Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chicago's Top Cycling Stories Of 2014

In 2014 the City of Chicago continued its commitment to making our streets better for cyclists. More bike lanes were installed around the city, and old facilities were updated.  Despite those encouraging signs Chicago has a ways to go toward becoming a truly great biking city.  The League of American Bicyclists still only ranks Chicago as a Silver city for cycling, significantly behind Gold cities like Seattle and San Francisco and a Platinum city like Portland.  This lag was seemingly highlighted by the poor condition of our roads and bike lanes after a particularly difficult winter. Also, the number of deaths was up substantially from 2013.  So with a mix of good and bad here are the top five Chicago cycling stories of 2014:

5.  Showing that one person really can make a difference, one fiesty cyclist fought the law and won. June saw the resolution of "Lilly's case," a high profile lawsuit which arose when a pregnant Chicago bicyclist was doored on Halloween, 2012.  Rebecca Resman, aka "Lilly", was threatened with a traffic citation by a Chicago police officer after she was doored by the passenger of a motor vehicle as she passed on the right in a bicycle lane.  The responding officer apparently felt that the cyclist violated a statute prohibiting two wheeled vehicles from passing stopped or slowed motor vehicles on the right unless they were afforded 8 feet of space, a rarity in Chicago.  The law was only meant to apply to motorcycles, scooters and the like.  Our firm, which represented Rebecca, and her employer, The Active Transportation Alliance, worked with legislators in Springfield and with the City of Chicago have the law clarified to permit passing on the right so long as  there was "reasonable" space in which to do so.  With that important change in place and following Rebecca's poised deposition testimony, the case resolved to her benefit.

4.  Our state's appellate court did Illinois bicyclists a solid with its holding in Pattullo-Banks v. City of Park Ridge.  Illinois municipalities may now be held liable for injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists forced into the street by snow piled onto sidewalks and bike lanes by city plows, according to the Court.  The ruling was issued on September 4th and overturned an order entered by Cook County Judge Lynn Egan dismissing the plaintiff's lawsuit against the city.

3.  First, it was in Detroit.  Then it was a television commercial.  In 2014 Slow Roll made a home in Chicago as a new kind of urban advocacy.  Slow Roll Chicago was founded by Jamal Julien and Olatunji Oboi Reed as a means of getting people of all types, young, old, in shape and out on their bikes and into the communities  The idea is to have fun but also to, you know, see stuff and, more to the point, become aware of what is happening throughout Chicago.  The hope is that awareness will encourage action where ever and whenever it is needed.  Slow Roll uses the bicycle as a tool to create neighborhood awareness, not merely as a means of recreating.  In September Julien explained to The Chicago Tribune, "We want to promote the communities that we're riding through.  We'll be  looking at coffee shops, mom-and-pop restaurants and small retailers.  And if there is a historical venue, we can stop and talk about it."  Reed added, "We ride because we believe the more people that ride in our community, the better we stand an opportunity of our communities being improved."

2.  The first half of the year was a rough one for Chicago cycles with an exceptionally brutal winter, and an unprepared or unresponsive administration combining to make getting around by bike very difficult.  Pot holes (more like craters in some spots) and snowy, icy bike lanes were the big story of early 2014.  Back in 2013, the city did a pretty good job of clearing bike lanes when winter weather hit.  But by February of this year, as my partner Jim Freeman noted on this blog, "Now we're seeing how the City handles snow removal during a real winter.  The old folks I talk to admit that the beating Chicago has taken this winter has been the worst since 1979, and it shows in the bike lanes.  Some bike lanes have been maintained, while others are a mess."  By early March, the winter still in full effect, it seemed that the City had thrown in the towel.  Even in the touted Dearborn Bike Lane, snow and ice remained long after storm clouds had cleared making pedaling to work treacherous.  When the weather finally did break, potholes, many of considerable enormity, remained, and the City was spread thin in its efforts to fix them.  

If Chicago is truly committed to seeing the bicycle become a viable means of transportation for its citizens and visitors then it simply must be as committed to clearing the streets for cyclists as it is for drivers.  Let's hope that last winter was a learning experience, merely a blip in the march towards our city becoming more bike friendly year 'round.

1.  Twice as many people died riding their bikes in Chicago in 2014 as did the year before.  Through today, 8 people died in bicycle related crashes this year, compared to 4 in 2013.*  Adding to this sad statistic was a report released in October by the Governors Highway Safety Association which listed Illinois as having the 5th most bicycle fatalities in the nation between 2010 and 2012.  Certainly this is sobering stuff highlighting in the starkest possible terms how far we still must travel to make our state and our city safer for cycling.  

It seems fair to note that cycling in Chicago and statewide has increased in popularity.  Given all of the earnest work done by planners statewide it would be hard to argue that cycling now is more dangerous than it was 10 years ago.  More people on bikes may be expected to lead to more injury and more fatalities. Still, the goal is zero bicycling fatalities and here's hoping that 2015 sees us closer to reaching that crucial milestone.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

CTA And City Must Do A Better Job Of Protecting Chicago Bicyclists

Riding with buses is no fun.  Until Chicago does a better job of segregating bicycle and bus traffic, like some other North American cities have, cyclists will just have to deal with it. Even experienced city bikers grit their teeth when a Chicago Transit Authority bus zips passed only to swerve right in front of them to pick up/drop off passengers.  More novice cyclists I've spoken with cite the presence of CTA buses as a major factor that keeps them from riding more.  

But there are rules that bus drivers must follow.  When they are disobeyed and a cyclist is injured as a result, the CTA may be held responsible.  Consider the video below shot earlier this week on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park:

The three buses presented a dangerous situation for bicyclists in the area, as well as for the people seeking to board the second bus.  The first bus driver did nothing wrong.  The driver activated his or her turn signal, passed the cyclists at a sufficient distance then pulled fully into the bus stop well ahead of the cyclists.  However, that bus's presence at the stop, plus the second bus driver's conduct created a dangerous situation.  The second driver boxed the cyclists in then opened the bus door inviting riders into the path of the bikers.

Let's look at the CTA's own rules regarding how drivers are to deal with bicyclists upon approaching a stop.

CTA Poster from 2004

Close up of section on Service Stops

Close up of section on Curbing
The above poster was published by the CTA in 2004 and was meant as a guide for drivers regarding safe interaction with bicyclists on the road.  Comparing the sections on Service Stops and Curbing to the conduct of bus #2 in the video we see a couple of violations.  Firstly, the driver should have let the two cyclists to the right of the bus pass the bus stop before bringing the vehicle to a halt. Secondly, he or she should not have opened the bus doors before allowing the cyclists to pass. Thirdly, after allowing the cyclists to pass, the driver should have pulled to the curb to discourage cyclists from passing on the right while picking up/dropping off passengers.  Thankfully, the bicyclists were traveling slow enough so as not to cause injury to themselves or the people attempting to board the bus.

The video shows a third bus adding additional danger to the mix.  With two buses at the bus stop and now a third bicyclist passing them on the left, the third driver decided to pass the buses and all three cyclists on the left rather than wait for the bus and bicycle congestion to clear.  Very foolish.  Yet this sort of mess is all too common in my experience as a daily cyclist.  Buses passing too close and too fast, zipping into and out of bike lanes without concern for the presence of cyclists is consistently frustrating and down right frightening.  City bus drivers are required to obey the same rules of the road as are other drivers.  When they fail to do so, and/or violate the procedures put in place by their employers, i.e. CTA, and their conduct causes harm, they may be held liable for so doing.  It should go without saying that bicyclists also have a duty to follow the rules of the road, the same rules applicable to drivers, and should appreciate that buses make frequent stops.  Extra caution should be taken around buses.  

While there are some lousy bus drivers out there, I do not mean to disparage them all.  Bus drivers are doing a job and generally try to and want to do so safely then go home to their families.  Much blame for dangerous interactions between Chicago cyclists and bus drivers must go to the state of our current infrastructure which too often requires them to share the road with each other.  That, plus the fact that the drivers are trying to maintain a strict time schedule sometimes leads to calamity.  Earlier this year I had the opportunity to use bike share in San Francisco.  I was impressed with that city's efforts to segregate bus and bicycle traffic by creating bus stop islands to the left of bike lanes.  With these buses need never enter bike lanes to pick up and drop off passengers.  Chicago would be wise to take note.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Postal Driver Nearly Delivers Right Hook To Chicago Bicyclist

An aggressive U.S. postal driver nearly delivered a right hook as I rode home in the Kinzie bike lane last night.

Illinois law generally requires bicyclists riding slower than motor vehicle traffic to travel along the right side of the roadway.  Right turning drivers who fail to look for bicyclists on their right are among the most common causes of bike crashes in urban areas.  These collisions are common enough in Chicago that the city's municipal code addresses them.  Section 9-16-020(f)  states:
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.
The situation represented in the video above was particularly frustrating.  The driver must have seen me.  Firstly, I was riding in a clearly marked bicycle lane.  Secondly, I must have been very visible to any driver.  I had a red flashing light on the rear of my bike, panniers with reflective strips, tires with reflective sidewalls (Schwalbe Marathon), and a bright flashing white light on the front of my bike.  Thirdly, there is a sign located at the intersection (Kinzie and Jefferson) that instructs turning drivers to stop for bicyclists and pedestrians.  (Bicyclists are only required to stop at that intersection when pedestrians are present.)

I was able to avoid colliding with the mail truck because I was not riding very fast.  Also, the driver did use his/her turn signal.  Thankfully, I noticed it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chicago Cycling Club Loses Long Time Ride Leader

Joe Dickstein (in Blackhawks sweater) with
other members of the Chicago Cycling Club

by Anne Alt
Our local bike community lost someone special this week. Longtime Chicago Cycling Club member and ride leader, Joe Dickstein, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Tuesday.
Many of you may know him from his sports nostalgia rides and treks to restaurants serving excellent burgers and craft beers.  Joe was the ultimate sports fan with a great sense of fun.  His last trip was a hockey pilgrimage to Canada.
He has contributed so much to the club over the years.  We will miss him.

The memorial service will be at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd. at 12:00 NOON on Friday, December 5.  Shivah services will be at the Dickstein residence, 7447 N. Hoyne #1S, Chicago immediately following the service on Friday; Saturday night 6-9 p.m., Sunday 2-9 p.m., and Monday 6-9 p.m.  If you were friends with Joe and his wife Phyllis, she would welcome your support in this difficult time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Disturbing Video Of Car Slamming Into West Chicago Bicyclist Helps Bring About Resolution Of Legal Case

Screen capture of video showing the
moment before impact.
(Scroll down for full video.)
Persistent sleuthing, hard work and a little luck has brought about successful resolution of a bicyclist's legal claim against a driver that struck him from behind last year.  Our law firm represented the bicyclist, an active, physically fit 75 year old man.  The case resolved for the full amount of available auto insurance coverage.

The collision occurred on May 1, 2013 at around 6:30 a.m. on West Washington Street in West Chicago, Illinois.  As the video footage below shows the cyclist was pedaling his Trek mountain bike eastbound when he was hit from behind by the driver of a 2007 Toyota Camry.  Before impact he was well-established in the roadway and was cautiously merging left preparing to make a left turn.  In so doing he was fully compliant with the Illinois Vehicle Code.  The driver told police that she was traveling at about 30 mph at the moment of impact.

Soon after the bicyclist hired us we received the Illinois Traffic Crash Report created by the West Chicago Police Department.  It suggested that the bicyclist was at fault for causing the crash.  The report quoted the driver as stating that as she drove east "a man on a bicycle struck her vehicle and hit her windshield."  She also told police that, "She did not see the bicyclist and was not distracted by anything."  Witnesses apparently told police that, "The bicyclist began to enter the middle of the east bound lanes in front of" the car.  The report concluded stating, "No citations were issued." Unfortunately, our client was unable to provide us with much assistance.  Other than recalling that he had been eastbound on Washington, he was unable to recall much else having sustained a head injury that impacted his memory.  We got to work gathering evidence.  The first thing we did was carefully survey the area, looking for cameras that may have captured the incident.  We got lucky.  The crash took place in front of a jewelry store.  It was likely to have security cameras.  It was important to contact the store right away, before any existing footage of the crash was deleted or recorded over. Thankfully, the store owner was cooperative.  He had several cameras on the outside of the building and agreed to search the video archive for us.  It turned out that the cameras captured the crash from multiple angles, which were forwarded to us.  I have posted the best views below.  The first video is from the camera looking west and clearly shows the cyclist and car that hit him in the moments leading up to impact.  The second video shows the terrifying collision and its aftermath.  A warning:  Some will find the videos disturbing.   They are posted with our client's knowledge and permission.

The footage allowed us to rebut the suggestion in the police report that the bicyclist came out of nowhere and mindlessly ran into the car.  It shows that he was well established within the roadway so as to give a reasonably careful driver plenty of time and space to see him and avoid hitting him.

The cyclist made a downright remarkable recovery from what were very serious injuries.  He was knocked unconscious at the scene, his head having smashed the vehicle's windshield.  His lower left leg was badly broken, requiring surgical repair.  He also had several very large open wounds that required surgical closure.  After days in the hospital he spent more than a month in a rehabilitation facility. Though his medical bills were quite substantial, the driver only carried the minimum amount of insurance coverage permitted under Illinois law, $25,000.  After we provided the video of the crash to the driver's insurer, it quickly tendered the full amount of the policy.  We then looked to our client's own auto insurer to provide additional compensation pursuant to the underinsured motorist provision of his policy.  The video footage also persuaded our client's insurer to tender the full amount of available coverage, thereby maximizing his compensation. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Urban Velo Rides Off Into The Sunset

Urban Velo is calling it quits.  The online blog and print magazine that served as a forum for all things related to biking in the city for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, announced today that it has published its final issue.  Archived issues of the magazine will be available in digital format at

I am very proud to have periodically contributed to Urban Velo's Cycling Legalese column for the last two years.

Urban Velo came to be during the fixed gear heyday of the mid-aughties.  Based in Pittsburgh, editor, Brad Quartuccio, and publisher, Jeff Guerrero, created the go-to online and print source for all things urban cycling.  Uniquely its focus was the people who love to ride in the city, messengers, polo jocks, bike advocates, commuters, BMX kids, hipsters and plain old people who tended to favor steel and denim over carbon fiber and lycra.  Its popular, i love riding in the city section featured regular people doing what they loved on their bikes world wide.  The print edition of the magazine became regular reading in city bike shops nationwide.

It will be sorely missed.

Friday, November 21, 2014

1980s Bicycle Safety Rap Video (Just Because)

It's Friday so how about a kids bicycle safety rap video from the 1980s.  Nothing not to love here. Sugarhill Gang style rapping, school kid archetypes (bully with 'tude, nerd, rich kid, etc.), gaudy clothes, and Styrofoam bike helmets that look like re-purposed dime store beer coolers.  Enjoy, and ri... ri... ri... ride safe!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Aurora Bicyclist Remains in Hospital Following Hit And Run Crash

The driver of a red pickup truck struck and seriously injured a 58 year old man riding his bicycle on Thursday in Aurora before fleeing the scene, according to The Beacon-News.  The impact left the truck's front grill in the street, and the bicyclist in critical condition.  The bicyclist, whose name has not been reported, remains in Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

The collision occurred at around 5:45 p.m. as the cyclist was riding on Liberty Street, just east of Farnsworth Avenue.  No other details of the crash have been reported.  Police at still looking for the driver.  Anyone with information about the crash or who may have seen a red pick up truck missing its front grill in the area should contact the Aurora Police Department at 630-256-5330.

When searching for a hit and run driver it is critical that a proper investigation be undertaken immediately.  This means talking to area residents and business owners in the days, if not hours, following the crash.  The area around Liberty and Farnsworth is mostly residential.  However, there is a large church, St. Therese of Jesus Catholic Church, at that location.  It is not clear from looking on Google Streetview whether the Church has any security cameras which could have captured the crash, but an inquiry should be made immediately.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Illinois Bicyclist Killed By Center Line Crossing Driver, State Police Blame Victim

A 53 year old male bicyclist on his way to work was killed in Arthur, Illinois by a driver who  crossed the roadway center line, according to The News-Gazette.  The motorist, 41 year old Jessie Lee Wilson of Mattoon, Illinois, was allegedly driving northbound on Moultrie Country Road 1800 East when he crossed the center line to pass a northbound bicyclist and struck the southbound cyclist, Velvon Schrock, 53.  The collision occurred at around 6:50 a.m. on Friday, October 31st.  The driver was cited for improper overtaking.

Mr. Schrock sustained massive head and neck injuries from after being struck by the front of the motor vehicle.  He was a worker at Lambright Distributors in Arthur, and is survived by his wife and three sons.

A press release from the Illinois State Police in Pesotum engages in victim blaming.  Despite charging the driver with improper overtaking of another bicyclist, according to The News-Gazette, the release states that Mr. Schrock "was not riding as close as practical to the right hand edge of the road.  He was also not wearing a bicycle helmet or any contrasting clothing."  It is not clear how the state police determined where Mr. Schrock was riding and why they felt that his position in the roadway was not as close as practical to the right side of the road.  The Illinois Vehicle Code states that a person riding a bicycle must "ride as close as practicable and safe" to the right edge of the roadway. (Emphasis is mine.)  There are numerous exceptions to this requirement that include passing another cyclist, preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid dangerous condition along the right side of the road, and when riding in a substandard width lane.  "A 'substandard width lane' means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle. . . and a vehicle to travel safely side by side with in the lane."  Illinois bicyclists are not required to ride as close as possible to the right edge of the road.  It is not clear why the state police chose to suggest that Mr. Schrock's position in the roadway some how contributed to this sad event.

Also suspect is the state police's statement that Mr. Schrock was not wearing a helmet or contrasting clothing.  Neither is required under Illinois law.  Also, it is not clear whether use of a helmet would have made a lick of difference.  The collision that killed Mr. Schrock seems to have been head-on along a rural highway.  It seems likely that under the circumstances a helmet would have made little difference.  As for contrasting clothing, the crash occurred during daylight hours and there is no indication that weather played a role.  

The press release from the state police seems to have been more editorial than thoughtful investigation.  The suggestion is that Mr. Schrock did something wrong simply because he was riding his bike to work instead of driving.  This is wrong legally and ethically.  Illinois law grants the same rights to bicyclists to use our roads as to drivers.  It is the role of the state police to enforce the laws of our state, not comment on the transportation choices of its citizens.  

Services will be held for Mr. Schrock tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the HCK West Building, 2008 CR 1800 East.  Arrangments are to be made by the Edwards Funeral Home in Arthur.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Federal Court's Remark About Helmets May Pose A Hazard To Illinois Bicycle Crash Victims

Sometimes a wayward comment by a Court can wreak all manner of havoc.  Recently, I came across such a remark in a federal case from the Northern District of Illinois which I fear could have a negative impact on bicycle crash cases filed in Illinois state court.

The issue which the federal court stepped in pertains to whether a defendant in a personal injury case arising from a bicycle crash may present evidence to a jury that the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. The purpose of such evidence would be to suggest that, where the crash victim sustained a head injury, the failure to wear a helmet contributed to cause the injury and, therefore, is a factor which may reduce the amount of compensation to which the cyclist may receive.  The case, City of Chicago v. M/V Morgan, 248 F.Supp.2d 759 (N.D. Ill. 2003), actually had nothing to do with bicycles or injuries.  The case grew out of an incident in which a barge caused damage to a bridge held in trust by the City of Chicago and which the City was responsible to maintain.  In discussing whether the City was contributorily negligent in its maintenance of the bridge, the federal court noted by way of example that, "Even a thin-skulled bicycle-rider could be contributorily negligent for failure to wear a helmet." M/V Morgan, 248 F.Supp.2d at 776.


No, actually, a bicycle-rider, thin-skulled or otherwise, cannot be contributorily negligent for not wearing a helmet in Illinois.  Federal district court decisions do not create authoritative precedent for state courts.  In other words, an Illinois state court, where the majority of personal injury cases arising from bicycle crashes are filed, is not bound by the holding of a federal district court.  However, a state court judge, may find a federal court's ruling persuasive and in the absence of clear state law authority, may choose to follow it.  Federal district courts are after-all supposed to base their holdings on substantive matters (as opposed to mere procedural matters) on the law of the state in which the court sits.  Being the cynic I am, I sense that it is just a matter of time before a defense lawyer in one of our many bicycle crash cases cites to the M/V Morgan decision to persuade a trial judge that a jury should be permitted to consider that an injured bicyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of their crash.  The effect this could have on the cyclist's ability receive a fair trial could be catastrophic.  Sadly, in my experience, many folks feel that a cyclist who was riding without a helmet may deserve whatever they get.  Hence, evidence of a lack of helmet could preclude a bicyclist's ability to receive fair compensation.

Where on earth did the M/V Morgan court come up with its observation about bicycle helmets? For nearly 30 years, thanks to the cases of Hukill v. DiGregorio, 484 N.E.2d 795 (2nd Dist. 1985) and Clarkson v. Wright, 483 N.E.2d 268 (1985), it has been the law of our state that a failure to wear a helmet cannot be used to prove an injury victim's contributory negligence or to reduce the compensation to which they may be entitled.  A close look at the source of the federal court's comment reveals that it was not based on Illinois law at all.  The Court cites a federal district court case from New Jersey, Nunez v. Schneider Nat'l Carriers, 217 F.Supp.2d 562 (D.N.J. 2002).  The holding in that matter, in which the court was applying New Jersey law, found that evidence that a bicyclist contributed to their head injury for failing to wear a helmet was admissible.  In so doing, the court admitting that it was disagreeing with another federal district court in that state, Cordy v. Sherwin Williams Co., 975 F.Supp. 639 (1997), which issued the opposite holding just five years prior.  The Nunez court also acknowledged that its holding was contrary to that of other jurisdictions:  "The majority of courts addressing the issue have, for assorted reasons, rejected the admissibility of helmet evidence." Nunez, 217 F.Supp.2d at 567.  It explicitly acknowledged Illinois as being within that majority, citing Hukill v. DiGregorio. Id. at 568.  

The M/V Morgan Court's remark about helmet evidence is neither binding law, nor a persuasive source in support of the admissibility of such evidence.  It is likely, in fact, that the court never intended it to be either.  As noted earlier in this post, the case had nothing to do with a bicycle crash.  It was not a personal injury case.  The court had not been asked to consider bicycle helmet evidence at all.  Its comment about bike helmets was what is generally referred to in the legal world as dictum, an aside remark by a judge that is not intended to create binding authority.  But such comments, like a bullet fired into the air, can cause unintended harm.  Any attorney representing a bicyclist in a personal injury case should be familiar with M/V Morgan and be prepared to educate the trial judge that the commentary in that case concerning bicycle helmet evidence does not reflect Illinois law.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Steel Road Plates Need Not Pose Hazard To Bicyclists

A bicyclist riding over steel road plates
at Washington & Dearborn on Oct 10, 2014
-- photo by Brendan Kevenides
The following article appeared on the Urban Velo blog on October 9, 2014.

Steel road plates suck.  Ask any urban bicyclist and they'll tell you from experience about steel plates. They are often not installed flush with the pavement or at least with tapered ramping.  Many times they shift so that dangerous gaps exist between them and the street, or between two or more plates. Even when they are installed correctly they get very slippery when wet.  But it does not have to be this way.  In fact, it is not supposed to be that way at all.  There are standards in place which prescribe the properties of steel road plates and how they are to be installed.

Steel plates are generally used to cover trenches created in the road way to allow traffic to use an area during off work hours while construction is ongoing.  Steel is generally used because it is tough yet elastic.  It can take the heavy loads from motor vehicle traffic without breaking.  However, for bicycle traffic, not to mention pedestrian and motorcycle traffic, they can pose hazards as noted.  In light of that danger many local departments of transportation have adopted guidelines and specifications regarding how they are to be used.  For example, in Chicago companies utilizing steel plates to cover areas that have been excavated must use plates that are "safe for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles."  Plates must be installed so that gaps "between adjacent plates must be no greater than 1/2 inch."  When they are placed in a bicycle lane they "must be orientated perpendicular to the travel way, whenever possible."  They "must be firmly bedded and secured to the adjacent pavement to prevent rocking or movement."  Steel plates "in the path of bicycle traffic shall have ramps installed" or a plate locking system in place.

The Chicago Department of Transportation's Rules and Regulations do not make specific reference to plates having anti-skid properties.  However, the general requirement that "all plating. . . be safe for bicycles" arguably covers that issue.  Gregory Pestine, a civil engineer with Robson Forensic based in Chicago has stated in his pamphlet, Steel Road Plates & Roadway Surfaces in Work Zones,that "plates should be coated with an anti-skid coating."   Notably, the New York City Department of Transportation requires just that.  Its rules require that, "All plating and decking shall have a skid-resistant surface equal to or greater than the adjacent existing street or roadway surface."  According to Guidelines on Motorcycle and Bicycle Work Zone Safety, published by The Roadway Safety Consortium, "Covering steel plates with a material that increases friction helps motorcyclists and bicyclists retain control, especially in wet weather."

A quick Google search reveals that steel road plates with anti-skid properties are common and easy to come by.  But is it just me, or are they rare to see in the wild?  I having been riding in Chicago regularly for a long time and I cannot say I have ever seen a steel road plate that had slip resistant properties or coating.  My experience here has been similar to what a group called Transportation Alternatives found in a 2004 study looking into the matter in NYC.  It found that 66% of to 1,006 metal construction plates it looked at in Manhattan were not skid resistant.  I am not aware of any similar such study pertaining to Chicago, but I would be surprised if we fared better.

If you see an unsafe plate you should call your city's 311 service and report it.  Very serious injuries can result from plates that are not compliant with safety guidelines.  If you are injured due to a slippery or otherwise unsafe plate you may have a viable case against whomever installed it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Police Looking For Semi Driver Who Critically Injured Chicago Bicyclist

Chicago police have issued an alert, asking the public for help tracking down the driver of a white semi tractor who struck and critically injured a bicyclist on Tuesday afternoon in McKinley Park. Still photos taken from surveillance video were posted on Twitter last night by the CPD showing the vehicle on South Ashland Avenue a few minutes before the incident:

The crash took place at approximately 4:25 p.m. on October 7th near the 3600 block of South Ashland, according to DNAInfo Chicago.  The truck was heading south when he allegedly hit a 47 year old man on a bicycle then left the scene.  Police describe the driver as a white male in this thirties with a slender to medium build, blonde hair with a short clean cut beard.  Anyone with information about this incident or the driver is asked to contact the Chicago Police Department Major Accident Investigation United at 312.745.4521.  The name of the bicyclist has not been released.

Unfortunately hit and run incidents like this are not uncommon. Recently, our law firm held a trucking company responsible for causing injury to a bicyclist even though the driver left the scene and was never located.  Illinois law dictates that a commercial truck bearing a company logo and US-DOT number of a corporation is operating pursuant to the corporation's authority, and therefore, the corporation is vicariously liable for the driver's negligence.  It is a bit difficult to see markings on the truck involved in Tuesday's incident in the photo released by police.  However, closer study of the video may reveal the name of the trucking company and the vehicle's U.S. DOT number.  Hopefully, the driver will be located and held responsible.  But if he is not, it may be possible to hold his employer liable for the damage he caused.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On Your Mark, Get Set, Waiver! When Bicyclists Sign Their Rights Away.

As an attorney who represents injured bicyclists, and who also sponsors cycling clubs, race teams and bike events I love and hate exculpatory agreements.  These rights waiving documents can be devastatingly bad for the individual cyclist who has been harmed due to someone else's negligence. On the other hand, such waivers protect cycling groups who invest time, money and resources in putting together events that bicyclists enjoy.

Generally, an exculpatory agreement is a document in which one party agrees to waive his or her right to seek compensation or sue for injuries caused by the other party's negligence.  Sometimes these agreements are referred to as waivers.  Most bicycle race and event organizers require participants to sign such an agreement before hand.  Virtually all 50 states have their own set of laws regarding whether and when exculpatory agreements may act as a bar to liability.  Here in Illinois our appellate court had the opportunity in 2011 to consider the binding effect of a waiver used widely by USA Cycling, the national governing body for bike racing in the United States.  

In Hellweg v. Special Events Management, a cyclist, Brian Hellweg, was injured during a bike race organized by the defendants.  The race was to be on a "closed course" held on municipal streets.  Mr. Hellweg was injured when he crashed into a nonparticipating cyclist who had wandered onto the course during a warm-up session.  He filed a lawsuit against the race organizers alleging they failed to close the course as they had promised.  The defendants sought dismissal of the case citing a USA Cycling Event Release Form which Mr. Hellweg had signed.  The appellate court upheld dismissal of the case.  The Court was unpersuaded by the plaintiff's argument that the manner in which the crash occurred was not reasonably foreseeable. Though the Court agreed that "foreseeability of a specific danger is" an important factor to consider when assessing the scope of an exculpatory clause, it held that it was not necessary to spell out every conceivable danger for the agreement to be upheld.  The Court looked at the language of the agreement which read in pertinent part:
I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT CYCLING IS AN INHERENTLY DANGEROUS SPORT AND FULLY REALIZE THE DANGERS OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS EVENT, whether as a rider, official, coach, mechanic, volunteer, or otherwise, and FULLY ASSUME THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH PARTICIPATION INCLUDING, by way of example, and not limitation:  dangers of collision with pedestrians, vehicles, other riders, and fixed or moving objects; THE RELEASEES' OWN NEGLIGENCE, the negligence of others; and the possibility of serious physical and/or mental trauma or injury or death associated with the event, I HEREBY WAIVE, RELEASE, DISCHARGE, HOLD HARMLESS, AND PROMISE TO INDEMNIFY AND NOT TO SUE the Releasees and all sponsors, organizers, promoting organizations, property owners, law enforcement agencies, public entities, special districts and properties that are in any manner connected with this event, and their respective agents, officials, and employees through or by which the event will be held, (the foregoing are also collectively deemed to be Releasees), FROM ANY AND ALL RIGHTS AND CLAIMS INCLUDING CLAIMS ARISING FROM THE RELEASEES' OWN NEGLIGENCE... (Emphasis in original)

The Court felt that the presence of nonparticipants in bicycle races was an inherent and reasonably foreseeable risk.  It also concluded that in any event the language of the agreement clearly contemplated the possibility "of collision with pedestrians, vehicles, other riders, and fixed or moving objects."

While Hellweg was a clear victory for race and bike event organizers it is important to point out that it does not stand for the proposition that exculpatory agreements will bar liability in all circumstances.  They don't.  Waivers do not bar liability for willful and wanton conduct; that is conduct in which one shows a reckless disregard for the safety of others.  For example, an organizer who threw ball bearings onto the course during a race would not be protected where his conduct caused injury to a rider.  Use of fraud to induce one to sign an exculpatory agreement would also void its protection.  The bottom line, however, is that before participating in a race or other bike event requiring a waiver of your rights, understand what you are getting into.  If you are injured have an experienced attorney review the waiver language and consider the circumstances of the crash to determine the likelihood that your rights have indeed been waived.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cyclist's POV Video Highlights The Horror Of Getting Doored

Below is a point of view video of a bicyclist getting doored by a taxi cab passenger from his right while riding in a bicycle lane in New York City.  The bike lane is located along the right side of a one way street.  The layout reminders me of Dearborn Avenue, north of Kinzie.  It is terrifying, though apparently the cyclist was not seriously injured.

There are a couple of interesting things about the video.  Let's assume for the moment that this incident occurred in Chicago instead of NYC.  The taxi cab driver did an awful lot wrong here.  By failing to pull to the curb to disembark his passengers he would have violated Rule 5.18 of the City of Chicago Public Chauffers Rules & Regulations which states, "Chauffeurs, when discharging passengers, shall do so in a safe and legal manner.  Chauffeurs shall discharge passengers curbside." He also would have violated several sections of Chicago’s staunchly pro-bicycle Municipal Code, including section 9-80-035 which requires drivers to look for other roadway users before permitting any door of their vehicle to be opened; section 9-40-160 which requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any person operating a bicycle; and section 9-40-060 which prohibits any portion of a motor vehicle to encroach into a bicycle lane.  This sort of collision happens a lot in Chicago.  We have successfully represented many cyclists who have been doored by taxi cab passengers who disembarked into a bike lane.  We are always successful in holding the cab driver responsible.

Though the driver is culpable, that does not let the passenger(s) off the hook.  Taxi cab passengers owe cyclists, and other road users, a duty to look before opening a door.  Within the last two years or so some cab companies in Chicago have installed side view mirrors in front of the rear doors of their vehicles to facilitate passengers' ability to look for cyclists.  Many cabs also have window stickers warning passengers to look before exiting.  A claim may be brought against the passengers for causing harm in this circumstance.  A passenger's homeowners or renters insurance will generally provide coverage.

The bicyclist in this video did some things right and a few things wrong.  Firstly, he was correct for riding in the far right edge of the bike lane.  Usually, the danger from dooring comes from the curb side of the bike lane.  Riding along the outer edge of the lane keeps cyclists outside what is usually thought of as the door zone.  Secondly, he was wise to ride with a video camera.  What happened was well documented should there be a factual dispute later.  On the other hand, he seems to have been riding pretty fast; perhaps too fast for the congested conditions.  He admits on the video to traveling at about 25 mph.  He may have overestimated his speed, but there he is saying it on video.  Twenty-five miles per hour in city traffic is pretty damn fast.  Also, he is too cavalier about the possibility he was injured.  Hopefully, he was in fact okay.  But given his speed and the suddenness of the stop, he would have been wise to go to the hospital to get checked out.  Perhaps he ended up doing so.  He also suggests that he did not want a police report created, stating on video that he tries to never talk to the police.  This is foolish.  If he needs to bring a claim later for his injuries (if there were any), the taxi company's insurer will insist on seeing a police report to confirm that the crash actually took place.  My guess is that the cyclist may wish he could walk back some of the things he said after the crash.  In fairness, no one is at their best after getting into a crash.  But parts of his video highlight the importance of trying to stay cool following a collision.  The fact that he created and posted the video for all to see is much appreciated as it may serve as a device for educating drivers, passengers and cyclists about how to avoid such an incident and what to do afterwards.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Illinois Municipalities May Be Held Responsible Where Snow Removal Forces Cyclists and Pedestrians Into The Street

Courtesy TheWashCycle
Illinois municipalities may be held liable for injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists forced into the street by snow piled onto sidewalks and bike lanes by city plows, according to the Illinois Appellate Court.  The ruling in Pattullo-Banks v. The City of Park Ridge, 2104 Ill App (1st) 132852 was issued on September 4th and overturned an order entered by Cook County Judge Lynn Egan dismissing the plaintiff's lawsuit against the city.

In her lawsuit, Lorraine Pattullo-Banks alleged that as she walked on a sidewalk along Touhy Avenue in Park Ridge, Illinois she encountered a pile  of snow and ice that obstructed her path.  Her claim alleged that city snow plows created the pile when they moved snow which had accumulated on the street onto the sidewalk.  In order to reach her destination she had to walk into the street, at a place where there was no crosswalk, and was struck by a car.  Her lawsuit against the city of Park Ridge alleged that in creating the sidewalk obstruction the municipality violated the duty it owed to her and others to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition.  The municipality sought dismissal of the lawsuit under section 3-102(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act which provides that local municipalities only owe a duty to intended and permitted users to keep its property reasonably safe.  Ms. Pattullo-Banks was struck and injured in the street, outside of a crosswalk, a place that is not intended for use by pedestrians.  It is well established in Illinois that pedestrians are not intended users of the street outside of a crosswalk.  But, Ms. Pattullo-Banks argued, the dangerous condition of which she complained was not in the street but on the sidewalk, certainly a place intended for use by pedestrians.  Given that context Park Ridge should not be able to avail itself of the protections of the Tort Immunity Act.  The appellate court agree with her and reinstated her case.  In so doing the Court stated:
[Ms.] Pattullo-Banks' status as an intended or permitted user -- and whether immunity applies -- must be determined based on the property where [the] alleged breach of duty occurred (the sidewalk), not the property where the injury occurred (the street), and not the mechanism of injury (i.e., whether she was struck by an automobile or tripped on a defect).
It is important to note that the Court did not rule on whether the city of Park Ridge acted negligently in creating the obstruction. It merely held that the plaintiff, Ms. Pattullo-Banks, had a right to have a jury consider that issue.  Park Ridge was not entitled to have the case dismissed before a jury could consider the facts.

The implications of this ruling are significant.  Where a municipality in Illinois clears snow in the street at the expense of sidewalk users, forcing them to face danger by entering the roadway instead, it may be held liable where injury results.  Also, while the Pattullo-Banks case involved a pedestrian, there is no reason to believe that the Court's reasoning would not also apply to a bicyclist. For example, a municipality may be held liable where a cyclist is injured after being forced to exit a bike lane and enter the street due to the piling of snow by city plows clearing way for motor vehicle traffic.  Last winter, a particularly snowy one, the City of Chicago frequently moved snow from Kinzie Street into the bike lane near the Merchandise Mart often forcing cyclists out of the lane and into the street.

Municipalities in Illinois are now on notice that snow removal is not for motor vehicles, but for all people.  If they favor cars and trucks at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists they may be held responsible where harm results. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Driver Who Blamed Navi System For Crash With Cyclist Agrees To Settlement

A driver who blamed her navigation system for causing a collision with a Chicago bicyclist has agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against her.

Our law firm was retained by the 34 year old female cyclist who was struck by the driver in December, 2012.  Our client was leaving her office building in the 300 block of South Jefferson Street when she was hit hard by the driver of a 2008 Honda Odyssey minivan traveling the wrong way down the one way street. The impact was strong enough to lift her off of her bike, spinning her 360 degrees, before dumping her onto the pavement.  She was taken from the scene to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in an ambulance.  Though fractures were ruled out, she was left with a painful back and hip injury that required eight months of physical therapy.

The motorist was ticketed by Chicago police at the scene.  We accompanied the bicyclist to the traffic citation hearing.  With the cyclist ready to testify against her, the driver plead guilty to driving the wrong way down a one way.  However, when it came time to compensate the bicyclist for injuries that necessitated nearly $25,000 in medical bills, the driver and her insurance company, Farmers, initially refused to do the right thing.  I was told by a Farmers representative that they did not feel the impact was very hard and, in any event, he felt that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she received much of her physical therapy, had charged too much.  We filed a lawsuit.  During her deposition, the driver was less than conciliatory.  She claimed that at before the crash she was driving her minivan from a Target store toward her home in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood when she become unsure of where she was going.  Her six year old son was with her in the vehicle.  Despite living in the city for many years, she said that she was not familiar with the Greektown neighborhood, about a mile from her home.  She decided to rely on her satellite navigation system to plot her route.  As she drove east on West Jackson Boulevard, the system allegedly instructed her to turn right on Jefferson and head south.  She did so, not realizing that South Jefferson Street was a north only roadway until she hit the bicyclist who had just pulled from the curb.  Though she admitted to not braking before impact and to traveling at at least 10 miles per hour at the time of the collision, she also claimed that the contact with the cyclist was minimal.

We continued to aggressively press the case against the driver, subpoenaing several witnesses who would testify regarding the severity of the impact.  Eventually, Farmers substantially increased its settlement offer and the case resolved for a fair sum.

This was a distracted driving case.  Satellite navigation is awesome, until it isn't.  Motorists using these devices are reminded not to follow them blindly.  Had the driver in this case looked around before turning onto Jefferson she would have seen a road sign that indicated that she was not permitted to drive south.  The other lesson to be taken from this case is that insurance companies often will not voluntarily provide fair compensation.  Despite its protest regarding the therapy bills from RIC, there was nothing at all unusual about the rates it charged.  In any event, it certainly was not our client's fault that RIC billed what it did.  The bills were what they were.  She was just trying to get the treatment she needed to regain her good health.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Proposal For Revising Illinois Jury Instructions In Bicycle & Pedestrian Injury Cases

Is it reasonable for the law to require all roadway users to use the same amount of caution? Should pedestrians and bicyclists be required to use as much caution on the road as motorists?  For a very long time, California has said "no."  Illinois should follow suit.

As in Illinois, Californians using the road are required to use ordinary or reasonable care for their own safety as well as for the safety of others.  "Ordinary care" is generally thought of as the sort of care used by the reasonably prudent person.  This is the sort of care that would be employed by a regular hypothetical dude who is neither hyper-safety conscious nor particularly careless.  The facts and circumstances in which the events took place are considered, here and in California, when determining whether ordinary care was indeed used.  For example, ordinary care while driving a car in icy conditions will require a different amount of caution than will driving in dry conditions.  In this context, California has taken a very pragmatic approach when it comes to instructing jurors regarding the duties of care for pedestrians and drivers. California courts are explicit when guiding jurors.  They are instructed as follows:
The duty to use reasonable care does not require the same amount of caution from drivers and pedestrians.  While both drivers and pedestrians must be aware that motor vehicles can cause serious injuries, drivers must use more care than pedestrians.
California Jury Instruction 710.  (Emphasis is mine).

Personal injury cases in Illinois are generally decided by 12 regular people.  A victim of injury (the plaintiff) alleges that one or more defendants (whether a person or corporation, partnership, etc.) acted badly thereby causing the harm.  The "badness" of the conduct, or lack of it, is determined by the members of the jury based on what the law is.  If the jurors agree that under the law the defendant(s) acted badly then they must determine how much money will help compensate the victim for his or her harms and losses. It is a huge, and sometimes taxing job.  Juries make these determinations by listening to the evidence presented by all sides, then determining whether the defendant's injury causing conduct violated the law.  If so, the injury victim prevails and should be compensated.

It is natural for jurors to feel intimidated by this task.  It is sometimes difficult to determine what really happened among competing versions of events.  Further, how are they to know what the law is?  Jurors are not trained in the law.  Frankly, the lawyers on each side of the case are often not much help in this regard. They are advocates for their respective clients.  How can they be trusted to accurately tell the jurors what the law says?  This is were jury instructions come in.

At the end of the case, after all sides have made their closing arguments, the judge reads jurors a set of written instructions telling them what the relevant law is.  The instructions are just that; they guide jurors in how they are to set about deciding the case and rendering a decision.  The content of the instructions to be read to the jurors is generally argued by the various sides in the litigation to the judge outside of the jury's presence.  The judge considers the arguments regarding how the jury should be instructed then renders a decision.  He or she then reads the chosen instructions to the jury.  The jury returns to their room for deliberation, using the instructions they have just heard as a guide for rendering a decision.

Adopting California jury instruction 710 in Illinois would greatly assist juries determining fault in cases involving drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users.  What I am proposing, to be clear, is not a change in the law; but clearer, better guidance to jurors.  Authority for the use of the 710 instruction comes from the Supreme Court of California in Cucinella v. Weston Biscuit Company, 42 Cal.2d 71 (1954).  In that matter the court noted that "the elements of conduct entering into ordinary care or caution will vary and must be related to the particular circumstances involved, including the character of the act being performed."  Taking that basic principle into account the Court stated that juries, when considering the degree of caution to be employed by various roadway users, should be instructed that
[T]he elements of action constituting conduct which qualifies as ordinary care are those commensurable with the responsibility involved and depend on upon the character of the instrumentality being used or the nature of the act which is being performed, all as related to the surrounding circumstances.
The court held that because cars are capable for causing so much potential harm, drivers should be required to use greater caution then pedestrians.  The court approved of two jury instructions which stated, in part:
While it is the duty of both the driver of a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, using a public roadway, to exercise ordinary care, that duty does not require necessarily the same amount of caution from each.  The driver of a motor vehicle, when ordinarily careful, will be alertly conscious of the fact that he is in charge of a machine capable of projecting into serious consequences any negligence of his own.
* * * * * 
To put the matter in another way, the amount of caution required by the law increases as does the danger that reasonably should be apprehended.
Just like icy pavement poses a greater threat of harm to drivers, motor vehicles pose a greater risk of harm than do other roadway users.  Illinois juries should be explicitly instructed that they may take this intuitive truth into account when a vulnerable road user has been harmed by a driver.  The California instruction only references pedestrians, and the Cucinella decision arose from a crash involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle.  However, California bicycle attorney, and law professor at the University of San Diego Law School, Thomas Penfield, (who made me aware of the California instruction) has noted that "the rational should apply to bicyclists as well."  Like pedestrians, bicyclists are far less capable of potential harm than are drivers.  The level of caution that bicyclists should be accountable to use should therefore be less than for drivers.  Some will undoubtedly misconstrue this.  To be clear, bicyclists own a duty of reasonable care to themselves and even more vulnerable road users like pedestrians.  But the amount of caution required from drivers and cyclists should not be the same and jurors should be instructed as such.  The harm causing potential of their chosen vehicles is vastly different.

Such an instruction would be particularly useful in certain intersection crash cases.  We see many cases in which a bicyclist is "t-boned" by a driver who has timed a traffic signal which changed as the cyclist made his or her way through the intersection.  In Chicago at least, yellow lights last a mere three seconds.  At many intersections, a cyclist (and certainly a pedestrian) may enter an intersection on a green, only to see the light change from yellow to red before making it to the other side.  It happens a lot.  On plenty of occasions drivers see green lights like bulls see red and charge through intersections without looking for cyclists already proceeding across.  But a driver's duty is not merely to see green, but to see all there is to be seen, including bicyclists and pedestrians.  Where a driver has failed to look and causes harm, a jury considering the matter would be aided by an instruction that reminds that driving a vehicle that has the potential to inflict significant injury requires the use of great caution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Joining The Tribe. . .

Illinois Bicycle Accident LawyerFor many years I worked with a much older attorney who used to talk about the strength of numbers.  The way he used to do it was amusing.  He would describe a group of heavily armed soldiers in the old west peering out from the turrets of their high walled fort.  They felt safe because they were big, firmly entrenched, and well supported.  "If," he would say, "One of those soldiers peered over the wall and saw a single Indian glaring menacingly in his direction he would just think, Well, to hell with you." The old attorney would continue, "But, if the soldier looked across the way and saw a large number of Indians, organized and preparing to attack, well, then he knew he had a problem."

Our law firm is proud to announce that we have joined a tribe (of sorts) of attorneys committed to representing bicyclists nationwide, Bike Law USA.  Jim Freeman, myself and our committed staff have always been committed to representing bicyclists throughout Illinois. Now we will continue to do it with the support of a nationwide network of bicycle accident attorneys.  Mind you, Bike Law is no internet marketing gimmick.  We wouldn't bother with it if it was.  Bike Law is the brainchild of long time South Carolina bicycle attorney, Peter Wilborn, who has represented hundreds of bicyclists injured by motorists, dangerous road conditions and unsafe products.  He is a former bike racer and present bike enthusiast and commuter.  He is one of us.  He founded Bike Law as a means of bringing together lawyers committed to working with cyclists to unite in strength, to form a collective to fight for the rights of bicyclists.

Bike Law is also Ann Groninger in North Carolina, Amy Benner in Tennessee, Bryan Waldman in Michigan, Vance Preman in Missouri and Kansas, Charlie Thomas in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, Jason Crawford and Brian Weiss in Colorado, Jackie Carmichael in Utah and former U.S. Olympic cyclist, Bob Mionske in Oregon.   Each is a lawyer fighting for cyclists.

Each Bike Law attorney does more than just represent injured bicyclists.  They write about cycling and the law, and work to educate cyclists and motorists alike about making the road safe for all users.  Bob Mionske is the author of Bicycling & The Law, the go to book providing an overview of what the law is and how it has developed.  Freeman Kevenides Law is honored to be a part of this esteemed and committed group.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Powerful Video Encourages Road Users To Stay Calm and Share The Road

Recently, a journalist contacted me about a story he was writing about the (seemingly) increased vitriol between motorists and cyclists.  We spoke for a while about the matter, covering several recent incidents. The Craigslist letter.  The Washington Post anti-bicycle screed.  But the question he kept coming back with was, Why?  The only sensible answer I found that I good give was not much of an answer at all, I don't know.

We can speculate about numerous factors and perceptions that play into this war of sorts:  The infrastructure sucks.  Drivers are selfish, air polluting assholes.  Cyclists are entitled, law breaking dickweeds.  We can ponder whether there is even really a war between cyclists and drivers at all.  Many of us drive and bike and do not define ourselves by the mode of transportation we choose to utilize at a particular moment.  But the bottom line is that humans like to be able to travel safely, unmolested and unslowed.  When something, or someone, gets in the way of our ability to do so tempers flare.  It is probably not a biker thing or a driver thing.  It is a people thing.

Perhaps recognizing this Transport For London has created a PSA video that holds up a mirror to all road users, pointing out the madness that may ensue when tempers flair.  It is well done.  Check it out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Visitation Tomorrow For 28 Year Old Chicago Cyclist Killed By Truck Driver

Barbara Eno,
courtesy DNAInfo
Visitation will be held on Tuesday for Barbara Eno, a 28 year old Chicago bicyclist who was killed on July 3rd by a right turning cement truck.  Her funeral will be held on Wednesday.  For information on times and location, please click here.

Barbara was riding her bike northbound on Cicero Avenue when the driver of a Kenworth W900 truck struck her as he turned from northbound Cicero Avenue onto eastbound Belmont Avenue in Chicago's, Portage Park neighborhood, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  The collision occurred at around 10:00 a.m. as Barbara was riding along the right side of Cicero Avenue.  The driver apparently never saw the cyclist to his right as he made his turn.  He reportedly brought his truck to a halt after nearby witnesses screamed at him to stop, the Sun-Times reported.

This type of collision between a motor vehicle and bicyclist occurs with disturbing frequency.  It is so common that it has a name, "right-hook."  Because cyclists are required by law to travel along the right side of the roadway, they may find themselves cut off by a careless driver traveling in the same direction who attempt to turn right without looking for bicycle traffic.  All drivers own a duty of reasonable care to all roadway users, including people on bicycles.  For the right turning driver this duty requires:  (1)  Using a turn signal; (2)  Turning right from the right lane; and (3)  Looking right for bikes before starting to turn.  Click here to read more about avoiding right hook collisions.  There are red light and OEMC cameras located at the intersection of Cicero and Belmont so it is likely that investigators will be able to determine the cause of the crash.  As of July 4th, the 51 year old driver had not be arrested or issued a traffic citation, but right hook collisions in our experience are often caused by a driver's failure to look for bicycle traffic before turning.

Collisions between large trucks and cyclists are far too common, so much so that some cities are looking into how to provide increased protection to cyclists.  By the end of 2014, London will prohibit large trucks - those over 3.5 tons - from operating in the city without, "side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under wheels, as well as mirrors to improve a driver's view of cyclists and pedestrians," according to The Guardian.  The measure was proposed in the wake of the deaths of several cyclists killed in London after being swept under the wheels of large trucks.  The measure will be enforced by on street checks and via closed circuit video cameras, The Guardian reports. There will reportedly be large fines for non-compliance.

There has been some interest in the United States for similar measures.  In 2008, the City of Portland adopted a resolution recommending that large trucks be fitted with side guards.  While not binding policy, at least some trucks operating in the City, including city owned vehicles, were outfitted with the guards.  Also, last year the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), published safety recommendations that included truck side guards.  It called for the development of,
[P]erformance standards for side underride protection systems for single-unit trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds.
Once the performance standards . . . have been developed, require newly manufactured single-unit trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds to be equipped with side underride protection systems meeting the performance standards.
The NTSB also recommended the installation of "visibility enhancement systems to compensate for blind spots" in order to protect bicyclists and pedestrians. The recommendations came on the heels of a NTSB safety study, Crashes Involving Single-Unit Trucks that Resulted in Injuries and Deathswhich found injuries and fatalities to cyclists caused by turning heavy trucks a significant hazard.

Since 1998, large trucks in the United States have been required to have rear impact guards to protect motorists in the event of a rear end collision.  While some have questioned the overall effectiveness of the rear guards, there have been a reported reduction in fatalities since implementation of the requirement.  While it is not yet clear whether a side guard could have prevent Barbara Eno's death, it is the time to take similar measures to protect bicyclists by requiring large trucks to be outfitted with side guards.

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