Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Video Shows Chicago Bicyclist Right-Hooked In West Loop

Even the feeblest driver can deliver a devastating right hook from behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  On October 2nd the driver of a grey Jeep Liberty right-hooked a man biking southbound on Des Plaines Street in Chicago.  The collision occurred at the intersection of Des Plaines and Madison Street at approximately 5:52 p.m.  The following video was produced to us by the Office of Emergency Management and Communications during the course of our investigation of the matter:

As can be seen in the video, the roads were dry and there was plenty of daylight remaining at the time of the crash.  The man on the bicycle was riding precisely where he was supposed to be, along the right side of the road.  Wearing a bright red top, he would have been visible to anyone paying attention.  The bicyclist did a darn good job of mitigating the impact by trying to swerve right.  His skillful maneuver meant that he avoided smashing headlong into the side of the vehicle, instead accepting a more glancing blow.  He is expected to recover from his injuries.  The driver never stopped, and instead sped west on Madison.  

Unfortunately, the video does not offer much to help us identify the driver.  If you have information about this incident and/or the driver please contact Brendan Kevenides of Freeman Kevenides Law Firm at 312.629.1901 or via email at

Many Chicago motorists do not look for bicyclists on their right when turning right.  Few city cyclists would dispute that the right hook -- where a motorist turns right in front of you -- is scary and all too common.  It is one of the most feared types of incidents, second only to being "doored."  What duty does the motorist wishing to turn right owe to bicyclists?  A driver may satisfy the duty of reasonable care by doing three things:  (1)  Using a turn signal; (2)  Turning right from the right lane; and (3)  Looking right for bikes before starting to turn.  Drivers are required to perform all three in order to safety execute a right turn.

Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin

Turning right only after merging as far to the right as is reasonably possible and engaging the vehicle's turn signal provide notice to any bicyclist behind you of your intent.  Being predictable while driving (or biking) is very important to prevent crashes.  When you provide roadway users around you with notice of your intent you have given them the information they need to act appropriately.  Making sudden, capricious maneuvers is antithetical to safe driving. Many good and reasonable drivers understand signal use and do merge right before turning right. However, it seems that even otherwise conscientious motorists fail to understand that they must look in their right rear view mirrors before turning right.    In an urban setting it is possible, and even likely that a cyclist will be coming up on your right at an intersection, alleyway or driveway.  Illinois law requires bicyclists to "ride as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb" as possible. 625 ILCS 5/11-1505.  Also, most bike lanes in our city are along the right side of the road.  Because Illinois law and urban roadway design tend to funnel cyclists to the right, emergence of a bicyclist from a motorist's right is very likely at any given point of the roadway.  Given this foreseeability, searching right before executing a turn is an absolute requirement for safe driving.

When the driver wishing to turn right sees a cyclist coming up on the right what should he or she do?  Stop, and let the bicyclist pass on the right (as in the diagram above) before executing a turn.  The Municipal Code of Chicago states:
9-16-020(f)  Turning right in front of a bicycle
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.
Only when the motorist is well passed the bicyclist, or the bicyclist well passed the motor vehicle, may the driver turn right.  If the cyclist would need to stop or slow to avoid a collision, then he or she should be permitted to pedal by before a turn is executed by the motorist.

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