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In recent years, Chicago has prioritized making the city safer for bicyclists. The lawyers of the personal injury  law firm of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. note that Chicago has added miles and miles of bike lanes across the city.  Some of these lanes are simply painted lines designating bike lanes.  In the best cases, the bike lanes are separated from motor vesicle traffic by some type of barrier.

In one study conducted by Clever, a real estate website rated cities based on how “bikeable” the city is, measuring factors like the number of bike trails, bike rentals shops and how many people were involved in fatal car crashes as a percentage of bike users.  This study rated Chicago 20th out of the 50 cities rated, finding that Chicago scored favorably as to the number of bike commuters and the number of fatal crashes along with other fact.

In a more robust study conducted by the People For Bikes organization, Chicago scored much worse.  This study focused primarily on whether the city had safe passage routes connecting the city in an interconnected network.  In this study, out of 1616 cities ranked, Chicago ranked 1386.  This study gave cities a “Network Score” based on the extent of a cities bike route network.  Chicago scored poorly on every component. On bike access to parts of the city where people live, Chicago scored a 3 on a scale of 100.  On accesses to jobs and school, the score was 6 on a scale of 100.  On access to basic services like grocery stores, Chicago scored 4 on a scale of 100.

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An estimated 9,560 people died in motor vehicle crashes nationwide during the first three months of 2022.  This number represents a 20% jump from the same period in 2021 according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  This number also represents a 20 year high in deaths.  The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. sadly note that the NHTSA has reported the increase in motor vehicle fatalities was  even higher in Illinois.  Illinois has had 280 fatalities during the first 3 months of 2022 which represents a shocking 24% increase in deaths over 2021.  According to the National Safety Council there has been a long term trend of rising traffic deaths in Illinois.  In 2010 there were 927 traffic deaths in Illinois compared with 1,194 deaths in Illinois in 2020.

The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have observed that the blame for these increases have been placed on the usual suspects of drunken driving and speeding.  On top of these two causes and quickly becoming the top cause of traffic fatalities is distracted driving.  Almost everyone today has a cell phone and is constantly receiving text messages and e-mails.   Many drivers cannot resist  talking on their phones or checking in coming text or e-mails that ping on their phones.  Just a moment of distraction that takes a drivers eyes off the road is all it takes to cause a driver not to  see a pedestrian crossing the road or see a red light that has just turned or see a car that has made a sudden stop in front of their car.  It only takes a moment’s distraction to cause a life changing and tragic injury causing crash.  The lawyers of Zneimer and Zneimer P.C. urge all drivers to not use their cell phones when driving.

 

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Chicago Andre Vasquez has proposed streamlining the process to have cars and trucks towed that are blocking a bike lane.  Alderman Vasquez commented that: “cars just don’t care.  They’re parking there, waiting there. double-parking there.  Even when we had the Department of Finance ticket them, they weren’t moving.  By giving the Department of Finance the ability to tow them, it would incentivize people not to do it so they don’t get their towed.”

Additionally, the proposed ordinance would require signs to be posted that a bike lane will be closed 24 hours in advance whenever a permit is issued to do work that would close a bike lane.

The Alderman’s proposal was in response to a tragic accident that occurred on June 9, 2022 where a mother on a bicycle with a toddler named Lily seated in a carrier was riding down Leland Avenue bike lane.  Lily’s mother came upon a ComEd truck that was parked in the bike lane doing work.  Lily’s mother attempted to steer around the truck parked in the bike lane and was forced to maneuver by a semi-truck.  The semi-truck began to move causing Lily’s mother to lose her balance which caused Lily to be thrown to the roadway under the wheels of the semi.  Alderman Vasquez stated that he firmly believes that Lily would still be alive if his proposed ordinance were in affect at the time this incident occurred.

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Sadly, Illinois has had an alarming 18 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2021.  More than 1,350 died in fatal car accidents in Illinois.  This represents the highest number of traffic deaths in Illinois since 2005.  The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. note that Illinois is not alone in states experiencing sharp rises in traffic fatalities after many years of steady declines in deaths.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 31,720 traffic deaths in the United States from January to September 2021, a 12 percent increase from 2020.  The trend continues to be getting worse in Illinois in 2022.  The Illinois Department of Transportation recorded 80 traffic deaths this year.  This compares with 71 traffic deaths at this time in 2021.

Some help may be on the way to reduce these numbers in that the recently passed infrastructure bill which included billions of dollars for states to improve the safety of highways.  Some improvements and changes could include safer road designs, fixed bridges, general road maintenance, lower speed limits in dangerous areas, crosswalks and pedestrian improvements and better lighting.

The NHTSA has conducted behavioral research to come up with some possible reasons why traffic deaths have been spiking and their research showed that people have been more likely to speed and not wear a seat belt since the start of the pandemic for whatever reason.  These behaviors cannot be altered by an infrastructure bill and falls upon individuals to take responsibility for their own safety.  The injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer urge everyone to slow down, wear a seat belt and do not drive distracted.  The consequences of a serious auto crash can be permanently life altering and it is certainly worth the effort to exercises caution to prevent oneself or another motorist from becoming injured.

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Though it has been a snow free winter so far this winter, it may be about time to find the snow shovels and salt and get ready to shovel the sidewalk.  Shoveling the sidewalk in front of ones house or building is not only a considerate thing to do it is also required by law in Chicago.  The Municipal Code of Chicago 4-4-310 & 10-8-180 requires that property owners and occupants of land keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice.  A five foot wide path must be created for pedestrians on sidewalks and crosswalks.  Additionally, the snow that is cleared should not be into alleys, crosswalks, bike-lanes or Divvy stations.  Chicago property owners must clear the snow anytime it snows.  For snow at night the snow must be removed by 10 a.m.  For snowfall during the day, the snow must be cleared by 10 p.m. at night.  The penalty for not following the law are possible fines ranging from $50-$500.  Violators can be reported by calling 311.

Ice and snow create a big fall risk for anyone using an uncleared sidewalk.   The fall risk is especially acute for people who have difficulty walking, such as seniors, people with disabilities and young children.  Every winter the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. receive numerous calls from people have been injured from a fall after slipping on ice or snow on an uncleared sidewalk or walkway.  Additionally, uncleared sidewalks and walkways cause people to walk in the street which is especially dangerous since the roads will most likely be slick if there is snow and there is usually not enough room for both cars and pedestrians.   The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer encourage everyone to shovel their sidewalks for everyone’s safety and shoveling has the added benefit of being great exercise.

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Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi in an effort to make Chicago streets safer for cyclists has announced that the City is experimenting with raised bike lanes to keep cars out of cyclists space.  Commissioner Biagi observed that Copenhagen, one of her favorite cities to cycle around utilizes raised bike lanes in its bike lane infrastructure.   Chicago’s Streets for cycling plan envisions 645 miles of protected bike lanes to be in place by 2021.  The options to protect a bike lane from cars can include raised bike lanes, curbs, parked cars between the bike lane and moving traffic and bollards.  Observing that many people will wisely refrain from riding their bicycles on the street without some form of protect more than a painted line on the street, Audrey Wennink, director of transportation for the Metropolitan Planning Council,  expressed the need to build out complete whole networks of protected bike lanes to make transportation via cycle a more feasible option for more people.  As quoted by a Chicago Sun-Times article on bike lanes dated May 11, 2021 Wennink explains: “you need to have bike lanes go a certain distance-connecting all the way from neighborhoods to downtown.  If you want people to ride their bike to work, they need to have a safe pathway all the way from where they start to their destination.”   Though, Mayor Lightfoot is on track to add 100 miles of new bike lanes by the end of the year, Biagi points out that the raw number of new bike lanes is not as important as the few miles of bike lanes that connect one network of bike lanes to another network of bike lanes so that bikers can have a safe path all the way to their destination.

The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. applaud the emphasis on protected bike lanes to encourage bike ridership and to protect cyclists from the risk serious injuries that are caused by collisions with cars and trucks.  Injury attorney, Peter Zneimer can attest from personal experience with injured bicyclist, the painted bike lane affords little or no protection from getting hit by a moving car or getting “doored” by someone exiting their car without checking for bikes in the bike lane.  With more and more people using bikes for transportation, the city owns it to these cyclists to devote the resources necessary to make their commute as safe as possible.

 

 

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The moment that felt forever in the future has finally arrived: some semblance of normality in Chicago. We are over the bridge1 and back on somewhat solid land, with the City entering phase five and doing away with municipally-dictated capacity limits.2 Individual restaurants and venues may now determine their own Covid-related rules, which will likely mean a general loosening of restrictions. This does not mean we are stepping into a time machine and returning to the innocent days of pre-March 2020, however. Many businesses will continue to enforce capacity limits, modified mask mandates, and altered hours in order to ensure the safety of their patrons. Nevertheless, the move to phase five demonstrates that vaccination and social distancing efforts have paid off, and Chicagoans will be able to enjoy a more open city as a result.

As we all know, less restrictions means more people out and about; fuller roads and bike paths; and likely less caution as Covid-paranoia fades into the background and people enjoy their newly reclaimed freedom. This is a ripe time for accidents, which means we must remain vigilant and use our own discretion this summer, just as individual businesses are using theirs in re-opening. Rest assured, we are not here to throw a lawyerly wet blanket on your fun; by all means, roam the neighborhoods, cruise the lakefront trail, sip at rooftop bars, enjoy a 70mm film at the Music Box. But be careful out there and should anything happen in these heady post-Covid days, the injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., are here to help.

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Cyclist deaths are always tragic, but for fans of School of Rock the passing of Kevin Clark holds a special poignancy. Clark, who played drummer Freddy “Spazzy McGee” Jones in the 2003 film, was killed after being hit by a car at the intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue on May 26.1 The intersection is widely viewed as one of the most dangerous among the cycling community, a sentiment bolstered by the fact that it was the scene of another cyclist death in 2008 when a 22-year-old was also struck by a car.2 Clark’s passing has renewed calls to install protected bike lanes at the intersection and to grant more consideration to Chicago’s cyclists more broadly.

The city is not necessarily hostile to bike-riders, despite accidents like the above. Indeed, according to a recent study by LawnStarter, Chicago comes in at number 30 out of 200 for best biking cities in the U.S.3 Notable amounts of bike lanes, rental options like Divvy, and miles of lake front trail all help make it an attractive place for cyclists. Nonetheless, what accidents do show is just how fragile cyclists’ lives are and how important it is to continue making the streets safer for all occupants. One bad intersection, one large pothole, or one apoplectic road-rager is all it takes to put someone in harm’s way‑-something that should be kept in mind by drivers and planners alike.

In a general sense, what Clark’s death demonstrates is that accidents can strike at any time. Murphy’s Law is always looming on the sidelines, waiting to make its presence felt. We at Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., are acutely aware of this, and we are always ready to help when things go wrong. Give us a call if you are ever in need of a personal injury attorney, and if you would like to pay homage to Mr. Clark, give School of Rock a rewatch or imagine Spazzy McGee banging on a celestial drumkit somewhere out there in the cosmos.

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Chicago is now issuing motorists tickets for getting caught on a speed camera for going 6 miles per hour over the speed limit.  The tickets are issued through the mail along with a photo of the speeder’s vehicle.  The City of Chicago asserts that the change was necessary to encourage drivers to slow down, noting that traffic fatalities rose 45 percent in 2020.   A total of 139 people died in traffic crashes in Chicago in 2020.

Alderman Anthony Beale and other critics are skeptical that safety was the major motivation in the change and suspect that the additional ticketing was implemented to raise revenue.  The City currently has 88 active speed cameras located around schools and parks to churn out tickets to a motorist going over 6 MPH over the speed limit.  One anomaly of the system is that 50 speed locations have cameras that are only facing one direction.  As a result, at these locations only vehicles with front license plates will get a ticket.  It was noted that Chicago’s top 15 speed cameras locations, 83,000 speeding vehicles were not ticketed because they did not have front plates.

The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of the rise of traffic fatalities in the city of Chicago in 2020 and encourage the City to take action and implement improvements that will slow traffic down and will make the streets and crossings safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Such changes could include dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian islands, and “bump-outs” that extend the sidewalk into the intersection. Additionally, restricting right turn on red would also help prevent pedestrian injuries.

 

 

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Helsinki, Finland has made strides in pedestrian safety with zero pedestrian fatalities in 2019. Despite designing crosswalks with the safety of pedestrians in mind, 500 people in America are killed each year using them according to a Smart Cities World article. Though America is larger than Helsinki and more populated, 500 is disturbingly high for a country that has pledged to decrease that number. Perhaps, the commitment and the fervor for pedestrian safety needs to be restored?

Locally, the city of Chicago has rallied for crosswalk safety for the pedestrians who are the most vulnerable when road safety is not prioritized or overlooked. Areas considered high crash corridors such as Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square would benefit in the formation of more protected bike lanes, bus boarding islands, a reduction of parking spots. Personal injury attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., believe the installation of more crosswalks in these areas would help save lives and prevent lessen accidents. Milwaukee from Western to Sacramento saw 446 crashes from 2014 to 2018. Zneimer& Zneimer PC see the need for an empathetic street design that will prioritize car-free modes, hence the implementation of adequate infrastructures like protected bike lanes and crosswalks. Dongho Chang of Curbed argues that, “More people feeling comfortable crossing will encourage more use and meet the federal guidelines for additional treatments like crosswalks and stop control.

Intelligent transportation infrastructure technology provider, Applied Information, is introducing a configurable Pedestrian Crossing Safety System (PCSS) to improve safety at midblock crossings, which if utilized might just help reduce the fatalities and crashes drastically in half or more for the entire nation. This technology, coupled with public awareness and the addition of more improvements such as bump outs and crosswalks make the streets and public spaces in general, more inviting and safer for pedestrians, cyclist and drivers, as well. Even as the pandemic rages, and people are suffering, it is essential not to lose sight of efforts to make our streets safer and aim for zero fatalities as  our European counterparts in Finland.

 

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