Despite Saturday’s Tragic Crash, Divvy Has a Strong Safety Record

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Travis Persaud.

Last weekend, medical student Travis Persaud was struck by two different drivers while riding a Divvy bike on Lake Shore Drive, a limited-access highway where cycling is prohibited. Persaud, 25, is the only person ever to have been critically injured while riding bike-share in Chicago since the system launched in June 2013.

Around 2:50 a.m. Saturday, Persaud was biking north on the highway near the Belmont exit, according to Officer Ana Pacheco of News Affairs. The 27-year-old male driver of a Mitsubishi told police the cyclist “was swerving between the two rightmost lanes” of the drive, Pacheco said. Persaud then “collided with and was thrown under” the car, according to Pacheco.

Another driver in a Nissan stopped in the second-rightmost lane to try to help Persaud, Pacheco said. However, a third motorist in a Honda was unable to stop, striking first the Nissan, the cyclist, and then the Mitsubishi, she said.

Persaud was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, according to Pacheco, and was the only person injured during the chain-reaction crash. The Honda driver, a 22-year-old male, was cited for driving without insurance. “Alcohol is believed to have played a factor in this accident, as the investigation revealed that the bicyclist had a high level of alcohol in his system,” Pacheco said.

A passenger in the Mitsubishi, which was in service as an Uber vehicle at the time, told DNAinfo on Saturday that Persaud’s left foot was severed and that there was a large cut on his head. However, an update DNA posted this morning stated that the cyclist did not lose his foot, but instead suffered a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder.

Persaud is currently in a medically induced coma, his father Frank told DNA. “His prognosis is critical, but he is stable… It will be a long road to recovery, but it’s looking upward.”

Travis Persaud is a third-year medical student who had recently moved to Chicago to do a ten-month rotation at Mount Sinai Hospital, his father said. The family told DNA that Travis lives in an apartment near the crash site, and they think he was trying to cross Lake Shore Drive in order to go home when he was struck.

This is the third media-reported case of a Divvy rider on a limited-access highway in Chicago, including a woman who was spotted on Lake Shore Drive in the summer of 2013, and a woman who was seen on the Dan Ryan in October. Several commenters on the DNA articles about Persaud ridiculed the cyclist for his poor judgment in biking on the drive while intoxicated, and argued that this case is evidence that Divvy is inherently dangerous.

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The Divvy rider on the Dan Ryan. Photo: Stephanie Kemen

Biking while drunk is technically legal in Illinois, but it’s obviously irresponsible behavior that can endanger both a cyclist and other road users. However, both Divvy and bike-share in general have an excellent track record for safety, partly due to the fact that the bikes are stable, slow, and highly visible to drivers.

As of yesterday, 3.1 million Divvy rides have been taken since the system launched a year and a half ago. Last month, Divvy general manager Elliot Greenberger told me there had been no cases of riders suffering injuries that were “sustained, caused hospitalization, or were life-threatening.”

Furthermore, last August, Reuters reported that there have been no bike-share-related deaths in the U.S. since modern bike-share debuted in this country seven years ago. A 33-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a truck driver while riding a Bixi cycle in Montreal last April appears to be the only North American bike-share fatality.

“It appears that Divvy riders on limited-access roads are an actual problem, and not occasional one-off events,” commented a Streetsblog reader in response to the news of Persaud’s crash on our morning headline stack. “Apparently, common sense and news stories aren’t enough, and its time to start discussing real solutions to the problem.”

Perhaps better signage at on-ramps would help prevent bike-share users from accidentally wandering onto Lake Shore Drive and the expressways. On the other hand, it appears that only one in a million Divvy rides has involved a cyclist on a limited-access highway — not exactly an epidemic.

Another reader responded that this morning’s headlines also included a wrong-way crash on the Ohio feeder that injured three people, an all-too-common scenario on Chicago expressways. “Your comment would have been more appropriate if you replaced ‘Divvy riders on limited-access roads’ with ‘automobile drivers going the wrong way on limited-access roads.’ The wrong-way driver issue is clearly a bigger problem.”

  • Chris

    how would this idiot biking on Lakeshore Drive at 2:50am possibly be a reflection on the safety of bikeshare? More of a reflection on a stupid person suffering from their own actions and affecting the lives of others who did nothing wrong.

  • I think what John meant is that there have been millions of Divvy rides with very few accidents.

    But in another way, drunkenly riding a Divvy on lakeshore drive, while not a good idea, is probably the safest vehicle to be operating under those circumstances. Do you think this guy was the only drunk driver(biker) on that road saturday night?

    Perhaps this guy (who killed someone) was out there:
    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/05/06/driver-in-wrong-way-crash-on-lake-shore-drive-released-on-bail/

    Or this guy:
    http://abc7chicago.com/archive/9516283/

    The only harm the biker caused was to himself and his friends and family.

  • C.C

    I just don’t understand the premise that I’m sure people in the anti-biking community will try and make. I have no idea how this would possibly reflect on Divvy. This is the fault of the person who decided to bike drunk at 3am and swerve on a highway into paths of cars. Any logical connection/causation to the underlying system of bikeshare is insane.

  • Is anyone else kind of curious about how Persaud was hit by these cars that apparently saw him for a long enough duration that they could say he was swerving from lane to lane. If you’re observing a biker long enough to see them swerving around, shouldn’t that be enough time to brake and avoid hitting them? Additionally, it says that there were cars stopped trying to help him when he was struck a second time by the Honda. If you’re driving on a multi-lane road and you’re passing a stopped car in an adjacent lane, especially one of the middle lanes, aren’t you doing so with extreme caution and reduced speed? I’d be very curious to know the speed of all the cars involved and how long the biker was visible to them.

    Let’s presume the cars were travelling at the 45 mph speed limit (which, in my experience on LSD, is a very generous presumption.) Their braking distance would be about 150 feet. and take about 4 seconds (which includes reaction time.) It probably takes even the most aggressive swerving bike a second or two to make it across a full lane of a road. Again all this is assuming that the biker “came out of nowhere” and there was a split second to react but it doesn’t seem like this is the case. I don’t know about you but if i see a biker someplace they shouldn’t be, i’m probably slowing to 25-30 mph and making sure i give them plenty of room.

    Clearly this is Persaud’s fault for putting himself in an incredibly bad situation but if the biker on the Dan Ryan, during a busier time of day on a far more difficult expressway to drive on, can escape unscathed, how can a biker on a relatively empty roadway be so difficult to avoid?

  • Fred

    Several issues with this article, especially with the 1/1m statistic:
    1) Ridership is only increasing, so a million rides are going to happen more and more often. If ridership hits a million rides per month, then you will have one person per month on a highway! Is it an epidemic then?
    2) Intersections are crossed on foot a billion times per year in Chicago. So far 23 pedestrians have been killed this year making the rate minuscule in comparison, but pedestrian deaths are an epidemic, but this, this is nothing.
    3) Wrong way drivers are a symptom; drunk driving is the problem. Don’t treat the symptom, treat the problem. Solving drunk driving fixes a whole slew of issues. Trying to keep drunk drivers from driving the wrong way is stupid.

  • Fred

    Looking at a map, and based on accounts, I wonder if Persaud exited the lakefront path, crossed grass and entered LSD. The path and the drive come within 10-15ft of each other just south of the Belmont ramp. This would explain “coming out of nowhere”. If he was new to town and lived near there, he might have decided to shortcut across the street to get to home from the LFT.

  • skyrefuge

    The dreaded Unreliable Witness is difficult to avoid in the best of conditions, so Lake Shore Drive at 3am on a dark Saturday night during fog/mist/rain (reported by NWS) had to be filled with almost nothing but unreliable witnesses. So I wouldn’t put too much stock in *any* of the reports.

    The clearest account of the “swerving” came from the UberX passenger, who said to DNAInfo “My Uber driver hit the brakes, and went left. The (cyclist) also went left, went further than our car,” he said. The cyclist hit the car’s mirror, knocking it off, and fell to the ground”. So that might not be much of a “swerve”. And then it sounds like he ended up under the Uber only after the 2nd impact (which apparently hit the Nissan first before hitting the cyclist), which contradicts the police report that he went under the UberX when initially stuck. Then again, that UberX passenger also reported the severed foot, which apparently was not severed.
    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20141122/lakeview/cyclist-struck-by-two-cars-on-lake-shore-drive-early-saturday-police

    So unless there were cameras filming, it’s probably best to just assume no one knows anything about what actually happened. Though also reasonable to assume that any of the people who provided statements, since they were all involved in the accident, described things in a way that minimizes their own culpability.

  • skyrefuge

    Not a bad theory, especially since there is no guardrail or fence blocking entry to LSD in that area (which is sort of unusual for the LSD/park boundary). And his family also supports the theory that he was “trying to cross the road”. Of course that means he would have had to been ignoring the giant planted median he’d have to get a heavy Divvy over, but I suppose his mind could have been telling him that would be a problem to deal with later.

  • skyrefuge

    So a drunk guy driving a Divvy is a “Divvy problem”, but drunk guy driving a car is a “drunk driving problem”? Seems a lot more sensible to put Persaud in the “drunk driving” category rather than the “Divvy” category. Especially because then once we solve the “drunk driving” problem, the “drunk Divvying” problem is solved automatically along with it, and we’re back down to a Divvy injury-rate of zero (since non-drunk Divvy drivers on highways don’t suffer injuries).

    Anyway, high-five, we made it into a Streetsblog post!

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Except for the fact that this is an alcohol involved incident, if a bicyclist can’t tell the difference between a path and the entrance ramp and rode all the way up to the the four northbound lanes of LSD and still didnt stop and turn around, or go to the right and get off the bike and lift it over the guardrail, I really don’t know what the city can do to prevent incidents like this. Its not about bike shares or the big blue bikes themselves. Its about cyclists rendering better judgements on how their actions can impact their safety.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Its only a Divvy problem because the big blue big makes for easy media imagery. Its still a sad case of poor judgment and I hardly believe had it been any other model bike it certainly wouldn’t be for example a Shwinn or Murray issue.

  • J

    Maybe we should also address the epidemic of freeways in the middle of cities.

  • I agree. For what we know at this point, the drivers acted within the minimum requirements of the law but, I do question how ably they operated their vehicles.

  • Annie F. Adams

    This is why we need a “prioritized movement” Bike HYW on Inner NLSD with Light Rail. Folks on foot, transit or bike should not have to cross our NLSD HYW to run an errand, take kids to school or get home from work. NLSD is Lincoln Park. (Yes, believe it or not, it is part of the park.)

    Bus commuters are currently 30-40% of the commuters in NLSD rush hour traffic. 2040 transit projection use of NLSD is expected to grow 23% (with bus infrastructure) while only adding 6k more cars.

    IMO—LSD should be an “at grade” 30 MPH road like Lincoln Memorial Drive in MKE. It is currently overbuilt for the traffic it handles. Speeding is endemic at 75-95%. If you try driving the speed limit you are putting yourself at risk. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41594755

    & more people than you know get injured trying to cross this HYW or bike on it—sorry don’t have stats on that at them moment, but can find. But the next time you drive on it, keep your eye on the medians and you’ll start seeing people in them.

  • skyrefuge

    ‘This is why we need a “prioritized movement” Bike HYW on Inner NLSD with Light Rail’

    WTF? Um, no. Maybe we do need such a thing, maybe we don’t, but “this” (a drunk guy on a bike making a bad decision) is certainly not a reason why.

    Jumping on a tragic current event and using it as an excuse to promote an almost-completely-unrelated pet-project is something gross-ass politicians do. “A guy lost his job in Louisiana? Oh, hey, I’ve got an idea to help him out, let’s build an oil pipeline across the country!” You’ll probably get more support for your Bike HWY/Light Rail if you just honestly promote its virtues on its own and don’t act like a gross-ass politician.

    chicagocrashes.org *does* show a few pedestrian incidents near LSD between Belmont and Irving Park, but they’re way less common than they are on the normal grid streets in the area.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Such strong language ;) I am on the NLSD redevelopment committee. So we are looking at HOW NLSD, NLFT & Lincoln Park is currently used for transportation and how the city wants it to be used for the next 75+ years. So yes. We can build a faster HYW there. That is an option. We can keep commuter cyclists on the LFT. We can keep people on buses on LSD which has 1200 crashes/220 injuries/5 deaths per year. Ranks 6 out of 10 top crash sites in IL, which raises my car insurance insurance rates (as I live near here) although I only drive on it about 2-3 times a week on off peak hours.

  • I wrote this about Divvy (bikeshare) awhile back and it still stands true, but too often logic like this is overlooked. https://medium.com/@justinhaugens/the-idiot-divvy-user-s-3853d13e13db

  • Annie F. Adams

    Forgot to mention skyrefuge—one of the top things people have asked the committee to look at is how we can improve how people get across LSD from LFT to their homes, like Travis Persaud was trying to do. So I am definitely advocating for a redesign that puts people commuting on bikes & light rail closer to their homes and not having to cross LSD traffic. 90% of all accidents whether in car, bike or foot happen in intersections.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Justin, I am for “Sustainable Safety – mistakes that don’t kill. The Dutch principle of Sustainable Safety says that regardless of transport mode people make mistakes and that when people make mistakes, they shouldn’t have to pay with their lives. As a result they design their roads knowing people will make mistakes but working to ensure no one is killed as result. When someone is killed, a full investigation takes place and road is redesigned and rebuilt within months. Let’s do that here too.” Quote from here: http://girodilento.com/eliminate-urban-road-congestion-good-uk-20bn-open-letter-department-transport/

  • We don’t admit mistakes here. We don’t even truly place blame, our law enforcement system appears to leave it up to a civil process between those involved–lawyers essentially.

    An example where this harms the victim is when my wife was doored. She was not physically struck by the door, but her trailer was and she was thrown from her bike onto the ground. She sustained injuries though it was not immediately known how bad it was other than “pain,” which could amount to anything from a bruise to broken bones.

    Granted, this is slightly an extreme case, but the officer who responded barely spoke to my wife. Though he spoke with the driver at length to retrieve her side of the story. He didn’t want to speak with her, because she’s deaf. So basically they walked away without a real defined “fault” placed. The crash report did state it was a dooring of a pedal cyclist, though nothing explicitly stated the driver was at fault. No citation was issued, either.

    Direction fault by a police officer may not resolve ALL issues, though it should begin to define wrongdoing and determine how to correct it. What infrastructure is necessary to do so? We leave that alone so there always seems to be a way out, an opportunity to have hope that you would be absolved of responsibility.

    The type of structure our government claims to operate on requires accountability and responsibility placed upon the wrongdoer and protect the victim. That’s something I don’t believe we do strongly enough, if at all.

  • cjlane

    “This is the fault of the person who decided to bike drunk at 3am and swerve on a highway into paths of cars. Any logical connection/causation to the underlying system of bikeshare is insane.”

    Right. Just as it is not the fault of the infrastructure of Lake Shore Drive.

    Does everyone realize what else is “just south” of Belmont on LSD? An *underpass*, which would have gotten him from east to west.

    Just an (extreemly) unfortunate incident, caused by the impaired judgement of over-consumption. I’ve been there, and (fortunately) my worst involved a couple of stitches.

  • southsidecyclist

    Having read much of the discussion i wonder if there is a different take. Clearly some of the folks are confused but not having heard the reasoning for these forays on to the highways, possibly this is an indictment of the inadequacy of Chicago’s bike lane network for these users. Maybe they feel by following the shoulders of the roadways they can get to places more directly than some of our other dangerous intersections and viaducts. During gridlock it may not seem so crazy, like the lady on the elevated Dan Ryan. And since there is no standardized system of branding possibly the known system of roads seems like a better alternative.

  • ElleG77

    But this guy was drunk. No matter what changes are made to improve the system, he might have still gotten himself in an unsafe situation. Better options does not save drunks from making safer decisions….

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