Chicago Bicyclist Fatalities Down So Far In 2017

There have been three (3) bicyclist fatalities through the first eight months of 2017. There were five (5) fatalities during the same time period in 2016. The accidents all occurred on the West side or near West side of the city. This data was provided by the mayor’s pedestrian advisory committee.

In a small way, I think this is good news. As I have written recently traffic fatalities in Illinois and Chicago specifically have increased over the last two years, including the first part of 2017. Hopefully this trend regarding bicycle deaths in Chicago, is something we will see statewide and regarding a traffic fatalities.

As I have written in the past, Chicago has implemented Vision Zero, which is a traffic safety initiative with a goal of zero traffic fatalities in the city by the year 2026. Much of Vision Zero’s safety initiative will focus on West side neighborhoods such as  Near West Side, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, Austin and North Lawndale. I hope this will include additional bicycle only dedicated lanes and other engineering improvements that will make that part of the city safer for bicyclists.

I will be very interested to see the plans for Vision Zero unfold and eventually introduced by the Mayor’s office and city hall. Let’s hope the first part of 2017 for bicyclists is a trend that will continue to improve.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago bike accident or Chicago auto accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, at 312-614-1076 for a free legal consultation.

Illinois Passes New Bicyclist Safety Law

According to various news outlets, the Illinois passed HB 1784 last week, which allows motorists to pass cyclists in no-passing zones and permits bicycling on road shoulders. Under the new law, a driver is allowed to cross into the oncoming lane in a no-passing zone to safely pass a cyclist who is riding at less than half the posted speed limit when there is sufficient distance to do so. Drivers must not exceed the speed limit and pass with at least three feet of clearance.The new law will take effect on January 1, 2018.

The purpose of the law is aimed at preventing vehicles from trying to  squeeze by a bicyclist while in the same lane, which can lead to sideswipe crashes.

This seems like an obvious bill to pass, but sometimes the obvious isn’t always codified into state or local law. I think this is important (especially in Chicago), where we are seeing more an more bicyclists on city streets and major roads throughout the state. Now motorists should not be hesitant to safely switch lanes in order to avoid contact with a bicyclists. Motorists can now do this legally.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago bike accident or Chicago car crash, please call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Illinois Traffic Fatalities Up In 2017

I wrote a few months back about the increase in traffic fatalities in Illinois and the US in 2016. That trend continues so far in 2017. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that according to the National Safety Council, a safety advocacy group, that traffic fatalities are up 4% during the first half of 2017 versus the first half of 2016.

A spokesperson from the National Safety Council could not give a definitive reason for the increase. Although, they did mention that a couple reasons that could factor into these results are the lack of motorcycle helmet requirement in Illinois plus the increased speed limit on major interstates. Illinois increase their speed limit on certain sections of interstates to 70 mph. The Council also noted that pedestrians and bicyclists continue to be a concern as they are particularly vulnerable in cities with heavy traffic.

There was no discussion in the article or in the National Safety Council’s study about distracted driving or texting and driving.  The Council did warn that these numbers could continue to go up as the second half of the year is typically more deadly. This is due to increased holiday travel and winter weather, which often begins in November in certain parts of the country (including Illinois).

Unfortunately there are no solutions provided by the Council I would recommend, again, putting your phone down when behind the wheel. It is incredibly dangerous to text or search the internet while driving. Also, if you are walking or biking areas with heavy traffic, then always be aware of you surroundings. Sometimes drivers just aren’t paying attention.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Illinois Suspends 12 Amusement Rides After Ohio Accident

Multiple news outlets reported earlier this month that the state of Illinois has suspended 12 amusement rides after a fatal accident at an Ohio fair. In Columbus Ohio, an 18-year-old man died after he was thrown into the air and landed about 50 feet away from the swinging and spinning amusement park ride called the Fire Ball. Seven other people were injured as a result of the accident.

In response to this amusement park accident, the Illinois department of labor has decided to suspend 12 rides throughout the states. All 12 rides are manufactured by by KMG, the same Dutch company that makes the Fire Ball.

One of the suspended rides was set to be used at the DuPage County Fair outside of Chicago. The Dupage County Fair commissioner stated the following in response to the state’s decision to suspend on of their rides: All rides have to be inspected by the state, and they get certified and a sticker on them that they have passed inspection through the state. They are inspected each and every time they’re set up at any other event that goes on, usually by the municipality, the fire department in that area. In our case, here, we add one more layer to that. We get both the city and fire department, and then also an inspection team that’s independent.”

The question remains if the current inspection protocol in Illinois is enough to certify rides? Are there steps the state should implement, such as the independent inspection done by the DuPage fair? I would recommend both state and independent inspections be required before certification for state use. Hopefully this will prevent what happened in Ohio.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in an Illinois amusement park accident or other personal injury, call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076

Chicago Mayor Introduces Safety Upgrades On City Trucks

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that Mayor Rahm Emanuel received preliminary approval from City Council to install special safeguards on city trucks. The upgrades to city trucks include side guards and additional side mirrors to eliminate blind spots for drivers.

The purpose of these upgrades is to help the make the streets safer for bicyclists. According to the article, this type of safety equipment is being installed on trucks in other large cities throughout the country. The cost for these upgrades is estimated at $400,000 annually, which will cost about $3,300 per vehicle. By 2026,  1,700 city trucks will have the new equipment. Contractors with city work will be expected to upgrade 25 percent of their trucks each year, with their full fleets having the guards and mirrors installed in four years.

Although Mayor Emanuel has taken a lot of heat the last few years regarding the red light and speeder cameras, but I applaud him for the steps he has taken to help protect bicyclists and pedestrians. Chicagoans know that this is one of the best cities in the country for bicyclists, with dedicated bike lanes and special guard rails, being installed at a rapid rate. Hopefully this will be another step in preventing bicycle accidents in Chicago.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago bicycle accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

City of Chicago Agrees To $38 Million Settlement In Red Light Camera Lawsuit

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that the City of Chicago has come to a preliminary agreement with a class of plaintiffs who sued to city for unfair practices with the red light cameras. The proposed settlement is for $38.75 million, but still needs final approval from city counsel.

The class action lawsuit, which was filed in March 2015 and received class certification last year, alleged that the city violated its own rules by failing to send a second notice of a violation before guilt was determined, and by doubling the fine for late payment of tickets sooner than allowed. Following the filing of this lawsuit, city administration responded by changing the city ordinance to eliminate the requirement for a second notice. In September 2016, the city passed an ordinance to give those who hadn’t gotten second notices from 2010 to 2015 a do-over, sending notices giving people the right to request an administrative hearing to contest their tickets. Emanuel’s lawyers argued that brought them into compliance.

As part of this settlement, approximately 1.2 million people will be receiving 50% back on previously paid tickets.   Those who qualify will receive letters in the mail in upcoming months notifying them they were part of the suit and telling them how to collect their refunds.  Under the settlement, people who got tickets from 2010 to 2015 will be paid out of a $26.75 million pot. The city also will forgive another $12 million in motorists’ unpaid tickets.

I think this a positive development. I think it shows the city is being held accountable for their actions. I have long written on this site that the red light cameras were a money grab for the city. Looking at these lawsuits, settlements, indictments and convictions for the red light camera company Redflex, all I can do is sort of chuckle. It is sad for the city. What is even more sad is that the cameras didn’t make the city safer. Study after study showed that the net benefit of the cameras was a push at best. It makes me think I was right all along. These never should have been installed.

If you or someone  you love has been injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Online Petition Pushes For Dedicated Bike Line In Wicker Park Neighborhood

Milwaukee Avenue, between Armitage and Division Streets, in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, is one of the busiest in the city. Adding to the congestion is the number of bicyclists who attempt to navigate next cars and CTA buses. A new online petition, posted by the Active Transportation Alliance, is pushing a dedicated bike lane on this stretch of road.

According to data provided by the Chicago Department of Transportation showed more than 5,000 cyclists — and 13,000 vehicles — travel the Milwaukee Avenue corridor daily. Specifically, more than 800 cyclists ride through the triple intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues during the morning peak times to commute, according to the city.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the city is looking into the feasibility of installing a dedicated bike lane. By removing metered parking spaces to create a bike lane would mean the city would have to reimburse the parking meter company for spaces taken out of service. On-street parking would become an even greater obstacle for residents, shoppers, and restaurant and bar patrons. Another issue could be where loading zones would be located for businesses on Milwaukee.

City officials are planning a community meeting this summer to discuss proposed “near term” improvements based off the neighborhood master plan that could be implemented later this year to improve safety, slow car traffic and increase space for people biking and walking. The Milwaukee corridor is also heavily used by pedestrians, Claffey said. Such recommendations for Milwaukee Avenue could range from adding bike boxes and new crosswalks, closing the slip lanes that allow vehicles to turn right, installing curb “bump-outs” to shorten the distance for a pedestrian crossing a street and reducing the posted speed limit.

There are no easy answers here regarding a dedicated bicycle lane. I believe it would make traffic safer for everyone who travels on this stretch of road. Especially during rush hour. But the city will have to come up with the money to make it feasible. Where does that money come from? Additional metered parking in the neighborhood? If a bike lane would make the street safer and decrease traffic accidents, then  I think it should be a priority for the city counsel. Hopefully this online campaign will increase the awareness and force the city to act.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in Chicago bicycle accident or Chicago car crash, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Harvard Professor Touting Tougher Penalties For Texting And Driving

The Chicago Tribune published a fantastic interview with Jay Winsten, an associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, regarding his role in the creation of the designated driver and now his push prevent distracted driving. You can read the entire interview here.

Two things stand out in this interview for me. The first is that Professor Winsten points out that texting and driving continues to grow in this country because it doesn’t have the stigma that drinking and driving does. “There’s absolutely no social stigma connected with distracted driving today—unlike drunk driving, which took years to develop that social stigma. And Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), starting in 1980, had a lot to do with that. But today, you know, if someone asks me at a cocktail party what I’m working on, and I say distracted driving, they’ll laugh and talk about their own behavior and how they’ll have to change because they themselves are a distracted driver. There’s no stigma of any kind associated with it. . .”

The professor is absolutely right. Plus, he points out that not everyone drinks, let alone drinks and drives. On the other hand, almost everyone has a smart phone, young and old, and people have trouble putting them down.

The second point he makes is that anti-texting laws are difficult to enforce, thus people aren’t afraid to pick the phones up when behind the wheel.

So what is his solution? The first is to push for better technology. Technology (maybe an app) that will tract you phone usage while driving. Technology that could possibly limit your phone usage while driving. His other suggestion is a second round of legislation. Legislation with tougher fines and stricter enforcement. I’m going to pat myself on the back here, but this is something I’ve been writing about for at least 5 years. I have said over and over on this blog, that the laws against texting and driving need to have teeth. Legislators need to consider making texting and driving a Class A misdemeanor, which is the same as a first time DUI offense. I don’t necessarily believe all texting and driving offenders should be charged at that level, but at least in situations that result in traffic accidents, or personal injury.

Finally, Professor Winsten is pushing for another awareness campaign, similar to the designated driver ads we saw in the 1980s. With the help of Hollywood, he believes this could be just as effective in curbing distracted driving.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Bicycle Dooring Accidents In Chicago Up 50%

A report from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) stated that there were 300 dooring accidents (when a bicycle crashes into an open car door) in 2015. This was a 50% increase from 2014. There were 203 in 2014 and 270 in 2013 but down from the 334 reported in 2012 and 336 in 2011. IDOT first started collecting this data in 2011. The data also showed that there was a 3% total increase bicycle accidents from 2014 to 2015.

The question remains why there was such a sharp increase in dooring accidents in 2015. The safety advocate group, Active Transportation Alliance, told media outlets that it is unclear whether the increase is merely due to stepped up enforcement and more vigilant reporting by those involved. Regardless, the group also believes that 300 plus dooring accidents per year is unacceptably high.

It must be pointed out that drivers who negligently open their door in front of a bicyclist is punishable under local Chicago ordinance § 9-80-035, which carries a fine of $300.00.

So what can drivers and bicyclists do to avoid these accidents and what can the city do to lower this trend? First, I think the city should at least consider increasing the fine for the offense as a preventative measure. Second, drivers, when parked on busy city streets need take the extra precaution of looking at their side mirrors before opening their doors. Chicago drivers need to accept the fact that Chicago is one of the busiest and most prolific cities for bicyclists in the world and should learn to share the roads, even when parked. And finally, bicyclists must understand how dangerous it is to bike around a crowded city like Chicago and must constantly remain vigilant about their surroundings.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago bike accident or Chicago traffic accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

 

Should We Worry Who Trump Appoints As NHTSA Director?

The Detroit Free Press published an interesting article this week regarding regarding the pending appointment of a chief executive National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). The NHTSA is the agency charged with regulating the safety of the nation’s automobiles. According to the article, consumer advocates are fearing the worst: that Trump will appoint an automobile company executive.

Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, said she would not be surprised if Trump reaches out to an auto executive to fill the position of National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, vacant since Trump took office in January.

“He has a penchant of appointing people who have been regulated and allowing them to dismantle agencies,” Shahan continued. “You have all these companies who have been under investigations for safety violations recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he appointed somebody from one of them. It would be consistent with his other appointments.”

Trump’s track record to date is not encouraging. He appointed an oil executing to run the EPA, which is the agency charged with protecting our environment. He appointed another oil executive as his Secretary of State.

We can’t jump to conclusions yet as no one has been appointed. But we should be wary of an appointment of an auto executive as there would be, in my opinion, an obvious conflict of interest if, say, a CEO of a major auto maker is appointment. Whose interest would they put first? The bottom line of the auto companies? Or, the safety of the consumer? Time will tell.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.