Here in Chicago, beautiful weather always goes hand-in-hand with people dusting their bikes off from the long winter in the garage and taking them out on the road. Unfortunately, more cyclists on the road means more bicycle-related traffic accidents and sometimes injuries. In fact, according to the Chicago Bicycle Crash Analysis Report nearly 9,000 injuries related to bicycle crashes were reported in our city between 2005 and 2010.
Cyclists have the right to travel safely on Chicago roads. Those who are injured in the course of doing so also have legal rights and are often entitled to damages incurred from those injuries. Here is our best advice for what to do before and after a bike-related traffic accident, as well as a summary of what the law says about them.
It should go without saying that anyone riding a bike, especially in traffic, needs to take the proper safety measures before they start pedaling. With the possibility of being struck by a negligent driver in play, it really is worth it to invest in a helmet that fits and wear it anytime you ride a bike. Helmet-wearing is not the only safety precaution you can and should be taking, however. Here are a few more ways to reduce your risk of accident or injury:
- Always use bike lights if you are cycling in the dark.
- Wear bright, easily-visible or even retro-reflective clothing, especially if you are cycling in the dark.
- Use your arms to signal a turn well before you reach the intersection.
- Avoid distractions and be observant of the vehicles, pedestrians, and other bikes around you.
If you wish to do some further reading, we recommend starting with the CDC’s Bicycle Safety page.
What the Law Says
In addition to physical safety precautions, it also helps to be aware of your legal rights. The Illinois Motor Vehicle Code includes specific obligations for drivers of motor vehicles to keep cyclists safe when sharing the road with them. For instance, a car overtaking a bicycle going in the same direction must maintain a distance of at least three feet from the bike at all times.
The Motor Vehicle Code also states that “A person driving a motor vehicle shall not, in a reckless manner, drive the motor vehicle unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist” (section 11-703). Additionally, Section 1407 prohibits car-drivers from opening their doors on the side of moving traffic “unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so”. This helps to protect against the all-too-common injuries that occur when cyclists are hit by car doors opened into them by careless drivers.
Furthermore, Chicago Ordinance 9-16-020 states that the driver of a car must wait until they are clear of a bicycle before turning right. In other words, the bike rider going straight has the right of way.
What to Do Afterward
If you are injured in a bike-riding accident, it is highly important that you get the appropriate medical attention, whether that is a visit to your primary care physician or an ambulance ride to the emergency room. Do not put off your own medical care.
It is also important that you exchange information with any other drivers or cyclists involved in the crash, including license numbers and insurance information. If you were the victim of a hit-and-run incident, try to remember identifying details, such as the color and model of the vehicle that hit you.
Finally, be diligent about documenting the aftermath of your bike accident. This often means filing a police report and retaining medical records and bills from all of your related treatment.
If you have been injured in a bike-related traffic accident and are looking for a Chicago-based personal injury attorney, reach out to us at siglaw.com or call us at (312) 258-8188 for a free consultation.