Grazian and Volpe have litigated thousands of car and bike accidents over the last 30 years. Some are unavoidable but we are constantly reminded how many accidents are totally preventable.
A growing area of our practice involves cyclists. Chicago strives to be a bicycle friendly city and we applaud the efforts. Cycling is healthy and good for the environment. However, the city has a long way to go before it is “bicycle friendly.” Drivers and cyclists are the main culprits in any bicycle/car accident. Most times it is the result of ignorance of proper protocol.
Bicycle accidents are often serious and sometimes fatal; not to the driver but always to the cyclist. Cyclists can scream and swear at bad drivers but cars are huge metal shells traveling at high speeds. Impact with a bicycle is of little consequence (physically) to the driver or passenger in a car. Our largest settlements are always for the cyclist because cyclists are unprotected and their injuries can be horrific. Many a cyclist have been grateful for a large settlement but all wish their accident never happened.
A proper fitting helmet, back and front lights and adherence to bicycle law is a given. After the basics a cyclist must be aware of the most vulnerable cycling situations.
The most common accident we have seen in the last year is what I refer to as the “Right Hook”. This involves a car passing you on your left and then making a right turn directly in front of you or right into you. Drivers think they can pass a slower bicycle and underestimate the speed at which a cyclist is traveling. This is a hard collision to avoid because the cyclist does not see the driver until it is too late. There is no escape maneuver available in this situation. There are three rules for avoiding the right hook:
1) Don’t ride on the sidewalk! You are invisible to a driver when you are on the sidewalk and enter the street to cross.
2) As you approach the intersection, take the middle position in the lane. If the street is narrow-definitely take the whole lane. Move to the right as you cross the intersection.
3) Add a mirror to your bike or helmet. Every cyclist knows that looking over your left shoulder causes the bike to serve dangerously to the left. A mirror allows you to see cars on your left without this risk.
4) Never pass a slow moving car on the right. Move to the left and make visual contact with the driver.
5) Watch for passengers that may be exiting on the right. A slowing car may indicate a driver who is about to unload a passenger.
ALWAYS RIDE AS IF YOU ARE INVISIBLE!