Nearly 100 family members, friends, and members of the cycling community turned out on Saturday to honor art student Lisa Kuivenen with a “ghost bike” installation ceremony at the site where Lisa was fatally struck last month. Ghost bikes are white-painted bicycles locked at crash sites to memorialize victims and raise awareness of the need for safer streets.
Around 8:15 a.m. on August 16, flatbed truck driver Antonio Navarro, 37, merged into the green-painted bike lane at 874 North Milwaukee while making a right turn onto Racine, running over the cyclist, according to police. Kuivenen, who was studying animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was also an avid ballroom dancer, swimmer, and musician, would have turned 21 last Thursday.
Family members, friends, classmates attended Saturday’s ceremony, joined by many others who didn’t know Kuivinen. Dozens of people rode together to the event from the finish line of the Cuttin Crew Classic bike race.
The crowd there to support the Kuivinen family was too large to be contained on the narrow sidewalk, so people also stood in the street. Event organizer Kristen Green, a board member with the South Chicago Velodrome Association, had reached out to the 27th Ward office and the Chicago Police Department’s 12th District beforehand, so two police officers were there to help manage traffic. At one point a man stopped his car by the crowd on Racine and tried to order attendees to get out of the road because he “didn’t want to hit anybody,” but fortunately he left before the police had to intervene.
After a sign with a photo of Kuivenen in a ballroom dancing costume was attached to the ghost bike, a priest blessed the bike. Lisa’s parent’s Silma and Lee Kuivenen were there, and Silma told the crowd a story from Lisa’s preschool days.
“She had a speech problem,” Silma said. However, the teacher would have new students sit near Lisa, because Lisa was so talkative and engaging. “Eventually the teacher started calling her ‘Ms. Congeniality’.” Lee Kuivenen agreed that Lisa had always been a friendly, outgoing person, and others testified that Lisa was a compassionate and creative person.
Truck driver Navarro stayed at the scene after the August crash and was ticketed for driving in a bike lane and failure to take due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to Police News Affairs. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for September 15 at 9 a.m at the Daley Center.
This has been a deadly summer for people biking in Chicago. Four people were fatally struck within a roughly two- month period, also including Blaine Klingenberg, Virginia Murray and Francisco Cruz, and all four were killed by commercial drivers whom witnesses said were driving recklessly.
It’s clear that residents want to see the city do more to prevent tragedies such as these in the future. This has been a particularly bad summer for unsafe conditions on local bike routes because hazards caused by construction work zones and torn-up bike lane pavement, although this issue doesn’t seem to have been a factor in these four deaths.
More than 50 people have indicated they’re planning to attend the next Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting tomorrow from 3:00 to 4:30 on the 11th floor of City Hall. Hopefully at the meeting city officials will provide details on how they plan to address the current epidemic of fatal bike crashes.