Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Narrow Tort Immunity Exception for Bicyclists Previously Given by First District

In a prior blog, HeplerBroom attorney Stephanie Weiner discussed the First District’s holding in Alave v. City of Chicago. In this case, the First District appeared to create a narrow exception to the Tort Immunity Act for a cyclist who was injured in a crosswalk near a Divvy bike rental station in Chicago. However, the Supreme Court disagreed and recently reversed the First District’s holding. Alave v. City of Chicago 2023 IL 128602 In doing so, the Court affirmed the established precedent on the issue of intended and permitted users and reinforced the principle that courts must look to “affirmative physical manifestations” on the property itself to evaluate the issue.

Case Background

In Alave, the plaintiff bicyclist was injured when he rode over a pothole in a City crosswalk. The trial court granted the City’s section 5/2-619(a)(9) motion to dismiss. It found that under the Tort Immunity Act, the plaintiff bicyclist was neither an intended nor a permitted user of the roadway; therefore, the City did not owe plaintiff a duty to maintain its crosswalk. The court noted the long-standing precedent in Illinois that pedestrians, not bicyclists, are the only intended and permitted users of crosswalks.

The First District reversed. It found that, in this limited circumstance, where a roadway/crosswalk was adjacent to a Divvy rental bike station, the City intended that cyclists use the crosswalk and therefore owed a duty to this particular plaintiff.

Illinois Supreme Court Ruling

The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed with the First District. It held that while the plaintiff cyclist was a permitted user, the City did not intend for the plaintiff to be riding a bicycle at the location in question. There were no bike lanes or other markings on the roadway to show that the City intended cyclists to use the roadway. While the Court noted that the Divvy bike rental station was a factor to consider, the presence of bike rental stations did not alter the fundamentals of established precedent. It affirmed the general rule that, to determine a municipality’s intent, a court must look to “affirmative physical manifestations” on the property itself.

The Takeaway

The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision reaffirmed that cyclists are only intended users of the roadway when the municipality demonstrates its intent to have cyclists use the roadway. That clear intent was not present here, even in light of the close proximity of the Divvy station.

  • Stephanie W. Weiner

    Stephanie W. Weiner focuses her practice on the defense of civil litigation and risk transfer, with a focus on matters involving:

    • municipal and governmental departments and agencies
    • commercial premises
    • trucking and motor ...

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Kerri Forsythe

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