Chicago is one of the nation’s bike-friendliest cities

Bicyclists on the road
Motion blurred bicyclists in traffic

Chicago is one of the nation’s bike-friendliest cities, but it wasn’t always that way. At one point, the two-wheelers / “High Wheelers”, introduced in 1870, were banned from parts of the city; according to the Chicago Park District, the “High Wheelers” were prohibited from Lincoln Park because of the danger they posed for riders and pedestrians alike. The newest piece of Chicago’s vast transit system does not rumble between the downtown streets on the elevated rail lines or utilize the fleet of hybrid buses. The City, with the urging of Mayor Emanuel, is making it easy for commuters and visitors to get around via their bicycles, with new protected bike lanes and stoplights with bike signals.

It is important to note that while Illinois does not currently have a state bicycle helmet law, several municipalities do; Barrington requires all persons under 17 to wear a helmet while Cicero, Inverness and Skokie require helmets for persons less than 16 years of age. The City of Chicago only requires helmets for messengers.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune about “Bicycle Helmet Laws” indicated that states that require children and teenagers to wear helmets report fewer deaths involving bicycles and cars. Researchers looked at the number of U.S. bicycle deaths between 1999 and 2010 and found that states with bicycle helmet laws had 20% fewer bike-related fatalities for people under the age of 16.

There is no doubt that if you are in a bicycle accident involving a head injury, a helmet may very well save your life or prevent brain damage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2008 Traffic Safety Facts, 70% of cyclists involved in a fatal crash suffer from head injuries, and helmets are 85 to 88% effective in preventing head and brain injuries. The NHTSA calls helmets “the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities from bicycle crashes.”

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute supports helmet laws covering all age groups and they work to raise awareness that helmets save lives. Many riders and parents don’t realize that they and their children should use a helmet. Since bicycles on a public road are vehicles, the bicycle rider has the rights and obligations similar to those of any vehicle user especially in heavily populated and unsafe road environments, so requiring a bicycle helmet should be considered similar to the requirement to wear a seatbelt in a car. Ankin Law handles accidents where cyclists are involved; for a stronger case it is important to show that you or your family member was riding safe. In order to demonstrate this you should have a bike helmet on, stay off the cell phone and don’t have ear buds in.