Skip to content

Posts from the Bicycling Category


Mother of Fallen Cyclist Hector Avalos: Catholic School Should Lift Biking Ban


Sign outside of Annunicata Catholic School. Photo: Ingrid Cossio

There are many reasons why biking to school is beneficial to children, and for society in general. It provides physical activity, which is obviously key for good health and has been shown to improve performance in the classroom. It also helps with the traffic safety, congestion, and pollution issues associated with the widespread use of private cars to take children to school. That’s why the city of Chicago has generally encouraged biking to the public schools by installing bike racks and bike lanes, and through bike education initiatives like the city’s Bicycling Ambassadors.

However, it turns out that some local Catholic schools don’t just fail to promote biking to school but actually ban cycling. Yesterday Ingrid Cossio, mother of fallen cyclist Hector Avalos, posted on the Slow Roll Chicago Facebook page a letter from the principal of Annunciata School, 3750 East 112th Street in the East Side neighborhood, notifying her that school policy forbids students from biking to school. The school serves preschool through eighth grade students, and Hector’s twin younger sister and brother Brandy and Brandon, aged ten, attend the school.


Ingrid Cossio with her twins Brandy and Brandon. Photo: Facebook

In 2013 Hector, 28, a former Marine and aspiring chef who enjoyed gardening, camping and fishing, was fatally struck by a drunk driver while bicycling. The motorist was sentenced to only 100 days in prison.

“My kids are always talking about Hector,” Cossio told me. “My son wants to be like him. So when school started up this year, they said, ‘Why don’t we bike to school?'”

In the wake of Hector’s death, Cossio said she is concerned about drunk, reckless, and distracted drivers. “Safety is my number-one worry,” she said. However, the family lives only seven blocks from the school, so she decided to ride with the twins to school on Monday, the first day. The children rode on the sidewalk.

14141717_1161201743903386_2574903252711196161_n (1)

The letter from the principal. Click to enlarge.

“They really enjoyed it,” Cossio said. “It’s exercise, so when they got to school they were more alert and ready to learn.” They rode again on Tuesday, when a couple of teachers told Cossio they thought it was great the kids were exercising, and that they thought other children should ride to school as well. On both days Cossio locked the twins’ bikes on a pole on the sidewalk in front of the school.

However, on Tuesday evening Cossio’s daughter was given a letter from principal Edward A. Renas to take home. “Due to insurance policies, student safety, and concern for private property, students are not allowed to ride bicycles to school,” wrote Renas.

He cited an excerpt from the school handbook which states: “Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and roller blades may not be brought to school property… The school is not responsible for any damages or theft of any equipment on school property.” Renas added that a sign stating the policy is posted by the main entrance of the school.

“Just taking my twins to school,” Cossio posted on the Slow Roll Facebook page. “Is this right?… I want my kids to exercise, to enjoy nature.”

After I called the school for more information on the bike ban, I heard from Anne Maselli, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, which runs 217 schools in the region. Maselli explained that the archdiocese doesn’t have a set policy on whether biking to school should be encouraged, but instead leaves it up to the local school administrators. “I’m sure some other [of our Catholic] schools have the same or similar policies.”

Maselli guessed that Annuciation’s bike ban may be largely inspired by a desire to avoid liability in case of bike theft, but said concerns about traffic safety are also likely an issue. While 112th Street is a wide four-lane street, the school can also be accessed by quiet side streets, and a crossing guard is stationed on 112th during commute times.

Read more…


Tweets Spur CDOT to Shut Down Illegal Construction in Dearborn Bike Lane


The construction work blocked the Dearborn bike lane as well as a crosswalk. Photo Kevin Zolkewicz

Yesterday Twitter users notified the Chicago Department of Transportation about an unpermitted closure of the Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane and a crosswalk. To their credit, CDOT acted swiftly to shut down the illegal blockage at Randolph Street, caused by contractors working for SBC Communications.

The bike lane is one of the city’s busiest and most important because it’s the only bikeway for southbound cyclists within the Loop. Blocking the two-way lane was particularly problematic for southbound cyclists, because they didn’t have the option of merging into northbound travel lanes to get around the work site.


Looking south on Dearborn towards Randolph. Photo: Kevin Zolkiewicz

Cyclists who encountered the blockage yesterday morning tweeted about the problem using the #bikeCHI hashtag yesterday morning. Streetsblog reader Kevin Zolkiewicz also sent us photos of the situation, which I forwarded to CDOT. According to a CDOT staffer, the department learned about the issue via the tweets and sent an inspector to the site .

According to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey, an electrical contractor had obtained a permit but “did not state that they would be working in the bike lane or blocking the bike lane.” The inspector shut down the work immediately, by 1:30 p.m., and ordered the crew to clear all equipment. Claffey said that the contractor Archon Construction, working for SBC Communications, was cited and wouldn’t be allowed to resume work until they provide a traffic maintenance plan.

Read more…


Take a Virtual Spin on the (Partly Finished) Elston Curb-Protected Bike Lanes

As I’ve written, it’s a shame that the valuable riverfront land at the southeast corner of Fullerton and Damen will likely be redeveloped as big box retail with tons of parking in the aftermath of a project to reroute Elston Avenue so it bypasses that intersection. The silver lining of the project is that this new, curving five-lane stretch of Elston, which opened to motorized traffic last week, will have curb-protected bike lanes.

Prior to construction, the six-way Fullerton/Damen/Elston intersection saw about 70,000 motor vehicles per day, and consistently ranked among the city’s top-five intersections for crashes, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which is doing the $36.3 million street relocation. In an effort to unclog the intersection, they’ve moved through traffic on Elston about a block east on land occupied by WhirlyBall, which relocated to a nearby, larger space at 1823 West Webster, and the Vienna Beef factory, which will soon be moving to 1800 West Pershing in Bridgeport.


Elston, which formerly intersected with Fullerton and Damen, has been relocated one block east. Image: CDOT

The entire bypass project was supposed wrap up this spring, but according to CDOT spokeswoman Sue Hofer, it’s currently not slated for completion until this December. But starting last week northeast- and southeast-bound motorized vehicles began using one lane in each direction on the new section of Elston, which crosses Damen a block north of Fullerton/Damen intersection.

The old, two-block stretch of Elston just southeast of Fullerton/Damen remains open for local traffic under the new name Elston Court. Under the new traffic pattern, vehicles are allowed to turn right from eastbound Fullerton onto Elston Court, but vehicles from northbound Elston Court south of Fullerton are only permitted to turn right, eastbound, on Fullerton.

Read more…


Cyclist Francisco Cruz Remembered as a Good Samaritan, Driver Still at Large

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 3.11.54 PM

Francisco “Frank” Cruz

Family and friends are remembering Francisco “Frank” Cruz, fatally struck on his bike by a hit-and-run van driver in West Garfield Park Wednesday night, as someone who went out of his way to help others. Meanwhile, police have yet to apprehend the motorist, despite the fact that the van bore the name and phone number of a local realty company.

Cruz was bicycling south on the 200 block of North Pulaski Road at 10:19 p.m. when the driver of a northbound white commercial cargo van turned left onto Maypole Avenue and fatally struck him, police said. The driver did not stop to render aid but instead contined west on Maypole.

An image of the van taken by a security or traffic camera. The phone number visible on back of the van is for Advanced Realty Network, a brokerage at 2427 West Madison. Yesterday the businesses was closed and was not answering phone calls, various news outlets reported. As of Friday afternoon, the driver had not been apprehended and police had not disclosed whether the motorist worked for the company or if the van was stolen. Anyone who has information can contact the police at 312-745-4521.

ABC reported that Cruz, a father of seven who was also nicknamed “Pops,” was on his way home from work as a handyman when he was struck. A coworker told CBS the two of them discussed bicycle safety on a regular basis. Cruz, who didn’t have a driver’s license, said he worried about being struck while riding in the street, according to the coworker.


The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van whose driver struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night. Image: CPD

According to CBS, Cruz also frequented a Church’s Chicken on Pulaski near the crash site, where workers say he helped out with security and often escorted female employees after work to make sure they got home safely. “He helped everybody,” said his stepson Michael Burdine told CBS. “He was a good guy.” Burdine said he had been talking to people in the neighborhood trying to get more details about what happened. “We want justice.”

Footage of the crash that shows Cruz was riding with the flow of traffic, was captured by a security camera at Family Meat Market, a convenience store at the southwest corner of the intersection. “The driver just goes right into him, like he might not have been paying attention,” the store’s owner told CBS. “You hit somebody, it doesn’t matter who they are, you gotta stop and try to help them out.”

Read more…


Francisco Cruz, 58, Fatally Struck by Van Driver While Biking in West Garfield

The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van that struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night.

The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van whose driver struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night. Image: CPD

We will update this post throughout the day as more facts are made available. 

Francisco Cruz, 58, was struck and killed while biking in West Garfield Park Wednesday night by a cargo van driver who fled the scene. This newest tragedy happened the day after art student Lisa Kuivinen while riding a bike in West Town Tuesday morning. Cruz’s death is the fourth bike fatality this year; all four cases involved a commercial driver.

Cruz was bicycling south on the 200 block of North Pulaski Road at 10:19 p.m. last night when the driver of a northbound white commercial cargo van turned left onto Maypole Avenue and fatally struck him, police said. The driver did not stop to render aid but instead contined west on Maypole.

Cruz, of the 1300 block of South Christiana in North Lawndale, was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

street view of Pulaski and Maypole

The intersection of Pulaski and Maypole from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View

The police are trying to apprehend the driver and provided an image of the van taken by a security or traffic camera. The phone number visible on back of the van in the image is associated with Advanced Realty Network, a brokerage at 2427 West Madison. A call to the number reached a voicemail for the company. While it’s not clear that the driver was employed by Advanced, presumably the police will visit the company for more information. Anyone who has information can contact the police at 312-745-4521.

As of Thursday afternoon, several people had left abusive comments in the reviews section of Advanced’s Facebook page. Please keep in mind that this is inappropriate, since we don’t even know for sure yet that the driver works for the company.

Cruz’s death follows those of three other bike riders who were fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers this summer. Courier Blaine Klingenberg was struck and killed by a tour bus driver on June 15 in the Gold Coast. Divvy rider Virginia Murray fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver on July 1 in Avondale, and Lisa Kuivinen was also struck and killed by a the driver of a flatbed truck on August 16. Active Transportation Alliance advocacy director Jim Merrell responded to the news on Twitter this morning, tagging Mayor Emanuel’s and the Chicago Department of Transportation’s accounts.

Read more…


Alderman Burnett Weighs In on Kuivinen Case, Cyclists Honor the Fallen Rider


Lisa Kuivinen at a ballroom dancing event.

The case of Lisa Kuivinen, a 20-year-old art student who was fatally struck by an 18-wheel flatbed truck driver while cycling on Milwaukee Avenue yesterday morning, has moved many Chicagoans, from everyday bike riders to city officials.

Around 8:15 a.m. Kuivinen, a Rolling Meadows native who studied animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was biking southeast in a green-painted stretch the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane in West Town, police say. Driver Anotonio Navarro, 37, veered into the bike lane while making a right turn onto southbound Racine Avenue, striking and dragging the cyclist, according to police.

Kuivinen was taken to in critical condition to Northwestern Hospital, where the cyclist was pronounced dead, according to the police. Navarro, an Algonquin resident, was ticketed for driving in a bike lane and failure to take due care for a bicyclist in the roadway. He has a hearing in traffic court on September 15 at 9 a.m. at the Daley Center.

It appears that Navarro, whose truck is registered with Illinois Brick Co., was on his way to a transit-oriented development construction site at 830 North Milwaukee. The site can be accessed from an alley off of Racine. The southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by fencing for the TOD project, forcing cyclists to merge into the travel lane, which forces cyclists to merge into the travel lane. However, this may not have been a factor in the collision because the fence is a few hundred feet southeast of the crash site.

There also seems to be an issue with trucks and equipment being parked in the bike lane near the work site. DNAinfo is reporting that, when a woman named Maria stopped this morning to photograph a truck in the bike lane and talk to the driver when she witnessed a male cyclist intentionally smash the windshield of the truck. The man seemed to be frustrated that, even in the wake Kuivinen’s death, truckers were still endangering cyclists at the site by blocking the bike lane. After Maria confronted the man, he fled the scene.

In theory, when construction blocks down sidewalks or bike lanes, the Chicago Department of Transportation requires that safe accommodations must be made for pedestrians and cyclists, although this is often not the case. DNA reports that nearby resident Jeff Miller emailed local alderman Walter Burnett (27th) on August 4 about the bike lane blockage writing, “It’s only a matter of time until someone gets hurt… [There is] literally no space for bicycles to go around that project causing them to also swerve into traffic.”


Memorial to Kuivinen at the crash site. Photo: John Greenfield

According to DNA, city records state that on May 18 Summit Design & Build LLC, the construction company for the TOD project submitted an application to CDOT for “curb lane & bike lane closures at 830 N. Milwaukee for 30 days.” The property is located just southeast of Milwaukee’s intersection with Elston Avenue, another street with protected bike lanes. Since Milwaukee runs northwest-southeast, and that stretch of Elston is north-south, the two roadways meet at a 45-degree angle.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Burnett told Streetsblog that a Chicago Department of Transportation official said the department was investigating the bike lane blockage and would have a report by the end of the day. We’ve asked CDOT to share the information once it is released.

“I did drive down there a little while ago,” Burnett said. “I don’t know if [Summitt is] exceeding [their permit] in inches or feet how much they can come out in the street — that’s something a little more technical that [CDOT is] going to look at.”

“Personally, if traffic was that tight, I don’t know what I would have done,” Burnett added. “[The Milwaukee/Elston] intersection is challenging by itself. It’s an angular intersection, it’s not perpendicular. It’s kind of dangerous, period.”

Read more…


Lisa Kuivinen, 20, Struck and Killed While Biking on Milwaukee Avenue


Lisa Kuivinen. Photo: Facebook

We have been notified that Lisa Kuivinen identified as non-binary and preferred gender-neutral pronouns. The post has been edited accordingly.

Lisa Kuivinen, a 20-year-old art student, was fatally struck by the driver of an 18-wheel flatbed truck this morning while cycling on Milwaukee Avenue in West Town.

At about 8:15 a.m. Lisa was riding on the 800 block North Milwaukee, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs. A report from DNAinfo indicates that the cyclist was heading southeast towards downtown. The collision occurred just southeast of Milwaukee’s Kennedy Expressway overpass.

Near the construction site for a transit-oriented development, Lisa was struck by a flatbed truck driver. Lisa was taken to Northwestern Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at the hospital, Amezaga said.

The driver, identified by police as 37-year-old Antonio Navarro from northwest-suburban Algonquin, stayed on the scene, according to Amezaga. Navarro has been 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.

DNAinfo reports that the truck is registered with Illinois Brick Co. and a person from the company declined to comment.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified Lisa as a resident of 3700 block of Wren Lane, Rolling Meadows. Lisa’s Facebook profile indicates that the cyclist was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an interest in animation.

The crash took place on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue with protected bike lanes, including stretches where the bike lane is painted green and short segments protected by concrete curbs. However it appears the section of bike lane Lisa was riding on was not protected by curbs, parking, or flexible posts.

Moreover, the southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by fencing for the TOD construction site, forcing cyclists to merge into the travel lane. DNA reports that Lisa was approaching the fence when the driver struck the cyclist.

Read more…


There Appears to Be a Bicycling Generation Gap in Chicago’s Chinatown


Bikes locked near the Pui Tak Center social service agency. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Often as I’ve ed past the colorful storefronts of Chicago’s Chinatown, I’ve noticed many cheap department-store-type mountain bikes—Huffys, Murrays, and Magnas—cable-locked to racks, poles, and fences along Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue. I wondered if they belonged to recent immigrants to the neighborhood, toiling at blue-collar jobs in pursuit of the American dream.

So I set out to find out more about who’s riding bikes in the midwest’s largest Chinese community. I learned that while lots of new arrivals, as well as seniors and children of immigrants, are getting around on two wheels, unfortunately there seems to be a cycling generation gap. It seems that many adults who’ve moved to the U.S. and worked their way up the economic ladder are choosing to drive instead.

Biking appears to be fairly widespread in Chinatown and other nearby neighborhoods with sizable Chinese populations, even more so than in the city as a whole. A transportation survey done as part of the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, a neighborhood blueprint published last year by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in cooperation with local stakeholders, examined the habits of residents of “greater Chinatown,” including neighborhoods like Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and Brighton Park. It found that 10 percent of respondents use bikes for trips of any kind, including work commutes but also errands and other excursions.

A similar study commissioned by the Active Transportation Allianceestimated that, citywide, biking accounts for roughly 2 percent of all kinds of trips. (U.S. Census data suggests the percentage of work trips made by bike may be lower in Chinatown than in the city as a whole, with 1 and 2 percent respectively, but it’s possible that data omits some of the neighborhood’s undocumented immigrants.)

Read more…


Active Trans’ Kickstand Classic Lets You Race or Cruise on Car-Free Streets

Kickstand Classic Logo Full Color

Which kind of rider are you?

The Active Transportation Alliance is pioneering a new kind of biking event, a cross between a competitive race and a leisurely recreational ride, which could eventually turn into a significant fundraiser for their walking, transit, and bike advocacy efforts. The Kickstand Classic takes place in the morning of Sunday, September 25, in the suburban village of Bartlett, Illinois, southeast of Elgin. The starting line and post-race festival area will be located just south of the local Metra station.

The event will take place on a 4.8-mile, roughly trapezoidal course of village streets that will be rendered car-free for the occasion. While the ride is only open to people 16 or older, Active Trans director Ron Burke says it’s designed to be enjoyable for riders of all abilities, analogous to a 5K fun run. There will be three different heats for experienced, fast racers and road riders; confident cyclists who want to try their hand at racing; and casual riders who want to see what it’s like to pedal a bit faster, or just take a mellow cruise.

Burke says some of the inspiration for the event came from seeing his father organize the first 10K race in the small southern Illinois river town of Chester, home of Popeye creator Elzie Crisler Segar, when Burke was a kid. “Running races really began to happen for the general public in the 1970s,” Burke says. “For example, the Peachtree Road Race started in Atlanta in 1970 with 130 people and it now gets about 60,000.”


Likewise, Burke expects a modest turnout for the first Kickstand Classic, but hopes it will pick up speed in subsequent years to become a major draw, and perhaps inspire similar events in other parts of the country. “Just as recreational running events have brought more people to running, we’re hoping to have a similar effect for biking,” Burke says. “We’re hoping that as bicyclists do this they’ll say, ‘That was fun’ and want to do more. I believe someone who gets into road racing or recreational riding is more likely to ride a bike to the store or the train station.”

To ensure a safe and comfortable start for novice racers, the races will feature staggered starts, with participants wearing electronic chips to keep track of their start and finish times. The “Speed Demon Wave” of the race departs between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. and requires racers to do four laps, or about 19 miles. Racers are expected to maintain an average speed of at least 15 mph, and it’s the only heat in which drafting (riding closely behind another racer’s rear wheel to minimize wind resistance) is permitted.

The “Middle of the Road” wave starts between 7:45 and 8 a.m., and riders are expected to go at least 13 mph. The “Sunday Funday Wave” kicks off between 9:30 and 9:50 a.m. and is intended for rider who plan to go 12 mph or slower. All riders must be off the course by 11:45 so that the roads can be reopened to car traffic.

Read more…


Reilly to CDOT: Please Fix Dearborn Protected Bike Lane’s Lousy Pavement


The Dearborn bike lane at Adams. Photo: John Greenfield

Downtown alderman Brendan Reilly is known as the man who tried to get the Kinzie protected bike lanes removed, but he recently racked up some bike lane karma. Shaun Jacobsen, the urban planner behind the transportation blog Transitized, wrote to Reilly to about poor pavement conditions on the Dearborn two-way protected bike lane. The alderman promptly reached out to the appropriate city departments to try to solve these problems.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 7.16.44 PM

Letter from Reilly to Scheinfeld. Click to enlarge.

Currently the worst stretches of the Dearborn lane are between Adams and Monroe, and between Randolph and Lake. On these blocks, channels were cut out of the street to accommodate utility work, right in the middle of the bike lane. After the work was done, the troughs were filled with concrete but were never repaved with asphalt, resulting in a rough, bumpy riding surface.

On August 2, Reilly wrote Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld about the problem. “I respectfully request your department dispatch a maintenance team to survey and repair the damaged bike lane on Dearborn Street,” he said. “My office has received reports that a number of utility projects in this area have damaged the pavement, causing potholes and uneven terrain.”

Reilly asked that CDOT inspectors determine whether the utility work was done by private contractors or city workers, and requested that CDOT ensure that the bike lane would be repaired as soon as possible. He also asked the commissioner to report back to him when the bike lane is fixed.

Unfortunately the repairs aren’t going to be made immediately, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Dearborn will be getting resurfaced this fall, once all the utility work is wrapped up,” said CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey this morning. He added that the Kinzie protected lanes, which have also been affected by utility cuts, as well as Randolph, which is slated for a new westbound curb-protected bike lane this year, will also be repaved in the fall.

Read more…