These days, people in Chicago have numerous reasons for choosing to ride a bicycle around the city. Some opt for two-wheeled transportation because traffic and parking are so horrendous throughout downtown that cycling can save them a lot of headaches. Others realize that owning and insuring a car in the metro area is very costly and may not be worth the price if you only need to travel short distances. And yet others still see the benefits of cycling on the environment or on their physical health and opt to ride for those reasons.
The reasons behind why an individual rides a bicycle in Illinois do not matter. What matters is that these individuals are legally authorized to ride in the roadways except where expressly prohibited and by doing so, riders are protected by the rights and laws that apply to all forms of traffic.
Yet despite the legal status of cyclists here, far too many motorists ignore the rights of these bicyclists and instead act in a manner that poses a threat to public safety.
If you ride, odds are that you are all too familiar with safety-related bicycle issues in Illinois already. There are drivers who ignore the right-of-way of cyclists, cars who open their doors into the path of an oncoming rider, and even some who fail to look for or notice cyclists who are clearly visible on public roadways.
Even if you are aware of some of the risks, though, you may not be familiar with how devastating a bicycle accident can be to those who ride. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 3,241 bicycle accidents in the State of Illinois in 2014 alone. Of those, 27 were fatal and 3,014 resulted in injuries. Only 200 of such collisions had damage to property only. This means that when a bicycle crash took place in 2014, nearly 94 percent of the time, a person involved was injured or killed in the accident. In comparison, there were 296,049 total traffic accidents in Illinois that year with 845 of those turning fatal and another 61,084 causing injuries. The average person involved in a traffic accident here in 2014 faced almost a 21 percent chance of being involved in a fatal or injury accident which is significantly less than those who were riding bikes.
The reasoning behind this discrepancy is important to understand. The biggest factor leading to the increased risk of harm for riders remains the fact that there is nothing to protect a cyclist from injury in the event of a crash other than the safety gear that rider may be wearing while those in a motor vehicle have the body of their car, seat belts, air bags, and other tools to help them remain secure. When a crash happens, a cyclist is often thrown off of her bicycle and onto the pavement while a restrained occupant of a car may stay relatively in place on her seat. The physics of these collisions are important to determining the fallout from a collision.
Whether or not you ride, it is important to act in a manner that minimizes the risk of harm to others on the road so that as many bicycle collisions as possible can be eliminated from Chicago’s streets. Use caution when riding or driving and always expect traffic conditions to change with little or no warning. If another rider or driver is near you and has the right-of-way, yield the right-of-way and wait your turn before you proceed down a road or into an intersection. Finally, know that victims of bicycle crashes may be entitled to bring a claim for their damages but that the best situation involves preventing collisions in the first place and thereby preventing any injuries or deaths that would have resulted from a crash.
Prior Blog Entry:
Promoting Pedestrian Safety in Illinois, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2016.
2014 Illinois Crash Facts and Statistics, Illinois Department of Transportation.