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Toolkit Will Help Cities Bring Shared Mobility to Low-Income Neighborhoods

SUMC Mapping Chicago 07.26.16

A screenshot from SUMC’s new mapping tool showing the locations of car-share (blue dots) and Divvy locations downtown, and on the West and Near South sides. The map also shows high (purple) and medium (orange) opportunity areas for shared mobility.

The Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center hopes their new interactive toolkit, released last week, will help cities expand the use of car-sharing, bike-sharing, and other forms of shared mobility, especially in low-income communities with limited transportation options. The toolkit includes a Shared Mobility Benefits Calculator, a Shared Mobility Policy Database, and an Interactive shared Mobility Mapping and Opportunity Analysis Tool.

SUMC executive director Sharon Feigon says the toolkit was developed in partnership with 27 North American cities through the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network. “They wanted to better understand and manage shared-mobility as new technologies emerge,” she said. “We’re hopeful that our toolkit will shed some light on how these technologies are working and shine some light on best practices.” To supplement the toolkit, they’ve also produced a report with an overview of each tool, plus policy recommendations, trends by city, size, and type, and shared mobility growth scenarios for each of the cities.

“Our interest is to really encourage the use of transit along with shared mobility to decrease the use of private cars,” Feigon added. “Our vision sees public transportation as the backbone and shared mobility as something that can enhance the transit system.” For example, services like bike-sharing and one-way car-sharing can facilitate “last mile” trips to and from rapid transit in locations where its difficult to access a station by walking or a fixed-route bus.

One-way car-sharing services like Car2Go, which allow customers to pick up a small car, drive it a short distance and leave it at any number of designated parking spots around town, have been popular in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. But Feigon said the mode hasn’t come to Chicago yet because of the complications caused by our city’s much-reviled parking contract. Mayor Emanuel’s office is currently looking into whether it could be implemented here, she said.

The benefits calculator allows cities to see the potential benefits of adding shared mobility nodes such as car-share and bike-share vehicles. For example, the calculator projects that – based on June 1, 2016 figures — Chicago could eliminate ten percent of private vehicle trips by adding 37,373 transit commuters, 8457 car-share vehicles, 6,908 bike-share cycles, and 18,313 ride-sharers or car-poolers. The result would be 11,167,065,800 fewer vehicle miles traveled, 418,800 fewer metric tons of emissions from personal vehicles, and $411,444,500 saved in personal vehicle transportation costs.

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Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

This street view rendering shows how bumpouts and signs would add “filtered permeability” on Manor Avenue, by allowing only bicyclists and pedestrians to continue north and south past Wilson Avenue. Image: CDOT

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues. Read more…

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U. of C. Doctor Gary Toback Fatally Struck While Jogging by Jackson Park

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Gary Toback.

University of Chicago doctor and professor Gary Toback, 74, was struck and killed by an SUV driver while running in the South Shore neighborhood this morning, authorities said.

At around 6:40 a.m., Toback, a kidney specialist, was jogging near the intersection of 67th Street and South Bennett Avenue on the south side of Jackson Park, according to authorities. Toback lived nearby on the 6800 block of South Bennett, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Neighbors described him as a running enthusiast, ABC reported.

According to police, a 40-year-old woman lost control of the Jeep SUV she was driving and rolled the vehicle, striking Toback. The vehicle landed near 67th and South Jeffery Avenue, several hundred feet east of the location where Toback was struck, police said.

Toback was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. The driver and a two-year-old girl who was riding in the vehicle were taken to Comer Hospital in unkown condition, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs.

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The intersection of 67th and Bennett from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View

Charges have not yet been filed against the driver, Amezaga said. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 14 (seven were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 2

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Chicago Needs More Street Redesigns to Reduce Pedestrian and Bike Deaths

This is one of my favorite things people in Chicago do

Because of the size and design of the Milwaukee/North/Damen intersection, people tend to cross – on foot and on bike – in all directions.

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report showing that all traffic fatalities increased significantly on U.S. roads from 2014 to 2015, by 7.7 percent to reach 35,200, the worst death toll since the 2008 economic crash. Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt pointed out that, while Americans drove 3.5 percent more during this period, that’s “not enough to explain the rising death toll.” U.S. pedestrian and bike fatalities rose even more during that period, by 10 and 15 percent, respectively.

Illinois saw a similar 7.5 percent increase in traffic deaths last year, with 923 fatalities in 2014 and 998 deaths in 2015, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In 2015 there were 46 Chicago pedestrian fatalities and 7 biking deaths, according to preliminary numbers from the Chicago Police Department, which may differ from IDOT’s final numbers for our city, which won’t be released until this fall. That represented a 43.8 percent increase in pedestrian deaths over 32 in 2014, and a 16.7 percent rise in bike fatalities from six in 2014, according to IDOT figures.

At a Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council meeting last February, Chicago transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld acknowledged the spike in pedestrian deaths between 2014 and 2015. However, she said the city’s pedestrian fatality numbers for recent years was “still a decrease if you look at a 10-year trend.” Despite that long-term decline, I’d argue that the nearly 44 percent year-to-year rise isn’t an acceptable number for a city with a stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is behind in many of its stated goals to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety by changing infrastructure, as outlined in the its Chicago Pedestrian Plan and Complete Streets Design Guidelines. For example, in the Pedestrian Plan, published in 2012, CDOT set a target of eliminating all channelized right-turn lanes, aka slip lanes, by 2015 because these enable drivers to make fast turns around corners, endangering pedestrians.

So far I’ve only heard about slip lanes being eliminated at two Lakeview intersections, Lincoln/Wellington/Southport and Halsted/Grace/Broadway. In both cases the changes resulted in a backlash from motorists, because the improvements to pedestrian safety made it a bit less convenient to drive.

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Dragging Survivor Scott Jacobson Is Making an Amazing Recovery

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Scott Jacobson with his family on last Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Jacobsons.

There’s been a lot of bad news lately about bike crashes and fatalities in Chicago. Fortunately we’ve also got the inspiring story of Scott Jacobson, a man who was struck and dragged hundreds of feet on his bike, suffering horrific injuries. Jacobson has been making a remarkable recovery and has kept a positive attitude in spite of his ordeal.

On Monday, May 2, at around 6 p.m., Jacobson, 47, was riding home after biking with his two sons to wrestling practice at De La Salle Institute. He was near the intersection of 35th Street and Lowe Avenue in Bridgeport when SUV driver Joshua Thomas, 26, made a U-turn and struck him, according to police.

Jacobson was dragged hundreds of feet until bystanders ran to stop the vehicle. His pelvis was fractured in three places, and the ball of the upper femur, which fits in the hip socket, was broken. He had five fractured vertebrae in his lower back and two broken ribs. He sustained severe road rash over much of his body, with muscle and bone visible in places.

Two months later, Jacobson is back at his McKinley Park home, and he’s beginning to try walking once again. “Last week I attempted getting up on a walker and putting my weight on one leg,” he says. “It’s a very strange feeling, learning how to walk again. It’s a long recovery process, but I’m doing everything I can.” Jacobsen says he’s been doing four hours of rehab exercises a day in an effort to regain his physical abilities.

He recounted the events of the crash. He had been heading west on 35th, behind Thomas’ SUV. “He pulled to the right like he was going to park or stop,” Jacobson recalls. “When I passed him, he pulled right out and started hitting me. He may have been attempting a U-turn.”

“When he first started hitting me, I had my hand on the hood of his car,” Jacobson says. He then fell under the SUV and he was stuck under the front of the car, face down, with only his head protruding from under the front of the vehicle. “I was yelling ‘Please stop!’ I told him I had a family.” Still, Thomas kept driving, in an apparent attempt to flee the scene.

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Parks Group Endorses Plan to Replace Two Acres of Green Space With Asphalt

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An aerial view of 31st Street Beach. Friends of the Parks has endorsed the park district’s plan to more than double the size of the west lot, center. Image: Google Maps

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a new 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 on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

It’s another case of parks versus parking lots.

The Chicago Park District plans to put more than 250 new parking spots near the recently revamped 31st Street Beach and Harbor, in addition to the more than 650 existing garage and surface lot spaces already available within a roughly five-minute walk of the beach. That would make for a whopping grand total of more than 900 stalls at the lakeside facility.

On top of that, to make room for the additional parking, the project would involve the elimination of 85,000 square feet of existing green space south of a current car park.

The Park District says the additional parking is meant to accommodate future demand for access to the 900-slip harbor—although a spokesperson admits the department hasn’t conducted a parking demand study.

But here’s what really gets me: the parking lot expansion has been endorsed by none other than Friends of the Parks, the same group that helped tank George Lucas’s proposal to replace Soldier Field’s 1,500-space south lot with his Museum of Narrative Arts.

“Friends of the Parks has been hearing from stakeholders as well as the Chicago Park District about the great demand for parking for both beachgoers and boaters at the 31st Street Beach,” executive director Juaniza Irizarry said via e-mail this week.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Friends of the Parks’ previous advocacy work. I respect the group’s role as a guardian of our city’s recreational spaces—working, for example, to stop private music festivals from destroying public parks. It’s also taken progressive stances on parking at other parks. Still, I saw its stance in rejecting the Lucas Museum as a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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Police Blamed Courier for Fatal Crash; Witnesses Say Bus Driver Ran Stoplight

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Blaine Klingenberg and Maja Perez at her brother’s wedding in March. Photo courtesy of Perez

[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.]

The intersection of Michigan and Oak, at the north end of the Magnificent Mile, is a complex and intimidating junction. Here, Michigan is a massive seven-lane boulevard, while Oak is a broad, two-lane street with turn lanes, lined with pricey boutiques and luxury high-rises. To the north are on- and off-ramps for Lake Shore Drive as well as curving roadways leading to and from Inner Lake Shore Drive. At the northeast corner there’s an underpass leading to the Lakefront Trail and Oak Street Beach. As such, this crossroads is often filled with a chaotic mix of pedestrians, bike riders, private cars, taxis, and buses.

Bike courier Blaine “Beezy” Klingenberg, 29, lost his life in the daunting intersection of Michigan and Oak on Wednesday, June 15, after being run over and dragged by a double-decker tour bus at the height of the evening rush. Described by employers and colleagues as a hard-working, likable, and safety-minded messenger, Klingenberg has been posthumously reduced to a poster boy for irresponsible urban cycling.

The driver, 51-year-old Charla A. Henry, is employed by Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. She was the second company employee to fatally strike a vulnerable road user on Michigan Avenue within the last seven months.

The Chicago Police Department along with major news outlets, reported that Klingenberg brought on his own death by pedaling through a red light. But in exclusive interviews with the Reader, two witnesses say they’re convinced the bus driver was at least partly responsible for Klingenberg’s death because she entered the intersection after the light turned red.

Klingenberg, a native of Bakersfield, California, worked for Advanced Messenger Service, delivering envelopes and packages via a large, yellow, Danish-style cargo bike.

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As of Friday night, a white-painted bike wheel hung on a pole at the crash site as a memorial to Klingenberg. Photo: John Greenfield

On June 15, while he was finishing up the day’s runs, he posted on Facebook, “Who’s down for the lake?” According to friends, he planned to meet up with other couriers after work at Oak Street Beach.

Here’s the CPD’s account of the fatal collision from the crash report: Around 5:30 PM Klingenberg was riding his cargo bike north on Michigan. Meanwhile, the bus driver was heading westbound on Oak, east of Michigan (where Oak is officially called East Lake Shore Drive).

“The victim disregarded the light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the collision,” the crash report stated, laying the blame squarely on Klingenberg.

Henry ran over Klingenberg, who was dragged and pinned under the bus’s middle-right side. Firefighters had to use large airbags to lift the bus off him. Klingenberg was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.

Henry has not been issued traffic citations or charged with a crime.

Initial reports by CBS 2, ABC 7, DNAinfo, and Chicagoist essentially took the police version at face value.

At least two eyewitnesses tell a different story.

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An Epidemic of Bike Crashes; Bad Trail Design May Have Caused One of Them

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One of several Lakefront Trail intersections in Uptown that are hazardous “mixing bowl” junctions with east-west streets and Lake Shore Drive access ramps. Moreover, confusing signage tells drivers to “Stop” while path users are ordered to “Yield.” A 61-year-old cyclist was critically injured at the Wilson intersection last Tuesday. Photo: Hui Hwa Nam.

It’s been an awful two weeks for bike collisions in northeast Illinois. On Tuesday of last week, a 29-year-old woman was struck and injured on her bicycle at Jackson and Homan, by a police officer who witnesses say ran a red light without using lights or sirens. That Wednesday bike courier Blaine Klingenberg was fatally struck by a tour bus driver at Oak and Michigan, the first Chicago bike fatality of 2016

Last Monday a pedicab operator reportedly had his vehicle struck by a hit-and-run minivan driver at South Water and Michigan, but escaped without injury. Last Tuesday schoolteacher Janice Wendling and her husband Mark were fatally struck while cycling in Morris, Illinois, by one of Janice’s former students.

Also last Tuesday, an SUV driver critically injured a 61-year-old man on a bike at Wilson and the Lakefront Trail. And we’re told that on Thursday a CTA driver struck a bicyclist on Milwaukee just north of the Bloomingdale Trail, causing minor injuries.

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Fallen cyclist Janice Wendling.

There was one piece of good news about local bike crashes on Thursday. We learned that Scott Jacobson, who suffered a broken pelvis and horrific road rash after he was struck by a driver and dragged hundreds of feet on May 2 in Bridgeport, was finally sent home from the hospital.

A route has been proposed for Friday’s Chicago Critical Mass ride that would visit the Klingenberg crash site, as well as the white “ghost bike” memorials for several other fallen cyclists. The map includes a stop at Jacobson’s home in McKinley Park to wish him a fast and full recovery – I’ve been told his family is looking forward to welcoming the riders.

Last Tuesday’s crash in Uptown, which took place at a spot where Wilson and access ramps for Lake Shore Drive converge with the shoreline path, highlights an intersection design and signage problem with the trail. At around 7:20 p.m., the bike rider was heading north on the path and was struck by the eastbound driver as he crossed Wilson, according to police.

The victim was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, police said. DNAinfo reported that one of the man’s wheels was left in the grass near the crash location.

The SUV driver, Liliana Flores, 32, a Park Forest resident, received three traffic citations and was scheduled for a hearing in traffic court on Monday, August 8, according to police.

As I’ve pointed out before, the unorthodox configuration and signage of this Lakefront Trail intersection, and similar junctions at Montrose, Lawrence, and Foster, create a confusing and hazardous situation. Not only do the east-west street, the LSD ramps, and the trail converge in one location, creating a chaotic “mixing bowl” effect, the signs at the intersections are seemingly paradoxical.

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Manor Greenway Could Become City’s Best By Cutting Cut-Through Motorists

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

Last week, the Chicago Department of Transportation revealed its proposal to connect riverfront paths, reduce cut through traffic, and make it safer to walk and bike along streets in the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. CDOT developed the plan for a “neighborhood greenway” between Horner Park and Ronan Park along the north branch of the Chicago River over the past two years, at the request of 33rd Ward Alder Deb Mell, and the Transportation Action Committee she started.

I’ve been a member of the TAC since its beginning, and I know the plan well. While I wasn’t able to attend the meeting, I think that Patty Wetli’s article in DNAinfo thoroughly captured the concerns people have.

The project was initiated because there’s a gap between two riverfront trails in Horner and Ronan Parks, and Ravenswood Manor residents have been complaining about cut-through traffic, motorists who roll past stop signs, and speeding, for decades. The neighborhood greenway plan includes redesigning a handful of intersections, laying down a short multi-use paths to connect the parks to the streets, and pilot what would be a pioneering traffic diverter.

Homes abut the river in Ravenswood Manor, so there is no public space along the river on which to build a trail. The neighborhood greenway  would be an on-street connection.

On the project’s south end, CDOT would build a small path in the park so people in the park could reach the start of the on-street route at the intersection of Montrose Ave. and Manor Ave. To create a safer crossing here, CDOT would build a concrete island with two waiting areas, one for people using the route, and another for people walking on the sidewalk. This way, people can cross one direction of traffic at a time. The island blocks left turns from Manor Ave. onto Montrose Ave. and left turns from Montrose Ave. to Manor Ave. would use a dedicated lane. CDOT would build a raised crosswalk across Manor Ave. to slow incoming motorists.

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

CDOT showed this rendering, looking north on Manor at Wilson, of how the traffic diverter would work. Previous proposals, presented to the TAC, used concrete to physically prevent vehicles from going straight. Image: CDOT

On the north end, CDOT proposed building a new, short trail on an extended parkway along Lawrence between Manor Ave. and the Ronan Park entrance. A traffic island that’s nearly identically to the one at Montrose would offer a safe waiting area for people to cross in two-stages. There would be another raised crosswalk here at the entry of the neighborhood greenway.

The neighborhood greenway’s on-street route would be the city’s third. The first was installed on Berteau Avenue in Lakeview in 2014, and the second, albeit without any infrastructure changes, was built on Wood Street in Wicker Park.

The best way to increase safety for people walking and biking on neighborhood greenways is to limit speed and reduce the number of cars. Manor Ave.’s speed limit is already 20 m.p.h. but residents had said it was common to see people driving faster. The neighborhood’s many families, a park and a ballet school, all mean that lots of children are crossing Manor Ave. Read more…

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Please Stop Using Blaine Klingenberg’s Death as an Excuse to Shame Cyclists

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CBS Chicago’s Dorothy Tucker at Wednesday’s crash site. CBS used the fatal collision as an opportunity to scold bicyclists. Screenshot from the CBS report.

Family and friends, and the Chicago bike courier community, are mourning the death of Blaine Klingenberg, 29, who was fatally struck on his bike by a tour bus driver Wednesday evening at Oak Street and Michigan Avenue.

Meanwhile online commenters are heartlessly ridiculing the victim, arguing that he foolishly brought on his own demise. Even mainstream news sources are running pieces implying that Klingenberg’s actions were largely to blame for the fatal crash. Moreover, they’re using this tragedy as a chance to lecture bike riders about safety, as if reckless biking, rather than dangerous driving, was the leading cause of carnage on our streets.

First let’s get one thing straight. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, we don’t know exactly what caused this tragedy. Here’s the information we do have at this point.

Shortly after finishing a day of finishing a day of delivery work for Advanced Messenger Service, on Wednesday at around 5:30 p.m. Klingenberg was riding his cargo bike north on Michigan with a small group of cyclists, authorities say. Facebook posts indicate that Klingenberg and friends were heading to Oak Street Beach, which can be accessed by a path and underpass at the northeast corner of Oak and Michigan.

At the same time, a 51-year-old woman was driving a Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. double-decker tour bus westbound, east of Michigan, according to Officer Nicole Trainor from Police News Affairs. East of Michigan, Oak is officially called East Lake Shore Drive.

As the bus operator drove west, she ran over Klingenberg, pinning him under the bus, Trainor said. She added that a diagram of the collision on the crash report does not indicate that either the bike rider or the bus driver was turning. The cyclist was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

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Klingenberg was biking north on Michigan (yellow line), probably to access the path to Oak Street Beach (dotted line). The bus operator was heading west on East Lake Shore Drive / Oak (red line). Some witnesses said both both the cyclist and bus driver had a red, because southbound traffic on Inner Lake Shore Drive (blue line) had a left-turn signal. Note that this diagram does not necessarily indicate the exact location where the crash occurred. Original image: Google Maps

However, the crash report states, “The victim disregarded the [red] light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the fatal collision.” If Klingenberg was heading to Oak Street Beach, he would have made a slight northeast turn at Oak Street to enter a curb ramp at the northeast corner of the intersection and access the path to the beach underpass. No charges have been filed against the bus operator.

The officer who filled out the report was clearly laying the blame for the crash on the bike rider. However, things may not be that cut-and-dried. Unlike the bus driver, Klingenberg isn’t alive to tell his side of the story.

“I have seen instances time and time again in which [Chicago Police Department] blames a cyclist for a collision when it wasn’t their fault,” Jim Freeman of the bike-focused law firm FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) said this morning. “I guarantee when the truth comes out it won’t be as simple as ‘the cyclist blew the red.'”

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