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Illinois bike lane ban questioned after cyclist's death

A Chicago proposal to add bicycle lanes to Clybourn Avenue in Old Town was thwarted by state transportation officials. The Illinois Department of Transportation oversees a section of the neighborhood street where a bicyclist died after being struck by a car.

IDOT ordered a stop to bike lane construction on roads the agency manages until next year, the anticipated end of a long-term safety study. Observers wonder whether holding up Chicago's plans cost a 26-year-old bike rider his life.

The cycle was the second vehicle a Mercedes hit after colliding with another car. A volunteer rescuer said the Mercedes' three occupants appeared to be unhurt. The cyclist lay about 40 feet from the car wreck. The victim's leg was severed.

An investigation of the fatal crash is incomplete. Police have not filed charges against the unidentified 28-year-old man whose car struck the bike rider.

Reports did not include a cause for the head-on collision. Isolating the car accident from the auto-bicycle crash will help police understand whether the cyclist's death was due to a criminal act.

Criminal wrongdoing may influence the outcome of a civil trial. A civil claim gains strength with evidence of a crime, although negligence includes behaviors that may not break a prosecutable law.

The primary defendant in a wrongful death action likely would be the driver of the Mercedes. Secondary blame could be placed on government officials for neglecting to protect the public from known danger.

An attorney would probe the reasons Chicago officials wanted a bike lane on Clybourn Avenue. Did lawmakers notice a history of injury accidents or fatalities involving cyclists in the neighborhood? Was Chicago unable to safeguard its residents because of the state mandate?

The state transportation department's action forced inaction in Chicago. Defendants who knew or should have foreseen unsafe conditions may be held liable in victims and families' claims for injuries or wrongful deaths.

Source:  chi.streetsblog.org, "Driver Kills Cyclist on Clybourn, Where IDOT Is Blocking Protected Bike Lanes" Steven Vance, May. 30, 2013

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