Bicyclist Struck in Designated Bike Lane – Esposito v. Sims Reinforces Need for Improved Bike Safety in Chicago

Biking in Chicago is a great way to get around town, avoid rush hour traffic jams, and get some exercise while reducing emissions. However, Chicago bikers are also at risk from the heavy traffic and congested roads. There has been a push by Chicago’s new mayor to create safer bike lanes and improve the quality of biking in Chicago. The personal injury lawsuit of Cameron Esposito v. Maria Sims, 07 L 13136, demonstrates why these measures are important.

In 2007, 26 year-old Cameron Esposito was riding her bike down Chicago’s busy Milwaukee Avenue. At the time, she was biking in one of Chicago’s designated bicycle lanes, a painted area that generally runs between the roadway traffic and parked cars on the street. As she was nearing the intersection of Milwaukee and Halsted, Maria Sims was driving her car out of a car wash and pulled out in front of Esposito.

Esposito was unable to swerve out of the way and ran right into Sims’s vehicle. As a result of the Chicago bike accident, Esposito suffered contusions on her right and left knees and hit her chin on Sims’s windshield. In addition, Esposito later reported experiencing sciatic nerve pain radiating from her back down her legs. The long-term effects of the Chicago bike accident ended up being the largest factor in the jury’s verdict, making up $62,767 of the total $100,000 award. The remainder of the award was comprised of $20,000 for past pain and suffering, $16,358 for past medical expenses, $500 for property damage to the bicycle, and $375 for lost time from work.

The fact that Esposito’s bike injuries occurred while she was riding in a designated bike lane seems to add credence to Chicago bike safety advocates’ claim that Chicago needs to institute a better system for keeping bikers safe. The City of Chicago has taken steps to make its streets safer for bike riders. In July 2011 it completed the construction on Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie Avenue. The protected bike lane lines between the sidewalk and parked cars and has flexible marker posts to delineate it from the parking lane. However, despite providing much more protection from moving cars, bike riders still need to be on the lookout in order to avoid dooring by passengers in parked cars.

Dooring is a phrase used to refer bike accidents occurring when a bicyclist runs into a newly opened car door. The bicyclist does not always see the motorist park their vehicle, or return to their vehicle and would therefore not be aware of the danger. Likewise, dooring incidents often occur when the motorist does not check for cyclists prior to opening their door. And because there is often little warning to the bicyclist, dooring accidents often occur when the bicyclist is riding at full speed; when the bicyclist hits the car door he or she is often thrown head first off their bike. Dooring accidents are a major concern among the bike community. And while the protected bike lane might protect Chicago cyclist from moving vehicles, its proximity to parked cars means bikers still need to be on the lookout for opening car doors.

In a world where cyclists and motorists share the roadways it seems almost impossible to completely eliminate bicycle accidents. Yet the City of Chicago seems to be moving towards making the roadways safer for both bicyclists and motorists. These efforts, combined with bicycle safety education, can help reduce the incidences of unnecessary bicycle accidents such as that of Cameron Esposito.

Kreisman Law Offices handles Chicago bicycle accident lawsuits for individuals and families in and around Chicago and its surrounding areas, including Oak Lawn, River Forest, Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, and Mount Prospect.

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