Monday, November 16, 2020

75-Year Old Cyclist Killed in Crash with Driver of Motor Vehicle in Cicero


75-year-old cyclist, Efren Avitia, was killed in a crash in near west suburban Cicero on Friday, November 13, 2020. According to a Chicago Sun-Times
article, the victim was struck by a vehicle when he was biking near 31st Street and Austin Boulevard at about 10:00 a.m. The victim was transported via ambulance from the scene of the crash to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead early Saturday morning.

An autopsy of the victim found that the person died of multiple blunt force injuries and the death was ruled an "accident." The use of the term "accident" is one chosen by law enforcement and only means that the crash was not caused intentionally. The term "accident" in this context does not mean that the crash was determined to be unavoidable. "Accident" in this context is also meant to be distinguishable from "intentional" which is when the driver purposefully causes the crash. 

While details about this crash are otherwise limited, based on the facts available it seems to be a case where the Illinois Vehicle Code would still provide protection for the cyclist. Section 11-1003.1 states:
“[E]very driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary . . . .”
The key component of Section 11-1003.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code is the “due care” clause. Under the law, "due care" means the "care that an ordinarily reasonable and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances." In other words, cutting off bicyclists, making left-hand turns in front of bicyclists, tailgating bicyclists, etc. are actions far from "due care." Motorists not only should give bicyclists respect, but they are required to give respect as it is what the legal notion of "due care" requires. The driver involved in this collision should have exercised all reasonable precautions to avoid crashing into Mr. Avitia and causing this horrendous result.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim of this crash as well as their family and friends.

Aurora Police Request Help in Identifying Driver in a Fatal Hit-and-Run

Another Chicago-area bicyclist has lost their life in a hit-and-run crash. On November 14th, 27-year-old Dragomir Misic was struck in a fatal hit-and-run collision in west suburban Aurora. The bicyclist was riding near the intersection of Montgomery Road and White Eagle Drive around 7:30 p.m. The driver then fled the scene. Aurora Police are asking for the public’s help regarding any information about the crash. 

If anyone knows any information about the collision, you are encouraged to call the Aurora Police Department at 630-256-5330 or the Aurora Area Crime Stoppers at 630-892-1000.

Key Steps To Follow If A Victim Of A Hit-and-Run

Based on the facts reported, the driver involved in this bicycle crash violated many of the Illinois Rules of the Road. The fear of knowing they were in the wrong is the motivation behind many drivers fleeing. Regrettably, hit-and-run collisions are a reality and it is important to protect yourself in such a scenario, especially if you are a bicyclist. Bicycle accidents are very sensitive and often more challenging than cases involving just motor vehicles. Therefore, any bicyclist that was hit by a motor vehicle, even one that fled, has rights and should protect them by ensuring a few things:
  • Even if the at-fault driver has fled the scene, it is essential to still file a police report. Police resources will greatly increase your chances of identifying and locating the hit-and-run driver. Additionally, when it comes to filing a claim, an insurance company providing uninsured motorist coverage will almost always require that an investigation was initiated in an effort to identify the at-fault individual.
  • Taking care of yourself and your health is the most important thing after any type of injury. Likewise, it is crucial that you seek medical attention immediately following the collision, as there need to be records and documentation of the injuries, in order to be able to recover later.
  • Lastly, identifying any potential witnesses to the collision and taking down their contact information is key. Individuals who were present at the collision scene might not only be able to help identify the fleeing motorist, but they can also help with identifying what exactly happened during the collision.
Illinois Laws Require Drivers To Give Aid To Injured Bicyclists

It is the law in Illinois for drivers to render aid to an injured bicyclist. Drivers in Illinois who are involved in a crash are legally required to:
  • Stay at the scene of the crash long enough to provide the injured party with their information; and
  • If necessary or if requested to arrange for medical care for the injured bicyclist. 
Section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides the groundwork for the motorist: 

"The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible and shall then forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the requirements of Section 11-403 have been fulfilled."

Beyond the law, there is a fundamental human need for all users of the roadways to assist one another. The act of a hit-and-run is indefensible. The driver involved in this crash should face swift and certain justice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Keating Law Offices - A Nationally Recognized Bicycle Law Firm

In the last year, the attorneys at Keating Law Offices obtained several million dollars in total settlements for its clients. The 2020 Chicago Lawyer Settlements Report recognized the firm among the top in Illinois for the past year. The 2020 Settlements Report features 118 firms in Illinois with settlements of $500,000.00 or more that were reported between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Keating Law Offices is proud to be recognized for two of its cases with settlements over the $500,000.00 marker which, combined, total $1,525,000.00 in settlement funds recovered.

Among Keating Law Offices’ most notable successes this year, the firm’s attorneys secured $1,250,000 for the family of a bicyclist who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle collision in Chicago. The firm has been consistently recognized as a leading legal authority on cyclists’ rights in Illinois and for obtaining significant settlement money for their clients with injuries to any extent.

Notable 2020 results by Keating Law Offices include:

  • $1,250,000.00 for the family of a Chicago bicyclist killed in a crash with a motor vehicle on Chicago's north side. 
  • $500,000.00 for a Chicago bicyclist who suffered a broken arm when doored while biking in Chicago.
  • $400,000.00 for a West Suburban bicyclist who suffered a broken leg when struck by an uninsured driver.
  • $300,000.00 for a Chicago bicyclist who suffered a concussion after being struck by a delivery truck.
  • $300,000.00 settlement for a Northern Illinois bicyclist who was struck by a driver while on a training ride.
  • $300,000.00 for a Northwest Suburban girl injured in a bicycle crash. The money was placed in a structured settlement to help pay for college. 
  • $200,000.00 settlement for the victim of a crash. 
  • $175,000.00 for a bicyclist who was doored by a driver exiting a semi-truck. 

Keating Law Offices’ attorneys have consistently secured significant settlements for a wide variety of cases ranging from personal injury, wrongful death, and nursing home abuse while specializing in securing settlements for injured bicyclists. Over the years, Keating Law Offices has helped hundreds of injured clients recover financial compensation and have been recognized for their success in the field. In 2020 alone, Leading Lawyers Magazine named attorney Michael Keating as a Leading Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Lawyer and also named attorneys Thomas Reuland and Catelyn Viggiano as Emerging Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Lawyers, a considerable achievement and honor in the field. In addition, SuperLawyers Magazine and Chicago Magazine named Michael Keating a 2020 SuperLawyer and Tom Reuland and Catelyn Viggiano as "Rising Stars" within the SuperLawyers network. 

With decades of experience, Keating Law Offices is honored to serve the bicycling community and earn the reputation of national leaders in bicycle law. The firm is proudly active in the Chicagoland area’s cycling community and will continue to fight for the rights of injured cyclists.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Illinois Bicyclist Killed in Crash with Passing Truck in Southern Illinois

Last Thursday, November 5, 2020, a bicyclist was killed in a collision with a truck while cycling in southern Illinois. According to reports, 58-year-old David Coleson was riding a bicycle southbound on Illinois 3 near its intersection with Airport Road in Alexander County. Alexander County is best known for being the southernmost county in the State of Illinois. 

The Illinois State Police reported that Mr. Coleson was killed after we was struck by a truck while riding his bicycle. According to the Illinois State Police the collision occurred when both Mr. Coleson and the driver of the truck were both travelling southbound on Illinois 3. The driver reported that Mr. Coleson turned left into the truck at the moment the truck passed and the driver of the truck was unable to avoid striking the bicycle. 

The Illinois State Police continue to investigate this fatal crash. 

"Improper Passing" of a Bicyclist: The 3-Foot Rule

The only available information is contained in news reports which seem to primarily use the Illinois State Police's report as the basis of their information. As such, the information available is limited and it would be unfair to make conclusions as to what exactly occurred. 

What we do know is that in Illinois a driver of a motor vehicle passing a bicyclist has certain duties to the bicyclist when passing. If there was contact between the truck and the bicyclist then there could be a violation of the "3-Foot Rule" which is based on sub-paragraph (d) of Section 11-703 of the Illinois Rules of the Road. This Illinois Rule of the Road provides as follows:

(625 ILCS 5/11‑703) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑703)

Sec. 11‑703. Overtaking a vehicle on the left. The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules otherwise stated in this Chapter: 

(d) The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.
The 3-Foot Rule requires a minimum of 3 feet between the bicycle and the motor vehicle when the motorist passes the bicyclist. The motorist is required to "leave a safe distance" that is not necessarily determined by the number of feet. In addition, the driver must maintain this distance of at least three feet until the motorist is "safely past" the overtaken bicyclist. While the specific information available is only available from these reports, common experience suggests that there was little reason for a bicyclist to turn into a passing truck. Ideally the Illinois State Police's investigation provides more information, on way or another, as to the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mr. Coleson and everyone affected by this tragic loss of life. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Difference Between "Riding in Front of a Vehicle" and the Vehicle Not Yielding to a Bike

Left Hook Crashes are prohibited by both the Chicago Municipal Code and the Illinois Vehicle Code. The prohibition against Right Hook Crashes is specific to the Chicago Municipal Code. 

A 12-year-old Chicago cyclist was struck by a car on Chicago South Side in the South Chicago neighborhood. This is a sequence of events that unfortunately happens often on the densely populated streets of Chicago. Different news reports and the accounting from the Chicago Police Department illustrate how a few differences in the explanation of a crash can make a giant difference in understanding what actually occurred. This particular instance also raises the issue of how the details of a crash matter in determining who bears responsibility under the law for a crash.

According to the Chicago Sun-Time article regarding the incident the crash occurred as the boy "traveled in front of the turning vehicle." Details in the Sun-Times article about the incident are otherwise limited. However, with that limited information the crash would seem to be yet another “right hook” collision involving a Chicago bicyclist and motor vehicle operator. 

Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago specifically prohibits right turns in front of bicycles and states:

“When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.” 

The key words in Section 9-16-020 of the Chicago Municipal Code are "until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle." These key words specifically require a driver to be absolutely certain that the path is clear before initiating a right turn.

Streetsblog Chicago later tweeted a statement from the Chicago Police Department that the motorist was in the left turn lane on South South Shore Drive when the bicyclist rode in front of the motorist. Without any further indication of the presence of traffic signals like stop signs or traffic lights it is difficult to determine which vehicle - the bike or the car - had the right of way. If the bicyclist was oncoming and the motorist was travelling the other direction and then made a left turn in front of the path of the bicyclist this would be a "left hook crash" and the driver would bear responsibility. 

Under Illinois law, the driver of any vehicle that is waiting to turn left at an intersection is required to yield to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction if the approaching vehicle makes completing the left turn hazardous. (625 ILCS 5/11-902). In addition to the statewide law, this requirement is also found in Section 9-16-020 of the Chicago Municipal Code that provides additional protections to bicyclists by specifically stating that a car driver waiting to make a left turn at an intersection must yield to any approaching bicyclists. 

In any event, the how/where/when/why of any cases depends on the specifics and the details of any given case. As attorneys who focus our practice on representing bicyclists injured in collisions with vehicles, we know that thorough investigation is most important. Many attorneys only get the Illinois Traffic Crash Report (a/k/a the "police report") and consider that the final say in what happened in a crash. But with out combined decades of experience, we know that obtaining witness statement, canvassing for video, and investigating the location of the crash can provide many more details that shed light on a crash. If you have any questions regarding a bicycle crash, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. 

The Chicago Police Department reports that the child sustained bruising to the face and leg and was transported to Comer Children’s hospital. We wish the young cyclist a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Duty of "Due Care" in the Chicago Municipal Code and Illinois Vehicle Code

The City of Chicago has garnered a great deal of attention for its efforts in making Chicago more friendly to cyclists. A large part of the city's efforts have been in enacting new laws designed to try and protect bicyclists. What is interesting is that one of the most explicit laws in Illinois is nearly forty years old. On August 12, 1981 Public Act 82-132 became law when it amended the Illinois Vehicle Code. It stated: 


Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power…and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.


Thirty years ago in 1990 the City of Chicago incorporated this language into its own specific Municipal Code and thus made the "duty of due care" the clear law in Illinois generally and the City of Chicago specifically. This law can be found in Section 11-1003.1 of the Illinois Motor vehicle Code and Section 9-40-160 of the Chicago Municipal Code.


This specific traffic law came to mind this week when considering the tragic death of Czeslaw Kosman. According to 
reports, Czeslaw Kosman was fatally struck by a motorist on Friday afternoon of October 23, 2020 in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. The Cook County medical examiner’s autopsy report confirmed Mr. Kosman died of head injuries sustained in the fatal crash.

 

Witnesses relayed to responding officers that Mr. Kosman was riding his bicycle near the 6200 block of West Higgins Avenue in Chicago when he was struck by a westbound driver of a 2005 Nissan Pathfinder SUV. Eyewitnesses allegedly observed Mr. Kosman riding his bicycle in circles and veering into traffic. 


However, responding officers issued the motorist citations for failing to reduce speed to avoid the accident and for no insurance. Interestingly, this 40-year old law might have been the most precise allegation against the driver given the reports of the cyclist's riding in circles and engaging traffic. If the reports are accurate, these actions would clearly fall under any definition of a "confused" person's actions and the driver holds to duty to avoid a collision. 

 

Under the law, "due care" means the "care that an ordinarily reasonable and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances." In this case, the driver upon observing an apparently confused Mr. Kosman who was veering into traffic on his bicycle, failed to exercise due care by swerving to avoid or simply altogether stop and wait for the cyclist to clear the roadway. 

 

Unfortunately, this is now the eighth Chicago cyclist killed this year, which is notably the most since 2012.  This is another unfortunate fatality in Chicago, Illinois where a bicyclist lost his life. This incident reflects how the failure of a motorist to adhere to the rules of the road can lead to death. It is important for all users of the roadways to remember that bicyclists are vulnerable users of the roadway. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mr. Kosman. 

 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Bartlett Woman Killed In Elgin Hit-and-Run

Another Chicago-area cyclist has been killed in a hit-and-run. This most recent tragedy unfolded this past Tuesday in Elgin when a reckless driver struck and killed one cyclist and left another critically injured.

According to the Chicago Tribune and the Elgin Police Department, the shocking timeline began around 4 pm near East Chicago and Villa Court when the driver, Lance C. Neal of Elgin, IL struck his first victim. That victim was able to flag down police in the area who then pursued Neal. As police attempted to stop him, Neal fled at a high rate of speed. Unfortunately, as police neared, they came upon the vehicle involved in another collision at the intersection of Raymond and Purify Drive, also in Elgin. This second collision claimed the life of bicyclist Sandra Sampey, a 52-year-old woman and left a 58-year-old male bicyclist in critical condition. Both bicyclists are from Bartlett, Illinois. Neal then fled on foot but was apprehended a few hours later after an extensive police search.

Hit-and-Run in Illinois

When hit-and-run incidents occur, in Illinois the Illinois Vehicle Code requires that a motorist stay at the scene of a crash. Additionally, that motorist is legally mandated to:

1. Stay at the scene of the crash long enough to provide the injured party with their information.

2. If necessary or if requested to arrange for medical care for the injured bicyclist.

Sections 11-401(a) and (b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code lay the groundwork for the motorist:

(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible and shall then forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the requirements of Section 11-403 [625 ILCS 5/11-403] have been fulfilled. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.

(b) Any person who has failed to stop or to comply with the requirements of paragraph (a) shall, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after such motor vehicle accident, or, if hospitalized and incapacitated from reporting at any time during such period, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after being discharged from the hospital, report the place of the accident, the date, the approximate time, the driver’s name and address, the registration number of the vehicle driven, and the names of all other occupants of such vehicle, at a police station or sheriff’s office near the place where such accident occurred. No report made as required under this paragraph shall be used, directly or indirectly, as a basis for the prosecution of any violation of paragraph (a).

Neal failed to do any of what was required and not surprisingly, today the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office released a statement via Facebook announcing the charges Neal is facing. All are felony charges and are listed as reckless homicide, failure to report an accident or death, aggravated fleeing a police officer and driving without insurance. Not surprisingly, due to the driver’s conduct and the heartbreaking loss, Judge Noland has set bail at 1 million dollars with a court hearing scheduled for August 7, 2020.

A Community Impacted

Every time a bicyclist is injured or killed is a tragedy. Even more poignant here perhaps, is Elgin’s love for the sport of cycling and its role as the host for the Dennis Jurs Memorial Race. This race is an annual tradition honoring the life and passion of fallen cyclist Dennis Jurs and part of the 10-day Intelligentsia Cup Race which is seen as one of the most well-respected bike races in the country. Keating Law Offices is a proud sponsor of Dennis Jurs Memorial Race and is always impacted when a member of the community is lost. This year the event was cancelled due to COVID-19, however the race is set for next year from July 16 – 25, 2021 and we like everyone else are looking forward to it.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this senseless incident and to the Elgin and Bartlett communities.

Friday, July 17, 2020

13-Year Old Niles Bicyclist Killed In Crash By Marked Bike Route

13-year-old Sam Yousif of Niles died after he was struck by the driver of a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck while riding his bike in Niles. On July 16, 2020, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the teenage boy was crossing at the intersection of Waukegan Road and Cleveland Avenue when “he rode directly in front of a northbound 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.” However, the intersection of Waukegan Road and Cleveland Avenue is part of a clearly marked bicycle route in Niles. In fact, this stretch of Cleveland Avenue is regularly utilized by bicyclists who use it to access nearby Miami Woods and the North Branch Bicycle Trail. Cleveland Avenue has bright green "sharrows" and street signs indicating that bicycles are both permitted and intended at this location. 

Cleveland Avenue at Waukegan Road in Niles, IL
Waukegan Road at Cleveland Avenue has bright white crosswalks. There are also signs instructing drivers to watch for pedestrians and to yield. 
Waukegan Road at Cleveland Avenue in Niles, IL 


Rights of Bicyclists


The Illinois Vehicle Code states that a bicyclist will have all the rights of a pedestrian while crossing a roadway. Section 11-15-12(c) provides the framework: "A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances."


The intersection of Waukegan Road and Cleveland Avenue was marked for drivers to yield. As Illinois law provides that bicyclists will have the rights of a pedestrian in these circumstances, a driver should yield to the bicyclist. In fact, the Illinois Rules of the Road clearly state that a motorist must use due care around children and bicyclists. Section 11-1003.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code states,

 "Drivers to exercise due care. Notwithstanding other provisions of this Code or the provisions of any local ordinance, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child ...."


The 2020 informational packet published by Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State called Rules of the Road states that “a driver must take care to slow down when approaching and crossing an intersection, going around a curve, approaching a top of a hill, or traveling down a narrow and winding roadway. A driver must be aware that there may always be dangers present due to pedestrians, bicyclists, traffic, weather, mechanical problems or road conditions.”

News outlets are engaging in clear victim blaming when they describe a bicycle crash as a person riding directly in front of a car, where in reality the driver was required by law to yield to the cyclist.

Gone Too Soon

In the end, a young man lost his life in a preventable crash. Our roads cannot be safe until drivers recognize the rights of bicyclists and the importance behind treating them with as much care as a pedestrian crossing the road. We are sending our sincerest thoughts and prayers for peace to this Sam Yousif's family. 

Our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Walter Williams, Jr., Chicago Bicyclist, 72, Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash In Lawndale

Late Monday night, a Chicago bicyclist tragically lost his life as a result of the injuries sustained when he was struck while bicycling on Chicago’s West Side. News outlets are reporting that 72-year-old Walter Williams, Jr. was hit in the early morning by a white sedan in the 1500 block of South Central Park Avenue in Lawndale. After being transported to a nearby hospital, he was tragically pronounced dead. Police later stopped a vehicle that matched the description of the car that fatally struck the cyclist and had damage to the front of the car. At this time there is no information regarding charges related to the accident.

Illinois Law Requires Drivers Involved in Bicycle Crashes to Remain at the Scene

Illinois law provides that a motorist has a responsibility under the law to stay on the scene of a crash. On the night of July 13, 2020, the man was hit, and the driver was not present at the scene afterward. The suspected driver was later found and brought into police custody.

In addition to the facts surrounding the crash itself, drivers in Illinois who are involved in a crash are also legally required to:

1. Stay at the scene of the crash long enough to provide the injured party with their information.

2. If necessary or if requested to arrange for medical care for the injured bicyclist.

Section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code lays the groundwork for the motorist:

“The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give the driver’s name, address, registration number and owner of the vehicle the driver is operating and shall upon request and if available exhibit such driver’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to the physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.”

In 2011, Illinois amended the law regarding hit-and-runs to allow the motorist to avoid prosecution by notifying authorities within a half-hour of the accident or within a half-hour of being discharged from the hospital for an injury or incapacitation suffered in the crash.

Section 11-401(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides as follows:

“Any person who has failed to stop or to comply with the requirements of paragraph (a) shall, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after such motor vehicle accident or, if hospitalized and incapacitated from reporting at any time during such period, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after being discharged from the hospital, report the place of the accident, the date, the approximate time, the driver’s name and address, the registration number of the vehicle driven, and the names of all other occupants of such vehicle, at a police station or sheriff’s office near the place where such accident occurred. No report made as required under this paragraph shall be used, directly or indirectly, as a basis for the prosecution of any violation of (stay at the scene requirements).”

Under Illinois law, there is no reason why someone should flee the scene of an accident. The law provides reasonable requirements and ample time for drivers who have been involved in a crash to stay. It also allows for a window of time to report the crash even if the driver is injured and find themselves in a hospital or receiving medical care.

The Tragic Loss of a Life

An untimely death under such circumstances is truly tragic. Beyond the law and the accident was a person who lost their life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Williams, Jr. We wish them peace in their healing from this unfathomable loss.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vigil to Be Held for Isaac Martinez, a 13-year Old Cyclist Killed In A Hit And Run

Tragedy has again struck the family of a Chicago cyclist. This time the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the bicyclist was a 13-year old boy. On Sunday, June 28th, a driver struck Isaac Martinez while the boy was riding his bike in the Southwest Side neighborhood of Ashburn. The crash occurred around 6:50 p.m. when it was still daylight on that summer evening. 

According to reports, Isaac was riding his bicycle southbound on South Lawndale Avenue when he was struck by a work van travelling in the same direction. Family members were nearby at the time of the crash. Disturbingly, the driver of the work van then fled the scene. The driver was later arrested based on local surveillance video and arrested. 

"Improper Passing" of a Bicyclist: The 3-Foot Rule

According to news reports based on the police's investigation, the driver struck the bicyclist from the rear. Regardless of intended action, if there was contact between the semi-truck and the bicyclist then there was a violation of the "3-Foot Rule" which is based on sub-paragraph (d) of Section 11-703 of the Illinois Rules of the Road. This statute provides as follows:
(625 ILCS 5/11‑703) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑703)

Sec. 11‑703. Overtaking a vehicle on the left. The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules otherwise stated in this Chapter: 
(d) The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.
The 3-Foot Rule is often misconstrued as requiring just three feet at the moment of passing on a roadway. The Illinois vehicle law actually requires a minimum of 3 feet between the bicycle and the motor vehicle when the motorist passes the bicyclist. In addition, the driver must maintain a distance of at least three feet until the motorist is "safely past" the overtaken bicyclist.  

Illinois Laws Require Drivers To Give Aid To Injured Bicyclists

It is also the law in Illinois for drivers to render aid to an injured bicyclist. Drivers in Illinois who are involved in a crash are legally required to:
  • Stay at the scene of the crash long enough to provide the injured party with their information; and
  • If necessary or if requested to arrange for medical care for the injured bicyclist. 
Section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides the groundwork for the motorist: 
"The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible and shall then forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the requirements of Section 11-403 have been fulfilled."
Beyond the law, there is a fundamental human need for all users of the roadways to assist one another. The act of a hit-and-run is indefensible. The driver involved in this crash should face certain justice, especially given the age and vulnerability of the victim in this matter.

The legal issues aside, our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family of Isaac Martinez. A vigil will be held tonight at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and South Lawndale Avenue from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A "human protected bike lane" was held yesterday. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Chicago Cyclist Critically Injured in Right Hook Crash with City of Chicago Truck

A female Chicago bicyclist was struck by a City of Chicago as she turned from Milwaukee Avenue onto Belmont in the Avondale neighborhood. This tragically appears to be yet another "right hook" collision involving a Chicago bicyclist and a commercial truck. Most troubling is the fact that the truck was a City of Chicago Department of Transportation dump truck. 

A "right hook" where a vehicle turns right across a bicyclist to the right of the vehicle is always illegal in the city of Chicago. The action by the truck driver in this instance is most concerning because there is a street sign posted just before the intersection of Belmont and Milwaukee that provides that bicyclists and buses may use the right lane even if they aren't turning. 

Milwaukee Avenue and its well known and utilized bike lane is to the right hand side of the roadway where it appears this bicyclist was correctly riding. Illinois law requires bicyclists to ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb in situations like this. Section 11-1505 provides as follows:
Sec. 11-1505. Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways - Riding on roadways and bicycle paths. 
(a) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under the following situations: 
1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motorized pedal cycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; or 
2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or 
3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, motorized pedal cycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For purposes of this subsection, a "substandard width lane" means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane; or 
4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. 
(b) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable. (Source: P.A. 97-813, eff. 7-13-12.)
The collision occurred when the truck turned right across the bicyclist as the truck turned from Milwaukee onto Belmont. This is what is known as a "right-hook" collision. In Chicago, the Chicago Municipal Code addresses this scenario. Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago specifically prohibits right turns in front of bicycles. The infographic at the bottom of this post details right-hook and left-hook bicycle crashes. 

The City of Chicago's own ordinance states:
When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.” 
It is important to note that just because this is a City of Chicago vehicle the driver is required to adhere to all of the rules of the road and posted traffic signs just like any other driver. City of Chicago employees are NOT immune from the law. 

As an attorney who focuses my practice on representing victims of bicycle crashes, right-hook collisions are unfortunately very common. The reason that these types of crashes are so common is simple: the motorist does not see the bicyclist even though they have the opportunity to do so. The motorist typically makes the turn without ever checking for other traffic - including bicycles - when making the turn and the collision occurs. 

The key words in the ordinance are "until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle." The weight of these words are that it is incumbent upon the motorist to make absolute certain that the path is clear before turning. In addition, the motor vehicle involved in this situation is the type of truck that is utilized in a professional capacity. Drivers of such vehicles are required to meet a higher duty to make sure they are driving safely at all times.

In Illinois the failure of a motorist to adhere to the Illinois Rules of the Road and the Chicago Municipal Code. In cases such as these where the operator of the truck was driving in the "course and scope" of their employment, the legal principle of respondeat superior applies. This legal principal means that the City of Chicago is also responsible for the acts - including the failures - of its employee.

Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the cyclist and her family and friends. 




Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Waukegan Police Search For Vehicle Involved in Fatal Hit-and-Run of Bicyclist

A man cycling in north suburban Waukegan was fatally struck this past Thursday at the 3600 block of North Lewis Avenue, local news sources report. Officers were called at around 11:30p.m. and arrived to find an injured man lying on the road. After being transported to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. Investigators believe the man is in his 20s or 30s, was riding his bicycle and was struck by a dark-colored sedan.

A survey of the area shows that it is a busy stretch, with Wesley Free Methodist Church and a Travelodge Hotel along the route. It is uncertain on where along Lewis Avenue the man was struck, however aside from lighting of local businesses, Lewis Avenue does not have any city street lighting, and only a sidewalk on the western side of the road.

Notwithstanding the fact that a man was killed due to a hit-and-run, Section 11-403 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code states the duty that exists for a driver to give information and provide aid, to any person who has been injured due to their conduct:
The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give the driver’s name, address, …. and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.

If none of the persons entitled to information pursuant to this Section is in condition to receive and understand such information and no police officer is present, such driver after rendering reasonable assistance shall forthwith report such motor vehicle accident at the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority, disclosing the information required by this Section.
Any person failing to comply with this Section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Additional to violating Section 11-403, a hit-and-run in Illinois; a person who flees the scene of an accident resulting in personal injuries or death, is also in violation of Section 11-401. This section requires that a driver “remain at the scene of the accident until the requirements of section 11-403 have been fulfilled.” Failure to comply with this section and 11-403 will open up a driver to at least a Class 4 felony and if resulting in death, a Class 1 felony. Both classes mean prison sentences, in this case a hit-and-run resulting in death will carry a possible prison sentence of between 4 to 20 years and a fine of up to $25,000.00.

A loss and tragedy such as this is unfathomable and our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of this man. Waukegan police urge anyone with information to call 847-599-2630.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Details "Countermeasures" to Address Bicyclist Injuries and Deaths

“Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a recent report to bring society up to speed regarding its interpretation of bicyclists' safety in the United States. While increased access to bicycles and reliance on them as a main mode of transportation brings numerous positives to the community, such as awareness of cyclists’ rights on the roadway, unfortunately it also brings serious negatives such as heightened rates of serious personal injuries and deaths of bicyclists. 

The report cites that “since 2017, 806 bicyclists died in collisions with motor vehicles which was comparable to the amount of deaths resulting from railroad and marine incidents.” The NTSB found that analyzing bicyclist fatality data and non-fatal injury estimates was insightful in looking at bicyclist safety problems relative to other transportation modes. The information also served as an indication of bicycle safety issues as well as the need for other safety correctives. These shocking figures and trends forced the NTSB to take a closer look at data behind bicyclists safety and to address three specific areas impacting bicycle safety in its report: (1) improving roadway infrastructure, (2) enhancing conspicuity and (3) mitigating head injury, which are explored further below.  

Improving Roadway Infrastructure for Bicyclists

The NTSB defined a bicycle facility as “any infrastructure improvement that facilitates the safe use of bicycles as one mode of transportation among others.” In the US, familiar bicycle facilities used to accommodate bicycle traffic and improve safety range from paved shoulders, wide outside traffic lanes, bicycle-compatible drainage grates, maintenance hole covers and paved riding surfaces. Some regions have more advanced bicycle facilities to help reduce collisions in high crash locations such as separated bicycle lanes and intersection treatments.

To understand what, if any, the roadways infrastructure role played in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles, the NTSB analyzed bicycle crash statistics in terms of injury severity relative to crash location. The NTSB predictably found that a majority of motor vehicle versus bicycle collisions occurred at intersections. However, the data interestingly showed that the severity of bicycle collisions increased substantially at midblock locations. For instance, of the 173,000 motor vehicle versus bicycle collisions reported in 2014-2016, 103,000 involved nonfatal bicyclist injuries at intersections. Of the 2,410 fatal bicycle collisions reported during the same period, 1,361 or 56%, of the fatalities occurred at midblock locations. The data revealed motor vehicles speed at mid-block locations tends to be higher compared to an intersection where there are traffic control devices manage vehicular traffic and in turn reduce cars speed with traffic lights, stop signs and turn lanes.

In assessing ways to improve roadway infrastructure to reduce the most serious bicycle crashes the NTSB found separated bike lanes proved effective but were an underutilized bicycle facility. Separated bike lanes are a bicycle facility that is designed for the sole and exclusive use of bicyclists. Separated bike lanes are typically adjacent to the roadway but are physically separated from vehicular traffic by some vertical element such as a raised median, a bollard or on-street parking.

“Many European countries, specifically the Netherlands and Denmark, have been using separated bike lanes for decades and are among the safest bicycling facilities. Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have been recognized as the most bicycle-friendly cities, with more than 30% of yearly trips in these cities being completed by bicycle.” While there is no bicycle lane inventory system in the US, data shows that local US agencies have begun to install separated bike lanes in recent years. Between “2008 and 2017, more than 80 miles of separated bike lanes were constructed.” Data also indicates that there are “130 bike lane projects planned or under construction that are expected to be completed between 2018 and 2022.” Department of Transportation representatives suggest that implementing separated bike lanes in our communities if often a slow process due to lack of local commitment and policies that appropriate funding to the initiative. As of 2018, 35 state Department of Transportations reported recommending separated bike lanes during the planning and design phase of their state roadway projects, however only four states actually followed through had separated bike lanes installed along their roadways. According to another database of separated bike lanes, “only 82 US cities have at least one separated bike lane.”

Research on separated bike lanes in the United States has been limited and in turn yielded mixed results. For example, in “2014, a study of separated bike lanes conducted in five US cities—Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; and the District of Columbia—found that installing separated bike lanes increased bicycle ridership and bicyclist compliance with intersection rules.” In other countries such as Montreal, Canada a study found that, compared to roads with similar characteristics, bicyclists on roads with separated bike lanes had “28% less injury risk.” A separate study in Toronto and Vancouver, focused on injuries at non-intersection locations and found that bicyclists had a “95% less chance of being injured when traveling on separated bike lanes.”

Based on the NTSB’s research, another benefit realized of separated bike lanes was that they eliminate three key bicycle crashes: rear-end collisions, overtaking and sideswipes. The NTSB concluded that separated bike lanes could prevent bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles at midblock locations and in turn also reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries associated with such crashes.

Although separated bike lanes can improve safety for bicyclists by reducing the chance of traffic conflicts between bicycles and motor vehicles, ultimately the lanes come to intersections where potential collisions are unavoidable. “65% of nonfatal injuries and bicycle crashes occurred at intersections.” In 2017 crash data obtained from four states showed that “59% of bicyclists were involved in motor vehicle crashes at intersections or intersection-related locations.” Even though bicyclists struck by motor vehicles at intersections are more likely to sustain less serious or non-fatal injuries compared to those struck at midblock locations, the NTSB found the high frequency of intersection crashes demanded further assessment and evaluation.

Generally, intersection precautionary measures are intended to reduce crashes between motor vehicles and bicycles by increasing visibility and clearly signaling right-of-way using color, signage, medians, signals and pavement markings. There are also new bicycle-specific traffic-control devices at intersections such as: bicycle signal face, bicycle box, two-stage bicycle turn box, two-stage turns and refuge islands which are also known as protected intersections. The NTSB noted that combining these proven countermeasures to improve bicyclist safety at intersections and midblock locations also creates a network of safer roadways for bicyclists.

While collisions involving motor vehicles and bicycles can be reduced with improvement of roadway infrastructure by separating traffic with separated bike lanes and intersection treatments, the NTSB report also details how reduction in travel speeds where volume is high may be another effective component to bicycle safety. The NTSB found bicyclist crashes at locations with speed limits set at or above 50 mph were more than five times more likely to result in fatal or serious injuries to the bicyclists compared to locations with posted motor vehicle speed limits of 25 mph or less. Locations with posted speed limit of only of 30 to 35 mph yielded a “65% higher chance of the bicyclist sustaining a fatal or serious injury in a crash with a motor vehicle.”

One way to reduce traffic speeds is to lower speed limits. Some cities have lowered speed limits as part of a comprehensive strategy to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety. For example, “in Boston, Massachusetts, the default speed limit was reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph in 2017, which in turn reduced the odds of vehicles exceeding 30 mph and 35 mph by 8.5% and 29.3%.” Therefore, the NTSB concluded that reducing traffic speeds alone can single handedly improve bicycle safety by reducing the likelihood of fatal or serious injury in the event of a crash.

In situations where reducing the speed limit is not possible, installation of separated bike lane could improve overall bicycle safety. The report cites to a study that recommended using separated bike lanes when the average vehicle speed exceeds 25 mph and or where the daily vehicle volume was more than 6,000. In situations where traffic volume was lower, but speeds exceeded 25 mph, the report recommends installing separated bike lanes, reducing speeds or lane reduction. Reducing the number of travel lanes or their widths, which is commonly referred to as a “road diet,” can result in both speed reductions and additional space for bicycle facilities. The NTSB concluded that the road diet is another proven safety countermeasure that both reduces traffic speeds and provides space on the roadway for the implementation of bicycle facilities, such as separated bike lanes.

Enhancing Conspicuity

Another aspect of bicycling safety that the NTSB analyzed was rider and bicycle conspicuity enhancements. While there are a variety of reasons as to why drivers and bicyclists fail to detect each other in time to prevent a collision, research showed about “45% of all bicyclist fatalities occur in dark conditions even though fewer than 20% of bicycle trips take place at night.” Improving the ability to see other road users can reduce the likelihood of collisions. Countermeasures that the NTSB analyzed involved reflective or bright clothing, adding lights or reflective materials to bikes and improving motor vehicle headlights to improve bicycle visibility on the roadways.

Studies show that drivers are more likely to detect bicycles and bicyclists with lights and retroreflective material and in turn reduce crashes compared to those without. Since the early 1970s efforts have been made to increase the use of conspicuity treatments among bicyclists by requiring the use of reflectors, bicycle lights at night and retroreflective upper body apparel. However, there is less evidence to show whether efforts to increase visibility have been successful. For example, an “Australian study found that while bicyclists report awareness of the benefits of using conspicuity aids, only a few of them regularly use lights or reflective clothing.” Another study of data from 2014 through 2016 found that “1,209 bicyclists were fatally injured at night. Among the 911 bicyclists with known safety equipment information, 63, or 6.9%, were identified as having bicycle lights, and 26, or 2.9%, wore reflective clothing.” The NTSB determined that riders often overestimate their level of conspicuity to other road users. Further that due to the challenges inherent in increasing rider use of conspicuity treatments, materials actually included on the bicycle at the time of manufacture may be the most reliable bicycle-conspicuity enhancement for most riders.

The risk of a bicyclist fatality which increases substantially in darkness is unfortunately a risk that is well known and understood today. Understanding the significant risk that riding in darkness poses, the NTSB criticizes the current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for headlights which does not include a minimum illumination distance or on-vehicle performance. The NTSB found manufacturers were able to self-certify that their lights met criteria for bulb output by only using results from parts that have been removed from a vehicle. Further the Department of Transportation only requires a low and high beam light and does not allow for vehicles to continuously adjust the light pattern and provide high-beam illumination. The NTSB recommends that safety standards should allow for advance vehicle lighting systems along with on-vehicle headlight testing to account for headlight height and lighting performance which would likely result in headlights that improve drivers’ ability to detect other road users like bicyclists.

A recent development in motorized vehicles technology relative to conspicuity is the design of intelligence systems within the vehicle that allow cars to detect or see obstacles in the environment. This technology was originally meant for other vehicles on the roadway however the technology has evolved to include detection of other roadway users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. The two types of systems are collision avoidance systems (CASs) and connected technologies, both of which can reduce crashes and injuries by providing advanced warnings to the driver before they occur.

Collision avoidance systems involve a camera, radar and sensors to detect potential conflicts such as slow-moving or stopped vehicles. When a conflict is identified, the system provides warnings and ultimately may initiate an emergency braking or braking force if the driver brakes too late or not strongly enough. Connected technologies allow vehicles to communicate with one another, road infrastructure or road users to help warn of risks and crashes. Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) systems are also used to describe communications between vehicles and bicyclists through electronic devices to send and receive information about the movement of transportation system users with the goal of preventing collisions. V2P systems can alert both the driver and the bicyclist which may increase the likelihood that an action may be taken to avoid a collision. While CAS and connected technologies have great potential to reduce and mitigate bicycle injuries and collisions the NTSB recommends that CAS and connected technologies could be modified to specifically detect bicycles. The NTSB noted that unfortunate delays related to the development of both technologies within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as the US Department of Transportation have slowed the development of further implementation of lifesaving technology.

While neither CASs or blind spot detection systems are currently required on large trucks and buses, NTSB research suggests these larger vehicles would especially benefit from similar onboard systems and equipment to help compensate for their larger blind spots that make it difficult for drivers to detect and maneuver around bicyclists. Such systems and equipment could include enhanced mirror systems or sensors that can alert drivers if there is another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian in the blind spot after the driver activates the turn signal. The NTSB analyzed date from 2014 through 2017 and found that “511 bicyclists were involved in crashes involving transit operations. Among them, 374 bicyclists, or 73%, collided with transit buses. Twenty-three bicyclists, or 6%, died in these crashes.” The NTSB concluded there needs to be continued performance standards to ensure blind spot detection systems can detect vulnerable road users, including bicyclists.

Mitigating Head Injury

Improving roadway infrastructure, motor vehicle headlights, and in-vehicle collision avoidance systems can prevent bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles. Bicyclists can also reduce the likelihood of getting in a crash by obeying traffic rules and traffic controls, such as traffic signals, and enhancing conspicuity, such as using bicycle lights. In analyzing actual bicyclist injuries, the NTSB found head injury to be the leading cause of bicycle-related deaths. Bicyclists involved in motor vehicle collisions are more likely to sustain a higher percentage of head injuries compared to other injuries. In the unfortunate event that a crash does occur the NTSB remarked, the most effective method for a bicyclist to mitigate head injury is to properly wear a bicycle helmet that is compliant with the federal safety standard for bicycle helmets.

The NTSB examined data from 2014 through 2017 and found that “only 15% of crashes between motor vehicles and bicycles indicated whether the bicyclist was or was not wearing a helmet.” These cases represented about 60,000 bicyclists. “The 60,000 bicyclists were divided into four categories based on helmet use and head injury. Thirty-five percent of the bicyclists were wearing a helmet and among them, 24% sustained a head injury. In comparison, 65% of the roughly 60,000 bicyclists were not wearing a helmet and 36% of them sustained a head injury.” This data suggests that among all bicyclists involved in crashes with motor vehicles with known helmet use, those wearing helmets had a considerably lower chance of sustaining a head injury.

Although there is strong and consistent evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of helmets for protecting bicyclists from head injuries during bicycle-related crashes, helmet use in the United States remains low. “In 2012, based on a nationally representative sample, published by the National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior results showed only 28% of respondents reported that they always wore a helmet when riding a bicycle and 46% of respondents reported that they never wore a helmet.” In a separate study conducted from 2010 to 2017, helmet usage in collisions were measured by age group. Among fatally injured bicyclists, “the groups least likely to be wearing a helmet were those between the ages of 15 and 19 (94%) and those between the ages of 10 and 14 (92%).” The groups least likely to be wearing a helmet in a non-fatal collision were those “under the age of 10 (76%) and those between the ages of 20 and 24 (74%).” This data shows that helmet use among bicyclists is low overall, especially amongst children and young adults. The NTSB concluded that the underutilization of bicycle helmets has contributed to the incidence of deaths and serious injuries among crash-involved bicyclists.