Justice for South Side Dad Who Was Right-Hooked in 31st Street Protected Lane
There’s some good news in the case of Andrew Berg, a South Side father who was struck and injured by a right-turning driver while bicycling in the 31st Street protected bike lane last May. After suing the driver and winning the case in arbitration, yesterday he received a settlement to cover his hospital bills, pain and suffering, and damage to his cycle.
At the time of the crash Berg was riding his “long-tail” cargo bike from his job at the University of Chicago to his home in McKinley Park in the rain, pedaling west in the 31st Street protected lane with a green light. Westbound driver Amy Kudlov made a right turn onto Indiana Avenue, striking him in a “mixing zone” just east of the intersection, where drivers are supposed to yield to bike traffic while merging across the bike lane. Berg was knocked to the pavement suffering abrasions to the right side of his body, including his elbow, knee, and ankle. He sustained permanent scarring on his elbow.
Although visibility was poor, Berg says he had two bright lights on in the front of his bike and three in the back, so he should have been easy to spot, but responding police officers didn’t ticket Kudlov.
The driver gave the cyclist her name and telephone number and promised to send him her insurance info that evening. But Berg says Kudlov never responded to repeated calls and text messages, so he filed a small claims case against her, which eventually got moved to an arbitration hearing at the request of the driver’s attorney.
According to Berg, he had initially had trouble finding legal representation because there wasn’t the potential for a large settlement. But he says that after Streetsblog Chicago ran a post about the crash, he sent the piece to the bike-focused firm Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog sponsor), and the firm agreed to take on the case. “They said they didn’t want to leave a cyclist behind and were trying to get justice,” he says. “I’m thankful to everyone in the bike community and the attorneys for supporting me.”
Berg says a highlight of the January 18 arbitration hearing was when Kudlov’s attorney objected to Berg’s explanation of the bike-and-chevron symbol in the mixing zone where the driver struck him. The cyclist cited the definition of “Marked Shared Lanes” on the city of Chicago’s bike map as the source for his knowledge, noting that, unlike bike lanes, motorists are allowed to drive in this portion of the roadway, but they must yield to cyclists. The arbitrator declared his testimony to be “expert” and overruled the objection.
The cyclist says that two other factors that worked in his favor were that Kudlov’s testimony was inconsistent about whether she was in the through lane or the turn lane when she entered the intersection, and she acknowledged that she saw a light in her sideview mirror prior to the crash. “My assumption is she saw one or both of my headlights, and one was a 350-lumen flashing light, but she still didn’t check her blind spot before turning, and that’s how she hit me.”
Berg says the crash hasn’t deterred him from riding his bike. “I’m actually more commited than ever to promoting safe cycling and bike infrastructure.” His family recently moved to Hyde Park and he taught his five-year-old daughter to bike last week, so he’s looking into re-launching Hyde Park’s Kidical Mass child-friendly bike ride. He also has a three-year-old son.
“In the grand scheme of things, I’m glad the crash wasn’t more serious,” Berg says. “My kids weren’t with me [on the back of the cargo bike]. They could have been killed.”
Berg added that he took his children to the “ghost bike” installation ceremony for fallen cyclist Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23, who was fatally struck by a right-turning truck driver at Addision and Damen last fall. “So we’re educating our children about how much fun it is to ride a bike, but also the responsibilities and dangers,” he said.