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Building Safer Bike Lanes for Chicago and the Nation




Our Chicago bicycle accident lawyers report on Chicago and national plans to build safer bike lanes.

In the past, only a painted stripe separated bike lanes from motor vehicle traffic. However, today, more cities are installing “protected” lanes or “cycletracks” that feature concrete curbs, planters and fences that protect cyclists from cars.

The aim of creating more pedal-only thoroughfares in cities like Chicago, Boston, Seattle and New York is to reduce the number of bicycle accidents between unprotected cyclists and the drivers of cars and trucks.

“For 50 years, we’ve just been putting down a stripe of white paint, and that was how you accommodated bikes on busy streets,” Martha Roskowski, director of People for Bikes, a Boulder, Colorado-based advocacy group, told The Seattle Times. “What we’ve learned is that simply doesn’t work for most.”

According to People for Bikes, there are about 240 miles of protected bicycle lanes promoting safety in 94 U.S. cities, the newspaper said. That is up from approximately 100 miles in 32 cities in 2013.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to build 50 miles of the lanes over the next three years on top of nine miles this year, the article says.

Unfortunately, as The Chicago Tribune explains, the Chicago plan for bicycle lane safety ignores bicycle lanes in housing areas – particularly in areas dominated by minority populations.

The Tribune report, from April 2016, says that Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program “continues to skew toward white or integrated neighborhoods.” Newly constructed protected bicycle lanes still do not reach many low- and middle-income neighborhoods that are predominantly made up of African-American residents such as Roseland, West Pullman and Riverdale, or majority Latino, such as Belmont Cragin and Archer Heights.

The Evolution of and Need for Bicycle Lane Safety

The Seattle Times report explains that protected bicycle lanes have been common in Europe for decades, including in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London, where city-crossing “cycle superhighways” are being built.

Cities in Japan and China have also created miles of protected bicycle lanes, while Buenos Aires, Argentina, has built nearly 90 miles of bike lanes – many of them protected – in just three years.

“Protected lanes have been sprouting up in the U.S. since at least 2007, when New York started rolling them out on a wide scale,” The Times reports.

The first curb-protected bike lane in Chicago debuted in May 2015 on Sacramento Drive in Douglas Park, followed by one in November on Clybourn Avenue in Old Townl where a cyclist was fatally hit by a car in 2013, a Tribune report from March 2016 says.

By fall of 2015, there were more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes in the city, according to the Tribune.

“Still,” the newspaper reports, “an estimated 29 percent of South Side residents and 26 percent of West Side residents do not have a bikeway of any sort within a half-mile of their homes, according to ‘Bikeways for All,’ a report put out by the Active Transportation Alliance last fall. In contrast, only 18 percent of North Siders lacked access.”

The 2013 Old Town bicycle accident caused the death of 26-year-old Robert “Bobby” Cann, who was described by The Tribune as “an ambassador for Chicago biking.”

Cann was riding in the 1300 block of North Clybourn Avenue when a southbound Mercedes sedan struck and killed him, authorities said.

The accident resulted in a Park Ridge man being charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving and failure to stay in the lane. He had a blood-alcohol content of .127 at the time of the accident, according to police. (Prosecutors dropped the reckless homicide charge dropped in 2015.)

The accident that claimed Cann’s life was one of 1,719 bicycle accidents in Chicago in 2013, which were among 2,434 across Cook County and 3,624 in all of Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In 2014, the latest year for which IDOT statistics are available, there were 3,241 cyclist crashes in Illinois, causing 27 deaths and 3,014 injuries.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that injuries in bicycle accidents have increased by 23 percent in recent years, and hospitalizations related to bike injuries have grown by 120 percent.

The JAMA study notes an increase in head and torso injuries during the five-year study period and points out that injuries among cyclists older than 45 increased by 81 percent.

Chicago Bicycle Lanes Accommodate Daily Commuters

An estimated 1.3 percent of Chicago’s residents bike to work – more than twice the national percentage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They are able to take advantage of more than 200 miles of on-street bike lanes that are protected, buffered and shared with motor vehicle traffic.

While commuting by bicycle can be healthier and less expensive than driving, it is undeniably a risk.

Cyclists can suffer serious injury and death because of negligent drivers who fail to see riders and run into them, turn into their path or force them off the road.

In a collision involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle, the cyclist has little protection and can easily suffer severe injury, ranging from bone fractures, to traumatic brain injury (TBI) or death.

However, cyclists have a right to the public roads where separate, protected bicycle lanes do not yet exist.

If a bicyclist is injured in a crash caused by a negligent motorist, they may be able to obtain compensation for their injuries as well as for damage to their bicycle and other losses. In the case of a fatal bicycle accident, family members may pursue compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois.

Get Legal Help after a Bicycle Accident Injury

The attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. represent clients in bicycle accident claims in Chicago and throughout Illinois. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident that you believe was someone else’s fault, we can promptly provide you with a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

We know how to investigate and litigate the unique issues in bicycle accident cases, and we have extensive experience with seeking compensation, or “damages,” for injured victims and their families. We are ready to help you today.

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