Since 2000, the number of people commuting by bicycle in Chicago has increased 150 percent. See City of Chicago 2012 Bicycle Crash Analysis (“2012 BCA”), Summary Report and Recommendations. Nationally, 0.6 percent of workers commuted to work by bicycle in 2010, but in Chicago, that number was 1.3 percent, or 15,000 cyclists daily. 2012 BCA; see also United States Census Bureau, Census Bureau Reports 1.3 percent of Workers Commute by Bike in Chicago. Among its peer cities, Chicago, has more bicycle commuters per capita than New York and Los Angeles. 2012 BCA.
Between 2005 and 2010, 32 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in Chicago, and just under 9,000 bicycle crashes involving non-fatal injuries occurred. 2012 BCA; see also National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NCSA Data Resource Website (reporting that in the year 2016, 840 fatal accidents involving bicyclists occurred in the United States).
The information provided below is offered to help readers understand more about why and how bicycle accidents occur, and what legal options are available for those who have been injured in a bicycle accident.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
The most common motorist error in bicycle crashes in Chicago involving injury was the motorist failing to yield. 2012 BCA. The most common bicyclist error was riding against traffic. Id. Other common causes of bicyclist accidents include motorists: turning right in front of a bicyclist traveling in the same direction (a right hook); turning left into the path of an oncoming bicyclist (a left hook); following a bicyclist too closely; failing to give a bicyclist adequate space when passing; and dooring type injuries. Id.
Most Dangerous Areas for Bicyclists in Chicago
Approximately 55 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Chicago occur at intersections. Id. The north and northwest Loop are the most dangerous areas for bicyclists in Chicago. Id. Many crashes occur on diagonal streets that feed into the Loop, such as Milwaukee Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and Clark Street. Id.
The greatest amount of bicycle injury crashes occur between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Id. Bicycle fatalities are highest between 8:00pm and midnight.
Illinois and Chicago Law Regarding Bicycles
Both the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code and the Chicago Municipal Code (“CMC”) provide that bicyclists are granted all of the rights, and are subject to all of the duties, that are applicable to the driver of any vehicle. 625 ILCS 5/11-502; CMC 9-52-010. Under Illinois law, it is unlawful for a motorist to: open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so (625 ILCS 5/11-1407); and fail to leave a safe distance when passing a bicyclist (625 ILCS 5/11-703).
Under the Chicago Municipal Code, motorists must use due care to avoid colliding with bicyclists. CMC 9-40-160. Motorists are also prohibited from: turning right in front of a bicyclist moving the same direction (CMC 9-16-020); turning left into the path of an approaching bicyclist (CMC 9-16-020); driving, standing, or parking in any path or lane designated for the use of bicycles (CMC 9-40-060); failing to give a bicyclist adequate space when passing (CMC 9-36-101); and opening the door of a parked car as a bicyclist passes (CMC 9-80-035).
What to do if You Have Been Injured in a Bicycle Accident
· Call 911 and report your accident to the police
· Make sure to tell the police your side of the story
· Get a copy of the police report
· Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of responsible parties and witnesses
· Take photos of your bike, the accident location, and your injuries
· Be cautious of what you post on social media about the accident
· Don’t ignore your injuries or delay seeking medical treatment
· Don’t talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company without first consulting a lawyer
Who May be Liable
If you have been in a bicycle crash, the law may hold responsible another driver, and possibly that driver’s employer. Conway v. Tamborini, 68 Ill. App. 2d 190 (3d Dist. 1966). The law may also hold responsible the owner of the property where the crash occurred if a known defect existed. Corbett v. Cnty. of Lake, 2016 IL App (2d) 160035.
Chicago’s Plans for Safer Streets
In 2012, the City of Chicago put forth five categories of proposed solutions to reduced bicycle crashes: roadway design and engineering solutions, education and marketing solutions; enforcement solutions; data and reporting solutions, and policy solutions. 2012 BCA.
With respect to roadway design and engineering, the City has attempted to improve the design of high crash intersections through measures such as bike boxes, intersection markings, and turn signals. Id. The City has also tried to expand the network of protected bike lanes.
With respect to education and marketing solutions, the City has tried to engage directly with drivers and bicyclists while they are in traffic to give tips on safe driving and bicycling procedures. Id.
With respect to enforcement solutions, the City has worked to cite drivers who park or drive in marked bicycle lanes. Id.
In June 2016, the City introduced “Vision Zero Chicago,” a plan to improve safety on high crash streets. See Vision Zero Chicago, Chicago’s Initiative to Eliminate Traffic Fatalities and Serious Injuries by 2026 (June 2016).
A good attorney must be a skilled investigator. The first step Arlo will take in any case involving a bicycle accident is to thoroughly investigate the facts of the accident and the injuries sustained by the client.
An investigation of the facts of the accident may include: (1) collecting photos, videos, news articles, and police reports; (2) interviewing witnesses, including any police officers who may have responded to the accident; and (3) visiting the scene of the accident when necessary. Arlo may also retain expert witnesses to assist in proving the fault of the responsible party. When investigating the client’s injuries, Arlo will conduct a comprehensive review of the client’s medical records, speak with our client’s treating physicians, and possibly retain experts such as life care planners in cases involving catastrophic injuries. Arlo will also work to substantiate any claim for lost wages made by a client.
After Arlo has investigated a case, he will then advise the client about his or her best options, including negotiating an out of court settlement or filing a lawsuit.
If you have any questions about this article, or would like to speak with an attorney about your bicycle crash, please call Arlo. He would be happy to speak with you.
ADDITIONAL READING AND INFORMATION