So far this year, at least two bicyclists have died after being struck by cars in Chicago. In both cases, the drivers disobeyed traffic laws and common sense. At this rate, an estimated six bicyclists will die in Chicago this year.
While this number would represent a significant drop in bicyclist fatalities from the previous two years in Chicago, it remains on par with the annual bicyclist deaths from the eight-year period beginning in 2012. And just as frightening is the increased number of injuries reported.
A 25% increase in serious injuries
The Feb. 28 death of a 41-year-old man marked the first bicyclist fatality this year in Chicago. A car driver disobeyed left turn signal and drove straight through an intersection, striking a bicyclist at a pedestrian crossing. In the other fatality, a 42-year-old bicyclist was run over on April 16 by a car whose driver fled the scene with the bicycle still attached to her vehicle.
Illinois state data revealed that roughly five or six bicyclists died annually in Chicago from 2012 to 2019. However, that number jumped to nine in 2020 and then to 10 in 2021.
Also, the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency noted that the city has seen a 25% increase in the number of bicyclists and pedestrians seriously injured in through September 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.
Behavioral change needed among drivers
City officials have long been concerned about bicycle crashes and bicyclist fatalities. Chicago did a six-year study from 2005 to 2010, determining in that time 32 bicyclist fatalities occurred. Even more than a decade ago, officials grew alarmed by the increase in bicycle crashes.
Back then, the city concluded that the vast majority of bicycle crashes were preventable based on two things: proper street design and a behavioral change among drivers. This same still holds true for today.
Chicago has seen an increased number of bike lanes created in the past decade as one way to address the former. However, reckless and negligent behavior continues among motor vehicle drivers, who blow through traffic lights and stop signs, fail to yield at crosswalks and subscribe to distracted driving.
Remain alert and enjoy cycling
Most bicyclists are aware of the potential hazards when riding in Chicago. Remain alert to them, wear protective gear including a helmet and continue to enjoy cycling.