Since its invention and mass production, the bicycle has been a popular mode of transportation in the United States. From the young child who first learns that a bicycle can give him the freedom to travel on his own, to adults turning to cycling for exercise and family outings, bicycling provides many wonderful recreational opportunities.
In addition to bicycling for exercise and recreation, many people have also turned to cycling as a means of commuting to and from work or school in an effort to avoid the traffic congestion, pollution, and other problems associated with commuting by car. Since 1990, Chicago has seen a doubling of bicycle use for commuting, and the city is continuing its efforts to make Chicago a more bicycle-friendly community by building a comprehensive network of bicycle paths that will allow cyclists to travel throughout the city. However, while many of these efforts are designed to provide “bicycle only” pathways away from roads used by motor vehicles, cyclists still must frequently share the roadways with cars, trucks, and buses in order to get where they want to go.Our Chicago Bicycle Accident Attorneys Can Help You!As a result, vehicle accidents involving bicyclists are very common. According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 there were 618 bicyclist fatalities from accidents involving motor vehicles, and over 52,000 cyclists were injured in vehicle crashes across the United States. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, in Illinois there were 24 fatalities in accidents involving cyclists, and 3,464 injuries. In Chicago alone, five cyclists were fatally injured in crashes involving motor vehicles, and 1,566 cyclists were injured from such crashes.
In September 2012, the Chicago Sun Times published an article explaining that, for cyclists, Chicago is the second most dangerous city in the United States, behind only New York. Since 2005, there have been 43 bicycle accident fatalities within the city, and over 1,000 of those injured in cycling accidents have suffered “incapacitating” injuries—that is, broken bones or internal injuries that have left them either temporarily or permanently disabled. Cycling accidents increased in Chicago by nearly 40% in the decade from 2001 to 2011.
As the number of cyclists grows, the number of accidents involving cyclists will also likely grow. And, like many other vehicle crashes, a large number of them occur at intersections. Many of these accidents come about as the result of motorists who seem to forget that bicyclists are also legitimate and lawful users of the roads, and fail to look for cyclists when making turns or proceeding through intersections. These types of accidents are exacerbated by excessively large and busy intersections, like the six-way intersection at Milwaukee, Ogden & Chicago Avenues in inner-city Chicago, and by rapidly changing traffic signals that may change before cyclists are able to completely traverse the intersection, even when they enter it on a green light.
Another variety of accidents resulting from motorists not observing their surroundings are “doorings”—that is, when a driver or passenger opens his or her car door into an oncoming cyclist. While vehicle drivers bear the fault in such accidents, that does not mean that most vehicle owners are careful enough to always take the time to check their mirrors or look back for oncoming vehicles or cyclists when exiting their vehicles. In many cases, cyclists have little opportunity to react when a vehicle door opens, and the injuries can be extremely serious, since the impact is roughly equivalent to the cyclist riding his or her bicycle directly into a wall. Unfortunately, “doorings” account for about 8 percent of all bicycle accidents.
For obvious reasons, cyclists are always at a disadvantage in a collision with a car, and every bicyclist must adopt a defensive attitude when dealing with vehicle traffic. Bicycles and cars generally share the same traffic laws, but this does not always mean that cars observe the appropriate right-of-way rules in dealing with bicycles, particularly when cyclists are harder for drivers to see in relation to other moving cars, traffic signals, city buses, speeding taxis, and pedestrians.
When moving in traffic, cyclists should not only obey all traffic laws, but also assume that cars and drivers will not or do not see them. This means that they should give cars a wide berth, and occasionally yield to drivers under certain conditions unless they can confirm that a driver has spotted them. They should also have appropriate protective gear: properly-fitting helmets, bright or reflective clothing, and bicycles equipped with lights, reflectors, or reflective tape.
While the planned creation and expansion of bicycle lanes with buffer zones and exclusive-use bicycle paths and bicycle bridges will help Chicago cyclists stay safer in the future, most cyclists still have to travel with car traffic at least some of the time, particularly if they are using their bicycles to commute to and from work or school. And so long as cars and bicyclists must share the road, there will be accidents, and bicycle riders—given their relative lack of protection—will always be at a disadvantage. If you are a cyclist involved in one of these accidents, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to help you recover damages to compensate you for your medical expenses, pain, suffering, and other losses.
If you have been injured by a motor vehicle while riding your bicycle, or someone you love has been killed by a motor vehicle while cycling, you should consult an experienced bicycle accident attorney to determine whether you may have a valid personal injury or wrongful death claim against a negligent driver.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., our experienced Chicago bike accident attorneys assist bicyclists in pursuing claims against negligent drivers who have caused serious injuries. We know how to obtain all the damages you may be entitled to, whether that means filing suit or pursuing a remedy through an insurer. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, call Abels & Annes, P.C. to set up a free initial consultation. You may call us at our toll-free number (855) LAW-CHICAGO, (529-2442), locally at (312) 924-7575, or you may use the online form right here on this website. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will pay no fees unless and until damages are recovered.