Driver Who Injured Cyclist in Logan Square Blames Sun in His Eyes

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The crash site from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View. Zebra-stripe crosswalks have been added at this intersection since this photo was taken.

It’s every bike rider’s nightmare. You legally proceed through an intersection with the green light, only to have a careless driver run into you while making a left turn, a phenomenon known as the “left hook.”

That’s what happened to a female cyclist in Logan Square this morning. According to Officer Thomas Sweeney from Police News Affairs, the 45-year-old woman was riding northwest on Milwaukee Avenue at 8:50 a.m. When she reached Fullerton Avenue, she entered the intersection on a green. At that point, a 26-year-old man heading southeast in a Chevy Cavalier made a left turn from Milwaukee to head east on Fullerton, striking the cyclist.

A nearby resident who asked not to be named told me he was at the scene when the crash occurred. He said the woman was thrown from her bike and landed in the street in front of a 7-11.

The resident said the woman was briefly unconscious, and he suspected she suffered a broken leg and possibly a broken rib, judging from her labored breathing. He dialed 911 and administered first aid. According to Sweeney, the cyclist, whose name has not been released, was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries. We wish her a fast recovery.

The resident told me that the motorist sped east on Fullerton, and that no one identified himself as the driver to the resident or police while he was on the scene. However, Sweeney said the driver did remain at the crash site and was ticketed for failing to yield while making a left turn.

According to a police source, the driver claimed he didn’t see the cyclist because he was blinded by the sun. However, if sunlight in your eyes prevents you from seeing oncoming traffic, perhaps you should be using your car visor or sunglasses, or driving slower, or not driving at all.

  • Diego

    What kind of a distorted world do you live in where accidents don’t happen? Oh right, you like to think the government knows best

  • Bernard Finucane

    Also the lack of bulb-outs and pedestrian refuges in the center of the street. Each refuge should have a post on it so drivers can clearly see where they are supposed to be. The post should nearer to the center of the intersection than the cars.

    Also American traffic engineers don’t seem to realize that there is no particular reason to have cars stop in the middle of the intersection. Even the driver of the white car in the screenshot seems to understand better than whoever designed this intersection. There is also no reason in the world to extend the parking lane into the intersection.

  • Sun glare can happen suddenly — I nearly got into an accident leaving the McDonald’s at Irving Park and Central because I inched out, watched for a gap in traffic, and in the distance of crossing the sidewalk the sun popped out from behind the building across from me STRAIGHT in my eye just at the moment someone else started to make a right-turn into the driveway I was leaving. Luckily we all hit the brakes but honestly I never saw them, and I wasn’t in a sun-glare situation for anything but that momentary position.

  • Most intersection-blocking in that area comes from (a) ‘just one more car, I can make it, I won’t be running the red!’ gridlock optimism or (b) left-turners being unwilling to wait for their next actual turn, so they advance into the intersection ready to cut someone off or go on the red.

    Neither of these is intended by traffic engineers, though their designs do afford them.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Yes, but I was thinking more about the problem of cars wandering around in the intersection. To be safe, an intersection has to have clear narrow paths for the cars to follow and clear narrow safe paths for the pedestrians to follow. Pushing the line where the cars stop back gives planners much more leeway to define these paths.

  • Pushing back the stop line also, in Chicago, strongly encourages cars to completely ignore it because there’s no way for them to see if the way is clear (or no way to get from the stop line across the opposite stop line in the short time available in a traffic gap), so they beach themselves in the middle again. I’ve noticed on intersections with pushed-back bars there’s far more cars blocking crosswalks (far ahead of the stop bar) when I have a walk light.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Interesting point. The solution to that would be to push back the traffic lights as well, so drivers can’t see them unless they are behind the line. In the screenshot the lights are across the street from the cars. In this example in front of the old city hall in Berlin you can seethe lights aare on the same side of the street.

    https://www.google.de/maps/@52.5186236,13.4067631,3a,75y,129.02h,72.02t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s26QXDObNfwtsB6QfOdpDVA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

    Then they add an additional left turn signal for drivers in the middle of the intersection you can see if you zoom in on the corner of city hall.

  • Doesn’t help. There are intersections like that in Chicago — they just pull into the intersection anyway. Drivers have kinesthetic reflexes for ‘how far into the intersection’ they habitually ‘want’ to be, and they will do it unless there is some massive infrastructure reason not to.

  • planetshwoop

    I do think it’s time to start to look at ways to “break up” these giant interesections. It’s dangerous for cars and other modes. I’d be interested to know if solutions like Belmont / California / Elston have lower incidences of crashes vs very long and wide “six corners” type intersections like Six Corners in Portage Park.

  • Anne A

    With more cars on the road sporting increasingly aerodynamic designs with larger windshields and rear windows at lower angles, the problem of glare off of all that glass has gotten a LOT worse at any hour on sunny days.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Yes, you are right. I live in Germany where intersections like that are the norm, and everyone does that, including myself. The point I was trying to make is slightly different thoug. Keeping cars out of the intersection is part of the policy of making the car paths in the intersection as narrow as possible. for example, it is commonly argues in America that 12 foot lanes are required in intersections to allow trucks, especially firetrucks, through.

    In Germany even trains, which have an even wider turning radius than ladder trucks, are easily accommodated, as this scene in Frankfurt illustrates.

    https://www.google.de/maps/@50.1094487,8.6603788,3a,51.1y,309.86h,68.45t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sw4p-8X-1wBWPZlFzq_KCLw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Notice how far the cars are kept back from the intersection. Notice also that the area of the intersection is huge and messy, but the car lanes are very tightly defined, and a lot of space is reserved for pedestrian and bike refuges.

  • Alicia

    I had a near miss once; I was proceeding straight across an intersection and an oncoming driver was making a left turn. I saw him in enough time dodge, turn right, and get out of the way – but I suspect both the driver and I had sun in our eyes.

  • Kelly Pierce

    I really like the last sentence in this article. I was struck crossing a street a while back by a car making a left turn. It was about 4:15 in early December as the sun was setting and the driver was turning into the sun. He blamed the sun being in his eyes for not seeing me, but the police ticketed him anyway. Despite this, I have always felt I was in the way of the car rather than cars are in the way of pedestrians using cities. The crash was serious. One ligament was torn and surgery was performed to reattach it five days after the incident. I was in a full leg cast for a month and months of recovery were needed to regain full function. Careless drivers are a major problem. Thanks John for offering a different narrative to urban life.

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