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Posts tagged "Chicago Police Department"

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The Lakefront Trail Really Is Open All Day, All Night

Fog at Fullerton

Bicyclists can and should feel free to enjoy the Lakefront Trail’s beauty 24 hours a day. Photo: Jennifer Davis

Have you ever been hassled by Chicago police officers while bicycling on the Lakefront Trail after parks officially close at 11 PM? You’re not alone. Sebastian Huydts, who bicycles for most of his transportation needs, has been stopped twice this year — most recently on May 13, at about 11:15 p.m. “They actually told me to stop with a bright light and asked why I was there,” Huydts recently told Streetsblog. The police insisted that the park is closed after 11 p.m., telling Huydts “that you cannot use the path after that time, and that it wasn’t safe anyways.”

The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile path used by tens of thousands of bicyclists on warmer days, and by many as a key commuting route throughout the year.

Huydts said that the officers weren’t unfriendly, and that he wasn’t mistreated. He countered the police, saying that riding home among drunk drivers on Kinzie Street would be far less safe. The officers asked for his destination (Montrose Avenue), and after talking amongst themselves, they “told me I was good to go — but should exit as soon as I could.”

The police officer on duty when I called the news affairs office said that he would look into what the rule is, and also how many bicyclists the department has warned, issued citations to, or given a contact card to.

The Chicago Park District, which owns and maintains the Lakefront Trail, said that the path is open at all times. Spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said flatly that “the trail is open for ingress/egress after regular hours.” The Chicago Department of Transportation deferred to the Park District for a response.

Maxey-Faulkner’s answer that the path is open is in keeping with Park District code [PDF], which states that nobody can be in a park between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., “except that persons and vehicles may pass through such parks without stopping, on the more direct walk or driveway leading from their point of entrance to the exit nearest to their point of destination.” This code appears to extend to trails through other large parks throughout the city.

Others have previously reported instances where a police vehicle parked squarely across the path, with the attending police officer ordering bicyclists to immediately exit the trail. Active Transportation Alliance said in 2010 that they would like to see better awareness of the overnight trail use policy. This policy should be conspicuously posted along the path, and communicated to the police units who patrol the trail.

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Eyes on the Street: Police Blocking Bike Lanes, Sidewalks

Police SUV blocking protected bike lane at Wabash just north of Roosevelt in South Loop. Photo: Daniel Ronan

Police SUV blocking protected bike lane at Wabash just north of Roosevelt in South Loop. Photo: Daniel Ronan

Over the past few months, I have witnessed several instances of the Chicago Police Department violating the laws they are entrusted to enforce — namely, those laws that keep bike lanes and sidewalks clear from obstructions like automobiles. In none of these instances were public safety emergencies apparent within the immediate area, nor were any of the police officers present urgently scrambling to a crime scene.

I understand that law enforcement officers occasionally need to put public safety above protocol while they’re upholding the law; as a CPD spokesperson wrote, “Although all Officers are encouraged to park legally when responding to calls, it is not always possible due to pressing public safety needs” as well as “the unpredictable nature of the job.” However, the frequency of these instances leave me wondering whether most maneuvers of this kind are really due to necessity, or just convenience.

Justin Haugens has witnessed similar behavior many times on Chicago streets, documenting numerous bike lane blockers with a slew of images on Flickr. He writes that “CPD are some of the worst offenders” when it comes to blocking bike lanes.

It’s bad enough that folks on foot or on bikes have to constantly contend with high-speed traffic, and face drivers who often show little regard for their safety. But to add insult to injury, even blocking sidewalks seems to be fair game for police.

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Dustin Valenta’s Lawyer Pressures Police to Identify Hit-and-Run Driver

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The site of Dustin Valenta's crash in Wicker Park. Photo by John Greenfield.

Frustrated by what he sees as passivity by the Chicago Police Department in tracking down the pick-up truck driver who ran over bicyclist Dustin Valenta on February 8 then fled the scene, Valenta’s lawyer is attempting to force the city to identify the motorist. Attorney Michael Keating has named the city of Chicago as a “Respondent in Discovery” in a civil suit against the unknown driver.

On March 20, Keating received red light camera footage of the pick-up from the Chicago Department of Transportation via a Freedom of Information Act request. Keating immediately forwarded the video to the CPD’s Major Accidents Investigation Unit, asking that the police use their video enhancement equipment to isolate the license plate number from the blurry footage.

Almost two weeks later Keating has gotten no response to his request, even though a witness has confirmed that the truck in the video was the one that ran over Valenta. He said that naming the city as a respondent in the lawsuit will force the CPD to share any information they have about the identity of the perpetrator. “I’m not asking for the sun, moon and stars here,” he said.

Slowed-down footage of the pick-up truck running over Valenta from a Citibank security camera. Video courtesy of Keating Law Offices.

Valenta was pedaling northwest past Artemio’s Bakery, 1443 North Milwaukee in Wicker Park, when a motorist in a parked car doored him. He fell into the road and was then run over by the pick-up, suffering a cracked skull, broken shoulder blades and hip, 23 cracked ribs and a punctured lung. Valenta is recovering remarkably well from this near-death experience.

The responding police officer ticketed the first driver but, oddly, instead of citing her for the dooring, charged her with violating an ordinance requiring motorists to yield to people on horseback. The collision wasn’t reported to Major Accidents until two weeks later, which Keating said delayed the search for the truck driver.

Keating is suing the first motorist, Jeaneane Quinn, as well as the hit-and-run driver, named as “John Doe” in the lawsuit. He explained his strategy in naming the city as a respondent. “The Respondent in Discovery statute is typically used to get a company or organization to identify one of their own employees or agents,” he said. “However, I thought this was a good use of this tool given that the City of Chicago has the ability to provide us the information.” The city has the option of responding or objecting to the discovery request. If they object, Keating plans to ask the judge to order them to respond.

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