Bicyclists and motor vehicles are required by law to share the road. In big cities like Chicago, there are bike lanes which help provide some measure of separation between two-wheeled and four-wheeled transportation. But in rural areas, such regulation is much rarer – so cars and bicycles are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, it is the bicyclist who usually suffers if a collision occurs.
Such was the situation in rural Jersey County in southwestern Illinois last weekend. A 52-year old woman from St. Louis was riding her bicycle south on Otterville Road a few miles north of Otterville on Saturday afternoon. About 12:15pm, she attempted to make a left turn onto West County Road toward Brown Cemetery. But a car who was following behind tried to pass her, and the bicyclist was struck by the vehicle. The St. Louis woman was ejected from her bike and was later pronounced dead at Jersey Community Hospital.
Illinois State Police say that the driver of the car was a 61-year old Carlinville woman. The article does not say whether the driver was cited by police for any moving violations, but it appears from the information given that the Carlinville woman will be held primarily or completely responsible for the accident and the death of the bicyclist. If this is the case, family members of the St. Louis woman would have solid grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver of the car. (Since the accident occurred in Jersey County, the plaintiffs would have to engage the services of an attorney who is licensed to practice in Illinois – even if the relatives themselves live in St. Louis or elsewhere in Missouri.)
If you are driving on a rural road and see a bicyclist, be sure to give him or her a large amount of space. If you want to pass, try to do so when you aren’t at an intersection. This reduces the chances that the person on the bike will try to turn while you are making your pass. Finally, remember that it only takes the slightest of impacts from your vehicle to send a bicycle out of control and cause serious or even fatal injuries to the bicyclist.