This Was an Awful Week for Bike Crashes in the Chicago Region

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The aftermath of today’s injury crash at Roosevelt and Wood in the Illinois Medical District. Photo: Drew DeMott

This has been a terrible week for bike fatalities and injuries in the metropolitan area, with at least two deaths and two serious injury crashes in the city and suburbs. Here’s a look at the four cases.

Wlodzimierz Woroniecki, 60, Struck and Killed While Biking in Franklin Park

Just before 2 p.m. Monday, Woroniecki was biking westbound on Franklin Avenue near Wolf Road in west suburban Franklin Park, the Sun-Times reported. A westbound male motorcyclist struck Woroniecki from behind and both men were thrown to the ground.

Woroniecki, of the 2800 block of North Melvina Avenue in Chicago, was transported to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m. Monday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The 51-year-old motorcyclist, suffered minor injuries and was treated at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park.

It appears that no charges have been filed against the motorcyclist. Franklin Park police chief Michael Wirtz blamed the victim for the crash, telling the Sun-Times that the cyclist veered into traffic. Of course, Woroniecki is not alive to tell his side of the story.

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The 14-year-old girl was apparently coming off this sidewalk in front of Plainfield High School when she was struck. Image: Google Maps

14-Year-Old Girl Seriously Injured by SUV Driver While Biking in Plainfield

On Thursday afternoon, a Plainfield North High School student was struck while riding her bike from the school.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the girl was heading in the south crosswalk of the intersection of 119th Street and 248th Avenue, at the northwest corner of the school property, according to the Plainfield police. It appears that a 28-year-old woman driving a Honda CR-V with a two-year-old passenger was driving north on 248th when she struck the girl, police said.

“The bicyclist was conscious and breathing, but showed signs of significant injuries,” police said in a news release. The girl was airlifted to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. Her condition was unknown as of 5 p.m. Thursday, but a spokesman for the school told the Herald-News the girl was “awake and responsive.”

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The concete truck that killed Qiu. Photo: Evanston Police Department

Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu, 18, Killed in Concrete Truck Crash While Biking on Northwestern Campus

At around 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Qiu, a Northwestern freshman was biking westbound, leaving of a university parking lot at Library Place and Sheridan Road in Evanston, according to authorities. According to Evanston police, as Qiu entered Sheridan Road, she was struck by the wheel of a concrete truck heading north on Sheridan with a green light, driven by a 38-year-old man from Des Plaines. She fell off her bike and went under the truck.

Qiu, who lived nearby on the 2100 block of Sheridan, was transported to Evanston NorthShore Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

This was at least the fifth time a bicyclist has been fatally struck by a commercial vehicle driver in Chicago since June 15, and the third fatal incident in which the victim fell underneath a truck. Truck side panels, which are becoming increasingly common in countries like Great Britain, help prevent these kind of fatalities.

The concrete truck driver has not been charged in connection with the crash, and the police have indicated that they feel he was not at fault, noting that they do not believe he was impaired or distacted, the Chicago Tribune reported. However, they were quick to say that Qiu caused the crash.

“She just misjudged the speed of the truck,” Evanston police Chief Richard Eddington told the Tribune. “Or didn’t realize how long the truck was. … A tragic accident.” The police also noted that Qiu was not wearing a bike helmet, as if that would have made a difference for a person run over by a concrete truck.

A memorial to the fallen cyclist has been created under a tree near the crash site, and plans for a memorial service will be announced soon, according to a Northwest spokesman.

Qiu, a native of Nanjing, China, was just starting college at Northwestern this semester. She was a member of the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program.

Bike lanes were originally planned for installation on this stretch of Sheridan a few years ago but postponed in 2014 until summer 2017 due to utility work, city of Evanston staffer Mark Muenzer told the Tribune. It’s not certain that bike lanes on Sheridan would have prevented the crash, but they may have helped by reminding the truck driver to watch for bike traffic.

Woman Seriously Injured by Truck Driver While Biking in Illinois Medical District

Shortly before 4 p.m. today, the driver of a northbound semi truck made a right turn to head east on Roosevelt Road, according to Streetsblog reader Drew DeMott, who was in a building at the southeast corner of the intersection at the time. The driver struck the female bike rider, and it appeared her shoe was knocked off in the crash, DeMott said.

Chicago fire officials told WLS that the cyclist was taken to Stroger Hospital in serious to critical condition.

Our thoughts are with the loved ones of Woroniecki and Qiu, and we wish the two crash survivors a fast and full recovery. Everyone please be careful out there this weekend.

  • PCC Pete

    Concrete truck, not cement truck. No such thing as cement truck.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Although all local news reports called it a cement truck, you are correct: http://www.ccagc.org/resources/whats-the-difference-between-cement-and-concrete/

    Made the change, thanks.

  • Mcass777

    Johelms your story reads as if helmets are not necessary, but I know you know they are. A biker should always have a helmet because a car, truck, even a tree can cause a serious injury.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I know the Evanston police meant well, but by mentioning that the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet, they’re implied that not wearing one was a mistake that contributed to her death. But it’s highly unlikely a helmet would have made a difference in this case. This is victim blaming.

    Here’s a discussion of whether helmets are necessary for casual urban bike commuting, and whether they should be: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/cycling-helmets-crashes-debate-advocacy/Content?oid=22354319

  • Anne A

    I’m a strong believer in wearing helmets. One saved my head in a crash years ago. That being said, I agree with John that a helmet probably would not have made any difference in this particular crash.

  • Anne A

    I was having a conversation about this crash with a friend. She raised a point that I hadn’t considered. Are foreign students who grew up with traffic behavior that is very different from Chicago’s at higher risk for crashes? Their expectations as to how other drivers will respond may be VERY different from ours. Food for thought….

  • Amanda

    The accident at Roosevelt and wood was a good friend of mine, we are looking for witnesses to the accident.. If you have any information and are willing to share, please comment below. We really appreciate any help

  • Phill

    This would be a good topic to work into orientation programs, you’re right.

  • Mcass777

    Then let the police make their comment and use this sad incident as a teaching moment. Write that a helmet is always the right choice. The rider did not expect to be hit as do any of us when we set uut on a bike. I guess it is the same statement, just feels positive to the reader.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’m not disagreeing that it’s a good idea to wear a helmet when biking in the Chicago region, which is a relatively dangerous place to ride.

    But it’s worth noting that in countries where lots of people ride bikes and few people wear helmets, the bike fatality rate is a fraction of that in the United States. That’s because these countries focus on crash prevention, rather than mitigation: street design, laws, and education designed to prevent serious collisions from happening in the first place.

    It’s also worth noting that in some of these bike-friendly countries, trucks are required to have side panels, which prevent pedestrians and bicyclists from going under the wheels of a truck. While a helmet probably wouldn’t have prevented the Evanston fatality, side panels might have.

    If we’re serious about saving the lives of people biking, Americans need to do less preaching about helmet use and more emulating of the best practices in countries where biking is safe and widespread.

  • Jeff Gio

    I am so infuriated reading DNAinfo and Tribune comment sections. This and chainlink is a safe place where I can share sincere grief and anxiety with fellow cyclists. be safe, all

  • BlueFairlane

    There is a percentage of crashes for which a helmet makes no difference. This is an example of one, so I agree that it’s dumb to report it.

    With regards to the effectiveness of helmets in general, though, I wonder what percentage of non-fatal crashes in the countries you mention results in survivable but debilitating traumatic head injury. I think that would be a more telling statistic, if it existed. (It probably doesn’t.)

    Also, I’m concerned whenever somebody mentions side panels on trucks. If they’re not fitted very tightly to the vehicle with an extremely small amount of ground clearance, you could have some really grisly results. This is something you’d need to inspect and enforce rigidly, as you don’t want somebody half-assing the installation.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    A “No-Right-Turn-On-Red” (NRTOR) law, city-wide (as I believe it is in NYC and other cities around the country) would help increase safety and prevent some of these accidents. There are simply too many pedestrians and bicyclists to allow for permitted right-turns-on-red in the City of Chicago. The NRTOR law should be a rigorously (i.e. camera) enforced — again city-wide! The only reason that Chicago doesn’t have the NRTOR law city-wide is an out-of-date and dangerous/deadly idea among conservative engineers that motor vehicle mobility will be unacceptably hindered by a city-wide NRTOR law. To me, motor vehicle mobility is of less importance than human lives. We need to get our priorities straight.

  • Alexander Nitkin

    Hi Amanda, I’m a reporter for DNAinfo Chicago, and we’d like to help get the word out. Could you please email me at alexnitkin@gmail.com when you get the chance?

  • rohmen

    I’d support a no right on red law, as I think it helps pedestrians, but I think we need a different solution for cyclists. IMHO, i think any major intersection where a bike lane goes through should have a light with a green right turn arrow installed. Vehicles should then only be allowed to turn right on the green arrow. That in my mind would help eliminate many of these type of right-hook accidents, unless either the vehicle or the cyclist are ignoring the proper signals.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    A City-wide NRTOR law will not, you are right, completely protect cyclists — or peds either, for that matter — but it will make intersections safer and “more predictable.” At signalized intersections, bicycle signal heads and a separated right-turn signals are possible, I believe (see http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/intersection-treatments/through-bike-lanes/, especially the ‘Design Guidance’ drawing that you click to enlarge) but they would be hard/impossible to implement everywhere — at least in our or our childrens’ lifetimes :). In addition to physical infrastructure, strong, effective education and enforcement programs will help too. We definitely need more on bicycles in — and overall a much better — Driver’s Licensing test/prep materials!

  • Deni

    Yeah, I miss the no right turn on red law from my time living in NYC. If for no other reason than not having every crosswalk blocked by drivers puling out looking for an opening to turn.

  • It looks like there are red-light cameras at the intersection. You may consider doing a request with the city. We’ve also had success in past bike injury cases sending an investigator to the scene — to find witnesses, and some businesses may have their own cameras as well. Good luck!

  • Rose Lynch

    Great idea. I hated it from the get go. Who was behind it anyway? The trucking industry?

  • David Henri

    Absolutely! With rigorous enforcement. Most intersections are littered with “No right turn on Red 7am – 7pm” which most motorists simply ignore anyway.

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