Urban Velo

About Brendan Kevenides, P.C.

Brendan Kevenides is an everyday city cyclist and licensed attorney. His Chicago law practice is dedicated to representing cyclists injured by the negligence of drivers, government officials and equipment manufacturers. He is also the creator and author of The Chicago Bicycle Advocate, a popular blog about bicycling and the law. He is active with bicycle advocacy organizations, and is a Certified Bicycle Instructor by the League of American Bicyclists. Check out www.mybikeadvocate.com

Cycling Legalese: Does the Bike Lane Compel You?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Ever expanding bicycle infrastructure is awesome, hands down. But are you compelled to use a bike lane or separated path if it exists, even if it is in disrepair or otherwise not suitable? Read on.

Q:There are new bike lanes popping up all over. That’s cool, but do I have to ride in them?

Bike lanes are awesome, except when they’re not. As someone who has been riding in the big bad city for decades, I am thrilled at the proliferation of bike specific infrastructure in my town and others nationwide. Our cities are evolving. However, no big North American city can claim to be on par with bike meccas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. In the evolutionary timeline we have crawled out of the primordial ooze, but we are still pretty wet behind the ears. Sometimes bike lanes, and other cycle specific infrastructure, suck. Thankfully, in most places bicyclists are not required to use bike lanes or separated paths.

There are several reasons why a cyclist might choose not to ride in a bike lane. It may be in disrepair, full of potholes, ruts or broken glass. Leaving the bike lane may be the safe thing to do. It is common in U.S. cities for the lanes to be occupied illegally by cars, delivery trucks or other vehicles. Here in Chicago, buses are permitted to share bicycle lanes with people on bikes. In the winter months, bike paths maybe rendered impassable due to the accumulation of snow and ice. There are even times when cycling on a path or in a bike lane clear of obstructions just does not make sense. For example, a roadie on a training ride may be advised to avoid a path crowded with cyclists traveling at a more leisurely pace.

There once was a time when the majority of U.S. states had what are commonly referred to as “mandatory use laws,” that is laws that require cyclists to use a bike specific path or other designated area located adjacent to a regular travel lane. These laws were more common at a time when there were actually fewer such paths in existence, and virtually no bike lanes in North American cities. According to the League of American Bicyclists, “In the 1970s, mandatory use laws of some sort existed in 38 states.” Now, however, there are far fewer such laws, many having been repealed. Illinois’ vehicle code has no mandatory use requirement. Until recently, the municipal code of Chicago had such a requirement which read, “Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.” The ordinance did not define what a usable path was. Was it a bike lane with nothing more than a painted line separating cars and bikes? Or, was more substantial separation required, like a jersey barrier? This vagueness ultimately lead to repeal of the ordinance in June, 2013.

Cyclists throughout Illinois and in places like Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and many others cyclists may ignore bike lanes and paths for any reason. In other jurisdictions a cyclist’s right to do so is qualified. For example, in California a bicyclist must use a bicycle lane where one is provided, unless he or she is traveling at the same speed as traffic moving in the same direction. California bikers may also abandon the lane when overtaking another bicyclist or pedestrian, when preparing to turn left, to avoid debris or hazardous conditions or when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. The law in New York seems to be the same. Where there are bike lanes, cyclists have to use them. It appears, however, that cyclists there may abandon them under the same circumstances set for the in California Code.

The state with perhaps the scariest mandatory use language is one generally considered the most bike friendly in North America, Oregon. Its vehicle code states that, “A person commits the offense of failure to use a bicycle lane or path if the person operates a bicycle on any portion of a roadway that is not a bicycle lane or bicycle path when a bicycle lane or bicycle path is adjacent to or near the roadway.”

An “offense.” Yikes. Still, even in Oregon a bike lane or path may be abandoned to pass other cyclists, to make a left turn, to avoid hazard and to execute a right turn. Also, Oregon provides that a person need not comply with the mandatory use law unless it has been determined after public hearing that the bike lane or path is “suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”

As is generally the case, knowing what the law requires depends on the particular circumstances and where you are. If you want to check the law on mandatory use in your state, The League of American Bicyclists has a very helpful chart online. Be advised, however, that laws can change at any time without notice.

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—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

Cycling Legalese: Alleycats

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

You hear a lot about alleycats here at Urban Velo and beyond… But what’s the legal side of street racing?

Q: I hear a lot about alleycat racing. But aren’t they illegal?

Traditionally, alleycat bicycle racing was meant to replicate what bike messengers do on a daily basis: Quickly and efficiently ride through crowded urban landscapes to deliver parcels. In its purest form, during an alleycat riders are informed of a number of checkpoints they must reach. At each, they receive instructions regarding what to do next, then it’s forward to the next stop. Knowledge of city streets and back alleys, as well as strength on a bike are key components for success. The first racer to travel to all checkpoints and cross the finish wins. The spoils are modest: a smallish amount of cash, a new bicycle or component. The real prize, however, comes from knowing (and letting it be known) that you are the best at what you do. Collecting wins is better than employee of the month plaques, yet not as obnoxiously self-aggrandizing as collecting yachts and sports cars.

Here’s the thing though: Alleycat races are dangerous and illegal. Bike races must be approved by state or local authorities before they may take place on public streets. Generally, approval will not be granted unless accommodations are made so that the event does not interfere with traffic. The point of alleycat racing is to test one’s ability to travel by bike in the city under the kinds of conditions faced daily by bike messengers, in traffic. Obviously, no governmental authority would sanction a race in moving traffic. One significant downside to these races operating outside the law is that they are uninsurable. If a racer is hurt due to a poorly designed or designated course, or some other negligent act or omission by the race organizer, he or she will likely be out of luck with regard to receiving compensation.

Bad things can and do sometimes happen in alleycat racing. In March, 2008 a racer was killed during what used to be the biggest and most important such race in Chicago, the Tour Da Chicago. During the race, several racers ahead of the main pack reportendly approached the six-way intersection of Lincoln-Damen-and Irving Park. As they did, the pace, which had been high, slowed because the light was red. However, one of the racers, Matt Lynch, apparently tried to take advantage of everyone else slowing and shot into the intersection. When he did he was struck and killed by an SUV traveling at full speed. Matt made a mistake and it cost him his life. When deciding whether to enter an alleycat race, the prospective participate should consider the stakes and carefully take stock of his or her ability and experience. Recently, there has been a trend of alleycat races being organized and participated in by bicyclists who are not messengers, riders who may not have the kind of ability and smarts that someone who rides for hours every day on crowded city streets does. A while ago I asked Ben Fietz of the Chicago Couriers Union to offer his insight about alleycat races. He graciously did so. Here is what he wrote to me:

Alleycat races are pretty much always illegal, and can be very dangerous. That said, they can also be a very important part of the messenger community and the biking community in general. It sounds crazy, but I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t participated in alleycat races. In their purest form, alleycat races are a way for messengers to compete against each other and find out who is actually the fastest and who knows the city the best. I have the top spot at one of the best messenger companies in Chicago, and the truth of it is that I got into the company that I work for by racing in alley cats and proving myself about six years ago.

That used to be the main purpose of alleycats. They were races put on by messengers for messengers. But a few years ago, alleycats started to get really popular with city cyclists, and they started entering alleycats, and eventually throwing their own. It got to the point in Chicago where there were more non-messenger thrown races than messenger ones. Of course companies with hip marketing departments became aware of this scene, and sponsorship for the races grew. The early alleycat races usually didn’t have any sponsors at all, they would just be a cash race, winner takes all. It has gotten to the point where people are having alleycat races in cities which don’t even have any messengers in them. I heard about a race in St. Augustine Florida, which seems kind of silly. A couple of years ago, Velocity wheels sponsored and threw an alleycat in the city in Michigan which their headquarters are located. Once again, there were no messengers in the city, but they had an alleycat with a huge prize list, and people came from all over to race.

There aren’t as many alleycat races in Chicago as there used to be. The Sadie Hawkins race in the fall is a yearly race, which has very little involvement by messengers, but it’s a fun race and usually has a huge turnout. A messenger has been throwing a race about once a month downtown. These races are short and fast, and are set up to favor messengers. There are usually a couple of stops in each race that are very hard to find unless you are a messenger. The biggest race used to be the Tour Da Chicago, until Matt’s death.

* * * * *

As far as the safety of alleycats, it is pretty much up to the individual racer to race within your limits. There isn’t really any way to make a completely safe alleycat race. The whole point is that you are racing on city streets with traffic. The difference between a good alleycat race and a bad one is the level of organization and how well the race flows. But how well the race is organized really doesn’t have any bearing on how safe that race will be to enter, just how much fun it will be.

Alleycat racing, if it is to be done at all, should be left to folks who know what they are doing. A group of riders racing through city streets pretending to be something they are not, professional bicycle couriers, is a recipe for disaster. Before deciding to participate in an alleycat understand what you are getting into.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—
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Cycling Legalese: Almost Doored

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

What if by virtue of luck and reflexes you narrowly avoid a parked car’s door swinging open only to be struck by a passing vehicle? Who is responsible?

Q:Recently, I was almost doored. Luckily, I was able to swerve out of the way and avoid injury. But I could have been nailed by another car when I swung left to miss the door. I was wondering, if I got hit could I have held the driver that opened the door responsible?

You were not almost doored. You were doored. It sounds like you avoided injury thanks to some good reflexes and a bit of luck. Had you crashed because of that carelessly flung open door, the driver that opened it likely would have been responsible for the harm. A driver does not get a free pass because a bicyclist evades their bad conduct.

A driver may be responsible for the harm caused by his or her negligent driving even if there is no actual contact. However, the lack of contact between car and bicycle can create evidence problems. When there is no contact it may be more challenging to prove that the driver’s conduct actually caused the bicyclist’s injury. Proving a casual connection between the driver’s bad action and the injury sustained by the cyclist is a vital part of every bicycle injury case. Inevitably the driver will assert that (1) he or she did nothing wrong, and (2) the bicyclist overreacted and crashed on their own. Furthermore, the burden of proving the casual connection between the driver’s conduct and the harm is a burden borne by the injury victim.

Recently our law firm resolved a case that highlights the challenges that may arise from a near miss situation. Our client and his friend were participating in an organized ride. The route took them through a downtown area in a central Illinois city. They were on a road with one lane of travel in each direction with no shoulder or parking on either side when our client heard his friend yell, “Truck!” He looked to see a semi tractor trailer bearing down on them. It did not look like it was going to stop so the two pushed as close to the curb as possible. The truck passed them at about 35 mph within 18 inches, in violation of Illinois’ three foot passing law. Somehow, while the two cyclists were attempting to get out of the way of the passing semi, they ran into one another, causing our client to fall and break his leg. There was no contact between the cyclists and the truck, which continued on without stopping. The driver was never identified, and the subject truck was never found. No witnesses were able to obtain a license plate or identifying number from the truck. All we had was the name of the trucking company which had been emblazoned on the side of the vehicle. That turned out to be enough to hold the company responsible. With the name of the corporation we filed a lawsuit seeking to hold it vicariously liable for its driver’s negligence. The case eventually settled for a substantial sum.

Incidents in which there is no actual contact between a motor vehicle and bicycle are undoubtedly more challenging. The cyclist’s credibility will be challenged by the defense. His or her version of events must be able to stand up to strong scrutiny. But where a driver causes serious injury by forcing the cyclist to take dangerous evasive action, he or she may be accountable for the harm.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: Should I Carry Insurance?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

It comes up amongst serious commuters all the time, should cyclists carry insurace? Are you already covered by existing policies? In this column Brendan lends some insurance guidance on what to look for in a policy.

Q:My bike is my primary means of transportation, so I ride a lot. Should I have insurance just in case, and, if so, what kind?

Talking about bikes is awesome. Insurance, not so much. But if you ride a lot in the city it is time to eat your peas and contemplate it, if only briefly. If something bad happens you will wish you thought about it. Cars, trucks and buses tend to produce horrible results when they collide with people on bicycles. For that reason, motor vehicle owners are generally required by law to have insurance to compensate anyone they may injure. Nevertheless, nationally one in seven drivers, over 14%, fails to carry the necessary coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In big cities, based on my experience, the statistics are ever scarier. I would guess that in Chicago where I practice, one quarter to one-third of all drivers go without auto coverage. That means if you get hit by one of these scofflaws your chances of being compensated for your injuries and damage to your bike are nil. But you can protect yourself by purchasing insurance before a crash.

Here is a brief primer on the coverage you should have:

Health insurance: I know, it is expensive and these days fewer employers offer it to their employees. Those dreary facts noted, do whatever you can to get yourself covered. Get on a parent’s policy. Look for a job with great benefits, even if the salary is not the best. Companies like Whole Foods, REI and Starbucks are well known for providing employees good benefits packages. Even with a seemingly minor injury medical bills can mount up fast. An ambulance trip to the hospital alone can run you close to a thousand dollars. Add in some x-rays and an ER trauma protocol and your bills could be jaw-dropping. The bottom line is that if there is any way that you can swing getting health insurance, you should.

Auto insurance: A bicyclist should have car insurance. If you get hit and injured by a driver you may look to your own auto policy for protection. It matters not that you were on a bike instead of in your car at the time of the crash. If one of the conveyances involved was a motor vehicle, then your auto policy may provide you with coverage. Your auto policy will likely have two relevant provisions: “med pay” and un/underinsurance motorist coverage. The medical payments provision of your policy will pay your bills up to a set amount, usually between $5,000 and $10,000. Med pay can get eaten up fast by medical bills but it is better than nothing. Also, it will not be necessary to prove that the other driver was at fault to recover under the medical payments provision of your policy. If you are injured by a motorist that coverage is generally available. Uninsured and underinsured coverage generally provides more substantial coverage. However, you will be required to provide proof that the un/underinsured driver was at fault for causing your injuries. You may wish to have an attorney assist you in recovering un/underinsured motorist coverage from your insurer.

Non-owners auto insurance: No car? No problem getting car insurance. Consider non-owners auto insurance. These policies are offered by many insurance companies and tend to be more affordable than owner’s coverage, generally about half the premium of a traditional auto owner’s policy. They may provide medical payments coverage, just like traditional auto policies. Also, they may protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. The other nice thing about non-owners policies is that if you decide that the no car thing is not for you, you will have established an insurance history which may help you get a fair rate on car insurance.

Bicycle insurance: This is another option for the bicyclist who does not own a car. Also generally less expensive than traditional auto insurance, these policies provide coverage to pay your medical bills and to fix/replace your bike. They may also protect you should you injure another cyclist or pedestrian. There seem to be more and more companies sprouting up to offer bicycle insurance. One company that seems to be aggressively marketing its services is Markel American. Curious about what they had to offer, a few months ago I investigated. What I found was that for $310 a year, $25.83 a month, I could receive $25,000 in “bicycle liability” and “vehicle contact protection.” Markel defines bicycle liability coverage as “protection for bodily injury or property damage” for which the insured cyclist becomes liable to another person such as a pedestrian, another bicyclist, or motorist. Vehicle contact protection is coverage to benefit the bicyclist should he or she be injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. That $310 price also includes $10,000 in medical payments coverage defined by Markel as coverage providing “protection for the reasonable charges for necessary medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, ambulance, hospital and professional nursing services and funeral service expenses incurred within one year form the date of an accident causing bodily injury to an insured while using an insured bicycle.” Generally, the insured may receive compensation under a medical payments provision of an insurance policy regardless of who was at fault for causing his or her injuries. The quote I received also provided some nice benefits should the insured bicycle become damaged in a crash.

Homeowners and renters insurance: If you own a home or rent an apartment it is a good idea to have this sort of coverage. These policies may compensate you if your bike is stolen, even if it is swiped far from home. They may also protect you with liability coverage if you injure someone else while riding your bike. However, they probably will not offer a source of compensation to you if injured while cycling.

Insurance companies market themselves as offering safety and security should your world turn upside down. Sometimes they do. However, whether a particular policy is really worth the premium depends upon how it works when it is really needed. Please do not accept anything I have written here as an endorsement of any particular company or any service or policy it provides. I strongly encourage readers to investigate for themselves when purchasing insurance. Of course, all insurance policies are different. Ask lots of questions when purchasing a policy. Assume nothing.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: Naked Ride Trouble

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Getting ready for the World Naked Bike Ride? We’ve got some tips to keep you legal and out of jail for the night.

Q:I am thinking about doing my first Naked Ride. I know a lot of people do it, but could I get in trouble?

The World Naked Bike Ride, taking place in cities around the world, is coming up. The reasons for doing it vary by individual, but generally the ride is meant as a celebration of cycling, a work of participatory performance art, and an act of political protest against big oil. It is also meant to draw attention to cyclists as roadway users. (Can you see me now, Mr./Ms. Motorist?)

I have participated in Chicago’s large edition of the event, helping the security detail and the police provide a safe atmosphere for riders. (I ride with the security detail fully clothed. No one wants to see their lawyer streak by in the buff.) From my experience in Chicago, and based on what I have read of the event in other cities, the event is generally peaceful and the police tend to be mostly tolerant. However, there are ways to get in trouble on the ride. Here is a basic guide on how to avoid getting busted:

Ride With The Pack: Staying with the mass of riders you are arguably a part of a well-established political and artistic act meaning that you are probably entitled to the protection of the First Amendment allowing for free speech. On the other hand, once you have separated from the group you are just a dude naked in the street and as such may have a harder time arguing that your conduct is protected under the First Amendment. You could be arrested for violating local indecent exposure laws. If you run into mechanical trouble (with your bike that is) or need to break from the group for any reason, put your clothes on to avoid a run in with the police.

Don’t Act A Fool: It may not be your nakedness that ends up getting you into trouble, but rather your conduct. It seems that some folks down a bit too much liquid courage in preparation for dropping their drawers in front of thousands of city dwellers. Doing so could lead to running afoul of local BUI laws, in places where they exist, or public drunkenness and disorderly conduct laws pretty much everywhere. Avoid alcohol for this event.

Don’t Be A Creep: Perhaps this should go without saying, but be aware that it may not take much to make people around you feel uncomfortable. Do not take anyone’s picture without asking them first. This is common courtesy. Also, be advised that while the World Naked Bike Ride is generally a friendly, welcoming event, unfortunately, it does attract some weirdos who come out just to shoot video and photos. The folks in the security detail will be on the look out for these people but be advised that the creeps do come out. Understand what you are getting into and, as they say, “bare as you dare.”

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: Hit And Run, Now What?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Hit and run collisions involving cyclists happen all too often. In this column Brendan shares some words about how to legally protect yourself both before and after a hit and run.

Q: While riding I was sideswiped by a car and they ran. My injuries were quite severe and I spent some time in the hospital. Is this a no win situation for me?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my experience, hit and run crashes involving drivers and cyclists happen with disturbing frequency. Generally, a driver will take off after causing a collision for three reasons: (1) Fear of consequences; (2) He/she lacks a moral compass; (3) He/she lacks auto insurance coverage. Very often all three factors are in play to compel a driver to flee a crash. Leaving the scene of a collision in which bodily injury or property damage results is a crime.

Unfortunately, a city cyclist should anticipate the possibility of being in a hit and run crash. However, there are steps he or she can take to protect themselves both before and after such an incident:

Buy insurance: In 49 states, drivers are required to carry motor vehicle insurance coverage. (New Hampshire is the outlier.) Useful and integrated into our culture though they may be, cars and trucks have the potential to cause enormous harm. For that reason, motor vehicle owners are required by law to have insurance to compensate anyone they may injure. Nevertheless, nationally one in seven drivers, over 14%, fail to carry the necessary coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Many auto policies provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These provisions of a policy provide important protection if you are injured by another driver who either has no insurance, or coverage that is insufficient to compensate you for your injuries. Generally, the amount of un/underinsured coverage mirrors the amount of the policy’s bodily injury coverage. A bicyclist’s own motor vehicle insurance may provide coverage if he or she is seriously injured by a motorist who either lacks insurance or who has insufficient coverage. If you are hit by a driver that flees the scene, your insurance provider will usually treat that as if you were hit by an uninsured driver and cover you ever though you were biking at the time of the crash. However, some insurance policies require that you notify your insurer very soon after a hit and run incident, often within 30 days, or you may run the risk of coverage being denied. A carless person may buy a non-owners auto insurance policy. These policies are offered by many big name insurance companies and tend to cost considerably less than a standard policy, generally about half the premium of a traditional auto owner’s policy. Importantly, they may protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Not all insurance policies are the same. Rates may vary greatly depending on location and the specific coverage purchased. Non-owners car insurance policies may differ materially from one to the other. Also, they may not automatically come with un/underinsured coverage. Make sure that you ask your insurance agent lots of questions, making sure you understand exactly when the policy you are buying will and will not cover you.

Press record: Technology has finally gotten to the point where is it relatively easy and inexpensive for a cyclist to ride with a small video camera secured to the front of their bike, or helmet. Riding with one of these cameras recording your ride can be a tremendous help if you are involved in a crash. A review of the video after the fact may uncover the identity of the vehicle and driver involved.

Just a few short years ago, it was impractical to ride with a video camera. Many models were too big and too heavy. Even if they were small and light they could not be attached and detached quickly and easily enough to be convenient for urban riding. In the city you you need to be able to lock it up or take it with you if you hope to keep it. Now though more bicyclists are riding with small quality cameras that are weather proof and which can be clipped on and off the bike as easily as a bike light. The increasingly ubiquitous GoPro cameras start at about $200. They are small, light, weather proof and have almost limitless mounting options. The Epic Carbine HD, for about $220, is another option. I personally own this camera and can attest to its small size, lightness and ability to attach and detach from the bike or helmet with ease. Should something happen, it is nice to have an electronic witness watching your back.

Even if you do not ride with a video camera on your bike, you should try to make use of your cell phone’s camera immediately after a crash. If you are able to do so, snap a photo of the offending vehicle and its license plate as soon as possible, in other words before the driver takes off. The act of taking a photo my even make the driver feel compelled to remain at the scene. They will be on notice that they will not likely get away with fleeing.

Look for the eye in the sky: I often gets calls from bicyclists who have been hit by motorist who have fled the scene and whom the cyclist could not identify. There are ways to find a hit and run suspect, however. It is important to go the the scene of the crash as soon as possible and look for local businesses who may have security video cameras in use. A little luck is usually involved, but sometimes a security camera will have captured a crash and the vehicle that caused it. If the video is of good enough quality to have read the vehicle’s license plate number then the rest is easy. The other step that I generally take is to send a Freedom of Information Act request to the local department of transportation and police department which may also have video cameras operating in the area. If the crash occurred at a busy intersection the possibility of one of these cameras having captured the crash is increased.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: What Can I Do To Help My Fellow Bikers?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

We all ride bikes, but is there a community of cyclists? How can we help to look out for each other while out on the road?

Q: So many people I know have either been hit by cars or harassed by drivers while out riding. What can I do to help my fellow bikers?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.: Many of us who are deeply involved in cycling and cycling advocacy find ourselves referring to a bicycling “community.” But is there really such a community of cyclists, and, if so, what does that even mean?

People who ride bikes are not really part of a discreet group. I would venture to guess that most people who ride do not define themselves by the fact that on occasion they hop onto a two wheeled contraption and go for a spin. Even among those that consider themselves “cyclists,” there are tribes that have little to do with one another. A spandex clad roadie in his 50s may run (and ride) with a very different crowd than a 20 something year old polo player. In my experience, however, despite the purported existence of such tribes, there most certainly is a “bicycle community.” It is made up of people that, while often very different, are bound together by their love of self-propulsion on two wheels. Not everyone that rides a bike could fairly be referred to as a member of this community. But for those that love it, that bond exists, creating an important oneness, a community.

This community is important in a couple of ways. First, it provides a means of meeting people having a common interest and with whom the love of biking can be shared. It can even help expand one’s enjoyment of cycling by promoting introduction to different forms of it. Maybe the middle aged roadie would love playing polo and vice versa. Secondly, the bicycling community provides a support network, and an important one at that. Time and again in my law practice I have seen bicyclists rally to help other cyclists in need. This sometimes happens in the most literal sense. For example, last summer I represented a cyclist who was doored while riding home from work along a busy cycling corridor in Chicago. The bottom edge of the door that was flung open into him caught his shin, slicing it open. He was bleeding profusely and the driver that injured him was freaking out, offering no help. Thankfully, however, a cyclist who happened to be riding right behind my client with her teenage daughter saw what happened, stayed calm and came to the rescue. She tightly wrapped the wound to quell the bleeding while her daughter called for help. The cyclist’s leg was saved and he ended up with little more than an ugly scar. On several other occasions, bicyclists have acted as witnesses for clients involved in crashes with motorists. Several months ago a woman who I ended up representing was riding her old mountain bike home from work. She did not commute by bike everyday, but since the weather was pleasant she decided to ride to the office. On her ride home a motorist doored her and she was injured. When I brought a claim against the driver he alleged that his door had been open for some time and that the bicyclist inexplicably ran into it. Unfortunately, the bicyclist could not remember accurately what had happened. However, a bike messenger was riding behind her at the time of the crash and saw it unfold. He explained that the door was thrown open suddenly just as she rode by and that there was nothing she could have done to avoid it. Thanks to his statement we successfully resolved the case. Though the messenger and my client were arguably of two different cycling tribes, the messenger stayed at the scene and provided his contact information to the police, an act of decency that helped us tremendously.

Sometimes the help that cyclists provide to others is less direct, but no less important. Online forums do more than just offer bicycle maintenance tips. Great examples of this appear regularly on websites like The Chainlink, an online forum based here in Chicago. Daily, cyclists take to The Chainlink to update each other on upcoming cycling events, and on what is happening, often in near real time, on the mean streets. Cyclists post photos of existing street hazards and even put out APB’s on drivers that fled the scene of a collision with a bicyclist.

What can you do to help your follow cyclists? Watch their backs. Be a witness. Offer aid to those in need. If you see a cyclist stopped on the side of the road ask if they are okay. Offer them use of your tools, or pump. Join an online forum and participate constructively in discussion and debate. Bicycling is not inherently dangerous, but in the city streets a network of aid can be tremendously helpful. Be a part of that network. Join the community, and lend your voice to other bicyclists in proclaiming the popular rallying cry of today, We Are Legion!

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: Road Rage Retribution

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Road rage attacks are a relatively rare but unfortunate reality of city riding. Brendan goes over why it may be best to not speculate on a motorist’s motives if you’ve been hit and concentrate on the facts of the collision.

Q: So many people seem to be angry behind the wheel. How can I go after a driver after I’ve been the victim of a “road rage” incident?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my hometown of Chicago bicyclists and motorists rarely use five fingers to waive at one another. Sad. The mutual animosity that exists between these two sets of travelers is strange really. After all, many of us are both motorists and bicyclists. Yet somehow we seem to forget our other selves while operating one mode of transportation or the other. I suppose it is because while traveling on congested city streets, whether on bike or in a car, we are trying to get somewhere as quickly and easily as possible while sharing a limited resource, usable street space.

Road rage incidents have the potential to turn out much worse for the bicyclist than for the driver. The motorist is, of course, wrapped in a cocoon of metal while the cyclist is not. A few years ago I represented a young bicyclist who was the victim of such an incident. He was riding his bike on the right side of the road in the city when a driver aggressively cut in front of him, nearly causing a collision. The bicyclist, pissed, rode after the vehicle, a red BMW, which eventually encountered slow moving traffic. As he rode by the car, the bicyclist rapped on the vehicle’s passenger window and waved hello with a single finger. That should have been it. However, the driver, now also pissed, sped forward at the bicycle and struck its back wheel causing the young man to fly forward, ass-over-teakettle. His injuries were not very severe, thanks to nothing but dumb luck. Later, he contacted me to represent him against the driver in a personal injury action, which, of course, I did.
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Cycling Legalese: Visible, Assertive, Alert and Predictable

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Last column explained that drivers are responsible even if they say they didn’t see you. Even if a driver is found at fault, in civil court a cyclist’s injury claim may be reduced if it is found they contributed to the incident by not being visibile and riding predictably. This column may help you not get hit in the first place, and may help in civil litigation in case of an accident.

In the last edition of Cycling Legalese we considered the viability of the “unseeing eye” defense which drivers tend to raise in bicycle crash cases. Now we turn our attention to ways in which urban cyclists can increase their visibility, reducing their chances of being “unseen” in the first place. These guidelines will reduce the likelihood of being hit, and will aid your chances of a successful outcome should litigation arise from a crash. Juries in civil cases will be asked to consider not just the motorist’s negligence, but the injured bicyclist’s as well. In many states, even if the driver is found to have acted negligently, the injury victim’s compensation may be reduced by his or her own percentage of fault. If a jury finds that the cyclist was more than 50% at fault, then in some states compensation may be denied all together. To avoid injury, and a poor legal outcome, be Visible, Assertive, Alert and Predictable; VAAP, if you are into gibberishy acronyms.

Visible: Most state vehicle codes require bicyclists to ride with a white, front facing headlight and at least a rear reflector. Frankly, I have always found it surprising that you can buy a bicycle from a shop without a light. After all, head lights are not an option for car buyers. In any event, buy one. And while you are at it, buy a red light for the rear of your bike. Some states only require a reflector in the rear, but go a little nuts and treat yourself to a bit of rear end protection. Having reflective properties on your clothing and/or bicycle is also a good idea to increase visibility in poor lighting conditions.

Visibility is as important during the day as at night. Bright clothing will help you get noticed. Also, during a daytime rain or snow shower, do not hesitate to turn on your lights. It is smart to have them with you, with fresh batteries, at all times.

Assertive: You belong in the road. Act like it. Behaving like a shrinking violet while riding in traffic is no fun, and can be dangerous. Cyclists should, and are generally required, to ride in the right-most lane that leads to their destination. That does not mean that you must ride in the gutter. Riding too close to the edge of the road will likely make you less visible to drivers and will encourage them to attempt to pass too closely. Bicyclists should ride as far to the right as is practicable and safe, but no more. No one wants to be honked at, but at least if a driver is honking at you you know you are being noticed.

Being assertive applies not just to lane position, but to all aspects of urban riding. “If you, the cyclist, pause or hesitate, you are almost guaranteed that the motorist will take the right of way whether it is theirs or not. Know the rules of the road and follow them with confidence and conviction,” recommends the League of American Bicyclists.

Alert: Drivers are going to screw up. Expect it. For example, if you see movement inside of a vehicle parked along the curb, anticipate that the driver may open the door into you. Realize that in the rain, drivers cannot see very well and will have a harder time noticing you. Do not just watch traffic lights; watch the traffic. It is common for drivers to run an intersection through the dissipating remnants of a yellow light. Look before proceeding into an intersection, even a controlled one. It is important to consider the driver’s perspective while riding your bike. Be cynical. Hope for the best, assume the worst and act preemptively.

Predictable: Though I have placed it last, predictability is perhaps the most important aspect of safe cycling. Following the rules of the road — though some may seem hardly written with the bicyclist in mind — helps you communicate your intentions to drivers. Yes, sometimes salmoning (riding the wrong way) is convenient, but a driver will not anticipate a moving object coming from the wrong direction. Giving nary a pause at a stop sign is not something a driver will expect you to do, even if he or she sees you coming. At an intersection, drivers will be looking for traffic coming from cross streets, and slow moving pedestrians in crosswalks. They will not expect a fast moving object to rocket off of a sidewalk and into their path. Follow the rules, not just because they are the rules, but because doing so makes you more predictable. Drivers, generally, do not want to run into you. Make it easy for both of you to continue on your way without conflict.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Cycling Legalese: But The Cyclist Came Out Of Nowhere

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

It’s common to hear after a collision that the auto driver carefully looked before turning and a cyclist reportedly came out of nowhere. But is it a lawful defense?

Q: I’ve heard drivers claim that they often just can’t see cyclists. Is that really a defense a driver can raise following a crash?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:The most common “defense” in bicycle crash cases is no defense at all. Let me be blunt: I didn’t see Mr. or Ms. bicyclist, is not a defense. It is an indictment. Nevertheless, it is a so-called justification for causing a crash that I hear over and over in my law practice, the ol’ “unseeing eye” defense. It is often raised in intersection cases and it goes a little something like this: The motorist asserts that he or she entered the intersection while carefully looking in all directions before beginning to turn. No bicyclists were seen. As the motorist executes his or her turn, however, the bicyclist materialized, seemingly out of nowhere. The defense asserts that the collision itself notwithstanding, the motorist was careful, not negligent and, therefore, should not be held responsible for the bicyclist’s injuries. It was just one of those things…
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