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.

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