With the fall season upon us, and winter just around the corner, concern is growing over the City’s ability to adequately address snow removal and bike lane clearance issues, given the increase in bikeways, and past-year failures. Although improvements have been made since Chicago’s first winter with protected bike lanes in 2012, many have serious doubts as to whether the city is truly prepared to handle its growing network of bike lanes. Moreover, imagine the problems that could occur if, against early predictions, we experience a particularly inclement season this year. As injury lawyers, that represent Chicago accident victims, we share the same trepidations.
The increase in bicycling throughout the Chicago area over the past decade has been tremendous. With hundreds of miles of pathways and trails, as well as shared, protected and buffered on-street bike lanes currently in place, and hundreds more expected by 2020, it would be logical to assume that infrastructure will continue to increase as ridership grows. As this occurs, many have concern over the City’s preparedness to keep up with bikeway maintenance issues, both at a financial and planning level. Chicagoland’s current roadway issues are atrocious in comparison to other major metropolitan cities. This holds true when considering only vehicular use. Add bicyclists into the mix and an equation for disaster seems foreseeable in the years to come. In short, how will Chicago be able to handle the additional burden of maintaining its bikeways for bicyclists, when it is already falling behind in maintaining roadways for motorists?
If you live in Chicagoland, chances are you’ve seen a bicyclist that either violated a law or engaged in some type unreasonable or risky behavior. You may have even witnessed a crash, close-call, or other incident caused by an irresponsible cyclist. The rising trend of reckless bicycling is an issue that we have become increasingly concerned with in recent years. Some specific examples include speeding bicyclists, and cyclists that cross streets diagonally or against a signal. Bicycling while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another. Then, of course, there are the countless number of cyclists that attempt to navigate busy roadways while using a mobile device. Finally, we have the bicyclists that travel along pathways and trails with little or no regard for the safety of others.
The City of Chicago announced the launch of a new program that will offer low-cost annual Divvy Bike Share memberships based upon ability to pay, according to a last week’s press release. The program, called “Divvy for Everyone,” or D4E, will allow residents, with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty line, to obtain a one-time one-year membership for $5, without having to use a debit or credit card. Although we generally support initiatives that make bike-sharing a more accessible and affordable transit option, the D4E program leaves us with concerns over whether the city is putting ‘the cart before the horse’ by expanding bike-sharing to targeted neihgborhoods without fully considering the safety risks it presents.
The Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. first addressed this issue last June, specifically discussing the risk of injury along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. Since last year, the controversy over whether to implement a more defined design approach, which divides paths and trails based upon user type has continued to be a highly debated topic. Ongoing concerns over trail congestion and user safety prompted the Active transportation Alliance’s December 2014 petition, urging Chicago leaders and officials to consider enhanced pavement markings and separate paths for bicyclists and pedestrians in the trail’s most congested areas.
If you live in the Chicagoland area, you’d have to live under a rock, not to notice the variations and diversity amongst the types of road users that occupy communities. Traveling alongside cars, motorcycles, commercial trucks, and public transit vehicles, are commuting bicyclists and pedestrians; delivery/courier pedacyclists; and resident or tourist recreationalists, whether runners, joggers, walkers, moms with strollers, or children at play. Chicago has long recognized its need to account for its road-user diversity, the result of which has led to more marked and/or barrier separated bike lanes, increased enforcement in intersections and along sidewalks, as well as the construction of paths and trails that create throughways to increase accessibility and improve safety. However, as we push for more use of the pathways and trails, which are intended to protect vulnerable road users, another safety issue has begun to rear its ugly head, and increasingly so—that is, pathway and trail accidents.
The Bicycle Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer take note of the recall of nearly a million bicycles manufactured by Trek. This recall involves models of Trek bicycles equipped with front disc brakes that were produced from 2000 to 2015. According to the recall summary, released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) last week, “An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of injury to the rider.” The manufacturer reports three incidents associated with the product defect, each of which resulted in injury, including one victim becoming paralyzed, another that sustained a broken wrist, and a third that resulted in facial injuries.
The Chicago Bicycle Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of a concerning problem amongst bicyclists—biking while under the influence. Navigating our busy streets can be highly dangerous, even for a sober biker. Add in alcohol or drugs, and you have an equation for disaster. Bicycling under the influence is more common than you may think. According to an October 2014 report released by the Governors Highways Safety Association (GHSA), which examined recent trends in fatal bicycle accidents, in 2012 “28 percent of riders age 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.”
The Chicago Bicycle Accident Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of recently announced plans to further expand the Divvy bike-sharing program throughout the Chicagoland area. Funded by a $3 million state grant, the expansion, planned to take place in 2015, will provide Evanston residents with 8 new docking stations, and Oak Park with 12 new stations. As stated in the Chicago Tribune, the funding will also help pay for 50 additional docking stations in Chicago’s West and far North Sides, including Rogers Park, West Rogers Park, Austin and Garfield Park.
Divvy Bike Share, commonly referred to as ‘Chicago’s newest transit system,’ has been quite successful since its launch last June, with nearly 2 million trips occurring this year alone, according to Divvy Trip Data. Further, membership to the program has almost doubled since last year, from 12,186 active members in 2013, to its more than 23,000 current members. In addition to the 70 new stations in Evanston, Oak Park, and Chicago’s West and North Sides, Divvy reports plans to add more than 100 more docking stations in 2015, for a total of 175 new stations and 1,750 more bikes. Upon completion, these expansions would provide Chicagoans with the most bike stations and largest service area in North America.
As bicycling enthusiasts ourselves, the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. are pleased to see the growth of bike sharing in our communities. In addition to its health and environmental benefits, bike sharing contributes to economic growth, and has become an important component of the tourism industry. While we certainly support expansion efforts, riders are reminded to remain aware of the dangers of bicycling in the Chicagoland area, particularly when traveling along roadways shared with motorists.
As bike sharing continues to expand throughout Chicago, the Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of the growing number of bicycle accidents involving Divvy bikes. Being involved in a bike crash can be stressful experience-so much so, that it can cause a victim to forget what actions need to be taken following an accident. In some cases, the victim may not know what post-accident procedures are necessary and/or appropriate. Our injury lawyers discuss the steps that a bicyclist should take in the event a collision occurs while using a Divvy bike.
Step 1. Call 911 immediately after the incident to obtain emergency assistance. For non-emergency situations, the victim can call 311 instead.
Step 2. Call the police district where the crash occurred, and file a police report. To find the appropriate district, see Police Districts in Chicago. Make sure the officer properly documents all information pertaining to the accident, including the facts of the incident, the parties involved, as well as any potential witnesses.