Chicago Bicyclists: You Have Rights

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The attitudes of drivers in the Chicago area and the laws as they are written do not always reflect the same state of bicycling rights. While many drivers complain about bicyclists and state that they are a negative in the city, the reality is that bicyclists have the legal right to operate in Chicago and by doing so, bicyclists help to address some of the city’s plaguing issues. Cyclists ease the number of cars that drive in and around downtown, reducing vehicular traffic and lessening the amount of exhaust and pollution that hangs around the city. Bicyclists also get around without the need to find and occupy a traditional parking space which makes more spaces available for drivers in an area that can always use more parking.

The Illinois vehicular code is clear: bicycles can be operated legally in a lane of traffic in Illinois regardless of what other motor vehicle drivers desire. No individual has the right to limit the means by which another can travel and therefore those who drive cars, trucks, buses, vans, and SUVs must act in a manner that respects the rights of bicyclists. Failing to do so may trigger legal liability on the part of a driver and may lead to financial responsibility if a collision results and a cyclist is injured.

Bicycling in Chicago can vary somewhat depending on the area of town or the street upon which a cyclist rides. In some areas, bicycle lanes are separated from lanes designated for motor vehicles and are protected by bollards or other barriers to ensure the two forms of traffic do not unintentionally cross paths. In other areas, a bicycle lane may be designated but may be immediately next to a lane for cars without any physical barrier defining the areas. Where specific bicycle lanes are not marked, cyclists can still ride unless expressly prohibited, opening nearly the entire city to travel on two wheels.

Through changes and additions to the bicycle-friendly nature of the city, Chicago has garnered a national reputation as a top urban area to ride. The Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 calls for a 645 mile network of bike-friendly areas that should put biking facilities near every single person who lives in or work in the city. Part of the plan includes the addition of more bikeways in areas that are heavy with residents, allowing more people to ride near their homes.

The City of Chicago is in favor of cycling. The laws of Illinois support riding as well. Bicyclists should take heart to know that not only are they protected by the legislature but by public policy and by a mood that is increasingly favoring a shift away from gasoline-heavy means of transit.

Though cyclists should not have to worry about riding since they have the right to do so, unfortunately bicycle accidents happen every week here and many of them leave the riders injured and in need of medical help. If you are an injured rider, it is your right to seek financial relief through a civil claim for your injuries. A civil claim is separate and distinct from any traffic or criminal charges that may be brought as a result of the collision and the civil claim can help you receive payment for things like medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. If you have questions, you may get the answers you deserve by talking with a personal injury attorney who handles bike collisions in Illinois.

Prior Blog Entry:

The Mechanics of a Rollover Car Accident, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 11, 2016.