Chicago has experienced a boom in recent years in overall bicycle riding across the city. As two-wheeled traffic has increased, the city has responded with better road designs, increased bicycle traffic signals, and designated bicycle lanes, intending to allow riders and motorists alike to share the roads safely. The lanes are limited in their locations, though, and cyclists must still ride among vehicular traffic in many areas of the city.
Under the laws of Illinois, a bicycle is treated the same as a vehicle. This means a bicyclist can legally ride a bike in a lane of traffic but must obey all traffic laws that are in effect. Additionally, vehicular drivers must recognize a cyclist’s right to ride and must respect the cyclist while in traffic. If everyone abided by these rules, there would be no conflict between bicycles and cars and no collisions would result. But unfortunately for riders in Chicago, mistakes by drivers are made daily and bicycle accidents continue to occur.
Types of Bicycle Lanes in Chicago
There are several types of designated bicycle areas in Chicago along the streets and roads that bisect the city. The City of Chicago identifies bicycle-friendly areas as bicycle lanes, shared lanes, and bicycle routes.
Bicycle lanes are areas of a road designated solely for bicycle traffic. This means that bikes can ride in these lanes but that the lanes are closed to other forms of traffic, including cars, trucks, and vans. Some bicycle lanes are open while others are buffered or protected, utilizing barriers or other devices to physically separate the bike lane from other portions of the street.
Shared lanes permit both bicycle and vehicular traffic in the same area. Generally, shared lanes are marked with bicycle symbols, visually designating to those in the area that the lane is intended to be used by cyclists as well as drivers. In a shared lane, usually there is no line separating the area where a bike travels from the area where cars drive and both types of travelers are expected to be aware of the other.
Bicycle routes are designated paths created by the City of Chicago because they are commonly biked areas and may appeal to a wide range of bicyclists. Usually, riders and motorists share the lanes along bike paths but, unlike shared bicycle lanes, there may not be street-level marking indicating bicycle traffic.
Even if there is no specific bike lane, bicycle marking, or bike path designated on a street, cyclist are legally authorized to ride the roads unless specifically prohibited by law in an area.
Common Causes of Bicycle Lane Accidents
A bicycle lane is a space designated only for cyclists to ride. At no time are bicycle lanes designed for vehicular traffic, though it may be necessary for a car to cross a bicycle lane as it turns, merges, or proceeds through an intersection. As only cyclists should ride in bicycle lanes, it may seem peculiar that so many collisions happen between cars and bikes in these areas.
Encroachment remains a significant cause of collisions between bicycles that occupy a Chicago bike lane and vehicles nearby. When a driver of a car fails to maintain his or her lane and encroaches, or even crosses into a bicycle lane, an oncoming cyclist may have no ability to avoid the impending crash. Regardless of whether the encroaching vehicle strikes the front, rear, or center of a bicycle, it is likely that injuries to the cyclist will result from the collision.
Bicycle dooring accidents also happen with some regularity as cyclists utilize bike-only lanes. A dooring incident occurs when a vehicular door is opened into the path of an oncoming cyclist, causing the cyclist to strike the car’s door. Typically this happens when a driver parks on the street and then attempts to exit the car without verifying that no cyclists are in the area. It is also a regular occurrence when taxi passengers exit on the street side of the cab, opening a door into a bicycle lane. It is the duty of everyone in a vehicle to ensure that they look for cyclists before opening their vehicular doors and failing to do so may be negligent conduct that results in legal liability for any damages that happen to an injured cyclist who is doored.
There may be times when a vehicle must cross a bicycle lane in Chicago. In the event that a car needs to turn, enter or exit a roadway, or merge, it may be necessary to cross over a designated bicycle lane and it may be perfectly legal for a vehicle to do so. However, a driver who needs to travel through a bicycle lane is still required to do so in a safe and reasonable manner. This means yielding to cyclists where appropriate, allowing bikers to proceed before making a turn, and checking for oncoming cycling traffic before initiating an action that leads to or through a bicycle lane. Even if drivers must cross a lane designated for cyclists, a driver can be held liable for the damages that result if that driver crosses in a negligent fashion and causes a collision to take place.
Legal Rights Following a Bike Lane Accident
Cyclists should be able to ride in Chicago without becoming injured but every year, thousands of accidents occur. In fact, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 3,453 bicycle accidents in Illinois in 2012 alone, and 3,233 of those resulted in injuries. That means that nearly 94 percent of all bicycle accidents in Illinois caused some type of harm to those involved. Common injuries sustained in a bike crash include broken or fractured bones, neck and back injuries, shoulder injuries, and cuts and lacerations. Open and closed head injuries are common as well, including concussions.
When an accident does occur and negligence or recklessness on the part of one or more people involved is to blame, victims may have a hard time understanding their options, including whether they can seek a recovery for their damages.
Under Illinois law, victims of bicycle accidents may be entitled to relief. A civil claim for damages can help a victim recover for actual financial damages incurred, like medical bills, surgical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitative costs. Future medical expenses and non-economic losses including pain and suffering can also be recovered in many cases.
These claims can be sought against an at-fault driver, the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident, a city, municipality, state, or even a company employing a negligent driver, if the driver was working at the time of the accident, depending on the facts involved in any given crash.
Following an accident, motorists in Chicago often try to blame a collision on the actions of a bicyclist. In some cases, an error or mistake by a cyclist contributed to a collision and this blame may be fair. Yet in many cases, a cyclist does nothing wrong and is still injured due to the negligence of a driver. Under the laws in Illinois, a cyclist may be entitled to relief for any injuries that result, regardless of the claims of the other driver involved in the collision.
Chicago Bike Lane Lawyers
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we understand how devastating a bicycle accident can be for the person involved as well as that individual’s entire family. We believe that every accident victim deserves to have legal representing on her side, fighting for her rights.
If you have been involved in a bike lane accident in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, call us today toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575. We offer a free case consultation without any obligation on your part and everything discussed will be kept confidential. We have a licensed lawyer standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to take your call. If you prefer, contact us online to receive your free case consultation.
If you have been hurt in an accident, make sure your legal rights are protected. Call us today and let us help you get the relief you deserve.
If you have been involved in a bike lane accident in Chicago, call us toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free case consultation.