, and without warning, open a door into the cyclist's path, a potentially deadly situation.  While traveling in our city's streets the cyclist must also deal with cars and trucks that turn without signaling; pedestrians who mindlessly choose to cross the street mid-block without looking; and texting, eating, eye make-up applying drivers focused on anything but the road, just to name a few common hazards.  All of this with no protection, but perhaps for a piece of styrofoam upon their heads.  Often, the price paid by cyclists for trying to save money, save the planet, get some exercise and rigorously enjoy life is death or serious injury.  You'll forgive us, dear motorists, if we get a bit . . . frustrated while out riding.  Until we have buffered bike lanes, bike boxes, designated boulevards and a transportation infrastructure that truly takes bicycles seriously, cyclists will be left to ride defensively.  Yes, there are bad cyclists out there, as there are bad motorists.  But what may seem like unnecessarily aggressive cycling may actually be the best and safest approach to a given situation.

As for the notion of taxing bicyclists, it turns out that cyclists already overpay to use city streets "Every time somebody gets on a bicycle instead of in a car, the city saves money," according to a very interesting analysis by the folks over at Grist.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CDOT Video Demonstrates Intersection Navigation

Below is an excellent video recently created by the Chicago Department of Transportation's Bike Program on proper ways to navigate a variety of city intersections:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Drivers Must Look For Bicyclists Before Turning Right

Many Chicago motorists do not look for bicyclists on their right when turning right.  Few city cyclists would dispute that the ol' right hook -- where a motorist turns right in front of you -- is scary and all too common.  It is one of the most feared types of incidents, second only to being "doored."  What duty does the motorist wishing to turn right owe to bicyclists anyway?  A driver may satisfy the duty of reasonable care by doing three things:  (1)  Using a turn signal; (2)  Turning right from the right lane; and (3)  Looking right for bikes before starting to turn.  When you've done all three, you've done your job toward protecting a bicyclist who may be on your right.

Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin

Turning right only after merging as far to the right as is reasonably possible and engaging the vehicle's turn signal provide notice to any bicyclist behind you of your intent.  Being predictable while driving (or biking) is very important to prevent crashes.  When you provide roadway users around you with notice of your intent you have given them the information they need to act appropriately.  Making sudden,capricious maneuvers is antithetical to safe driving. Many good and reasonable drivers understand signal use and do merge right before turning right. However, it seems that even otherwise conscientious motorists fail to understand that they must look in their right rear view mirrors before turning right.    In an urban setting it is possible, and even likely that a cyclist will be coming up on your right at an intersection, alleyway or driveway.  Illinois law requires bicyclists to "ride as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb" as possible. 625 ILCS 5/11-1505.  Also, most bike lanes in our city are along the right side of the road.  Because Illinois law, and urban roadway design tend to funnel cyclists to the right, emergence of a bicyclist from a motorist's right is very likely at any given point of the roadway.  Given this foreseeability, searching right before executing a turn is an absolute requirement for safe driving.

When the driver wishing to turn right sees a cyclist coming up on the right what should he or she do?  Stop, and let the bicyclist pass on the right (as in the diagram above) before executing a turn.  The Municipal Code of Chicago states:
9-16-020(f)  Turning right in front of a bicycle
When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.
Only when the motorist is well passed the bicyclist, or the bicyclist well passed the motor vehicle, may the driver turn right.  If the cyclist would need to stop or slow to avoid a collision, then he or she should be permitted to pedal by before a turn is executed by the motorist.

It is important to note that bicyclists do not have to pass a motor vehicle on the driver's right at an intersection.  Since bicyclists are especially vulnerable users of the roadway, Illinois law permits cyclists options when navigating an intersection.  Section 11-1505 permits bicyclists to merge from the right-hand curb, "When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized."  The bicyclist may pass a right turning vehicle on the left -- like a car might -- when it is safe to do so.  Of course, conditions may not permit such a maneuver, and the safest approach may require staying along the right of the roadway.   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cool iPhone App Can Help Bicyclists After A Crash

Along with your helmet, headlight and flat tire kit, your smart phone should be with you when out biking.  Not only can you use it to call for help if something goes horribly wrong, you can use it to create a detailed record should you be involved in an accident.  I've written about what to do after a bicycle accident.  But following a wreck, remembering the right steps to take when you are in pain, your adrenalin is flowing and your thoughts are racing isn't easy even for the most level headed rider.  I recently came across an iPhone app, iWrecked, that could be an invaluable tool in helping the cyclist make a proper record of an accident.  I've had a chance to play with it a bit.  With a simple click the application opens a simple form to be filled in with pertinent information about the incident.  It will dial 911 for you, call you a taxi and even help you find a local police station.  Learn more about this app by clicking here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Local News Depicts Chicago Bicyclists As Reckless Scofflaws

The anti-bicycling video below aired on Chicago's ABC 7 News over the weekend.  Its point was to demonstrate bicyclists violating traffic laws.  It is true that bicyclists are required to abide by the same traffic laws as motorized traffic.  However, I would have liked the news piece to have taken note that bicyclists are among the most vulnerable users of our roads.  The vast majority of cyclists are not trying to be outlaws.  People bike in the city to stay healthy, enjoy themselves, reduce traffic gridlock and save money.  But biking in Chicago is dangerous.  The name of the game is to be safe, to stay out of the way of motorized traffic when possible.  Sometimes the best way to do that -- the safest approach -- is to take action that technically violates the law.  People ride on the sidewalks because there are no cars there.  Sometimes cyclists slow and go at traffic control devices to stay ahead of motor vehicles.  There are reckless biking scofflaws out there to be sure, just as there are law flouting motorists on the roads.  It would have made for more interesting viewing had ABC 7 chosen to delve more deeply into why some bicyclists feel it necessary to violate traffic laws when out riding.  One troubling implication of this story was that bicyclists tend to be at fault for causing their own injuries.  There is a bit of mythology in that suggestion.  A recent study demonstrated that it simply is not true.  No mention was made of that by ABC 7.

Also, there was one glaring inaccuracy in the story.  The news presenter noted that fixed gear bikes without handlebar mounted brakes are illegal in Chicago.  That's not true.   The relevant Chicago ordinance states:

(b) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake that will enable the operator to make the braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. 9-52-080.

The relevant Illinois statute states:

(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will adequately control movement of and stop and hold such bicycle. 625 ILCS 5/11-1507.Neither law defines the term "brake". 

Neither states that the required brake must consist of a lever, cable and caliper. As fixed gear riders know, the bicycle's drive train consisting of the fixed rear cog, chain, cranks, pedals and the rider's legs act as a braking system, one that works better than the uninitiated may think. It is common to abruptly stop pedaling locking up the rear wheel causing the bike to skid to a complete stop.  In fact, one U.S. jurisdiction, Washington D.C., has changed its cycling ordinance to explicitly permit the fixed gear braking system.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Video Demonstrates Rights and Duties of Bicyclists

Below is one of the best videos I have seen demonstrating the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists in traffic.  Everything explained and shown in this short film is consistent with Illinois law.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicago Bicyclist Doored Then Run Over By CTA Bus Expected To Survive

A bicyclist was doored then run over by a CTA bus on Friday suffering "many broken bones."  According to a relative of the man, Ali Musur, the cyclist is expected to survive his injuries.  The driver who opened his car door into the bicyclist's path allegedly fled the scene in a white convertible.

The incident took place at about 3:20 p.m.near the intersection of Clark and Arlington in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  According to Mr. Musur, the bicyclist was riding in a bike lane when the door opened in front of him, causing the crash.  The impact threw him into the path of the northbound No. 36 Broadway CTA bus which ran him over.  The driver of the offending car left the scene apparently not knowing whether his victim was alive or dead.

If you have any information about this incident please contact Chicago Police.

The story was reported by CBS News.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Graduate Student Struck By Car While Biking On Milwaukee Avenue Near Congress Theater

On Tuesday, a 29 year old graduate student was struck by a car while riding her bicycle in the bike lane along north bound North Milwaukee Avenue just after 3:00 p.m.  The cyclist was struck from behind as she approached the intersection with North Rockwell Street near the Congress Theater.  The impact threw her from her bike and into the street where she struck her head with force significant enough to crack her helmet.  She briefly lost consciousness.

An ambulance took her to Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center on Western Avenue, nearby.  Though she has been released from the hospital, she continues to receive treatment for her injuries.  Our law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Girl With The Invisible Bike Helmet

Love your head, but hate wearing a helmet?  Well, those brilliant Swedes may have the answer for you:  a cyclist's airbag.  Exemplifying a rising pax sverige, the birth place of Stieg Larsson has come up with a device called the Hövding ("chieftain" in Swedish), a device which the bicyclist wears around the neck and which rapidly inflates during a crash.  The Washington Post reports that, "It will go on sale in Sweden early next year, retailing for about $50."  Check out this video of some testing done on this . . . "helmet":

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Illinois Approves Design For "Share The Road" License Plates

A great way to remind drivers that bicyclists have the same rights to the road as cars is to advertise that fact on your own vehicle.  The design of Illinois' new "Share The Road" license plate has been approved and the Secretary of State is now taking orders.  If you read this blog and live in Illinois get one.  Do it!  This is an inexpensive way to send an important message to drivers that bikes belong (on the road, not the sidewalk), and to re-enforce that we are traffic.

Click here to get the short order form.  Fill it out and send in your seventeen bucks.  Once the Secretary of State gets 1500 requests, production will start and the plates will go out.  If every Illinois resident who reads this blog orders a plate production will begin very shortly. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections On Bicycling, Drinking and the Law

Anneli Rufus, a writer with the popular Daily Beast website, recently interviewed me on the subject of biking and drinking.  Her full story appears below:

Biking While Drunk
by Anneli Rufus
October 15, 2010 | 10:32pm

As commuting to work by bike gains popularity, are more of us swerving home sloshed after happy hour? Anneli Rufus on riding with a buzz—and what cops are doing about it.

After leaving a San Francisco bar, Tam McGlinchey straddled his bike and headed home. For this dedicated bicycle commuter, cycling felt almost as familiar as walking. And because he adores obscure imported ales, cycling while sloshed felt pretty familiar, too. The city's scenery flashed past. Approaching a road rutted with streetcar channels, McGlinchey told himself: Steer clear. But his reflexes wouldn't obey. His front wheel jammed in the narrow metal groove. He flew off his bike. Asphalt sheered away strips of his skin as he slid.

"That was a wakeup call," he reflects.

The number of Americans commuting by bicycle has soared by 43 percent since 2000—and more than doubled in Milwaukee and in Portland, Oregon, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, as more Americans rely on two-wheeled transport to get them to and from work, it stands to reason that many of these newly minted cyclists are biking home drunk. Happy hour, after all, is as happy as ever.
In a sense, biking while drunk seems safer than driving drunk. Bicycles aren't two-ton hunks of steel and glass capable of reaching triple-digit speeds. And drinking and biking have long gone hand in hand. Bike pub crawls are a national institution. Urban-bike manufacturer Traitor Cycles has produced a line of $1,000 commuter bikes emblazoned with Pabst Blue Ribbon logos.

"Bicycle culture has strongly embraced drinking. I suppose it's viewed as a fun thing to do while posing little risk to the general public—far less than drinking and driving, anyway," says Chicago bike-accident attorney Brendan Kevenides.

But as more tipsy cyclists take to the nation's paths, parks, and highway shoulders, will bicycling while drunk go from illicit fun to legitimate public-safety hazard?
Anecdotes run the gamut from simple spills to drunken collisions with large vehicles. After a grad-school group meeting in a Seattle bar, Josh Thompson and a friend were cycling home when his friend sped head-on into a bus. Miraculously, he sustained only minor injuries.
"It was funny," says Thompson, an architectural engineer, "because we'd been drinking. All we could think was: Hey, he's not in bad shape."  Thompson cycles home from bars as a matter of course, "because it's faster than walking, and who can afford to take cabs all the time? By cycling, I feel like I'm doing something beneficial to society, and whatever the risks are, I know they're nominal compared to driving under the influence and possibly killing someone."

Another night after happy hour, Thompson and another pal were cycling home when "I went too fast and ate it on a turn. I fell. Laughing hysterically, my friend decided to spin around in a circle to show off, but in doing so he ate it even harder than I did"—hard enough that he injured his face so badly that he missed an entire week of work.
While drunk drivers menace everyone, "drunk cyclists pose a risk to other bicyclists and to pedestrians. Of course, the drunk bicyclist poses the greatest threat to himself or herself," says Kevenides. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of the bicyclists killed in U.S. traffic crashes in 2008 had a blood-alcohol content of at least .01 grams per deciliter. Nearly one-fourth had BACs of at least .08 g/dL, the national legal limit.

In Germany, a student caught cycling home intoxicated from a party was fined $700 and banned from riding a bicycle on German streets for 15 years.

A .08 g/dL BAC raises a cyclist's risk of serious or fatal injury by 2,000 percent, according to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, who found that alcohol impairs riders' ability to maintain balance, navigate in traffic, and perceive hazards, and increases the likelihood of risky behaviors such as riding recklessly and fast. Drunk cyclists, they also found, are less inclined than sober cyclists to wear helmets. (Not Josh Thompson, though: "My helmet is my health-insurance policy," he says earnestly.)

"If you get drunk, throw your bike in the back of a cab, on a bus, or just lock it up and walk home," Kevenides advises. "Operating a bike in an urban setting with drivers who think, wrongly, that you have no right to use the road is tough enough sober. Doing so with your senses dulled from the effects of booze can be quite deadly."
It can also land you behind bars, depending on where you do it. Unlike DUI laws, BUI laws are notoriously hazy and site-specific.  In Vernal, Utah, two years ago, a pair of archeologists cycling home from a bar were pulled over, given sobriety tests, handcuffed, jailed overnight, and charged with driving under the influence. Two months ago, a man in Boulder, Colorado, was arrested for BUI after hitting a car with his bike and trying to run a red light; it was the third such ticket issued in Boulder this year. And in Germany last year, a student caught cycling home intoxicated from a party was fined €500 ($700) and banned from riding a bicycle on German streets for 15 years.

"It is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage," reads California's Vehicle Code; offenders face base fines of $250. Earlier this year, a Washington, D.C. court found that BUI falls under that jurisdiction's DUI law.  But biking while blitzed is technically legal in Illinois. "Our appellate court held in 1995 that the state's DUI statute, which provides for some very stiff penalties, does not apply to cyclists caught biking under the influence," Kevenides says.

"There is certainly a subculture of the bicycling community that celebrates drinking," says California bike-rights advocate Jason Meggs. "I've seen large groups of people drink and ride. They consider it safe, and it's a matter of relative risk: Is someone bicycling while intoxicated more or less likely to get into a collison than someone driving while intoxicated?"

Many bicyclists would say they're less likely to collide, "and I think so too," Meggs says—maybe because, drunk or sober, "bicyclists can see better than drivers. They can hear better. They can stop more quickly."

Meggs, whose UC Berkeley master's degree is in public health with an emphasis on cycling, watched two riders on a recent 300-bike Critical Mass ride fall onto the asphalt when their bikes became enmeshed.

"In the tumble, a brown bottle fell and broke, leaving sharp, curved chunks and shards of glass sticking up like a bed of nails. As the riders picked one another up and dusted themselves free of the glass from what was evidently a beer bottle, a passing cyclist said drily, 'That's why you drink from cans.'  "This illustrates to me how acceptable drinking and bicycling is to some people who presumably wouldn't feel the same way about drinking and driving. A passerby not only doesn't criticize, he advises on how to better drink while bicycling."

But drunk biking has its points, he concedes.  "It surely helps overcome fear of traffic and creates social bonds. In this sense, the dangers of alcohol—itself a toxic swill—and biking under the influence may pale in light of the benefits: a more healthy and sustainable transportation mode emerging against great odds and obstacles.

"To have some crackdown on bicycling and drinking may do much more harm than good in the big picture, however well-intentioned the effort may claim to be. There are few things in the world more important than getting more people to choose and enjoy bicycling at this juncture in human history."

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Don't (or Won't) Move On, and the coauthor of still more, including Weird Europe and The Scavengers' Manifesto. In 2006, she won a Society of Professional Journalists award for criticism.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bicyclist's Story Highlights the Danger Posed By Car Doors

Getting doored scares the bejesus out of me.  I've offered tips on how to avoid it, but those suggestions are far from foolproof.  The truth is that the door that gets you is like a snake hiding in the tall grass; you never see it before it strikes.  I was interviewed by Bob Seidenberg of Pioneer Local for the piece below appearing in the Evanston Review.  It provides a horrific account of what can happen when a driver carelessly opens a door without looking.

While I don't know all of the facts, based on those recounted in the story I don't agree with the suggestion at the end of the piece that just because the driver's traffic citation was dismissed that pursuing a civil case against her is made more difficult.  One really has no bearing on the other.  I have represented cyclists in car vs. bike cases and successfully resolved the civil case even after a not guilty finding on the accompanying traffic citation.  In Mr. Saldana's case, I frankly don't understand what the driver's testimony was or even who offered it at the traffic hearing.  It sounds like her lawyer testified.  I am not sure how or why that was permitted, but it certainly would not be allowed in front of a civil jury.  The driver would have to testify on her own behalf.  Also, I don't get her explanation about reaching for an iced tea.  Was there an bottle/can/cup of iced tea located next to her vehicle that she opened her door to retrieve?  If so, it does not matter why she opened her door.  What matters is that she did so without looking for cyclists.  Or, was she reaching for her tea inside her vehicle and claims to have never opened her door at all?  Documentation (photos or repair bills) of the location of any damage to her door should shine a light on the truth.  Also, the nature of the injury to Mr. Saldana's arm itself strongly suggests that the cause was an open door.  It seems unlikely that he would have sustained the tearing injury described in the story if he just crashed into a closed car door.

In any event, thanks to Bob Seidenberg for bringing this terrible event to light.  Hopefully, it will help remind drivers to look before opening their doors.

* * * * *

By Bob Seidenberg

Carlos Saldana might have come to better terms with the accident that nearly severed his arm June 4 had he ignored the steps bike advocates are always urging for safe riding.

The 25-year-old bicyclist wasn't wearing an iPod. He wore a helmet and bright clothing, even though the accident occurred about 4:30 p.m., well before dusk.

Riding north on Asbury, he had just passed Howard Street and was riding in a shared lane for motorists and cyclists.

He was about 10 feet from a parked vehicle with four occupants.

"She (the driver) opened the door slightly to 'look,' and then opened it more, very quickly," he said. "From the one second she opened the door to one or two seconds, I couldn't avoid it."

He tried to swerve away, but his arm hit the steel door. He flew about 10 feet into the street and rolled right to his feet.

His right biceps muscle was severed to the bone.

Saldana used his shirt as a compress.

At the emergency room, doctors stitched the muscle, closing the wound with 16 staples.

Because of its suddenness, getting "doored" -- colliding with a car door opened carelessly by a driver who doesn't check the side mirror first for moving traffic -- ranks as one of the biggest concerns of urban riders.

"It is perhaps the No. 1 fear that bicyclists have in areas with heavy on-street parking," said Brendan Kevenides, an attorney who specializes in bike injury cases. "The thing that makes it so scary is that it can happen so suddenly. It can be very difficult to foresee."

The effects can prove devastating, as in Saldana's case, he said.
Significant problem

James Heller, president of the Evanston Bicycle Club, has been doored four times.

Some riders, including Heller, have taken to attaching a flashing light to their handlebars to draw motorists' attention as they approach.

They use it during the day as well.

"It catches your attention -- 'Oh, there's a bike rider,'" he said.

Several years ago, legislators made dooring a violation. Illinois law stipulates that "no person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so."

Evanston police will ticket offenders if they are at fault, said Sgt. Thomas Moore, in charge of the Evanston Police Department's traffic division. Moore is aware of several instances of cyclists being doored around the Jewel supermarket on Chicago Avenue.

"You have to be aware of your surroundings; make sure it's absolutely safe to open that door," he said.

Indeed, the officer did ticket the driver of the vehicle in Saldana's case, an elderly woman in her 60s.

The lawyer appeared in court, testifying in Saldana's behalf. In court, though, the woman changed her story, saying she was reaching down for a bottle of iced tea when Saldana's bike slammed into her vehicle's door.

The judge released her from any fine.

Saldana could still pursue civil penalties, but it may be more difficult after the ruling, which he said amounted to "a slap in the face to all bicyclists."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Video Demonstrates Bike Lane Deficiencies

Regular readers of this blog probably recognize that I am a big fan of bike lanes.  Giving bicyclists their own clearly defined space on the road encourages more people to ride.  More people on bikes means more motorists get used to seeing cyclists.  That increased awareness should decrease the number of car vs. bicycle mishaps.  In Chicago, bicyclists do not have to ride in a bike lane.  It is legal to ride with the rest of traffic most of the time.  Still, if you are involved in a crash with a motor vehicle you are probably better off having been in a bike lane.  As sure as the day is long, in a bike accident case the defendant motorist will claim I didn't see him/her, I couldn't see him/her, I never expected him/her, or some variation of the theme that that the cyclist popped up out of nowhere.  However, this defense is a much harder sell to a jury if the incident occurred in a bike lane.  The presence of a clearly marked bike lane makes the presence of bicyclists foreseeable.  A bike lane puts the motorist on notice that caution must be used to look for cyclists in the area.

Notwithstanding the benefits of bike lanes, it is wise to consider their deficiencies.  Riding in a bike lane does not equate to risk free cycling.  Far from it. The video below demonstrates bike lane short comings in a  thoughtful way that the daily urban cyclist can appreciate:

Thanks to Joe TV for bringing this video to my attention over on the Chainlink.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tricycles May Cause Genital Bleeding

Yikes!  Fisher-Price, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada announced the recall of certain toddler tricycles.  The plastic trikes were designed with protruding pretend ignition keys located near the seat that a child can become impaled on resulting in injury, "including genital bleeding."  There have been at least six reported incidents involving girls aged two to three where medical attention was necessary due to the location of the keys.  According to the Safety Commission, "Consumers should immediately place the trikes out of children's reach and contact Fisher-Price for a free replacement key."

To learn more and read the full press release click here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Investigation Underway After Driver Strikes Father, Daughter Bicyclists In Woodstock

An investigation is ongoing and charges are pending against a Woodstock man who struck a father and daughter with his car as the two were out bicycling on Sunday morning.  The two, Felipe Ortiz, 55, and Maria Ortiz, 21, were airlifted from the scene to Advocate Condell Medical Center.  As of last night they were in stable condition.  The incident took place along the 9700 block of McConnell Road in unincorporated Woodstock.  Little has been reported describing how the incident happened.  The Daily Herald notes that the father and his daughter were riding along the south edge of the block and that the driver had been traveling eastbound before crashing into them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

69 Year Old Bicyclist Killed By Car In Alsip

A 69 year old man died Friday of head injuries he sustained when he was struck by a car while bicycling in Alsip.  Encarnacion Solano of Blue Island was riding near 123rd Street and Springfield Avenue on Thursday afternoon when he was hit.  He passed away from his injuries at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn the following day.

This tragic incident was reported on by The Southtown Star.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 Year Old Pontiac Boy Killed By Pick-up Truck While Bicycling

A 10 year old boy was struck and killed by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle with his family in rural Owego Township yesterday.  The boy, Bryan Baker, of Pontiac was hit as he rode along County Road 1900 East, while crossing Route 116 East.  According to the Pontiac Daily Leader, Bryan was traveling northbound when he was struck by the eastbound truck.

Monday, September 27, 2010

eXplaining eBikes And The Law

One of the hottest trends in the bicycle industry today is the e-bike, a regular looking bicycle with a small electric motor ("e") that can be switched on or off.  Switch it off when you want to pedal and on when you don't.  These are not at all like motorcycles, nor are they mopeds, both of which are substantially more powerful than e-bikes.  In Chicago, the law permits an e-bike rider to do pretty much whatever can be done with a old-fashioned peddle bike.  Recently, I received an email from a reader inquiring about this issue:

Was on your blog but can't find this: are motorized bikes allowed on the Lakefront path in Chicago? Thanks for any help. My son wants to ride his to work in South Loop from North Side.

Cyndi M.

* * * * *


Thanks for your question.  Certain types of motorized bikes are governed by the same rules that apply to regular, old-fashioned pedal bikes, and are permitted on Chicago's Lakefront path.  "Low-speed electric bicycles" and "low-speed gas bicycles" are permitted on the path.  Mopeds and motorcycles are not.  To be considered a "low-speed" bike, the cycle must (a) have fully operable pedals, (b) an electric or gas powered motor of less than 1 horse power, and (c) have a maximum speed of less than 20 mph.

Hope this helps.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weird, Creepy Bicycle Safety Film From Yesteryear Shares Some Important Lessons

The bicycle safety video below is entitled One Got Fat and is from 1963.  All of the points and lessons shared in the video are relevant to Illinois bicyclists today. . . but, man is this a weird and creepy film.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Non-owners Car Insurance, An Option For Carless Bicyclists

Going carless; it seems like it is becoming more popular these days in Chicago.  Though traffic congestion seems as daunting as ever, a lot of city people are choosing to live, work, shop and play without a car.  Many use public transportation, bicycles or plain shoe leather to get around and find that they simply don't miss their old four wheeled motorized friend, and the cost and negative environmental impact that went with it.  For those occasions when a car or truck is necessary, renting a vehicle by the hour is easy and relatively cheap via services like iGo and Zipcar.  While I own a car, I must tip my hat to those who do without by choice.  However, there is at least one important downside to not owning a car, not having car insurance.

As I've described in the past, a bicyclist's own motor vehicle insurance may provide coverage if he or she is seriously injured by a motorist who either lacks insurance or who has insufficient coverage.  Even when riding a bicycle, the uninsured or underinsured motorist provision of a cyclist's own car insurance may protect him or her in this situation.  For example, a car owning bicyclist is out riding around when he is struck and injured by a driver.  The cyclist sustains $100,000 in damages as a result.  The driver only has a $20,000 insurance policy, and the biker has $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage.  In that circumstance, the driver's insurer should turn over the $20,000, and the cyclist's own insurer should cover the remaining $80,000 to fully compensate the bicyclist.  But what of the carless bicyclist?  To protect himself or herself, the carless person would be wise to purchase a non-owners car insurance policy.  These policies are offered by many insurance companies and tend to cost considerably less than a car owners policy.  Importantly, they will protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.  These policies may also protect the non car owning pedestrian who is injured by a driver.  The other nice thing about non-owners policies is that if you decide that the no car thing is not for you, you will have established an insurance history which may help you get a fair rate on car insurance.

Not all insurance policies are the same.  Non-owners car insurance policies may differ materially from one to the other, so make sure that you ask your insurance agent lots of questions, making sure you understand exactly when the policy you are buying will and will not cover you.

Click here to read more about non-owners car insurance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bicyclist In Critical Condition Following Lincoln Park Collision With Vehicle

A bicyclist was struck by a motorist this morning in Lincoln Park and is in critical condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.  The incident occurred  in the 2600 block of North Lincoln Avenue at around 9:30 a.m.  No further details have been released.

This matter was reported on the Chicago Breaking News Center.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Time Out On Drinking and Bicycling

The article below, written by John Greenfield, appears in the current edition of Time Out Chicago.  

(I do like to call myself the "Chicago Bicycle Advocate," especially when I'm alone, but my friends call me Mr. Chicago Bicycle Advocate;-)

When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law?

Photo: Andrew Nawrocki
Q When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law? Does it fall under the same blood-alcohol-content DUI regulations as operating a motor vehicle? —Easy Rider, Logan Square
A Crocked Chicago cyclists can’t be charged with a DUI, says Brendan Kevenides, a lawyer who specializes in bike cases and calls himself the Chicago Bicycle Advocate. In 1995, the Illinois Appellate Court decided this issue in People v. Schaefer, upholding the dismissal of criminal charges against a drunk bicyclist. Since state law doesn’t define a bike as a “vehicle,” the court found that Illinois’s DUI statute did not give cyclists fair warning they could face harsh penalties for pickled pedaling. Kevenides notes that cyclists can be charged with public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but the penalties for such offenses are substantially less than those for a DUI. Even so, Active Transportation Alliance’s Margo O’Hara says it’s “dangerous and irresponsible” to spin while sauced. But Mark Cuneo, a manager at the bike-centric Handlebar Bar & Grill, recommends one reason to choose two wheels over four for a night of carousing. “Instead of driving home drunk or leaving your car overnight, you can always throw your bike in the trunk of a cab.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Notes From Mayor Daley's Bicycle Advisory Counsel Meeting

Yesterday, I attended the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Counsel meeting.   I was once again impressed with the intelligence and earnestness with which the folks from CDOT, IDOT, the mayor's office and the Active Transporation Alliance go about trying to address issues important to bicyclists in our city.  They don't always get it right, but they are trying.  These periodic meetings, which are open to the public, provide a forum for anyone to let our leaders know when they've screwed up.  One veteran Chicago fire fighter, bicyclist and Northwest Side resident, Eddie Cortes, showed up yesterday and forcefully let all present know he wasn't happy about a recent failure by the city to install missing sections of bike lanes along Milwaukee Avenue.  I strongly encourage members of the general public to attend these City Hall meetings whenever possible.

Bits and pieces from yesterday's meeting. . .
  • During a 24 hour period in the summer/fall of 2009 over 3100 bicycles rode along Milwaukee Avenue, near the Ohio feeder.  That is an incredible number of bicyclists using just one roadway feeding into the Loop.  We aren't just traffic, we're a hell of a lot of traffic!
  • CDOT, always on the hunt for money, has had unexpected success in wresting $345,000 from Chicago aldermen to build 6.5 miles of new bikeways and 5.5 miles of restriped bike lanes.  
  • CDOT is ready to begin repairing some city bike lanes in need of repair, but a supposed "world wide shortage of thermoplastic" has delayed that.  Who knew?  
  • To create additional bike parking, the city is preparing to move orphaned bike racks from places where they are underutilized to areas in need.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SUV Claims Life of Des Plaines Bicyclist

Photo by Roman Bira
In what appears to be a horrific incident, 52 year old bicyclist, Alavaro Chavez-Farias, was struck and killed by the driver of a Cadillac Escalade at 8:07 p.m. on Monday in Des Plaines.  A photograph of Mr. Chavez-Farias's bike after the accident was posted on Facebook by a passer-by and demonstrates that he was struck with great velocity and/or that the SUV ran over his bicycle.  The cyclist was riding in the 500 block of North Wolf Road when he was struck by the vehicle traveling in the same direction.  Police are still investigating the matter.  The cause of the incident has not been reported.

This matter was reported by The Daily Herald.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bicyclist Killed In Rogers Park In Intersection Incident

A male bicyclist was killed yesterday in an incident in Rogers Park with a car.  Reports have placed the victims age at 40 and 69 and have offered little credible explanation for the cause of the incident.  According the The Chicago Breaking News Center, the man was riding westbound on West Farwell Avenue when his bike came into contact with a vehicle at the intersection with Ridge Boulevard.  Media sources have emphasized that the intersection was controlled in all directions by stop signs but have not stated whether independent witnesses contributed to claims that the cyclist ran a stop sign.  The biker was killed at the scene and it is not clear whether police statements about the cause were based solely on the motorist's account.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deceased Bicyclist May Have Been Victim of Vehicle Hit and Run

A 49 year old man, Greg Buckner, may have been the victim of a vehicle hit-and-run crash along the 8400 block of South South Chicago Avenue last night.  Chicago police are asking for witnesses to come forward.  Apparently, Mr. Buckner was found by a passerby at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.  He was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center a short time later.  It is not clear why police believe the bicyclist to have been victim of a collision with a motor vehicle.  Read the rest of the story here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Driver Strikes and Kills Bicyclist On Chicago's Northwest Side

A 35 year old Chicago man was cited for negligent driving and failure to provide proof of insurance arising from the death of a bicyclist at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Forest Preserve Avenue.  The driver, Kryzysztof Godlewski, allegedly struck the cyclist with his 2006 Infiniti around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening as he turned left from westbound Irving Park Road onto westbound Forest Preserve.  It is unclear at this time how the incident occurred.  It has been reported that the vehicle struck the as yet unidentified bicyclist "when the southbound bicyclist entered the intersection in front of the Infiniti."

I generally decline to speculate about the facts of such matters.  With regard to the driver being cited for lack of insurance, it may be that he is insured but was unable to provide proof of insurance at the scene.  It is not uncommon for drivers ticketed for this offense to provide proof to the judge at the citation hearing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Path To Safety In Chicago

Generally, Illinois bicyclists may ride in the street, and in most instances they should.  Our city's streets do not exist for motorized traffic, but for all traffic.  There is an important exception to this rule, however, at least in Chicago.  Section 9-52-020 of the Municipal Code states,
(d) Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
For you Chicagoans racking your brains to think of a place where this situation may exist, consider North Humboldt Drive. Between North Avenue and Augusta Boulevard, a distance of about a mile, Humboldt Drive slices through Humboldt Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the city.  The scenery is wonderful, with ball fields, duck ponds, trees and even a beach.  However, it is a very dangerous road on which to ride a bike.  The pavement is usually in poor condition, and there is no shoulder on this narrow four lane street.  But, there is a path that runs immediately adjacent to Humboldt Drive on the southbound side of the road.  Take a look:

Arguably, when riding southbound on Humboldt Drive between North and Augusta the cyclist must exit the roadway and utilize the path instead.  I must admit that section 9-52-020 does not make this perfectly clear.  The municipal code does not define the term "usable path for bicycles".  Does it mean any path on which a bike could possibly travel?  Or, does it mean a path specifically designated for bicycles?  The path depicted in the video above is not just a bicycle path.  It is used by pedestrians as well.  That ambiguity aside, it is certainly possible that a citation issued to a cyclist for riding in the road rather than the path could withstand judicial scrutiny.  That may not be a bad thing either.  I am certainly an proponent of cyclists' rights to use the roadway.  However, when I have seen bicyclists on southbound Humboldt Drive not utilizing the path just the their right, I cringe.  It is just a dangerous place to be.

I should point out that a sidewalk is not a "usable path for bicycles."  Section 9-52-020 is explicit that, "No person 12 or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any district, unless such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route."  Illinois bicyclists absolutely may ride in the street even if there is an adjacent sidewalk present.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bicyclist Killed On Dan Ryan Expressway

A 28 year old man from Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood was killed last night when he was struck while riding his bicycle on the Dan Ryan Expressway.  The incident occurred at around 9:00 p.m. in the northbound lanes of the Expressway near Garfield Boulevard.  The man, Christopher Hippchen, was dead on the scene.  Click here to read the account from

Exactly how this accident occurred has not yet been reported.  It is illegal to ride a bicycle on Illinois expressways.

Here is an update on this tragic story posted at 2:13 p.m. on the Chicago Breaking News Center.  It doesn't add much information about how and why this incident took place, but it offers a little information about who the cyclist was.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One City Gets Very Serious About Encouraging Bicycle Commuting

The folks in London have started building bicycling "superhighways" connecting the outer city and suburbs to central London.  The idea is to discourage people from driving into the city and encourage bike commuting that is, get this, fast and safe.  Cheers!

Bicyclist Killed By 85 Year Old Driver In Mount Prospect

An 85 year old driver struck and killed a bicyclist with his car near Golf and Busse roads in Mount Prospect very early Thursday morning.  The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but alcohol consumption is not believed to have been a factor.  Read the full story at

Anyone with information regarding this incident should call the Mount Prospect Police Department at 847.870.5656.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Belleville Man Hit By Car Walking His Bike, Suffers Skull Fracture

A man is hospitalized with an apparent skull fracture after being struck by a car while walking his bicycle with friends in Belleville, Illinois.  A report by suggests that the man was struck by the oncoming vehicle in the "traffic lane" of Carlyle west of the junction of Route 161.  For reasons that are thus far unclear, officials "do not anticipate issuing any citations in the incident," though it remains "under investigation."

Seven Year Old Struck By Car While Riding His Bike In Tower Lakes

A 7 year old boy was struck by a car and rendered unconscious while riding his bicycle in Tower Lakes, Illinois late yesterday afternoon.  The boy had been riding on West Lake Shore Drive and was wearing a helmet.  He was taken via ambulance to Good Shepard Hospital then was airlifted to Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.

This matter was reported at the Chicago Breaking News Center.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chicago Bicycle Commuter Involved In Crash At Milwaukee And Ogden

A sport utility vehicle suddenly pulled into the bicycle lane of Milwaukee Avenue, near Ogden, and directly into the path of a cyclist on August 10th, causing a serious collision.  The bicyclist was on his way home from work at about 7:30 p.m. when the SUV pulled in front of him from the CVS Pharmacy parking lot there.  He grabbed for his brakes immediately upon seeing the truck but could not avoid crashing head on into the vehicle.  He was wearing a helmet.  Our law firm has been retained to represent the biker.

Following the crash, our client was transported via ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a serious gash to his face, as well as neck and knee injuries.  His recovery is ongoing.

Search This Blog