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.