Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook
I know from personal experience that nothing beats a dip in Lake Michigan after a hard day of bicycle delivery work in hot weather. It appears that on Wednesday evening, bike courier Blaine Klingenberg, 29, was on his way to enjoy that simple pleasure at Oak Street Beach with friends. Tragically, he instead lost his life in a crash with a double-decker tour bus, making him the first bike fatality of 2016.
Yesterday in the late afternoon Klingenberg, who worked at Advanced Messenger Service, posted on Facebook “Who’s down for the lake?”, inviting friends to join him for a cool-off. From the thread, it looks like they decided to head to Oak Street Beach, one of the closest beaches to the Central Business District.
According to authorities, Klingenberg was riding his cargo bike north on Michigan Avenue with a small group of cyclists at around 5:25 p.m. Just south of the underpass to Oak Street Beach, at the intersection of Oak and Michigan, he was involved in a crash with a double-decker tour bus operated by Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co., which was heading west on Oak.
Klingenberg was trapped under the bus and firefighters had to use airbags to lift the vehicle, according to the fire department. He was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where has was pronounced dead on arrival.
Advance Messenger owner Bruce Kohn told the Chicago Tribune that Klingenberg had left work about a half hour before the crash. “He was probably the best, nicest bicycle messenger I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I’ve been doing this my entire adult life,” Kohn said. He added Klingenberg was a “cautious” delivery cyclist.
The Chicago Police Department stated that “The victim disregarded the red light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the fatal collision.” Sadly, but predictably, the comment sections of articles about the crash in the mainstream media quickly filled up with callous remarks blaming Klingenberg for his own death, as well as blanket statements about urban cyclists being reckless and foolish.
However, it’s still not clear how the fatal crash went down. While some witnesses did say Klingenberg rode quickly through a red light, others stated that the bus driver also had a red light, because southbound traffic from Inner Lake Shore Drive had a left-turn signal at the time, the Tribune reported. Major Accidents is investigating the case.
It would be great if online commenters would show some basic humanity towards Klingenberg and his loved ones, instead of rushing to blame the victim. It may turn out to be the case that the cyclist’s actions contributed to his death. However, it must also be pointed out that this is the second time in seven months that a Chicago Trolley bus driver has fatally struck a vulnerable road user on Michigan Avenue.