Divvy Bikes in Chicago: City’s Latest Expansion Plan and Legal Consequences of Divvy Bike Crashes

Jul 23, 2020

Divvy Bikes in ChicagoSimilar to electric scooters, bike sharing is another new transportation trend that has been popping up in cities across the U.S. However, just as electric scooters can sometimes cause issues for riders and city drivers, ignorance of proper safety protocols while riding rental bikes can also lead to significant personal injury lawsuits. In Chicago, Divvy – a bike sharing system operated by Lyft – launched in 2013, and has since been steadily increasing the amount of bikes it rents to city commuters. Most recently, the Chicago Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) announced its plan to expand the city’s partnership with Divvy into Chicago’s far South side neighborhoods. Today’s blog will update commuters on the city’s newest Divvy expansion plan and explain the legal consequences of a Divvy bike crash by using recent Chicago traffic accidents as case studies. The post concludes with a brief set of safety tips for using Divvy bikes.

Background on Divvy Bikes in Chicago

Interestingly, the history of bike sharing in Chicago begins with Mayor Richard Daley riding a rental bike in 2007 at Paris’ Town Hall. As the story goes, Mayor Daley was so impressed by this ecologically friendly mode of transportation that, upon his return to Chicago, he set out to make Chicago the next city to use rental bikes. Mayor Daley asked bike-sharing companies to submit plans to rent 1,500 bikes in the city, but after a number of delays with the companies and otherwise, Chicago did not actually roll out this plan until 2013.

The city’s bike-sharing program started with Divvy (the official provider of rental bikes in Chicago) offering 750 bikes for rent at a total of 75 docking stations. Over the years, the number of available bikes has ballooned to 6,000, and there are now 600 docking stations spread throughout the city. Divvy even expanded its program to the suburbs in 2016 when it set up docking stations in the nearby suburb of Evanston.

In July 2020, CDOT officials announced Divvy’s three-part plan to expand rental bike accessibility to virtually every neighborhood in Chicago. Part one focuses on the city’s far South side, promising to build 66 new docking stations in this area by September 2020. Then, Divvy plans to erect more than 100 additional docking stations throughout Chicago’s West and Northwest side neighborhoods. By the middle of 2021, Divvy estimates that it will run 16,500 bikes (including a new fleet of 10,500 electric-assist bikes) and 800 docking stations throughout the city. The Chicago Tribune’s map below outlines Divvy’s three-part expansion plan.

Case Study: What are the Potential Legal Consequences of a Divvy Bike Crash?

As with accidents involving an e-scooter or motorcycle, crashing a Divvy bike can be extremely dangerous for the rider who, at most, is likely wearing only a helmet for protection. These dangers have manifested themselves a number of times since Chicago started its bike-sharing program in 2013. For example, last summer two Divvy riders were hit in separate hit-and-run incidents within a month of each other, resulting in both riders being checked into the hospital in critical condition. The first accident involved a man and his wife riding through the River North area, and the second crash involved a young woman riding near Humboldt Park.

Even more tragic is the story of 25-year-old Chicago resident Virginia Murray, who was struck and killed while riding a Divvy bike in 2016. Specifically, Murray was riding in the bike lane on Sacramento Avenue next to a flatbed truck planning to turn right at the upcoming intersection. With Murray riding next to the truck, the driver turned right and caused the fatal accident. Despite wearing a helmet at the time, Murray suffered extreme head trauma and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. According to the Murray family’s attorneys, Virginia Murray’s death was the nation’s first bike sharing fatality.

Approximately one month after the crash, Murray’s family filed suit on her behalf against the truck driver and his employer, A&B Flooring Supplies, Inc. The family’s wrongful death case alleged that the driver acted negligently by ignoring Murray in the bike lane and also failed to yield to a bicyclist. The complaint also listed Divvy, the city of Chicago, and CDOT as respondents in discovery, but not as actual defendants to the lawsuit. After three years of litigation, the Murray family declined the defendants’ $500,000 settlement offer and proceeded to trial. The jury originally awarded $7 million to the Murray family, which was then lowered to $5.25 million after the jury found Murray to be 25% at fault for the crash under Illinois’ comparative negligence standard.

Bike Sharing Safety Tips

As the above example illustrates, Divvy bike crashes can result in serious consequences, both in terms of injuries to the riders and potential legal liability for the driver. Here are a few quick tips for staying safe while riding a Divvy rental bike:

  • Wear a helmet. You’ve probably heard it since you first started riding a bike, but wearing a helmet truly can save your life in the event of a crash. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85 percent.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guide to proper helmet fitting can be found HERE, and Consumer Reports’ “Best Bike Helmets of 2019” list can be found HERE.
  • Check your Divvy bike before riding. It is always worth checking the operation of your Divvy bike before getting on the road. Test ride your bike in an open area near the docking station, and be sure to check the bike’s tires, brakes, and chain.
  • Keep your hands free to ride. Both hands should consistently be on the handlebars and ready to brake at a moment’s notice. That means that all of your belongings – especially your cell phone – should be in a safe location while riding. Backpacks or drawstring bags can be extremely useful tools for riders planning to ride while carrying several items.
  • Be visible to drivers. This tip is most important to riders who decide to ride Divvy bikes at night. Wearing bright, fluorescent clothing can help drivers notice you on the road. Divvy bikes also have reflectors and lights built in, but if riding at night, adding another light to your bike or body can add to your visibility.
  • Know your surroundings at all times. The last, and maybe the most important, tip concerns rider awareness on the road. You should always be riding in the bike lane (if available), in the direction of traffic, and obeying all traffic signals. It is also important to be extra cautious near intersections while simultaneously watching for hazards such as potholes, rocks, or broken glass.

If you are the victim of a bike crash, check out our tips on what to do immediately following the crash. Furthermore, should you have any questions about your ability to recover damages from such a crash, contact the personal injury experts at Coffman Law today for a FREE consultation.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a small, results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.