The crash report for the Dustin Valenta case, along with the responding officer’s failure to report the near-fatal hit-and-run to the Chicago Police Department’s Major Accidents Investigation Unit, suggests the CPD needs to beef up its training for responses to bike crashes. On February 8, Valenta was cycling past Artemio’s Bakery, 1443 North Milwaukee in Wicker Park, when he was doored by a motorist in a parked car, then run over by a second driver who fled then the scene. The cyclist suffered a cracked skull, broken shoulder blades and hip, 23 cracked ribs and a punctured lung.
In the narrative section of the recently released Illinois Traffic Crash Report, the officer wrote that a witness said while Valenta lay in the road after being doored, he might have been struck by a pick-up truck, which did not stop. Security camera footage recovered from a nearby Citibank by Valenta’s lawyer Mike Keating clearly shows a white pick-up running over the prone cyclist. Despite the severity of Valenta’s injuries, listed as “serious” on the crash report, and the reported hit-and-run, for some reason Major Accidents wasn’t notified about the crash until two weeks later, which Keating says delayed the search for the truck driver.
The crash report shows that the first driver was cited with a violation. But, bizarrely, instead of charging her with violating Chicago Municipal Code ordinance 9-80-035, which prohibits unsafely opening a car door into traffic, the officer cited her for violating ordinance 9-24-090, which requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to people on horseback. Perhaps he confused the word “equestrian” with “pedestrian.” At any rate, it’s clear that the CPD needs to do a better job of educating officers about the dooring issue.
The ordinance the first driver was cited for violating:
9-24-090 Equestrians to have right-of-way
The operator of any vehicle shall yield the right-of- way to a person riding a horse on a bridle path where such bridle path crosses a driveway, when signalled to do so by the raising of the arm of the rider. Nothing in this section shall relieve an equestrian from the duty of exercising due care and of obeying official traffic- control devices.
Keating is currently working on identifying the white pick-up shown in the grainy bank video. Security cameras from a nearby pawnshop and a clothing store were not pointed at the street, but he has subpoenaed footage from a nearby Walgreens in hopes that it will show the truck. Citibank has also agreed to give him the hard drive for their security video, which has jumps and a five-second lapse. Using the hard drive, he hopes to find one good frame that, when enhanced, will reveal the license plate number. “We’re extraordinarily lucky to have the Citibank footage,” he said.