Now that summer is here, more and more Chicago residents are turning to bicycles to aid in their commutes. Not only is biking healthier and more cost-effective than driving a car, but it is also better for the environment and more fun than sitting in traffic.
However, bicycle commuting in Chicago does come with its own risks. Although city leaders have been making active efforts to make roads safer for cyclists, there are still far too many accidents between bikes and motor vehicles. According to data published in the Chicago Sun-Times, there were 43 fatalities and more than 1,000 incapacitating injuries resulting from bicycle accidents in Chicago between 2005 and 2011.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest threats to cyclists comes from parked cars. Last year alone, more than 250 Chicago cyclists were involved in “dooring” accidents, in which passengers exiting a vehicle opened a car door in a cyclist’s path, causing the cyclist to crash.
City council considering ordinance
The Chicago city council is currently considering an ordinance that it hopes will help improve safety for cyclists and motorists alike.
The ordinance would double the fines that can be imposed on motorists who cause dooring accidents, from $500 to $1,000. It would also require all Chicago taxicabs to post warnings reminding passengers to look for cyclists before opening their doors.
In addition, the ordinance would increase the fines that can be levied against cyclists who violate traffic laws. Cyclists are required to follow the same laws as drivers, including signaling turns and stopping at red lights and stop signs.
Accident prevention tips
Keeping Chicago’s streets safe is everyone’s responsibility. Both motorists and cyclists have a duty to behave in a way that does not put others at risk. This focus on safety is even more important now that Chicago’s new bike-sharing program has launched.
- Remember that cyclists have an equal right to use the road, and act accordingly
- Always check for cyclists, especially when turning, approaching an intersection or opening a car door
- Give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing
- Avoid cellphone use and other distracting behaviors
Cyclists, for their part, would be wise to keep these safety tips in mind:
- Be predictable and signal all turns and stops
- Use designated bike lanes whenever they are available
- Stop at all stop signs and red lights and check for traffic before proceeding
- Use front and rear lights whenever riding at night or during inclement weather
If an accident happens, injured parties have a right to hold negligent drivers or cyclists accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, talk to a Chicago personal injury attorney who can review the case and help you understand your options for moving forward.