Monday, February 28, 2011

In Horrific Scene, Motorist Intentionally Plows Into Group of Young Bicyclists

On Friday, February 25th, a motorist intentionally plowed through a large group of bicyclists participating in a Critical Mass ride in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  On the last Friday of every month hundreds of bicyclists in cities around the world, including here in Chicago, gather together to ride the streets in order to raise awareness regarding bike safety.  Drivers have been known to express frustration when encountering a Critical Mass ride because it tends to slow motorized traffic.  In Porto Alegre, in a shocking act of violence, a driver attempted to kill numerous young people on their bicycles because. . . they were riding their bicycles.

Below is some raw and graphic video of the event.  I found it difficult to watch.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chicago's Bicycle Crash Map Now New and Improved, Contains Bike Traffic Data

Chicago's recently created bicycle crash map now contains bike count data.  Now the number of crashes in the city between 2007 and 2009 can be compared to the total amount of bicycle traffic at various locations.  The crash map, and the newest version with the traffic overlay, is the creation of Steven Vance, a blogger, urban planner and Chicago cyclist using data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation and his own know-how.  Click here to view the map.

The map seems to reveal some of what one might expect.  For example, there is a lot of bicycle traffic overall along Milwaukee Avenue.  However, the significance of much of the data isn't immediately clear.  Why, for example, is there so much bike traffic on South Blue Island Avenue but so few recorded bike crashes?  Also, there are important areas with high incidents of crashes but no bike traffic data, like the Loop.  In any event, I'm sure that folks skilled in interpreting such data will have a go at making sense of all of this.  Thanks Mr. Vance!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Forked Up: Two Bicycle Recalls Announced Due to Faulty Forks

Two recalls were announced this week by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission due to faulty forks.  REI is recalling its Novara Fusion Bicycles because, "The alloy steerer tube could separate from the fork causing the rider to lose control."  These bicycles were sold at REI stores nationwide from November 2009 to November 2010.  If you own one of these bikes you should contact REI about receiving a replacement fork.  Click here to read the recall release.

Felt Bicycles is also recalling certain of this models due to concerns about faulty forks.  The recall affects all 2011 Felt F3, F4, F5 and F75 bikes with carbon fiber frames and forks.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that, "The bicycles' fork can break, causing the rider to lose control, fall and suffer injuries."  It is not clear in what way the forks can break.  Nevertheless, owners of these bikes are encouraged to contact Felt for a free inspection and repair.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Extreme (and funny) View of Segregated Cycling

So, you want segregated cycling?  Well, here you go;-)

(Borrowed from

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Settlement For Bicyclist Injured By Taxi On North Kingsbury Street, Despite Not Guilty Finding

Today, our law firm obtained a substantial settlement for a bicyclist injured in June, 2010 by a taxi cab in the 700 block of North Kingsbury Street in Chicago.  On the morning of June 3rd, our client was riding his bike to his Loop office when a taxi, which had been stopped along the curb on Kingsbury, suddenly pulled into the street, crashing into him.  The bicyclist sustained a fractured collar bone.

The driver was ticketed at the scene, but was found not guilty by a Cook County Traffic Court judge at the citation hearing.  However, with some hard investigative work -- and a little luck -- we were able to locate a witness to the incident.  The witness' statement likely aided us in obtaining a good result for our client despite the not guilty finding.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Map Plots Bicycle Accidents In Chicago

If you ever wanted to see where bicycle crashes tend to occur in Chicago now you can.  Urban planner and blogger, Steven Vance, has created an online map pinpointing the location of all 6,369 reported bicycle accidents in the city between 2007 and 2009, the last year for which information is available.  Having gathered crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation via the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Vance plotted the bike crash sites on a map generated by Google.  Click here to view the map.

The map is quite interesting.  I was struck immediately by the sheer number of crashes along Milwaukee Avenue, a well-known bike commuter route between the Northwest Side and the Loop.  The data is consistent with my own observations.  During most of the year I tend to get a lot of calls from bicyclists looking for an attorney following a collision with a motor vehicle on Milwaukee.  As Mr. Vance notes, however, it is important not to draw too many conclusions from the crash map.  Lots of collisions along Milwaukee Avenue, for instance, does not mean that the locale is a particularly dangerous place to ride.  It may simply mean that there is a lot of bike traffic there, naturally increasing the opportunities for a bike and motor vehicle to collide.  It may be that roads with fewer red dots are more dangerous; that the number of crashes compared to the number of cyclists using the roadway is higher.  The map doesn't reveal that data.  It also does not suggest the severity of the plotted crashes.    If there are clusters of crashes involving very serious injuries along specific routes, the map does not reveal that.

These limitations are no knock on Mr. Vance's effort, which is laudable.  I point them out to caution the viewer not to jump to conclusions about which routes through the city are safe and which are not.  In an interview with The Bay Citizen, Mr. Vance acknowledged as much stating, "I don't think we can draw many conclusions from this map except to target our infrastructure (new bike lanes, and hopefully some protected or separated bike lanes in some areas) as well as our education efforts for people who bike and people who drive."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Judge Questions Advantages of Bicycle Helmet Law

Recently, a judge in Australia overturned a citation issued to a woman ticketed for riding her bike without a helmet and acknowledged the on-going controversy regarding the effectiveness of bicycle helmets in reducing injury.  The bicyclist had been cited for violating a law requiring helmet use for adults.  She fought back arguing that she should have a choice as to whether to wear a helmet or not.  She argued that, "if she fell from her bike while wearing a helmet she would be at greater risk of brain damage from 'diffuse external injury'."  What that means is that when your helmeted head hits the ground at speed the helmet grips the road "twisting the head more quickly than if the skull were unprotected."  In such a way, she argued, helmet use may increased the likelihood of sustaining injury in a crash.  The appellate judge was persuaded stating, "I frankly don't think there is anything advantageous and there may well be a disadvantage in situations to have a helmet -- and it seems to me that it's one of those areas where it ought to be a matter of choice."  Click here to read the full story.

Before you get ready to chuck your helmet consider the full picture.  There is plenty of research that has found that helmet use does save lives, particularly when utilized by children.  A recent study of helmet use among children found that, “helmet laws significantly reduced bicycling fatalities among youths age 0-15 (i.e., youths who were directly treated by most states’ age-16 helmet laws) by about 19 percent.”

In Illinois helmet use among adults is not mandatory.  Also, in the context of a personal injury claim arising from a bike crash, lack of helmet use cannot be introduced as evidence that the bicyclist failed to take proper precautions to look out for his or her safety.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Using The Social Network To Deter Bike Theft

Can the social network be used to help prevent bicycle theft?  The folks at Bike Revolution think so.  They've come up with a pretty cool new way to deter bike thieves.  Via the company's website you may purchase a set of three "Pulse ID tags" which you place on your bike. Essentially, they are stickers that can be scanned with your smart phone (with a free downloadable app).  When scanned, an online database is automatically checked to determine if the bike is stolen.  If it is, alerts may "go out to the police, local clubs, shops and our army of Bike Detectives."  Your Facebook friends and Twitter followers may also be notified.  In Illinois, the company has partnered up with the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry. You can even set your ebay account to alert you if someone tries to sell the bike.  Critical to the program is the participation of regular folks, "Bike Detectives," armed with their smart phones and the Bike Revolution app.  If you see a bike with one of the tags, scan it.  If it has not been reported stolen then you just carry on your way.  If it comes back stolen, click the "Contact Us" button, and the system goes to work.  You can then go on your way, having done the bike's rightful owner a solid.

When I learned about this service I sent an email to the company's director, Briand Beausoleil, with a question:  Couldn't a bike thief just remove the sticker?  This was his response:

The tags are not ordinary. They're made of similar material as VIN material found in cars, only better. They're destructible, which means they come apart in bits...lots of bits. This takes an inordinate amount of time and x 3 that's considerable. You can't take them off in one piece either using knives etc., as they're very thin. They're also UV proof, water and weatherproof and can be read even with 25% of the tag destroyed. 

The Pulse ID number on the tag is also tied to the bike frame number so if the tag is removed the bike can still be traced using the frame # registered to the acct.  Taking the tag off leaves evidence of tampering and can even hurt the bike. The good folks at Penn Cycles in Minneapolis did just that, harming the bike in the process. Thieves can mark over the tags but again this just shows evidence of tampering and will make buyers suspicious.

For people wishing to buy second hand used bikes online, simply typing the serial number into our search database will link to other databases to provide the most thorough view of that bike's status. If that bike is listed on an register, it will come up. 

In all honesty, no tag will withstand concerted effort over time. But these have been designed to act as a second layer of deterrence, and with 3 tags, 2 smaller and 1 visible, branded anti-theft tag, many thieves will move on to the next bike. 

Remember too that thieves will want to sell these bikes on - to handlers or online sales. A handler deals in dozens of used bikes a day and hates traceable merchandise. He won't take kindly being delivered bikes that are traceable and may pass on the risk. This then has an effect on the thief, who will not make that mistake again and go on to easier prey. 

In addition, every time a bike is scanned, a record of that tag is displayed on the website, showing the location. So a bike can be tracked simply by scanning the tag. We're working on next gen tags that are even more robust.

In the end, nothing with stop a determined bike thief, but this seems to me an easy way to make their jobs harder.  I also just love the social aspect to this approach which utilizes the entire cycling community to prevent theft and help retrieve stolen bikes.

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