Bicycle Safety in Chicago

It’s officially bicycling season in Chicago. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel takes action to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the country, our team of bike crash lawyers offer advice on navigating city streets safely. As always, we are available to speak to accident victims free of charge, seven days a week.

According to our friends at Advocates Law in Washington, last year cycling accounted for more head injuries than football, baseball, and basketball combined. Click on the infographic below for a larger, easy-to-read version.

A city’s bike-friendliness is influenced by many factors, such as protected bike lanes and access to bridges and tunnels. The most bike-friendly states (Washington, Minnesota, and Delaware) take their efforts even further by reducing speed limits, increasing penalties for drivers who hit cyclists, and distributing maps of pike baths and trails.

Chicago is well on its way to becoming a more bike-friendly city in the long-term, and for good reason. The number of Chicagoans biking to work has more than doubled since 2000, with more than 16,000 residents now commuting by bicycle. Mayor Emanuel’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 can be seen throughout the city, from the new protected lanes on Clybourn to the beautiful, multi-use 606 trail on the city’s West Side.

Chaotic Cycling Laws

Cycling laws vary between states, cities, and even districts within cities. Crossing city limits in Illinois can subject bicyclists to completely new laws and requirements, without any signage or warning. In Evanston and DeKalb, for example, bicycling on sidewalks is allowed everywhere but the central business district. In Chicago, riding on sidewalks is illegal unless you are younger than 13 years old.

The same chaos occurs in almost every state across the country. Some major cities, like Seattle, allow cyclists on sidewalk at all times. In other cities, like New York, sidewalk riding is almost always illegal. This helps explain why Chicago cyclists often follow their own rules.

For a complete list of Chicago and Illinois bicycling laws, visit this website.

The debate between drivers and cyclists over their rights and responsibilities is only intensifying. Motorists complain that cyclists don’t follow traffic laws and cyclists criticize drivers for causing thousands of deaths and injuries from unsafe driving. Male cyclists in urban environments are far and away the most likely to suffer fatal injuries in auto accidents.

Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to follow traffic laws and behave safely. Our bicycle accident lawyers have been representing injured victims for 30 years; we know exactly how catastrophic these accidents can be. Even wearing a helmet, a cyclist bears little chance against a 4,000-pound car.

Hit-and-Runs

Too often, city cyclists are struck by drivers who flee the scene. Hit-and-runs are complex cases, but cyclists should always remember their rights and what they are legally entitled to. If you are involved in an accident with a car – even if you don’t feel or appear injured – always call the police and exchange information with the driver. Police reports can be used as evidence of fault for insurance companies.

If there are any witnesses, be sure to get their information as well. It is especially important to call the police if the driver who hit you flees the scene; the police can help track down the driver by opening an investigation. Contacting the police after a hit and run is one of the most important actions to take. After this is done, cyclists should notify their own auto and health insurance companies, and seek medical attention. Once your immediate injuries have been address, contact a bicycle accident attorney who will protect your rights, preserve your case, and give you all the advice you need at such a critical time.

Bicycle Brain Injuries

The greatest danger to cyclists is head injuries. The force of any crash – and the extent of the consequent injuries – depends on how fast you were going, how much you weigh, and how quickly you stop. That is why helmets are so important. They spread the force of that impact over a larger area – the shell of the helmet – and pads the skull against the collision.

Traumatic brain injuries from bicycle accidents are unique case types. We have been members of the Brain Injury Association of Illinois for many years, and have worked on numerous brain injury claims. When the head hits the ground hard enough, it can cause the brain to bleed. Unlike other areas of the body, the skull does not expand. Brain bleeds cause the brain to swell, which kills brain cells and can lead to stroke.

Brain bleeds (also referred to as cerebral hemorrhages, intracranial hemorrhages, or intracerebral hemorrhages) account for about 13% of all strokes. These injuries are particularly severe and frightening because symptoms may develop suddenly or over time. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in vision or speech
  • Difficulty swallowing, writing or reading
  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Abnormal sense of taste

If you experience any of these symptoms after a bicycle accident or other head injury, call 911 or go to an emergency room.

The traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm represent clients throughout the country, fighting on behalf of victims and their families. We’ve won millions for our clients, and for 30 years we have only represented the injured. Contact Pintas & Mullins for a free case review today.

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