In the wake of the bike/truck collision that took the life of Anastasia Kondrasheva on Monday, as well as several other recent bike fatality cases, this Friday activists are holding a candlelight vigil and ghost bike installation at the crash site. The organizers say they’re through waiting for the city of Chicago to make progress on its four-year-old goal of eliminating all traffic deaths. Instead, they’re demanding that major steps be taken immediately to prevent such tragedies, especially those caused by commercial drivers.
Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health coach, was biking to work Monday morning when a flatbed truck driver made a right turn into her path at Addison Street and Damen Avenue, fatally striking her. The driver was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to police.
Last Thursday evening Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, was killed in a crash with a concrete truck in Evanston. Since June, four other people have been fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers while biking in Chicago: Blaine Klingenberg, Virgina Murray, Lisa Kuivinen, and Francisco Cruz. Like Kondrasheva, Murray and Kuivinen were also killed by right-tuning flatbed truck drivers.
Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox, passed away last Sunday from injuries sustained in a June bike/train crash, bringing Chicago’s total 2016 bike death toll to six.
Friday’s vigil and ghost bike installation will take place at Addison and Damen from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Some 180 people have RSVPed on Facebook to say that they will attend. It’s also likely that participants from Chicago Critical Mass will ride from Daley Plaza to the ceremony.
“We are gathering the cycling community and Chicago community to honor the memory of Anastasia Kondrasheva and to demand safe streets now,” reads a statement from the vigil organizers. “In light of the six bicyclists and 18 pedestrians who have been killed in Chicago in 2016 many of which involving large commercial vehicles in densely populated neighborhood streets, we no longer accept the empty promises of Chicago’s [‘zero in ten‘] plan.”
In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022, a target inspired by the international Vision Zero movement. Earlier this month the city announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release later this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.
Following Kondrasheva’s death, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told the Tribune that her case shows why Vision Zero is badly needed. “This is another tragedy that underscores the urgency of our mission,” he said.
Rebecca Resman, a former Active Transportation employee who organizes the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass family ride and runs the Chicago Family Biking page on Facebook, came up with the idea for the vigil. “When I heard about the death at Addison and Damen, I was in shock, angry, scared, and tired of hearing news that another cyclist had been killed,” she told me.
Resman lives a couple of blocks from the crash site, and her first reflex was to head to the intersection. “I felt I needed to get down there and make sure that people understand that there are fragile human lives passing through this intersection every day. She brought along her two young children in a cargo bike, along with signs that read “Please put the phone down” and “Don’t hit me.”
“As the organizer of a Kidical Mass ride, I’ve heard that the number one reason people don’t bike is concerns for their safety,” Resman said. “So I’m working with Anastasia’s family and other organizations to figure out a way to constructively unite and demand change.”
Chicago Ghost Bikes, a new organization led by Kristen Green, who arranged the installation of the white-painted bikes as memorials at the Murray and Kuivinen crash sites, will be installing a ghost bike for Kondrasheva. They also plan to install a memorial for Qiu in Evanston. Active Trans and Chicago Ride of Silence organizer Elizabeth Adamczyk have also been involved in the discussions for planning the vigil.
Resman says she has confirmation from Kondrasheva’s boyfriend Adrian Juarez that the fallen cyclist’s immediate family will attend the vigil. “Her family is still processing their loss,” Resman said. “We’re working with them to try to figure out the best way to harness the attention that Anastasia’s case has received.
It looks like one way the activists will do this will be to put pressure on the city to accelerate its Vision Zero efforts. “If [the city’s ‘zero in ten’ goal] had been more than lip service back in 2012, some of these people would still be alive,” Resman said. “We’re also discussing ideas for more regulation and accountability for people who are driving professionally.”
“On Friday we’re going to honor Anastasia and call for safer streets right now,” Resman concluded. “We can’t wait until 2026.”
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