Thursday, June 30, 2011

Should You Flash Motorists? The Moth Effect and The Bicycle

Nowadays many Chicago bicyclists equip their bikes with red rear flashing lights that alert motorists coming from behind of their presence.  This is a good thing.  Generally, when a motorist sees a bicyclists he or she will make every effort to steer clear.  Illinois law does not require rear facing lights on bicycles.  Only front headlamps and rear reflectors are legally necessary.  However, taking the extra step of equipping both the front and rear of a bicycle with lights is an excellent idea.  There is some debate, however, regarding the best and safest way to illuminate the bicycle rear:  Should the rear light blink or remain steady?

The debate arises from something dubbed the "moth effect."  Studies considering when emergency vehicles should and should not utilize flashing lights at a crash scene have sometimes demonstrated this effect.  Like a moth to a flickering flame, a human being behind the wheel will be attracted to a light blinking in the darkness.  The implication is that blinking lights on vehicles, and on the back of bicycles, may be more dangerous than steady lights.  Rather than alerting and repelling the motorist, a flashing light may actually draw the approaching vehicle to the light's source causing a collision.  Apparently, steady lights do not have such an effect.  There is little science, however, that supports the existence of this supposed effect.  According to James D. Wells Jr., who conducted a comprehensive 2004 study of the moth effect, "There are no known studies that have not been disproven that substantiate the actual existence of this effect in real world driving."  Furthermore, even if there is some evidence for the moth effect in the emergency vehicle context, there are no studies I'm aware of considering its application to bicycles, which generally do not emit nearly as much light as say an ambulance with all lights a-blazin'.

In a dense urban atmosphere bicycles at night at competing to be seen with a lot of illuminated objects, i.e. cars, street lights, flashing pawn broker signs, etc. Moreover, bikes are small in comparison to other vehicles on the road and bike lights can offer relatively little candle power compared to these other illuminated sources.  It seems that using a flashing light would help the bicyclist been seen best in the urban road discotheque.  The bicyclist should, of course, make up his or her own mind on the subject.  Either option is perfectly legal in Illinois.  I recommend reading an excellent treatment of the moth effect by human factors expert, Marc Green, complete with study references.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bicyclist Doored In Front Of Chicago's East Bank Club

On his way home from work, a Chicago bicyclist was injured on May 25th when the driver of a 2010 Mercedes-Benz opened her car door without looking for traffic on West Kinzie Street in front of the East Bank Club.  Immediately following the collision the cyclist was transported via ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a severe right leg injury.

The dooring incident took place at around 5:40 p.m. just east of Kinzie Street's intersection with North Kingsbury Street.  The bicyclist was riding eastbound along the ride side of Kinzie just after stopping at the sign controlled intersection.  He had split second notice that the door was about to open in his path and attempted to swerve to his left.  However, his effort to avoid impact was not successful, his right leg crashing hard into the driver's door. The bicyclist had been wearing a helmet.

The bicyclist suffered what appears to be significant tearing of the muscle in his lower right leg which has resulted in a foot drop.  It is not clear whether this will be a permanent injury but he has not yet regained full use of his leg.  Our law firm is representing the cyclist in this matter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chicago's New Cycle Track Will Not Be Optional For Bicyclists

Our beautiful new cycle track on Kinzie Avenue is nearly complete.  It provides a safe pathway for bicyclists traveling into Chicago's Loop from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street, segregated from motor vehicles.  Long overdue, the track promises to be the first 1/2 mile of a promised 100 miles of protected bikeways to be built in Chicago over the next few years.  Segregating bicyclists from motor vehicles is likely to make riding in the city safer and will encourage more folks to pedal around town, decreasing motor vehicle congestion and increasing the city's overall health and livability.

Bicyclists, like any other loosely defined "community" of individuals, like to complain about stuff.  And I have already heard concerns among bicyclists over the new cycle track.  Some worry -- not unreasonably -- that funneling riders into a insulated space will make getting around by bike slower, less enjoyable.  The cycle track, some fear, will get clogged with slower riders, and that it will be difficult for quicker riders to pass due to the presence of the segregating barriers.  Some of those concerned about being forced to "go Dutch" have declared an intent to simply ignore the cycle track, to ride Kinzie in the regular lane of traffic.  Well, not so fast.  Once the Kinzie cycle track is complete, riding in it will be required for bicyclists, not an option.  Section 9-52-020 of Chicago's 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.
The only time when a bicyclist may arguably avoid the cycle track will be if its use is not feasible, i.e. due to the collection of snow or debris.  Otherwise, it must be utilized when traveling that stretch of Kinzie.

I like going fast.  I am guessing there are going to be times during my commute when I am frustrated because I am behind a slow poke in flip flops on a cruiser carrying 25 plastic bags of junk.  But I am hoping that will happen rarely, and in any event is a fair trade-off for not constantly fearing for my life while trying to get to work in the morning.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Someone On Chicago Lawn Street Likely Knows Who Killed 8 Year Old On Bicycle

Someone on the block where this young girl lived likely knows the driver of the SUV that killed her.  According to the report below by NBC the vehicle had been parked on the residential street just before striking Mariela.  I would anticipate the Chicago Police Department going door to door looking for witnesses.

View more videos at:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Police Searching for Silver SUV That Struck, Killed 8 Year Old Riding Bicycle In Front Of Her Home

Eight year old Mariela Crisostomo died early this morning of injuries suffered when she was struck by a hit-and-run SUV as she rode her bicycle in front of her home in Chicago Lawn.  Mariela lived with her parents on a quiet street on the 3300 bock of West 62nd Place.  Her parents only allowed her to ride near her home which they felt would keep her away from motor vehicle traffic.  Yesterday, however, the female driver of a gray or silver SUV violated the serenity of the neighborhood, crashing into young Mariela so hard that she was thrown off her bicycle and underneath a parked car.  Neighbors who witnessed the horrifying scene saw the woman speed away from the collision.  Police are still looking for the driver.

This story was reported by William Lee of the Chicago Tribune.  Read the full article here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

8 Year Old Girl Seriously Injured After Being Struck By Vehicle In Crystal Lake

An 8 year old girl suffered serious head injuries yesterday morning as she rode her bicycle on a quiet residential street in Crystal Lake.  At around 7:35 a.m. the girl was riding across North Avenue toward Millard Avenue with her 12 year old brother when she was struck by a 2004 Acura traveling east on North.  The impact threw the girl onto the windshield of the car, rendering her unconscious.  She was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.  It was not been reported how fast the car was traveling at the time of the incident.

Recall of Civia Bicycle Front Racks Announced

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Quality Bicycle Products yesterday announced the recall of front bicycle racks sold with Civia Loring bicycles and as an aftermarket upgrade.*  The company received one report of the rack mount breaking causing the rack, installed over the front wheel, to collapse causing injury to a rider.  If you have one of these racks you should remove it and contact the retailer from which you purchased it for a refund or replacement.

*Civia's website notes that the recall applies only to racks purchased as an aftermarket upgrade.  However, the Safety Commission's press release makes no distinction between racks purchased with the Civia Loring bicycle and those purchased as an upgrade.  It is not clear to me if or how the racks may be different, but consumers with one of these racks are encouraged to contact Civia/QBP with questions or concerns.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground On Chicago's First Protected Bicycle Lane

The new bike lane is scheduled for completion by June 17th.

View more videos at:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bicyclist In Serious Condition After Being Struck By City of Chicago Vehicle

A City of Chicago vehicle caused serious injury to a 20 year old female bicyclist yesterday afternoon near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Cullom Avenue.  Passersby at the scene after the collision reported seeing a badly damaged bicycle and a significant amount of blood.  The type of city vehicle has not been revealed, but at least one passerby noted that it seemed to be a sanitation vehicle.  The bicyclist was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center after in the incident.  Her current condition is unknown.

It has not be reported how the collision occurred.  It has been suggested that the bicyclist may have ran a stop sign, but no basis for that speculation has been cited.  Based on the seeming severity of the cyclist's injuries it seems unlikely that her point of view has been gathered.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

25 Year Old Bicyclist Struck By Motorist In Chicago's Old Town Neighborhood

A 25 year old Chicagoan sustained a left elbow fracture and a concussion after being struck by a motorist as she rode her bicycle near 149 West Division Street on April 26th.  The bicyclist was taken from the scene via ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  She had been wearing a helmet, which may have saved her from sustaining a far worse head injury.  She remains in treatment for her elbow fracture.  Our law firm is aggressively pursuing a claim against the at fault motorist on the bicyclist's behalf.

The incident occurred at around 5:10 p.m. as the cyclist rode at a modest pace eastbound along the right side of West Division behind her boyfriend in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.  As the two approached Division's intersection with LaSalle Street, the driver of a 2002 Suzuki Aerio, also headed eastbound on Divisioin, suddenly merged right into the bicyclist, the front of his vehicle striking her rear wheel.  Her boyfriend, traveling about 10 feet in front of her, heard a sickening crunch as her head and left side struck the pavement.

Bicycle Helmets Marketed For Aggressive Downhill Riding May Fail; Recall Announced

 The makers of Bell helmets, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, have issued a recall of some of its full-face bicycle helmets.  The plastic buckle that connects the chin strap of the helmet, marketed for aggressive downhill riding, can fail causing the helmet to come off the wearing's head.  Bell Sports has received one report of a buckle failure during a crash, resulting in injury.  Consumers are advised to stop using the helmets and to contact Bell Sports for a replacement or refund.

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