02

Blog

Legal Reform Needed to Protect Cyclists

Friday afternoon I first saw a video of a driver viciously attacking a cyclist during the morning commute that day. The driver can be seen in a video running and punching a cyclist. As with many cell phone videos, this one doesn’t tell the whole story.

The incident began at approximately 7:50 am Friday morning when the green Mercedes pictured in the video pulled up behind two bicyclists in a bike lane on westbound Lawrence at Oakley. Traffic was backed up on Lawrence and the Mercedes was attempting to pass traffic on the right. The light at Oakley was red, so the bicyclists and adjacent line of cars were all waiting for the light to turn green. The Mercedes pulled up behind the cyclists, pushed one into the curb and almost drove over the second cyclist in an apparent attempt to force both cyclists out of the way. As you might imagine, the cyclists yelled at the driver. The driver then accelerated quickly and blew through the red light, striking a cyclist in the process. One of the cyclists followed the driver and attempted to get him to stop. The altercation in the video ensued.

It is my experience that Chicago Police Department doesn’t take bicyclist harassment or assault seriously. Although we have handled cases in which CPD pursued a hit and run driver or a harassing driver, most of the time these actions go unpunished. We will follow up on this story to find out if CPD actually charges the driver.

I’d expect that there were some injuries sustained in this incident, but often cyclists are harassed but not physically injured. In such an instance it is my experience that the CPD often does nothing to hold the offending driver responsible. If CPD doesn’t do anything and no one is injured the victim often has trouble finding a way of holding an offender responsible for their actions, partly because the Illinois Anti-Harassment statute has no provision for civil penalties.

Los Angeles and a few other places have anti-harassment statutes that provide for civil penalties, allowing cyclists to take violators to court themselves rather than relying on police. The key to such a law is to include a provision to provide for attorney fees taxed to the defendant driver if the cyclist wins at trial. Such a provision would allow attorneys to take smaller cases or cases with no physical injury. As the law currently stands in Illinois a cyclist can pursue a driver for an assault or battery, but their recovery for compensatory damages is tied to the amount of medical bills or the value of their damaged bicycle. Further, a cyclist suing for a civil battery or assault must bear the costs associated with suing the driver. If there isn’t an injury or medical treatment the cyclist will have a very difficult time finding a lawyer to take the case because the lawyer will be unable to take a fee that would justify the time to prepare and try a civil case.

Hopefully we’ll have good news to report regarding the offender from Friday. If not, it will be another story about a driver who got away with assaulting and harassing cyclists without being held responsible. Ideally the legislators in Illinois would consider adopting a law similar to that of LA and other places. If that happens cyclists will be able to hold road ragers and harassing drivers responsible for their actions.

Comments

Bruce Hagen Jul 17, 2018

On July 11, 2018, a very experienced rider and friend to many in the Rockdale County area, Albert “Ab” Roesel, was killed while out on a rural road doing a ride that he no doubt had done many times before.  Ab was 75 years old.   The police investigation concluded that Ab had been headed Southbound, […]

Read More
Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Load More