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. 

Keating Law Offices is the premiere personal injury law firm representing victims of bicycle accidents in Illinois. The firm is based in Chicago, Illinois and represents clients throughout Illinois. If you have any questions regarding this post or have a question regarding personal injury law, please contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-239-6787 (Office) or 312-208-7702 (Nights/Weekends). Our staff and operators are available around the clock. You can also email Mike@KeatingLegal.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All e-mails and phone calls are returned promptly. All initial consultations are confidential and free.