With So Many Bicycle Lanes, Why are there Bike Crashes in Chicago?

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Often, people who spend time in Chicago but who do not ride a bicycle will ponder why there are so many collisions between cyclists and automobiles when so many steps have been taken to prevent those accidents. The addition of bicycle lanes, shared lanes, bicycle-only traffic signals, protected riding lanes, and bike friendly paths have led to a greater number of bicyclists taking to the city’s roadways annually but have not eliminated the accidents that tend to plague these riders.

Chicago has made tremendous strides in the last decade to make itself more bicycle friendly. Its efforts have been recognized at a national level where Chicago has been identified as one of the best large cities for riding in the country, a distinction that many cyclists in the area support. So why do bicycle accidents between riders and motor vehicles keep taking place?

Like all forms of traffic accidents, negligence on the part of one individual or more is the most common cause of collisions. Negligence can take many forms and may present itself as a driver who fails to stop or slow for traffic, someone who runs a red light or who blows a stop sign, or even someone who is distracted by a cell phone while behind the wheel. Contrary to popular belief, most collisions can be blamed on someone involved and are not true “accidents” in that they happen due to a mistake, not an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Cyclists face all the same risks as automobile drivers but also face an additional few due to the nature of riding in Illinois. As some motorists fail to respect the rights of bicyclists, riders must worry about being crowded by passing cars as they ride, potentially leading to a sideswipe bicycle accident or impact.

The different speeds at which cyclists ride are also blamed for a number of collisions. Typically, cars, trucks, and buses travel at least 25 miles per hour in the city and in some areas travel much faster. A typical cyclist rides at a much slower pace, leading to situations where cyclists and motor vehicles share the same roadway at substantially different speeds. This can be frustrating to drivers who may attempt to cut corners and may act in an aggressive or even reckless manner to move beyond a cyclist, potentially causing an accident.

Dooring incidents happen every month here where a motorist opens his or her door into the path of an oncoming rider. Few drivers realize that it is their legal obligation to refrain from exiting their vehicle if doing so would be unsafe to a legally riding bicyclist in the area which means that many drivers who cause these dooring incidents do not realize they are legally to blame until they find themselves named in a personal injury claim. Simply checking to see that the coast is clear before opening a door can avoid almost every dooring accident, eliminating these crashes and preventing countless injuries annually.

And yet the most common reason for a collision between cyclists and motor vehicles may be the failure to yield the right-of-way. The right-of-way describes who, among all movers on a public roadway, can continue along their path. If a driver fails to yield to a cyclist or a cyclist fails to grant the right-of-way to a driver, it is likely that these individuals will end up occupying the same place at the same time and that they will collide with one another.

Prior Blog Entry:

Pokémon Go is Contributing to Pedestrian, Car Accidents, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 14, 2016.