Bobby Cann’s Killer Charged With Reckless Homicide; IDOT Feigns Concern

A memorial for Bobby Cann on Clybourn Avenue.
A memorial for Bobby Cann on Clybourn Avenue.

Robert “Bobby” Cann was cycling on Clybourn Avenue last Wednesday when he was hit and killed by Ryne San Hamel, 28, of Park Ridge, driving a Mercedes sedan at 50 MPH, with a blood-alcohol content of .127, according to police. San Hamel appeared in court on Saturday where he was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane. He is being held on $100,000 bond and had his passport revoked.

Attorney Mike Keating provided an excellent summary of what these charges mean on his blog:

Reckless homicide is when a person unintentionally kills another person while behaving recklessly. Unintentionally means that there was no criminal intent to kill the person. Reckless means that the person was acting with total disregard for the safety and welfare of others. The difference between a murder charge and a reckless homicide charge is the idea of “criminal intent” and whether the person was actually setting out to kill the other person. Keep reading.

Bike salute for Robert "Bobby" Cann
Critical Mass visits the crash site.

On Friday evening, the monthly Critical Mass bike ride passed by a memorial to Cann. Riders raised their bikes in a salute to Cann, held a moment of silence, and then applauded.

On The Chainlink, a discussion has started about the significance of pushing for protected bike lanes across the city, as well as blaming the driver for choosing to get behind the wheel while drunk. The question is, if San Hamel had a BAC of less than 0.08, the legal limit, would he still be blamed for the crash? Would it have just been an “accident” that protected bike lanes might have prevented? A barrier is the only way to protect a bicyclist from a car traveling at 50 mph, whether the driver is drunk or sober.

San Hamel is scheduled to appear at the Cook County courthouse at 26th and California on July 17 at 9 a.m., and 18th District police officers are seeking volunteer court advocates. A post on Velocipede Salon explains that this means “the police coordinate with concerned citizens who appear in court to show their support for the case. The sense is, when the community gets involved it sends a signal to the judge that this isn’t ‘just another DUI’ and helps to encourage stricter sentencing.” You can contact the 18th District CAPS officers at 312-742-5778 for more info. Updated: More details on The Chainlink from Active Transportation Alliance’s Jason Jenkins.

Bob Kastigar, a longtime Chicago bike activist and Critical Mass rider, has started a petition demanding that the county’s top prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, send the case to court instead of making a plea bargain. People from around the United States, and one from Canada, are signing on to have San Hamel stand “in open and public court.”

As it stands, the Chicago Department of Transportation can not install protected bike lanes, which shelter cyclists from out-of-control cars, on Clybourn. This is because the Illinois Department of Transportation has prohibited the installation of protected lanes on state jurisdiction roads until CDOT collects three years of “safety data” on existing Chicago PBLs. IDOT has not blocked installation of buffered bike lanes.

Perhaps responding to our coverage of the crash, which mentioned the PBL issue, and/or online discussions that followed on venues like The Chainlink, on Friday IDOT tweeted a two-part message that they support CDOT’s efforts to install buffered lanes on Clybourn.

IDOT is touting their support for buffered lanes, mere road striping which offers cyclists little protection from drunk drivers, but they have not changed their policy towards protected and buffered lanes at all in response to Cann’s death. They are simply covering themselves. For the agency to profess concern for safety in the wake of the crash without lifting the ban on protected lanes, which might have prevented this tragedy, is blatantly hypocritical.

 

 

IDOT, bike lanes, and Twitter
Screenshot of the full conversation as of nighttime on June 2.
  • Fred

    I have been saying for many years that I can take a lot of cab rides for the price of a DUI. This guy is about to find out just how many.

  • Adam Herstein

    As I have said on the Chainlink thread, this is not a bike lane issue. Protected bike lanes would not have stopped Mr. Hamel from driving drunk, and would have not protected Bobby from the car. The real issue here is preventing reckless driving. Bike lanes are irrelevant in this situation.

  • Kevin Womac

    In all the coverage I read about the case so far I came across one mention that the cyclist was southbound on Larabee, which makes me think that the driver ran a red light on Clyborn. But now I can’t seem to find the mention. What do you know?
    Also, all the bad press the driver has received about his lifestyle is a little ironic. If he hadn’t just killed someone, he’d be touted as a hero- the perfect party animal. Partying was his job- isn’t that the American Dream? leaving the 3 o’clock bar for the 4 o’clock bar, etc.. I think some media coverage ought to focus on how F’ed up our society is.

  • Clement Robinson

    You don’t think running into a bunch of barriers before he hit anyone might have made him stop or at least slow down?

  • Kevin Womac

    I meant to complete the earlier thought. If it was the case that Cann was riding south-bound on Larabee, the PBL wouldn’t have helped him at all – underscoring the bigger issue of DUI

  • Adam Herstein

    Concrete barriers, yes. But Chicago only installed flexible bollards which offer zero protection. IIRC, the cyclist was hit in the intersection, so even concrete barriers would not have helped.

  • Adam Herstein

    There’s no way that had he not killed someone and still been charged with a DUI that he would have been “touted as a hero”. Most Americans tend to take drunk driving pretty seriously.

  • Kevin Womac

    I meant before the crash incident. When he was just party animal number one.

  • Fred

    Bollards my not have prevented him from getting hit, but the narrowing of the road as a result of installing those flexible bollards my have kept the driver’s speed down.

  • Bike lanes are very relevant in this situation. Cann was cycling in the 1300 Block of Clybourn and the driver was heading southeast on Clybourn; the details of the crash are not clear yet. Any kind of PBLs would have narrowed the roadway, which might have reduced the driver’s speed. If the crash happened mid-block, instead of at the intersection, parking-protected lanes would have helped shelter the cyclist from the impact. Even flexible posts may have helped keep the driver in his lane.

  • Anonymous

    Some concern is growing that the drunken driver may easily be offered a plea bargain to reduce his sentence and offer that state cover for processing the crime. His “sentence” might be reduced to a simple monetary fine.

    Don’t let this happen: sign this petition to the Cook County State’s Attorney to encourage the stage to ask for a full and open trial and to NOT agree to any plea bargain.

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/no-plea-bargain-for-ryne?source=c.em.cp&r_by=522621

  • Fred

    I had similar thoughts when reading the article and looking at the intersection on Google maps. If Bobby had been traveling north on Larrabee, stopped for a red light, then the light changed, or was about to change, he started to cross, Ryne hit the gas to speed through his red light, hitting Bobby. I imagine the result would look like the descriptions I have read.

  • Police say the crash took place on the 1300 block of Clybourn, which could mean the intersection of Larrabee and Clybourn, or the next block south. Cann had just left work at Groupon, Chicago and Larrabee, and lived at Belmont and Southport, so he had almost certainly been riding north on Larrabee before the collision.

    It’s unclear whether he was continuing north on Larrabee, turning northwest on Clybourn, or possibly southeast on Clybourn, which would have made sense if he was going to Yojimbo’s Garage bike store, when the driver struck him.

  • Anonymous

    A bike lane stripe may have kept the driver from veering over and hitting the bicyclist. More than one study has found about a 30% reduction in risk of injuries when riding in a bike lane compared to a nearby street that does not have them. Drivers are conditioned to stay within the stripes on a street.

  • CL

    It sounds like what happened fits the definition of reckless homicide. As for the question of whether he would be blamed if he hadn’t been drinking, I think he could also be charged for speeding (I’m assuming the speed limit is not 50 mph on that road?). If he were driving the speed limit and not drunk, maybe he wouldn’t be charged with reckless homicide — but if that were the case, this probably wouldn’t have happened at all.

  • Scott Presslak

    There’s no evidence that only a PBL could’ve prevented this accident. In the pictures from Steve Vance’s last article regarding this accident (http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/05/30/driver-kills-cyclist-on-clybourn-where-idot-is-blocking-protected-bike-lanes/ ), the crash occurred within the taper of the Clybourn approach to Larrabee — note that the northwestbound left turn lane is beginning where the Mercedes came to rest, meaning the accident would’ve occurred closer to the intersection.

    Even if Clybourn did get the PBL treatment, this area would likely have still been part of the taper away from the intersection and thus lack the line of parked cars that provides the protection of a Chicago PBL. The functional differences between a PBL and BBL at this crash site would be minimal.

  • While drunk? I doubt it.
    Even so the condition of many bike lanes in Chicago is such that you can’t even see the line anymore, it’s worn away and nobody’s painting over it.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a good chance that you are right. Here’s a evaluation of blood alcohol levels and driving impairment by the Center for Disease Control:

    http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Impaired_Driving/bac.html

  • To me, that table is a reason to have a 0.00 BAC law for driving. If even at 0.02% there is a decline in ability to do two things at once or see as normal, that’s enough reason to not get behind the wheel.
    Driving is a huge responsibility, while many people can handle it differently, you can’t amend a law for each person. Anyway I just don’t think a bike lane stripe would have helped in this scenario. Really, we don’t even know if a PBL could have helped unless we know exactly where the impact was.

  • It’s not clear yet where San Hamel struck Cann, and the presence of parked cars to the left of the bike lane on a PBL, would have been more likely to slow down the drunk driver than BBL stripes on the road, which he might not have noticed.

    BTW, we don’t use the word “accident” to describe traffic crashes, especially when the driver is wasted and speeding. San Hamel made a decision to get drunk, get behind the wheel and drive 50 MPH, and it wasn’t an accident that someone got killed.

  • Scott Presslak

    Apologies for the improper nomenclature, but my point is that PBLs take up more room than the unmarked shared lane there today. With the taper of the turn lane, plus the extra space required for an enhanced bicycle facility, it’s possible that there would not be on-street parking at the location of the collision and thus the effectiveness of the PBL would be reduced. The only barrier in place at such a lane taper would be paint and flexible bollards, no parked cars.

  • Typically, especially in Chicago, protected bike lanes use a line of parked cars as a barrier, not concrete:
    http://www.activetrans.org/bikeways/101

    Just having a PBL doesn’t mean cars will be parked there all the time, but a parked car is a lot better protection than bollards, or just paint on the road. A PBL would certainly have given Bobby a better chance.

    The statistics also show that protected bike lanes reduce injuries significantly, more than buffered lanes do:
    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/10/22/study-protected-bike-lanes-reduce-injury-risk-up-to-90-percent/

  • The presence of parked cars to the left of a protected bike lane on Clybourn northwest of Larrabee might have caused the driver to reduce his speed before he arrived at the crash site.

  • David Gebhart

    The impression I got from talking to Marcus of Yojimbo’s was that he was hit in the intersection, San Hamel lost control after that, bounced off at least one parked car before skidding sideways in front of the shop. Northbound on Larrabee makes sense as a commute route from Groupon.

  • spare_wheel

    Did you even bother reading the study you cited? First of all, the BC study did not compare bike lanes with separated infrastructure. The regression analysis only compared individual infrastructure types to a control set. Anyone using that study to claim that bike lanes are less safe than cycletracks is showing their statistical and scientific illiteracy.

    Its also amusing that in that same study fully protected bike paths had a *higher* absolute accident rate bike lanes (not that this is statistically informative, mind you). Somehow the bikesbelong cycle track boosters never site that piece of data (cherry picking).

    And finally the “n” for cycle tracks in the BC study was a paltry 10. Large European studies from Denmark and Germany uniformly show that cycletracks cause a significant increase in hospitalization-associated injuries versus bike lanes.

  • Spare Wheel, it sounds like you’re a vehicular cyclist. Logan Square Driver will be pleased to hear he or she has another ally! http://logansquaredriver.tumblr.com/post/52917740463/know-your-allies-3-vehicular-cyclists

  • Nathanael

    It’s important to set a level where the testing is a fairly reliable indicator of deliberate alcohol ingestion — so for instance a 0.0001% level, I might really not trust the blood alcohol test, it might be used to frame people. (I’m not talking about situations where drunk drivers hit or kill people, but where they just get pulled over on a “stop-and-frisk” type unwarranted search.)

    But at 0.02% we could probably rely on the test, so that would be a pretty reasonable level.

  • Nathanael

    The appearance of a more narrow road is well-documented to cause drivers to slow down. This is actually a very important effect in traffic engineering — possibly *the most* important effect, since almost nothing else is documented to make drivers slow down — yet many state DOTs haven’t changed their dangerous “wide roads and wide shoulders” policies yet.

  • Vince

    Bikers, they act like they own the road.