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Kristina Labanauskas
Kristina Labanauskas
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Chicago Bicycle Accident Highlights Importance of City Bike Safety

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On any given day, you will see dozens of bicyclists navigating through the busy City streets. Yet, statistics show that biking during the summer in urban traffic can be downright deadly. In fact, since October, a total of 5 cyclists have been killed in Chicago alone. Just earlier this month, a 22-year-old bicyclist died as a result of a bike accident in Chicago when his bike hit an open door of a parked vehicle and he was thrown into oncoming traffic.

According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration (NHTSA):

Between 1996-2006 fatalities of pedalcyclists (their term referring to two-wheel nonmotorized vehicles powered solely by pedals), occurred more frequently in urban areas, at non-intersection locations, between the hours of 5 p.m.- 9 p.m. and during the months of June, July and August.

So, should we lock up our bikes and lose the keys forever? Of course not! Biking is great exercise not to mention a lot of fun. Plus, for many it is not just a recreational activity. A lot of urban bikers either rely on their wheels for a paycheck (e.g., fearless bike messengers) or for their commute, justifiably avoiding sitting in a motor vehicle in bumper-to-bumper traffic or riding on packed and increasingly pricey public transportation.

Ok, then. The easy solution is to ride on the sidewalk, you say. Not in Chicago, you won’t. Unless you have just moved here or are from out of town, you have no excuse not to know that a City ordinance makes biking on sidewalks illegal. And, for good reason, as I don’t think I am alone in the sentiment that the pedestrians legally using sidewalks take up enough room as it is.

So, the remaining options for bikers intending on riding in the City is to get on the Lake Path and stay there or to wear protective gear and get informed on bike safety and the Rules of the Road.

The rules of the road include obeying traffic signs, signals and lane markings and riding in the same direction as traffic while in the street. And, in spite of the obvious size and horsepower advantages motor vehicles have over bikes, bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and as such are required to obey the same rules of the road as other motor vehicles.

In addition to abiding by the rules of the road, wearing protective gear can go a long way in injury prevention. According to the NHTSA, a helmet is the best way to prevent head injuries resulting from bike accidents. But, not any old lid will do. Be sure that you wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet. Also, if you intend on riding at night, be sure to equip your bike with a front light and red reflector or flashing lights and wear bright or reflective clothing and retro-reflective tape to help drivers see you better.

Even if you are armed with the above knowledge and have taken every single possible precaution, accidents and even fatalities still can happen. If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in a traffic accident, you should seek professional legal advice to determine whether there may be a recovery.