Abels & Annes

Protected bike lanes coming to Chicago

Chicago bicycle accident attorneys at Abels & Annes are very familiar with the issue of motorists failing to stay out of designated bike lanes in the city. Too often we see drivers cutting into the lanes and failing to pay attention to bicyclists, which often results in serious injury.

Now comes word that in at least some locations bike riders won’t have to worry about cars encroaching into bicycle lanes. Construction is starting on a protected bike lane that will run on Kinzie Street from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. While the area is only a half-mile long, it is reportedly the first of 100 miles of protected bike routes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has planned.

Unlike current bike lanes in Chicago, the protected lane will be located closest to the curb. Next to the bicycle area will be an approximately 4 foot wide buffer area, then a parking lane, and finally vehicular traffic lanes. This results in around a 12 foot buffer between bicycle riders and moving traffic.

Kinzie is a good street to start the program, as 22% of it’s traffic is from bicycles. It is also a very congested area, therefore hazardous to bicycle riders. Stoney Island from 69th St. to 77th St. will also be receiving a protected lane soon.

On Tuesday the mayor held a press conference on Kinzie Street to kickoff the project, where he stated the goal of making Chicago the bike friendliest city in the United States. He said he was happy that Chicago is going to become a national leader when it comes to bike lanes, and that he envisions bicycling becoming an essential element to transportation within the city.

Mayor Emanuel himself is now training for a triathlon. He bikes up to 25 miles on weekends, in addition to a swimming program.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was also a fan of bicycling. He designated 117 miles of bike lanes, however none of them were protected.

While protected bike lanes is certainly a step in the right direction, there is still need for drivers to exercise due care. Even with the added protection, bicyclists will still have to deal with motor vehicle at intersections. In my experience as a bicycle attorney, intersections are where most accidents occur.

Our law firm is in the process of settling a bike accident case at the intersection of Southport and Barry on the North Side. Our client was riding southbound in a marked bike lane. He stopped at the southbound stop sign at the same time as a Cadillac Deville. After both made a complete stop, they both continued on. However, the Cadillac suddenly made a right turn without signaling, striking the bicyclist.

Our client sustained injuries to his left arm, left shoulder and left side. He had emergency room treatment at Northwestern Hospital, and then followed up with an orthopedic physician in Evanston. He also underwent a course of physical therapy at Athletico.

While it is unfortunate our client was injured, I would consider him lucky. Often bicycle vs. motor vehicle collisions result in much more serious injuries, or even a fatality.

An accident like this one is a good example of how bike collisions occur. Too many drivers don’t pay attention to bicyclists, whether in the area of a bike lane or not. Chicago drivers need remember that even a low speed impact can cause catastrophic injuries to a bicyclist.