Bicycle Accidents Are on The Rise in Chicago
Since its invention and mass production, the bicycle has been a popular mode of transportation in the United States. From the young child who rides to school, to adults turning to cycling for exercise and family outings, bicycling provides many wonderful recreational opportunities. However, as our Chicago bicycle accident lawyers recognize, it also can pose risks.
Bicycling is Becoming a More Popular Form of Transportation in Chicago
Bicycling is not just for exercise and recreation anymore. Many people have turned to cycling as a means of commuting to and from work or school. They do this in an effort to avoid traffic congestion, pollution, and other problems associated with driving in Chicago.
Since 1990, Chicago has seen a doubling of bicycle use for commuting. Further, the city is continuing its efforts to make Chicago a more bicycle-friendly community. Local government continues to build a comprehensive network of bicycle paths that allows cyclists to travel throughout the city.
However, while many of these efforts are designed to provide “bicycle only” pathways, cyclists still must frequently share the roads with cars, trucks, and buses. These paths are also growing more congested by the day. This is leading to an increase in interactions among cyclists and pedestrians and more congestion at points where their paths cross main roads.
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As a result, vehicle accidents involving bicyclists are very common. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 19 fatalities in accidents involving cyclists in 2016. Further, 3,138 were injured. In Chicago alone, 6 cyclists were fatally injured in crashes with vehicles that year.
In September 2012, the Chicago Sun-Times published an article explaining that Chicago is the second most dangerous city in the United States for bike riders. Only New York is worse than us.
Since 2005, there have been dozens of bicycle accident fatalities in the city. Additionally, 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. If you are dealing with disabilities after an accident, you should promptly consult a bicycle accident attorney in the Chicago area.
As the number of cyclists grows, the number of accidents involving bikes will also likely grow. And, like many other vehicle crashes, a large number of them occur at intersections.
Many of these accidents are the result of motorists who seem to forget that bicyclists are also legitimate and lawful users of the roads. They 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. Additionally, bicyclists are put at risk by rapidly changing traffic signals that may turn red before they completely cross the intersection.
Another type of accident resulting from motorists not observing their surroundings are “doorings”. A bicycle dooring is defined as when a driver or passenger opens his or her car door into an oncoming cyclist. Our bike accident attorneys in Chicago work on dooring cases often.
Drivers and passengers are at fault in these accidents. They often fail to take the time to check mirrors or look back for oncoming cyclists when exiting their vehicles.
In many cases, bicyclists have little opportunity to react when a vehicle door opens. The injuries can be extremely serious, since the impact is comparable to a cyclist riding his or her bicycle directly into a wall.
Even low-speed collisions can have catastrophic results￼. Surprisingly, doorings account for around 8 percent of all bicycle accidents.
For obvious reasons, cyclists are always at a disadvantage in a collision with a car. Every bicyclist must adopt a defensive attitude when dealing with vehicle traffic.
Bicycles and cars generally follow the same traffic laws, but this does not mean that cars will always observe the appropriate right-of-way rules. Further, cyclists are harder for a motorist to see, when compared to other cars, buses, and trucks.
Reckless driving is defined as the willful or deliberate disregard for the safety of others while operating a motor vehicle. Aggressive driving goes a step further and includes a person intentionally endangering others. Because of this, drunk driving, aggressive driving, and hit and runs are often grouped together since these actions intentionally put others at risk or disregard their safety when they leave the scene.
Drunk driving incidents are 100% preventable. Unfortunately, the rate at which people choose to drink and drive is far too high. This blatant disregard for others can lead to devastating outcomes, especially when someone as vulnerable as a bicyclist is involved.
In most accidents involving a bicycle and a motor vehicle, drivers often report not seeing the bicyclist until it was too late. In some circumstances, the driver did not see the bicyclist at all. Consuming alcohol before driving only increases the chances that a driver will not see a bicyclist since alcohol causes diminished cognitive abilities and delayed reaction time.
Accidents caused by aggressive drivers are also common in areas where bicyclists and vehicles share the road. Incidents of road rage can lead to dangerous interactions where a cyclist is left severely injured. Road rage can be triggered by nearly anything. But one of the leading causes is a driver’s impatience with a slower moving bicycle in the roadway.
Many drivers do not realize that cyclists have the same rights as them to use roads.
Other examples of aggressive actions towards cyclists can include:
- Blocking the bike lane
- Honking or verbal abuse
- Swerving toward cyclists
- Blocking a cyclist from turning
- Riding too closely behind a cyclist
Hit and Runs
When a driver collides with a cyclist and doesn’t stop to report the accident, they are guilty of a hit and run. Whether it is a deliberate act on the driver’s part or an intoxicated driver unaware that a collision has even taken place, the bicyclist almost never comes out unscathed. A number of injuries can occur, such as organ and nerve damage, traumatic brain injuries, dental damage, among others. Drivers are liable for the damages they cause due to their negligence.
Bicycle Accident Injury Statistics in Chicago, IL
What Should I Do After a Bicycle Accident?
If you get hurt in a bicycle accident, it is important to do the following:
- Call 911 and make a police report. Do not let a driver talk you into not making a police report. That can lead to problems later.
- Exchange information with the driver that hit you. Photograph of his or her driver’s license and insurance card.
- Take several photos of your bike, the vehicle that hit you, and the scene of the accident.
- Obtain witness information from anyone that happened to see the crash. Don’t skip this step, as police officers don’t always take down witness information and you might need it later.
- If needed, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Contact an experienced bike accident attorney in Chicago. Do this before calling the other side’s insurance carrier.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents include:
Drivers failing to yield to bicyclists in intersections
Some drivers may not be familiar with the rules of the road when dealing with cyclists sharing the roadway. This lack of awareness can be particularly hazardous when a cyclist and a car are sharing the road while crossing or turning at an intersection. Intersections are one of the most dangerous places for cars and cyclists. Intersections are one of the main areas where collisions leading to devastating injuries occur.
A driver failing to observe cyclists on the road
Drivers not seeing a cyclist on the road is a common cause of an accident involving a bicycle. Both drivers and bicyclists should take precautions to limit this very preventable cause of bike accidents.
Cyclists can use safety accessories like sideview mirrors, reflectors, lights, and light-colored clothing to help lower the possibility of an accident. Similarly, drivers should be aware that cars are not the only vehicles they need to look out for on the roads. Motor vehicle drivers should be especially careful at intersections, near bike lanes, and in areas with a large number of bike commuters.
Motorists encroaching into bike lanes
Even while riding within the confines of a bike lane, cyclists should be alert at all times for distracted and careless drivers. Vehicles can inadvertently or intentionally drift into a bike lane after just a few seconds of inattention. This can potentially cause a cyclist to suffer serious injuries.
Bicycle doorings when a driver or passenger doesn’t pay attention while opening a car door
As we mentioned above, dooring incidents are a serious danger to cyclists, especially in urban environments. These accidents can cause a bicyclist to go flying over their handlebars, which can cause catastrophic injuries like brain injuries, neck and back injuries, facial damage, and long-lasting pain and suffering. Practicing defensive riding techniques is the best way for a cyclist to avoid being the victim of a dooring.
Distracted drivers hitting a cyclist
Distracted driving is one of the biggest problems for road safety that we face today. As smartphones have become a major part of our everyday lives, many people find it hard to set down their phones even while driving. Distracted drivers are clearly a risk to other vehicles. But they are even more dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians since they have almost no protection if they are struck. Someone who is distracted by texting, eating, or a multitude of other things may veer into bike lanes. Likewise, they may not notice a cyclist crossing through an intersection or fail to see a cyclist while making a turn. Distracted driving is such a big problem that it’s been identified as the leading cause of bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles.
Drivers failing to yield to bicyclists while pulling in and out of driveways or parking lots
When a driver that is backing out of a driveway or parking lot does not fully check their surroundings, it can cause serious consequences for pedestrians and bicyclists. Cyclists are more likely to be struck in parking lots and while people are backing out because of their smaller size and their low noise levels. Backup cameras and sensors are starting to lessen these types of accidents. But drivers cannot rely on these technologies in place of looking behind them and checking their blind spots.
How Can I Avoid a Bike Accident?
Following proper safety procedures and laws when riding a bike in Chicago is the best way to avoid accidents and injuries. When moving in traffic, cyclists should do the following:
- Obey the rules of the road
- Assume that cars and drivers will fail to see you
- Give cars a wide berth
- Occasionally yield to motor vehicles under certain conditions when you don’t know if a driver has spotted you
- You should have appropriate protective gear
How Can I Protect Myself in a Bicycle Accident?
- Wear a properly-fitting helmet
- Wear bright or reflective clothing
- Use a bike light, reflectors, and reflective tape
- Follow all posted traffic laws
- Ride with the flow of traffic
- Use bike lanes whenever possible
- Make sure your bicycle is in good working condition
- Stay alert at all times and avoid distracted riding
How Much is my Bike Accident Case Worth?
While there is no exact formula, the value of bicycle accident settlements are often determined by the following factors:
- Liability. If it’s easy to determine the other side caused your accident, that’s good for your case. If liability is contested, that can affect case settlement value.
- Damages. If you have more serious injuries, like a fractured leg with surgery, your case is going to be worth more money. Minor soft-tissue injuries are worth less money.
- Insurance. This is often luck of the draw. It’s always better to be involved in an accident with someone that has great insurance with high limits. But unfortunately, there are a lot of lousy insurance companies out there with minimum limits.
How Long Will My Bicycle Accident Case Take To Settle?
- There is no set formula for how long it will take a bike accident case to settle. First, usually a bicycle accident lawyer won’t try to settle your case if you are still in medical treatment. It makes no sense to settle the case when you are still incurring medical bills. You can only settle your case once. You can’t go back later and ask for more money.
- Once you are finished with your medical treatment, a lawyer will move forward and obtain all your medical records and bills. Unfortunately, this can take some time. Medical offices and hospitals are notoriously slow when it comes to providing this material.
- After your attorney has your records and bills, he or she will put together a settlement demand package. The attorney might have questions for you during this process. Once complete, a demand will be sent to the insurance company.
- It will typically take 30-60 days for an insurance adjuster to respond to the demand with an initial offer. However, sometimes it can take longer depending on the insurance adjuster and company involved. Once an offer is received, the parties will negotiate from there.
- If the case resolves, that’s terrific. If not, a lawsuit would typically be filed and that process can take years. However, cases often settle during litigation, and very few cases end up going to trial.
What Illinois Bicycling Laws Should Drivers and Cyclists Know?
The state of Illinois and various safety institutions have worked together to create laws that will keep motorists and cyclists safe. Some of the most important laws and recommendations are listed below:
Bicycles Have a Right to the Road
In Illinois, cyclists and motor vehicles have the same rights and duties. Bike riders must obey the rules of the road and follow the proper traffic signals just like cars. Similarly, vehicles must also respect the fact that bicycles have the same right to the road as they do.
Helmets are not Required but are Recommended
Illinois does not require the use of helmets while riding a bicycle. The exception is for bicyclists under the age of 16 in some areas. However, we know that brain trauma is the most common injury from a bicycle accident. And helmets are a simple safety measure to take to prevent a brain injury.
Head injuries account for:
- 62% of bicycle-related deaths
- 33% of bicycle-related ER visits
- 67% of bicycle-related hospitalizations
In an in-depth study by The New England Journal of Medicine, riders who were wearing helmets during a crash had an 85% reduction in their risk of head injury.
Bicyclists Should Stay Right in a Bike Lane
Bicyclists should ride as close as possible to the right side of the road or in a bike lane, whenever possible. This is not only law. But it also gives cyclists the best chance of staying safe on the road.
Motor Vehicles Must Pass Bicycles Safely
Drivers must allow for a 3-foot gap between their vehicle and a bicycle when they are passing them. If this buffer zone is not respected, contact leading to an injury may occur.
Bicycles Must Have Certain Safety Equipment
All bicycles that are ridden on the road must be outfitted with a white front-facing headlight and a red rear-facing light.
Bicycle Accidents Will Continue to Occur
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 vehicle traffic at least some of the time. This is particularly true 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 hurt in an accident, you will need the help of an experienced bicycle accident lawyer in the Chicago area to help you recover damages to compensate you for your medical expenses, pain, suffering, and other losses.
If you sustain an injury in an accident with a motor vehicle while riding your bicycle, or someone you love has been tragically killed, you should consult with an experienced bicycle accident attorney immediately. He or she will help determine whether you may have a valid personal injury or wrongful death claim against a negligent driver.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., our experienced bicycle accident attorneys assist cyclists in pursuing claims against negligent drivers who have caused serious injuries. We know how to collect all of the compensation you deserve for your injuries, whether that means filing a lawsuit or pursuing a remedy through other means.
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 (312) 924-7575 or you may use the online form right here on this website. Our Chicago bicycle accident attorneys are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no attorney fees unless and until you win your case by making a financial recovery through settlement or trial.
- Bicycle Dooring Accidents
- Bicycle Safety Tips
- Bike Accident Statistics
- Bicycle Accidents Involving Children
- Bicycle Lane Accidents
- Road Rage Bicycle Accidents
- Hit-and-Run Bicycle Accidents
- Sideswipe Bicycle Accidents
- Rear-End Bicycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents Caused by Aggressive Drivers
- Bicycle Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injuries
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