Bicycle Law and Your Rights as a Cyclist
The type of incidents a cyclist might encounter on the road differs between city and suburbs, according to Matt Johnson and Andrzej Brzoznowski, lawyers with the Freeman Kevenides Law Firm and speakers at the June 18 Evanston Bicycle Club meeting.
In Chicago you see, in order of frequency:
* Left cross (where a auto driver headed in the opposite direction turns left in front of a cyclist causing the cyclist to slam into the passenger side the vehicle) ,
* Doorings (where a motorist opens their car door without looking to see if the way is clear, causing the cyclist to run into the door)
* Right hook (where a motorist turns right directly in front of a cyclist)
* Hit and run rate of 1 in 4 drivers fleeing the scene.
In the suburbs you may encounter:
* Left cross
* Right hook
* Hit and run cases less frequently (at 17%)
* Passing to close (a problem due to the higher speeds)
* Dogs at large
To reduce the likelihood of encountering one of these situations on the road, Matt and Andrzej recommend following traffic laws, riding 3-4 feet from parked vehicles to avoid the “door zone”, ride in the right most forward lane, and be visible with clothing and lights. Illinois law requires a bicycle have a white headlight and red rear reflector. Although not legally required, reflective tape, a rear taillight, and a helmet are a good idea for safety. The legal community is generally not in favor of mandatory helmet laws because it shifts the burden for safety onto the cyclist. Having bright clothing and lighting is an effective defense for negligent drivers, since if it is lacking, the motorist may claim they did not see the bicyclist and this makes achieving a fair settlement more difficult. An incident does not require physical contact. A driver has the duty of reasonable care and can be liable. The majority of crashes occur in intersections, within seconds of a traffic light changing with a driver anticipating the green or trying to beat the red.
If you are involved in a crash here is what the lawyers recommend you do:
* Keep your cool, don’t escalate the situation
* Call the police and make a police report
* Get witness and driver information, do not depend on police to get witness info
* Seek medical attention if appropriate
* Preserve evidence and take pictures; everyone with a smartphone has a camera!
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