Chicago was recently named one of the ten best cities in the United States for bicycle riding by Bicycling Magazine. More and more people are riding bikes in Illinois for both recreation and commuting to work. This increase in ridership has led the city to implement new rules and policies regarding bicycle traffic with the hopes of expanding these as time passes. Some streets now have designated bicycle lanes while others are specifically marked as shared lanes for bikes and cars. Yet other areas have protected lanes where barriers or even street parking separates the bicyclists from the driving vehicles. There are even some bicycle-specific traffic lights to manage and control bicyclists downtown.
Though there has been an increase in ridership and a significant increase in bicycle-friendly streets, collisions between bicycles, bicycles and automobiles, and bicycles and other objects continue. While cyclists cannot control the actions of others on the road, they can control their own safety by including safety practices into their routines.
Illinois bike accidents claimed the lives of 27 in 2011 and injured another 2,912. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office makes the following recommendations for bicycle safety:
- Always wear a helmet.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Stay on the right while riding in the street.
- Obey traffic lights and stop signs.
- Stay off busy streets.
- Look both ways in intersections.
- Watch for cars at driveways and alleys.
- Don’t carry people on your bike.
- Don’t ride between cars.
- Yield for pedestrians.
- Use a headlight when riding at night.
- Stay alert.
BicycleSafe.com recommends several safety tips at hazardous locations where bicyclists and drivers need to use extreme caution:
- Parking lot exits: It is very common for bike riders to get hit by cars that are exiting parking lots. It is recommended that you use a headlight, slow down and ride more to the left if possible.
- Opening car doors: We have represented several bike riders who have been seriously hurt by opening car doors. Drivers need to use due caution when opening doors and look for bicycles. Bike riders should move to the left, if it is safe to do so, while passing parked cars.
- Crosswalk accidents: Bikers are often hit in or near a crosswalks by a car making a right turn. It is recommended that if you should slow down in the walkways, try to avoid riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, and if you are riding at night you should use a headlight.
- Don’t ride the wrong way: Riding the wrong way against traffic is a dangerous way to ride, and against the law in many jurisdictions.
- Red lights: When you stop at a light, don’t stop to close in a car’s blind spot on the right. You could get hit by the car if it turns right on red.
- Left turns: Cars making a left turn often fail to keep a look out for bike riders. Bicyclists can try to avoid this danger by using headlights at night, not riding on sidewalks, wearing bright clothes and slowing down if you see a left turner.
- Rear end collisions: Being hit from behind on a bicycle can cause serious injuries. Try not to move left without checking for cars behind you, do not swerve in and out of parking lanes, and use your signals and mirrors when moving left.
Through our experience as bicycle lawyers, we have seen bicycle collisions were the cyclists did not follow many safety protocols as well as crashes where a cyclist did everything right. When you ride a bike, your basic safety is up to you in terms of whether you wear a helmet and reflective clothing and whether you ride with caution. Beyond that, you place your safety in the hands of other riders and drivers in the city and you trust that they will operate as cautiously as you do. When this happens, drivers and cyclists alike can travel the streets safely and without conflict. When one or more person fails to act in a manner that protects the safety of others, crashes are likely to occur and injuries may result.
In a collision with a car, a bicyclist is always at a greater risk for injury because there is nothing between the cyclist’s body and the car that hits it. If you have been hurt while riding a bicycle, you may have a claim for your damages, including your injuries. A personal injury lawyer can help you bring a claim against another bicyclist or a driver who caused your accident and can seek a recovery on your behalf. If you have been hurt, do not hesitate to seek legal help to get the relief you deserve.
If you have been injured in a Chicago area bike accident, request a free case consultation or call (855) LAW-CHICAGO to speak with a personal injury lawyer now.