Friday, May 31, 2013

Bobby Cann Was A Model Bicyclist

Courtesy of DNAinfo Chicago
Bobby Cann was a model bicyclist.  He was experienced, law abiding and kind to others, according to people who knew him.

He was killed Wednesday evening by a 28 year old driver in a Mercedes on Clybourne Avenue at around 6:35 p.m.  The weather was perfect at the time of the crash.  Bobby was wearing a helmet.  

Chicago police are investigating whether the driver was impaired at the time of the collision. Some are questioning whether better bicycling infrastructure could have prevented this terrible tragedy. But what has emerged so far is that Bobby Cann was doing everything right when he was killed.  He was riding his bike to his girlfriend's home.  He was riding because he loved to do so and because there was simply somewhere he needed to be on a pleasant spring evening.  He was riding in the street because that is where he had a right to be.  It was where he was supposed to be.  He was one less car.  Sadly, now he is one less life.

I was thinking about Bobby and the photos I saw of the crash online yesterday as I rode home from work yesterday.  If I'm honest, I was a little nervous during my commute.  But I'll ride on.  We all must. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

26 Year Old Chicago Bicyclist Killed By Driver In Old Town

A 26 year old male bicyclist was killed by a driver in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood during yesterday's rush hour, according to DNAinfo Chicago.  Robert Cann was riding southbound on Clybourn Avenue when he was struck by the driver at around 6:45 p.m. who was reportedly traveling in the same direction.  We was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 7:05 p.m., according to The Chicago Tribune.

The incident occurred on a fairly wide stretch of roadway in front of iconic Chicago bicycle shop, Yojimbo's Garage, near the intersection of North Clybourn Avenue and North Larrabee Street, DNAinfo reported.  It was immediately apparent that the crash was serious.  The owner of Yojimbo's, Marcus Moore, reported that the cyclist lost part of his leg at the scene.  Photos on the DNAinfo website suggest a very significant collision.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dealing With A Hit-And-Run, How To Protect Yourself

The following appeared in Cycling Legalese, the column I write for Urban Velo:
Q: While riding I was sideswiped by a car and they ran. My injuries were quite severe and I spent some time in the hospital. Is this a no win situation for me?
Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my experience, hit and run crashes involving drivers and cyclists happen with disturbing frequency. Generally, a driver will take off after causing a collision for three reasons: (1) Fear of consequences; (2) He/she lacks a moral compass; (3) He/she lacks auto insurance coverage. Very often all three factors are in play to compel a driver to flee a crash. Leaving the scene of a collision in which bodily injury or property damage results is a crime.
Unfortunately, a city cyclist should anticipate the possibility of being in a hit and run crash. However, there are steps he or she can take to protect themselves both before and after such an incident:
Buy insurance: In 49 states, drivers are required to carry motor vehicle insurance coverage. (New Hampshire is the outlier.) Useful and integrated into our culture though they may be, cars and trucks have the potential to cause enormous harm. For that reason, motor vehicle owners are required by law to have insurance to compensate anyone they may injure. Nevertheless, nationally one in seven drivers, over 14%, fail to carry the necessary coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Many auto policies provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These provisions of a policy provide important protection if you are injured by another driver who either has no insurance, or coverage that is insufficient to compensate you for your injuries. Generally, the amount of un/underinsured coverage mirrors the amount of the policy’s bodily injury coverage. 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. If you are hit by a driver that flees the scene, your insurance provider will usually treat that as if you were hit by an uninsured driver and cover you ever though you were biking at the time of the crash. However, some insurance policies require that you notify your insurer very soon after a hit and run incident, often within 30 days, or you may run the risk of coverage being denied. A carless person may buy a non-owners auto insurance policy. These policies are offered by many big name insurance companies and tend to cost considerably less than a standard policy, generally about half the premium of a traditional auto owner’s policy. Importantly, they may protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Not all insurance policies are the same. Rates may vary greatly depending on location and the specific coverage purchased. Non-owners car insurance policies may differ materially from one to the other. Also, they may not automatically come with un/underinsured coverage. 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.
Press record: Technology has finally gotten to the point where is it relatively easy and inexpensive for a cyclist to ride with a small video camera secured to the front of their bike, or helmet. Riding with one of these cameras recording your ride can be a tremendous help if you are involved in a crash. A review of the video after the fact may uncover the identity of the vehicle and driver involved.
Just a few short years ago, it was impractical to ride with a video camera. Many models were too big and too heavy. Even if they were small and light they could not be attached and detached quickly and easily enough to be convenient for urban riding. In the city you you need to be able to lock it up or take it with you if you hope to keep it. Now though more bicyclists are riding with small quality cameras that are weather proof and which can be clipped on and off the bike as easily as a bike light. The increasingly ubiquitous GoPro cameras start at about $200. They are small, light, weather proof and have almost limitless mounting options. The Epic Carbine HD, for about $220, is another option. I personally own this camera and can attest to its small size, lightness and ability to attach and detach from the bike or helmet with ease. Should something happen, it is nice to have an electronic witness watching your back.
Even if you do not ride with a video camera on your bike, you should try to make use of your cell phone’s camera immediately after a crash. If you are able to do so, snap a photo of the offending vehicle and its license plate as soon as possible, in other words before the driver takes off. The act of taking a photo my even make the driver feel compelled to remain at the scene. They will be on notice that they will not likely get away with fleeing.
Look for the eye in the sky: I often gets calls from bicyclists who have been hit by motorist who have fled the scene and whom the cyclist could not identify. There are ways to find a hit and run suspect, however. It is important to go the the scene of the crash as soon as possible and look for local businesses who may have security video cameras in use. A little luck is usually involved, but sometimes a security camera will have captured a crash and the vehicle that caused it. If the video is of good enough quality to have read the vehicle’s license plate number then the rest is easy. The other step that I generally take is to send a Freedom of Information Act request to the local department of transportation and police department which may also have video cameras operating in the area. If the crash occurred at a busy intersection the possibility of one of these cameras having captured the crash is increased.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

51 Year Old Chicago Bicyclist Struck By Young Driver Whose View May Have Been Obscured

A 51 year old man was struck by a car while riding his bicycle at the intersection of North Sacramento Avenue and West Lawrence Avenue in Chicago on May 7th.  The heavy collision left the cyclist with injuries to his right leg and head.

The collision occurred at around 7:20 p.m.  The bicyclist was riding his cruiser bicycle at a slow rate of speed south on Sacramento.  He entered the intersection with Lawrence as the light controlling southbound traffic was turning from green to yellow.  Before he made it completely through the intersection the light turned to red.  At the same time, in an attempt to perhaps get a jump on the light, a young driver in a 2011 Kia Optima passed another vehicle waiting at the light on eastbound Lawrence on the right.  Emerging from the right side of the other vehicle, he crashed into the cyclist.  A witness, stopped in his own vehicle on westbound Lawrence, said that the Kia was in the process of accelerating through the intersection when the crash took place.  Photographs taken at the scene of the vehicle involved revealed that the driver's seat was reclined nearly all the way back when the collision occurred.  Questions exist as to whether the driver's seat position made it difficult for him to see as he emerged into the intersection.

The cyclist remains in physical therapy treatment due to his injuries.

My law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cycling Club President Gives Video Tour Of Dearborn Bicycle Lane

Anne Alt, president of the Chicago Cycling Club, takes us on a tour of the Dearborn Bike Lane in the middle of a busy work day.  (Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune).  I agree with Anne's take on its importance in encouraging new, "non-aggressive" riders to bike downtown.  There is also no doubt that enforcement of those driving and parking in the bike lane needs to be stepped up.

(Disclosure:  I am a member of the Chicago Cycling Club's steering committee.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two Chicago Area Bicyclists Killed One Day Before Remembrance Ride

On a day when bicyclists around the world will honor fellow cyclists killed by drivers, the Chicago area is mourning the death of two cyclists.  A woman in her 30s and an 83 year old man were killed in separate incidents about 12 hours apart yesterday.  Both were riding their bikes when they were struck by motorists.

At around 9:00 a.m. yesterday the woman, whose name has not been reported, was struck and killed "crossing Higgins Road at the exit ramp from northbound Route 53" in Schaumburg, according to the Daily Herald.  The Herald reported that according to Illinois State Police "witnesses differed as to whether the driver had exited the ramp and turned east or had been driving on Higgins" at the time of the crash.  The intersection is close to the Busse Woods Bicycle Trail.

Leonard Ratajczyk, 83, was struck and killed at around 9:10 p.m. by the driver of a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu as he rode his bicycle in the 7800 block of West Irving Park Road, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.  Both cyclist and driver were traveling westbound at the time of the crash, the Sun-Times reported.  The driver was cited for "for failure to reduce speed."

Tonight is the 10th Edition of The Ride of Silence.  Started in 2003, the event, which takes place at locations all around the world, consists of a slow remembrance ride in honor of bicyclists killed and injured by motorists.  Chicago's edition begins at 6:00 p.m. at the Richard J. Daley Center.  The ride will depart at 6:45 p.m. and proceed about 8 miles past the several ghost bikes installed around the city.  All are encouraged to attend.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Through All The Changes, City Cyclists Must Protect One Another

Lots of folks - well meaning and otherwise - claim to be watching out for the best interests of city cyclists.  At the end of the day, if we truly are the "community" we often claim to be, it is up to each of us to watch the backs of our fellow bicyclists.  Our infrastructure in Chicago is changing.  The law is changing.  Through all of that, and whatever is to come, let us remember that, corny as it sounds, if you pedal on two wheels you are my brother/sister.

The following column originally appeared as part of my column on the Urban Velo website, Cycling Legalese.  

Many of us who are deeply involved in cycling and cycling advocacy find ourselves referring to a bicycling “community.” But is there really such a community of cyclists, and, if so, what does that even mean?
People who ride bikes are not really part of a discreet group. I would venture to guess that most people who ride do not define themselves by the fact that on occasion they hop onto a two wheeled contraption and go for a spin. Even among those that consider themselves “cyclists,” there are tribes that have little to do with one another. A spandex clad roadie in his 50s may run (and ride) with a very different crowd than a 20 something year old polo player. In my experience, however, despite the purported existence of such tribes, there most certainly is a “bicycle community.” It is made up of people that, while often very different, are bound together by their love of self-propulsion on two wheels. Not everyone that rides a bike could fairly be referred to as a member of this community. But for those that love it, that bond exists, creating an important oneness, a community.
This community is important in a couple of ways. First, it provides a means of meeting people having a common interest and with whom the love of biking can be shared. It can even help expand one’s enjoyment of cycling by promoting introduction to different forms of it. Maybe the middle aged roadie would love playing polo and vice versa. Secondly, the bicycling community provides a support network, and an important one at that. Time and again in my law practice I have seen bicyclists rally to help other cyclists in need. This sometimes happens in the most literal sense. For example, last summer I represented a cyclist who was doored while riding home from work along a busy cycling corridor in Chicago. The bottom edge of the door that was flung open into him caught his shin, slicing it open. He was bleeding profusely and the driver that injured him was freaking out, offering no help. Thankfully, however, a cyclist who happened to be riding right behind my client with her teenage daughter saw what happened, stayed calm and came to the rescue. She tightly wrapped the wound to quell the bleeding while her daughter called for help. The cyclist’s leg was saved and he ended up with little more than an ugly scar. On several other occasions, bicyclists have acted as witnesses for clients involved in crashes with motorists. Several months ago a woman who I ended up representing was riding her old mountain bike home from work. She did not commute by bike everyday, but since the weather was pleasant she decided to ride to the office. On her ride home a motorist doored her and she was injured. When I brought a claim against the driver he alleged that his door had been open for some time and that the bicyclist inexplicably ran into it. Unfortunately, the bicyclist could not remember accurately what had happened. However, a bike messenger was riding behind her at the time of the crash and saw it unfold. He explained that the door was thrown open suddenly just as she rode by and that there was nothing she could have done to avoid it. Thanks to his statement we successfully resolved the case. Though the messenger and my client were arguably of two different cycling tribes, the messenger stayed at the scene and provided his contact information to the police, an act of decency that helped us tremendously.
Sometimes the help that cyclists provide to others is less direct, but no less important. Online forums do more than just offer bicycle maintenance tips. Great examples of this appear regularly on websites like The Chainlink, an online forum based here in Chicago. Daily, cyclists take to The Chainlink to update each other on upcoming cycling events, and on what is happening, often in near real time, on the mean streets. Cyclists post photos of existing street hazards and even put out APB’s on drivers that fled the scene of a collision with a bicyclist.
What can you do to help your follow cyclists? Watch their backs. Be a witness. Offer aid to those in need. If you see a cyclist stopped on the side of the road ask if they are okay. Offer them use of your tools, or pump. Join an online forum and participate constructively in discussion and debate. Bicycling is not inherently dangerous, but in the city streets a network of aid can be tremendously helpful. Be a part of that network. Join the community, and lend your voice to other bicyclists in proclaiming the popular rallying cry of today, We Are Legion!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Settlement For 20 Year Old Bicyclist Struck By Elderly Driver In Lakeview

The left cross inflicted serious damage, a fractured nose, broken tooth and facial scaring on the young woman's face.  It wasn't a thrown punch that caused the injuries but the careless maneuver of a left turning driver.  Now my firm has successfully resolved the cyclist's claim against the driver for a substantial sum, compensating for her medical bills, the dental work she still needs and for her other harms and losses.

At around 5:00 p.m. on January 16th the 20 year old photography student was struck by a 74 year old driver who was attempting to turn left from northbound Lincoln onto westbound Barry in Lakeview.  He claimed to have not seen the cyclist, but we were able to demonstrate that she would have been easily visible. The collision occurred during early twilight and there was plenty of natural light left as photos taken at the scene revealed.  The front corner of the vehicle hit the left side of the bicycle flipping the rider onto the hood where her face bounced off of the cold metal before she was thrown to the street.  She was rushed via ambulance to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center nearby.  Though treated and released, she continues to undergo dental care for a badly damaged tooth.  She still has small scars under her lip and nose from the crash.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Lake Villa Bicyclist Killed By Motorist On Her Birthday

A 34 year old female bicyclist was killed by a driver in Lake Villa yesterday, according to The Chicago Tribune.  It had been her birthday.

The fatal crash occurred at around 2:15 p.m. as the cyclist, Anna Harvey, was riding southbound on Route 45, north of Grand Avenue.  A 2000 Toyota Camry, also traveling south on Route 45, struck her, according to the Tribune.  Ms. Harvey was pronounced dead at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville some time later.

Few details have been reported regarding how the collision happened.  As of yesterday evening no charges had been filled against the driver, though "the accident remains under investigation by the Lake County Sheriff's Office accident investigation unit," the Tribune reported. 

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