Chicago isn’t liable for bicyclist injured by pothole on road that wasn’t designated bike route, court rules

Chicago isn’t liable for bicyclist injured by pothole on road that wasn’t designated bike route, court rules

Tort Law

Chicago isn’t liable for bicyclist injured by pothole on road that wasn’t designated bike route, court rules

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A bicyclist who wasn’t on a designated bicycle route when he was injured by a pothole can’t recover from the city of Chicago, even though there was a Divvy bicycle rental station nearby, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last month. Image from Shutterstock.

A bicyclist who wasn’t on a designated bicycle route when he was injured by a pothole can’t recover from the city of Chicago, even though there was a Divvy bicycle rental station nearby, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last month.

The state supreme court ruled against bicyclist Clark Alave, who said he was thrown from his bicycle after striking the pothole in 2019, fracturing his teeth, injuring his hip and shoulder, and causing facial cuts and scars.

The Chicago Sun-Times, the Cook County Record and Capitol News Illinois via WTTW have coverage.

The Illinois Supreme Court interpreted the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, which said cities have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for use by people “intended and permitted” to use the property.

Chicago permits bicyclists to use any roadway that motorists use, but that doesn’t mean that bicyclists are intended to use all those roadways, the Illinois Supreme Court said in its Dec. 14 opinion.

In Alave’s case, he was riding on a road without a designated bike lane and signage, indicating that the city did not intend him to be using the road, the state supreme court said.

The presence of a Divvy station about 100 feet away only establishes that the city permitted bicycling on the road—not that it intended it, the state supreme court said. The Illinois Supreme Court noted that city code allows bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk to access the nearest bicycle lane; in this case, the nearest bicycle lane was one block away, the city said.

Michael S. Keating, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the advocacy nonprofit Ride Illinois, said in a statement the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision affirmed “harsh precedent” that distinguished between permitted and intended users of roads, according to the Cook County Record.

“This holding simply does not reflect that massive surge in bicycling that has occurred in Chicago, the suburbs and throughout the rest of Illinois,” Keating said. “On that fact alone I think the Illinois Supreme Court should have clarified more specifically what ‘intended’ means beyond just the presence of bike lanes, a bike map or signs.”

Keating did, however, praise the Illinois Supreme Court for a Nov. 30 decision holding that an uninsured motorist policy must cover a policyholder’s son who was injured by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle.

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