Bicycling has been popular for hundreds of years in the United States, including in Illinois. Today, children are not the only bicyclists that a driver of an automobile may see near a road. In fact, the number of adults cycling for pleasure or sport is increasing every year, as is the number of Illinois workers who chose to commute by bike. In response, heavy bicycle areas like Chicago have created bicycle-only lanes of traffic, protected bike lanes, bike-sharing programs, as well as increased availability of bike parking and space for bikes on public transit.
The surge in bicycling is happening so fast that many cities and drivers are struggling to adapt as quickly. When drivers are careless or otherwise distracted, accidents with bicyclists can occur. One of the most prominent reporters of bicycle safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported the following bike accident facts for the year 2011:
The NHTSA further reports that more than 51,000 bicyclists have been killed in traffic crashes since 1932, the first year that bike accident fatality data was recorded.
In addition to the national statistics, the State of Illinois gathers and maintains its own facts related to bicycle accidents. The Illinois Department of Transportation reported the following statistics for the year 2011:
The average age of cyclist killed has been increasing over the past few decades with experts opining that the cause is the increased use of bicycles by older Americans and not a decreased use among children. While these adults are at an increased risk, unfortunately the traditional risk faced by children still exists with many kids being injured or killed on a bicycle every year. It is important for every driver to realize that bicyclists have the same right to ride in Illinois roads as drivers of cars and therefore drivers must be willing to share the roads with the bikers. By paying attention, looking for bicyclists, and acknowledging the rights of bicyclists, accidents are much less likely and will be less likely to result in death or serious injury.
When an accident with a bicyclist does occur, one of the most common injuries to the cyclist is a head or face injury. These are not only common but also very serious and often deadly. The best way to prevent a head injury while riding a bike is to always wear a properly fitting helmet whenever you ride. Studies repeatedly show that helmets reduce the chance of death in an accident, and in fact, 91 percent of riders who were killed in 2010 were not wearing helmets. Despite the benefits, only a small percentage of riders chose to wear helmets in Illinois. In most areas of the state, it is up to the rider to decide whether or not she wants to wear a helmet; unlike some other states, Illinois does not have a mandatory helmet law that covers all riders. Some cities and municipalities require helmet usage by some riders, mostly children under the age of 16, but the majority of cities have no such regulation, leaving it up to riders and parents to decide what is best.
Though helmets are known to prevent many injuries, the best way to keep bicyclists safe is to prevent accidents from occurring. With the same rights as other motorists, bicyclists also have the same rights to make legal claims for any injuries they sustain. If a bicyclist has been hurt through the negligence of another, there may be a recovery possible to fully compensate the cyclist for his or her losses.
If you or a loved one has been killed or seriously injured in a Chicago bicycle accident, request a free case consultation or call (855) LAW-CHICAGO to speak with a lawyer now.