There Have Been Three Serious Bike Crashes and Four Deaths in Last 12 Days

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A woman rides a bike in Wicker Park, near the location where a 15-year-old boy was struck and injured this morning. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s almost starting to feel like Bicycling magazine naming Chicago as the nation’s best bike city last week has turned into a curse. In the two weeks since that announcement on Monday, September 19, the region has seen the following bike fatalities and crashes with injuries requiring hospitalization:

  • On Monday, September 19, around 2 p.m. Wlodzimierz Woroniecki, 60, was struck and killed by a motorcyclist while cycling in west-suburban Franklin Park.
  • On Thursday, September 22, at about 2 p.m. a 14-year-old girl was seriously injured by an SUV driver while biking from school in southwest-suburban Plainfield.
  • On Thursday, September 22, at around 5 p.m., Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, died after colliding with a concrete truck by the university’s campus in north-surburban Evanston.
  • On Friday, September 23, at around 4 p.m., Naperville resident Danielle Palagi, 26, was struck by a semi driver by the Chicago’s Illinois Medical Campus, sustaining injuries that required the amputation of her foot.
  • On Sunday, September 25, at 2:59 a.m. pizzeria worker Nick Fox, 52, died from injuries sustained in a June train/bike crash in Clearing.
  • On Monday, September 26, at 7:50 a.m. health coach Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23, was struck and killed by a flatbed truck driver in Roscoe Village.

This morning there was yet another bike crash case to add to the list. At 7:36 a.m., a 15-year old male was struck and injured by the northbound driver of a 2002 Nissan Sentra compact car in the 1500 block of North Damen Avenue in Wicker Park, according to Officer Thomas Sweeney from Police News Affairs.

The teen was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in stable condition and was expected to survive, according to Sweeney. No citations have been issued to the driver. This post will be updated if additional information becomes available.

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Memorial to fallen cyclist Chuyuan Qiu by the Northwestern campus in Evanston, as seen yesterday. Photo: John Greenfield

Bicycling was correct that, in many respects, Chicago is a great place to ride a bike. Our many miles of buffered and protected bike lanes, the extensive Divvy bike-share system, the Bloomingdale Trail, and our vibrant cycling community are just some of the reasons why.

But it’s obvious that four bike fatalities and three serious injury crashes in the region (including two deaths and two injury cases within the city limits) within the space of twelve days is unacceptable. We still have a long way to go before biking in Chicago is a truly safe activity.

This afternoon the Active Transportation Alliance responded to the current bike crash epidemic by launching a campaign to hold the city government accountable for immediately taking steps to improve safety.

“We are deeply unsettled by recent fatalities on our roadways involving people walking and riding bikes,” states their new Vision Zero — Call to Action web page. “We call for a comprehensive array of steps to eliminate all types of traffic fatalities, including: enhancing commercial vehicle regulation, reducing dangerous speeding, restricting right turns in dangerous locations, expanding education for all, improving our infrastructure and street design, and fairly enforcing traffic laws.” They’re asking residents to sign an online petition urging City Council to implement these proven measures.

You can also show your support for safer streets and honor Anastasia Kondrasheva at tonight’s candlelight vigil and ghost bike installation at the Addison/Damen crash site, taking place from 6:30 to 7 p.m., rain or shine. More than 200 people have RSVPed on Facebook that they will attend.

For the second Friday in a row I have to say, everybody please be careful out there this weekend. Let’s do all we can to make Chicago not just a great, but a safe, place to bike.

Update 10/1/16: A DNA info report on the Wicker park crash has quotes from witnesses who say the collision happened in the middle of the six-way North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection.

Streetblog Chicago will be on vacation on Monday and will resume publication on Tuesday.

  • Bicycling’s ranking seems to be based on a hypothetical, imaginary situation rather than some actual field investigation. At present, while it is possible to ride a bike in Chicago, it is by no means a great city to do so. I hope we can make it great, but that would require an approach of an entirely different magnitude, starting with making the pavement itself bike friendly. Chicago is in the midst of a construction boom, and has a serious backlog in road repair and maintenance. It’s especially the last that creates fertile ground for crashes. Any bike ride is complicated by the bad state of pavement everywhere: Pothole-pocked streets, shoddily filled-in craters caused by utility work, construction obstacles, cars in bike lanes, missing signals, paint etc. etc. distracting the biker’s attention from busy motorized traffic. I have had several narrow escapes, including a couple of near-crashes where I probably would have been at fault had the collision occurred. I truly try to be careful, but I was so focused on avoiding bad pavement or another confusing traffic situation that I rode into the path of a vehicle coming from behind. The vast majority of drivers I encounter in Chicago are highly respectful of me, the cyclist. I guess so far I’ve been lucky that at least they were not distracted when I was, and thus avoiding the deeply tragic fate of those who perished in the last 12 days.

  • Pedestrians are so vulnerable to injury and death by cars that cities build dedicated curb protected travel lanes called sidewalks. Wherever pedestrians and cars must mix are where they are killed and injured 99% of the time. Streets without dedicated protected bike lanes force bikers to mix with cars 100% of the time. And that is the problem.

    Children and the elderly are tolerated riding on sidewalks. On streets where the speed limit is over 35mph bikes are not tolerated. Able bike riders are not tolerated on sidewalks either. Even though injuries are much less severe than the biker injuries by cars and deaths extremely rare between bikers and walkers. Even though bikers are at least as vulnerable as pedestrians they are forced to mix with cars.

    Bikers are the orphans of travel. Only now are bikers beginning to get serious protective consideration. But in the meantime they/we are subjected to more danger than is necessary. Some cultural change is in order.

    Quick Fix #1: Whenever there is no protected bike lane bikes are allowed on the sidewalk.

    This is a quick fix. It will make walkers unhappy. It makes bikers unhappy as well to use the sidewalk. But at least they can still choose to use the street. It is a quick fix as all it requires is a city ordinance.

    Slow fix #2: On all streets where there is no protected bike lane ban all overtaking and passing of bikers without fully changing to another lane. It is slow because it would require a huge cultural change. It is a fix because more and more bikers would begin using the middle of the lane rather than the edge. It is barely tolerable for drivers as long as a biker is going a reasonable speed. As slower bikers move to the sidewalks it becomes increasingly tolerable for drivers.

    The best Implementation would be on all streets where bikes are tolerated. Then there is no question in drivers’ minds. An alternate would be to designate some streets as no passing streets. Damen would be a good example. Actually all two lane streets could be a good partial start.

    Some drivers will still be hot to pass, and will pass when and where bikers are loath to take any extra lane that is their due. But many drivers will refuse to pass even bikers hugging the door zone and many bikers will take the extra lane space every chance they get. Those two groups will force the slow cultural change needed. But both, bikers willing to take more lane and drivers happy to never pass, would benefit from official sanction and permission to act sanely.

  • what_eva

    For the 15 year old, “fatally struck” and “in stable condition and was expected to survive” don’t really go together. I know “fatally” can be used to mean “could have caused a death”, but it’s usually used to mean “did cause a death”.

  • what_eva

    The problem with #1 is that few sidewalks in the city are wide enough for this to be safe.

    I really think a solution would be to hire a bunch of extra police officers and create a detail that is purely traffic enforcement. When I see how few drivers follow the laws around the city, I feel a traffic enforcement detail could easily pay for itself in ticket revenue, but it wouldn’t be about revenue, it’d be about safety. eg, not speeding tickets on the expressways, get drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians and run red lights and stop signs.

  • JJames

    Bicycling Magazine should adda metric to their award which takes into account the number of cycling deaths in the year before the award is given. Chicago would never have received an award if this was included in the calculus.
    We need lanes that are protected as per the international definition of a protected lane– non car permeable pathways for cyclists of every ability to be protected and separated from traffic. .

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    The problem is there is no great way to measure this since no one tracks miles cycled, only mode share for commute to work. Chicago is one of the largest cities so even if it is no more or less safe than much smaller cities it may be perceived as more dangerous due to more deaths due to a higher population.

  • BlueFairlane

    Exactly so. Boulder, CO–which often makes these lists and has a county population 1/8 as large as Chicago–has seen four cyclist deaths since May. Portland’s population is a fourth as large as Chicago’s and they saw two cyclist deaths just in August.

  • Jeff Gio

    what if we started an aggressive campaign that the city officially reject the award. They’ve just redone the six corner intersection by me (roadway, curbs, and sidewalk) and they’ve completely neglected to add curb bump outs, bike boxes, or any other safety oriented infrastructure. Chicago is completely passive in it’s approach to bicycle and ped safety

  • planetshwoop

    Even for the mode share argument though… It is often reported for the region that says it’s like 1.5%. But Elston, Milwaukee, Wells St have huge percentages of mode share for bikes, way more than 1.5 and closer to 20-30. My personal route, Wells St, often has more bikes than cars in the morning rush. The bike lane is effectively full.

  • Pedestrian/bike accidents are rarely deadly. So #1 increases net safety.

  • what_eva

    There is a lot more to measuring safety than whether someone dies.

  • Moving some vulnerable bikers off of streets and on to sidewalks, imho, would result in a net increase of safety no matter the measure.

  • Truly quick & relatively cheap measure (not a fix): Reduce the speed limit for motorized traffic on all roads where bicycles ride and pedestrians cross.

  • Carter O’Brien

    It should be reduced across the board. There is no reason why cars need to go 30 mph through inner city streets. Beyond making the City a safer and in general more pleasant place to live, the time saving for any given trip is trivial.

  • Carter O’Brien

    The City does already do this by making sidewalk riding legal for those under 12.

    Perhaps that age limit could be raised to 14 or 15, and there could also be an above-55 senior category. But for healthy adults, that’s backsliding IMO, because you open that door and then you give ammo to every road rage-a-holic who screams “get back on the sidewalk where you belong!”

  • Carter O’Brien

    You have no idea how far Chicago has come from the 70s and 80s. As a friend of mine likes to put it, for drivers that’s when hitting bicycles “was worth 10 points.”

  • There’s no real reason to have 30 or 35mph streets in Chicago, anyway — once you factor in stopping for lights the total end-to-end average speed of any trip of longer than a mile drops well before 20mph. 35 just makes people try to get going as fast as possible between lights and then slam on the brakes, which massively wastes fuel as well as encouraging unsafe driving behaviors.

  • angelo king

    How bout more cyclist need to follow the rules of the road, I see so many bikers that don’t stop at stop signs or lights and I always see bikers who challenge turning lanes and block drivers right turns while simultaneously also being in the vehicles blindspot

  • angelo king

    Cyclist rules of the roads need to be taught and enforced and regulated a little better, bikes shouldn’t be allowed to pull into right turning lanes next to vehicles period

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