Driver Strikes, Kills Cyclist From Behind on Speedway Between Cemeteries


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7800 block of West Irving Park Road.

On Tuesday, May 14, around 9:10 pm, 83-year-old Leonard Ratajczyk was bicycling west on the 7800 block of West Irving Park Road in the Irving Woods neighborhood when the driver of a westbound Chevy Malibu struck and killed him, according to Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabella. Ratajczyk lived on the 3900 block of North Pacific Avenue, a few blocks west of the crash site, so it’s likely he was on his way home.

The cyclist was taken to Lutheran General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:51 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. According to his obituary, Ratajczyk, who had five sisters and brothers, leaves behind many fond nieces and nephews.

The driver was identified as Salvador Villagomez, 59, from the 4800 block of South Keeler, according to Mirabella. Villagomez was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The crash took place on a segment of Irving Park between two cemeteries, part of a one-mile stretch between Cumberland Avenue and Oriole Avenue with no stoplights or major cross streets, which encourages speeding.

Fatality Tracker: 2013 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 8 (7 were from hit-and-run crashes, 2 in truck crashes)
Bicyclist: 1

  • This is why I’m surprised the City’s official bike map lists some bike lanes adjacent to cemeteries as “recommended routes.” No way. Irving Park Road over in Uptown is also adjacent to a smaller cemetery and I would never bike on that street. People drive too fast.
    They do the same thing on Clark St, adjacent to two other cemeteries. There’s no stop signs/lights to slow them down; they don’t stop for pedestrians anyway, so crosswalks don’t help.

  • I agree that Irving Park east of Clark is pretty unbikeable, even though it’s a recommended bike route. It’s a shame, because otherwise it would be a good route to the lakefront, especially since the Berteau Greenway, two blocks north, will end at Clark.

    If Irving Park was bike-friendly you gould take the greenway east from Lincoln, head south on Clark two blocks and then take Irving to the Lake. Fortunately, Irving is one of the streets that is getting funding for new bike lanes, thanks to the 46th Ward participatory budgeting election: http://james46.org/uncategorized/2013-participatory-budgeting-projects/?utm_source=May8,2013&utm_campaign=Newsletter5-1-13&utm_medium=email

  • I actually meant to write “Lawrence” instead of Irving Park, but both are correct – Montrose (a possible alternative to the Irving Park route to the lake from Berteau) is equally bad, but a little narrower.
    Lawrence already has the lanes but I rarely see people on them, probably because there’s so much speeding. Hopefully the Leland greenway creates a good alternative to Lawrence!

  • Yeah, the Leland Greenway is going to be a great route to the lake.

  • Anonymous

    Cited with failure to reduce speed? Seriously? Does anyone else think that the moment you kill someone with a car you ought to at VERY LEAST lose your license for the remainder of your life?

  • If his family has the money for a lawyer, I’d hope they’re at least going to do a civil wrongful death suit.

  • CL

    That is confusing — I could see “failure to reduce speed” applying if something happened that made it difficult to avoid hitting the cyclist, like if the cyclist stopped suddenly or moved in front of the car suddenly — in that case, even though it would be partly the cyclist’s fault, it’s the driver’s responsibility to be driving slowly enough to break and avoid a collision — so he gets a ticket for failure to reduce speed. But if the cyclist was proceeding normally and the car just struck him out of nowhere, it seems like the charge should be a lot more serious.

  • I’m guessing that the police don’t have much to go by here except the fact that the cyclist was struck from behind, and the driver’s testimony.

  • Alzo

    Pulaski between Foster and Bryn Mawr isn’t a speedway- it’s a dragstrip.

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