Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s plan to make city trucks safer has been advanced in the Chicago City Council.  Chicago lawyer, Peter Zneimer observes that many fatal bike accidents that have occurred in the last few years in Chicago have involved trucks.  Visibility for bicyclist riding in traffic is always a major problem even for people driving automobiles.  The visibility of bicyclists is a much greater problem for truckers.  Almost all of the bicyclist accident cases handled by the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer involve a motorist not seeing the bicyclist  prior to the crash either due to distraction, lack of attention or the bicyclist was in a blind spot.  Guarded bike lanes are the best solution but they are cost prohibitive to construct everywhere.

The Mayor’s proposes to require city trucks to install side guards, which cover the area between the front and rear wheels of a truck to make it harder for pedestrians or bicyclists to be caught under the wheels of the truck after a crash.  The ordinance would also require trucks to have additional convex mirrors.  The law would also mandate additional training for city employee truck drivers and contractors to improve safety awareness.

The one downside of the proposed law is that the ordinance would give the city almost ten years to make the changes on city trucks.  Contractors who do business with the city would get four years to make the safety changes on their trucks.

The Chicago Tribune reports that one in four motorists were using their phone shortly before a crash occurred.  The report cited a study conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a company that makes applications for insurance companies.   The personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that more and more of the pedestrian and bike cases he handles involve a driver who is on his or her cell phone and is distracted at the time the crash occurs.  The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have even handled a case where a motorist dropped her cell phone on the floor of her car while driving and was rummaging around the floor of her car with her eyes completely off the road when she hit our client who was bicycling and was completely in his bike lane at time of impact.  Our client suffered serious injuries because of the gross negligence of this extremely distracted driver.

The state of Illinois has had a law against using a cell phone while driving since 2014.  A ticket for driving while using a cell phone is $75.00, going up to $150.00 for repeat offenders.  One would expect to see a big difference the amount of time that drivers spend on the phone in the state of illinois that has a ban on driving and talking on a cell phone and states that do not have any prohibitions for cell phone use. However, the Cambridge study, which looked at more than 100,000 drivers over 18 months, found little difference.  In Illinois, the average time on the phone was 3.17 minutes per 100 miles versus 3.82 minutes on the phone for drivers in states with no cell phone law.

Not too surprisingly, the top 10 percent of distracted drivers, i.e. the drivers who spent the most time on the phone were 2.3 times more likely than the average driver to get into a crash.

The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer are cautioning Chicago bicyclists to stay clear from the city sidewalks.  Many Chicago sidewalks have hazardous pavement differentials and deep holes, with grass and weeds growing through them, making them difficult to see and avoid.    Quite a few people have landed on the ground after running into such sidewalk hazards, breaking a hand, a leg, or suffering other injuries.

That is not to say that riding on the street is much safer.  Many streets have large cracks and holes, and angry automobile drivers in various stages of road rage, inching a notch at the sight of a bicyclist.  And yet, bicyclists will fare better against the City if they fall and get injured because of a street hole, rather than if they fall over a sidewalk hazard.

The Tort Immunity Act gives immunity to the City of Chicago for negligence, with few exceptions.  One of the exceptions is the requirement for a local public entity to exercise ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition “for the use in the exercise of ordinary care of people whom the entity intended and permitted to use the property in a manner in which and at such times as it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used.”  745 ILCS 10/3–102(a) (2017).

A Chicago Tribune article reports that there has been a 50 percent increase in crashes between bicyclists and  motor vehicle doors between 2014 and 2015.  According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were  302 crashes in 2015 versus 202 crashes in 2014.  Chicago personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer observes that many of the painted on bike lanes in the city of Chicago run parallel and close to the parked cars so that when a person opens their car door they open it across the bike lane.  The attorneys of Zneimer and Zneimer handle many such cases and they almost always involve a motorist who is not looking for bicyclists.  The bicyclist is usually thrown to the pavement and in the worst case scenario is thrown in front of moving traffic.

The city of Chicago does have an ordinance making it a violation to open a car door in the path of a bicyclist, with fines as much as $1,000.00. Additionally, the City has constructed 100 mile of protected bike lanes since 2011.  Protected bike lanes are the safest option but they cost money.  Furthermore, many Chicago streets are not amenable to be retrofitted  with protected bike lanes.

With many more bicyclists on the roads than in the past, motorist need to get in the habit of looking for bicyclists.  Bicyclists can do their part too by wear bright clothes that make them more visible and by having lights on their bikes for night riding.  Since a set of bike lights only costs about $10.00 there is no excuse for night riders not to have them.

More and more Chicago bicyclists each year are getting severely hurt in dooring accidents, but there is a simple solution that can prevent numerous people from getting hurt.

According to a recent report put forth by the Illinois Department of Transportation, “doorings,” or traffic accidents where a cyclist is struck by a car door, have increased by 33% between 2014 and 2015.  While the number of reported crashes in Chicago involving bicycles remained relatively the same, the percentage of dooring accidents has jumped up from 10% in 2014 to 17.5%.  Jim Merrell, advocacy director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said these numbers represent “a step backward for safety in the city.”  Moreover, the City also saw a bump in fatalities from 6 in 2014 to 8 in 2015.   This presents a problem for Chicago, which sees an average of 125,000 daily bike trips and over 45,400,000 bike trips per year. 

The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. has seen an uptick in bicycle accidents and, more specifically, dooring cases in the past few years.  Attorney Peter A. Zneimer, name partner and personal injury attorney in Chicago for over twenty years, remarked on the subject that, “our firm has seen an increased number of accidents involving bicyclists to the point where they have become a cornerstone of our business.  Many times, bicyclists are severely hurt and need our zealous representation to get compensation for their injuries.”

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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