Experts believe that the interactions between cars and bicycles are continually improving in the Chicago area. This is partly due to the construction of many new bike lanes around the city. It is also due to the fact that most Chicago bicyclists are also motorists, and vice versa. This gives each an understanding of the risks facing the other, and improves safety for all.
While our Chicago personal injury attorneys are pleased to hear that the situation may be improving, we urge cyclists to avoid complacency. Many motorists are still stubbornly unaware of the bicycles around them. This negligence can lead to accidents, injury and death for bicyclists.
Crashes involving cars and bicycles are still surprisingly common in Chicago. In fact, in 2008 alone (the most recent year for which complete data is available), there were 1,494 such crashes. During that same period nationwide, accidents between cars and bicycles killed over 700 people and injured another 52,000.
That’s why defensive bicycling is so important. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys would love to see more bicyclists taking the steps that can protect them from the common, but inexcusable, negligence of motorists. This begins with always wearing a helmet – the single most important thing any bicyclist can do to prevent injury and death. In addition, bicyclists should always ride on the road, not the sidewalk, and ride with traffic, not against. In addition, there are a number of common accident scenarios that cyclists can take steps to prevent.
Avoiding cars entering the roadway from the right is a simple but essential safety precaution. In fact, the single most common accident involving bicyclists is one where the cyclist is struck by a car pulling out of a driveway, alley, or side street on the right-hand side of the road. This is often because cyclists tend to ride as far to the right as possible, to avoid traffic on the road. Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult for cars entering the roadway from the right to see the cyclist. Bicyclists must thus remain aware, slowing down if they see cars entering the roadway, using lights or horns, and making eye contact with these drivers whenever possible.
Another peril of biking as far to the right as possible is parked cars on the right hand side of the road. It is surprisingly common for bicyclists to be struck by car doors opening into their pathway. Again, awareness and avoiding biking on the far right of the lane can help prevent these accidents and resulting injuries. Of course, motorists could prevent these accidents by the simple expedient of checking for upcoming bicyclists before opening their doors. However, our Chicago accident attorneys have learned that you cannot expect others not to be negligent: you must take whatever steps possible to ensure your own safety.
Biking to the right of cars can also be dangerous in many ways. Bicyclists should never pass a car on the right, as drivers tend to be unaware that a biker is approaching on that side. Bicyclists should also never stop to the right of a car at a red light: drivers are again often unaware of their presence, and can strike them by turning right when the light turns green. Instead, bikers at red lights should stop in the middle of the lane.
Finally, bikers must bike defensively to avoid being hit from behind. When biking at night, cyclist should be sure to have a rear-facing light, or at minimum a reflector facing the rear. Bikers should also check behind them carefully before merging left out of a parking lane, bike lane, or right-hand lane.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.