Driver Kills Cyclist on Clybourn, Where IDOT Is Blocking Protected Bike Lanes

Looking northwest at the Infiniti car, Photo: Jon Kobiljak, via DNA Info.
Looking northwest at the Infiniti car. Photo: Jon Kobiljak, via DNA Info.

Police are questioning the driver of a Mercedes who was involved in a head-on collision with an Inifiti and then fatally struck cyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann, 26, from behind. The crash took place while the Mercedes driver and Cann were traveling southeast on Clybourn Avenue near Larrabee Street in Old Town. The driver, who stayed on the scene, is in policy custody but any charges have yet to be filed, pending an investigation, according to Police News Affairs. Police have not released the driver’s name, but DNAinfo reports that he is 28 years old.

Marcus Moore, owner of Yojimbo’s Garage, a bike shop (the building with the red door in the photos), didn’t see the crash, but helped the three occupants of the Mercedes exit the car. He said they did not appear injured. While Moore was helping them out of the car, someone on the sidewalk said, “Where’d the bicyclist go?” It was then that he realized a cyclist was involved and saw Cann lying in the street 40 feet from the damaged cars, with his leg severed and blood coming out of his mouth, he said.

Overhead view of the Mercedes on Clybourn Avenue. Photo: Jon Kobiljak, via DNA Info.
Overhead view of the Mercedes on Clybourn Avenue. Photo: Jon Kobiljak, via DNA Info.

Moore believes the driver of the Mercedes rear ended Cann, after which Cann landed on the hood and collapsed the car’s windshield. He said it’s possible the crash occurred in the intersection of Larrabee and Clybourn, or within 20 feet. Cann worked at Groupon on Larrabee/Kingsbury a half-mile south. Given that it was after work, and Cann lived in Lakeview, Moore believes Cann was cycling north on Larrabee before the crash and that the impact happened within the intersection, though he ended up lying on Clybourn.

The car-bike crash might have been avoided if this stretch of Clybourn had protected bike lanes. The Chicago Department of Transportation has proposed building protected lanes on Clybourn. However, Clybourn is an Illinois Department of Transportation-jurisdiction street, and IDOT has instituted a ban on PBLs on roads that fall under its jurisdiction until 2014, when three years of “safety data” on existing Chicago protected lanes becomes available.

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Looking northwest on Clybourn.

Philip Bird, a friend of Cann’s, has proposed dedicating Friday’s Critical Mass ride in Cann’s honor, and has put out a request for help on The Chainlink, a local social networking site.

Fatality Tracker: 2013 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 8 (7 were from hit-and-run crashes, 2 in truck crashes)
Bicyclist: 2

  • CL

    I hope what happened leads to more public pressure for bike lanes on Clybourn — maybe they can revisit this in 2014 when the ban is lifted. The street looks ideal for bike lanes because it’s wide.

  • Anonymous

    Having worked at Groupon, and commuted from Logan Square daily, the streets in the near north are lawless. You have virtually non existent bike lanes, a sea of taxis, large luxury SUVs speeding like they’re qualifying for the Forza and commercial trucks (also barreling down the road like they’re participating in a time trial) all sharing the same space, and guess what? Bikes are pushed out of the way. The roads are pothole-ridden and narrow in some stretches. The only time I’ve ever been struck by a motor vehicle while riding my bike was on Chicago Ave, not too far from where this accident took place. This is a shame. It’s a shame on our city, and on people who drive their Autobahn-ready vehicles so aggressively on our crowded streets that these kind of accidents happen. I’m happy to see all the improvements that have been made for bicyclists in the last few years, however, changes need to be made on the near north side. This is a very densely populated area, with all kinds of start up/tech companies who have employees who ride their bikes to work.

  • MD

    @CL I hope so too man. This is so frustrating because that stretch of Clybourn is especially dangerous for bikers. IDOT should be feeling the pressure right now, I hope the Chicago public supports the Critical Mass ride in support of this. Thoughts and prayers with everyone involved.

  • Lisa Curcio

    I believe that Clybourn is a prime candidate for some sort of bicycling infrastructure, but I think you threw this article together on the fly. Immediately following the comment by Marcus Moore that he believes Mr. Cann might have been traveling north on Larabee at the time of the collision you state that the crash might have been avoided if there were PBLs on Clybourn. HUH?
    Frankly, since there really is no evidence of how this terrible crash occurred, to try to use this crash to justify PBLs on Clybourn is really not logical. Advocacy—good. False justification—bad.

  • MD

    Might we agree that had there been safety lanes this might not have been the outcome? I don’t even bike all that much but as a driver who gets nervous around bikers in the street, I see Clybourn as a prime candidate as well.

  • CL

    I can’t recall ever driving on this street, but it looks like it’s one of those streets where the wide width means that drivers decide to make it 2 lanes each way, so I bet there’s a lot of passing on the right, cutting back in, drag racing at intersections to pass, etc. At least that’s what happens on similar roads where I live.

    When they re-did one of these streets to be more narrow, with only one lane and a bike lane, I thought it was going to slow down my commute, but I actually love it. Now I don’t have to deal with reckless drivers trying to get ahead of everyone in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and bikes aren’t in front of me because they are safely in their lane. It’s a lot less stressful for everyone.

  • Marcus said it’s possible that Cann was cycling north on Larrabee *before* the collision occurred. Marcus presents one possible scenario of the event.

    People tend to driver slower on streets that have been narrowed with infrastructure like protected bike lanes, including at and through intersections.

  • Most of my Clybourn time is spent north of North Avenue, but what you describe happens frequently around Fullerton/Ashland and sometimes between Webster and Armitage in the strip mall area.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Steven, I don’t disagree with the concept of infrastructure there. I think IDOT is willfully ignoring evidence available from all over the country as to the effect of biking infrastructure. I disagree with using this crash, the details of which are still unknown to the public so far as I can see, in the way this article was written to reach the goal of advocating for that infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    I hope they check the driver’s phone record. With the quantity of drivers I see texting or emailing or facebooking or whatever while driving is astounding. As the city “cracks down” on cyclists running red lights, I hope they devote equal attention to distracted drivers.

  • I don’t know how to do this effectively. The fine can be raised and raised and people will still do it because its so hard to enforce. When riding my bike I can see it so clearly, but can a police officer in a car? I hardly even see CPD out on the roads ticketing drivers in the first place.
    I think it’s going to be up to the cell phone manufacturers/providers to sort of work this one out, unfortunately for now… It won’t be auto manufacturers who insist on adding more screens and buttons into their cars (that aren’t inactivated while driving).

  • Lee Crandell

    Clybourn should be getting buffered bike lanes this spring, along the entire stretch of the street. Ald. Smith announced this in her newsletter last year. We can’t know if that would have made a difference in this tragic crash, but these kinds of improvements can’t come soon enough.

  • BlueFairlane

    I agree completely. We don’t know what happened here, so how can we possibly say a buffered/protected/whatever you want to call it lane would have made any difference? It in fact sounds very much like the bicyclist was in the intersection. Buffers stop at intersections and wouldn’t have made a bit a difference.

    Was he in the intersection? I have no idea. Neither does anybody else in the public, which is why using this accident this way is a huge overreach. It only reduces the site’s credibility.

  • Anonymous

    Cops on bikes.

  • Curious as to if this is viewed as a serious problem to warrant “stings”. I’d hope so.

  • Elliott Mason

    Unfortunately, the manpower just isn’t there — as witness, see how many cars with one blown headlight (or other safety/usability problems that would get it disqualified to take a driving test in) you see driving around. Fifteen years ago they would have been ticketed often enough that people just kept their cars in proper working order. If the chances of ‘getting caught’ are low enough, people start forgetting there was a rule at all.

    Obviously, violent crime and suchlike should be the police’s FIRST priority, but we also need to fund and staff them such that they can get to priorities two-through-fifteen adequately as well.

  • Anonymous

    Details surrounding a fatal accident are never pleasant. Having read this piece, I believe that I am more likely to remember what happened than the standard sanitized 5 W’s of journalism version.

    It’s not an honor to die on a route that should feature infrastructure improvements that a myopic state agency fails to see as necessary or prudent – it’s a damn tragedy. Incorporating details that produce a visceral reaction or other strong emotional response helps to seer that tragedy into our collective consciousness in an uncomfortable way.

    People don’t like to be uncomfortable – maybe the memory of Bobby on the ground bleeding out may encourage the otherwise complacent to take a stand, to get involved in a direct way by seeking to influence or bring about necessary change.

    It isn’t disrespectful to portray the incident in full-blown technicolor, as doing so appropriately highlights one of the the cruel and completely senseless outcomes associated with an absolutely stunning disconnect between urban transportation needs and the manner in which the IDOT identifies and responds to them. If I were to ever get killed while riding, I would hope that some insightful writer would use the very same approach.

    Nice piece, Steven.

  • Mcass777

    I hate Clybourn for all those reasons. All the stop signs up north do nothing to slow traffic thru or darting across intersections.

  • booker

    agreed. when i’m on a bicycle or a motorcycle, i seem to really notice people on their phones. it’s a real reality check, since i’m so vulnerable when using those modes of transportation. often people will look right at me during this, and i’m thinking “i’m the one you’re going to kill, asshole. this won’t just be a fender bender for me”. scary.

  • The DNA story talking about how his mother had just visited really got to me in an emotional way. Really put a human touch on, as you said, the “5 W’s of journalism”.

  • Kevin M

    Here’s how auto drivers can actually be incentivized:

    1) State’s pass laws prohibiting use of hands-on mobile devices for drivers

    2) Auto insurance companies offer discounts to policy holders to install this device in their automobiles:

    3) Annual insurance discount is given after digital logs are verified by the device mentioned above

    The insurance companies have their own incentive here. They will pay out heavier settlements to crash victims when their policy holders are caught using a hands-on mobile device at the time of the crash incident.

  • Elliott Mason

    The big problem there is that it prohibits passengers from using mobile tech, which is stupid. Oh, yes, I know, lots of trips have just a driver in the car, but that’s not how we roll in our family.

    I have enough trouble with priuses or GPSes that want to give you crap about being manipulated when the car is in motion BY THE PERSON IN THE FRONT PASSENGER SEAT, GUYS …

    Asking your passenger to deal with stuff like that, or answer the phone, or call the person whose house you’re going to to tell them you’ll be late, is perfectly sound driving.

  • Too many hypotheticals, this is nothing more than a witch hunt to place blame. I agree that IDOT blocking PBLs is troublesome, but there’s no way to claim a PBL would have been implemented by CDOT before this death occurred.

    Whose to say that PBLs would have helped at all? Should a collision occur and force a vehicle towards the PBLs, the flexible bollards would not have helped.

    There’s another hypothetical for you that removes IDOT from the scenario and blames CDOT for poor implementation, be more objective if you’re going to criticize the nature of this.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. There’s no reason my wife can’t text, email, talk without a hands-free, etc when I’m driving or vice versa. Additionally, if I do get a text, it’s perfectly legal for me to pull over and deal with it without shutting my car off (which that device requires).

  • If CDOT did not use flexible bollards, this would not happen:

    If CDOT did not use flexible bollards, the likelihood of this would be much lower:

    If CPD, or the City of Chicago in general, actually enforced traffic laws this would not happen:

    I’m sure I could look for more examples and you’ve provided plenty of examples on twitter, Facebook or any other social media outlet.

  • Jakub Muszynski

    Actually the device states:

    “Q: Does your system allow a passenger to use his/her own phone?

    A: Yes, a passenger
    can still use his/her phone to talk or text, as long as his/her phone
    is not associated with the “Activator” installed in the automobile.”

    So it seems like the Driver of the vehicle needs to install an application on their phone to allow this device to work.

  • That’s exactly why enforcing this law effectively is so difficult…

  • Kevin M

    The key2safedriving device does not block _any_ mobile from being used unless A) the mobile has the device’s app installed and B) a person enables the app (therefore disabling the hands-on usage of the mobile). Therefore, passengers _can_ use their mobiles in automobiles where the key2safedriving device is installed and in use for the _Driver’s_ mobile.

    Look, the point here is that there is technology available today that can render a mobile unusable while in a moving vehicle. Through some combination of carrot (e.g. insurance discount) and stick (e.g. mobile-blocking device usage log review), there may be a way to ensure that Drivers are not using hands-on mobiles.

    It sure as hell beats the reactive (post-crash) enforcement of current hands-on mobile bans, which are _clearly_ not convincing most Drivers to put their damn mobiles down when sharing the road.

  • Kevin M

    How hard is it for you to shut your car’s engine when you’re parked and wanting to use your hands-on mobile device? 2 seconds of a hand-twist or button push? Oh, wait, maybe you’re driving a Ford Model-T…

  • Anonymous

    Why does IDOT need a couple years to study whether cyclists need safe places to ride, yet can determine in a few days that it is perfectly fine to spend millions constructing highway ramps outside of someone’s bedroom window?

    [Slight exaggeration for added emphasis acknowledged, but the point remains the same.]

  • Nick

    Terrible. If you spend a lot of time on a bike in this city, over years, you are very lucky not to have a bad accident. I’ve been a serious biker for many years, extremely cautious, and last week was riding into Elmwood Park, alongside some buses, across the train tracks. Basically on a whim right before the tracks I decided to stop and let the buses and cars pass me because it just looked to me like there was too much going on. When they passed I crossed the track and midway my tire got caught in one of the tracks and I ate it, sliding into the road. If I’d ridden alongside the buses instead of stopping, which I didn’t even really think about, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have been killed. All riders need to be very, very careful. Biking in this city isn’t a game.

  • David

    I live at 1525 clybourn outside where this happened and commute year round on bike like bobby. Yes you are right on how drivers view clybourn and how the street would benefit if narrowed. The truth is there are many car accidents on this stretch of clybourn for same reasons so a bike lane would actually make things safer for them too (thought it may add say 60-90 seconds to their journey over this half mile stretch of clybourn. Seems like a no-brainier.

  • J. Rhodes

    Wait a minute, the bicyclist is riding on Larramie, gets rearended by a car invilved in a crash within the intersection and lands on Clyborn, yet he would have been saved if there had been protected bike lanes? Seems like b.s. the guy probably was blowing through the intersection like the many bicyclists around the city do. We need to reduce the number of lawless bicyclists, futhermore, if we are going to allow bicyclists on the roads, efforts should be made to identify bike only streets while other main arteries remain BIKE FREE…then maybe tragedies like this would be avoided.

  • Kevin

    Are you kidding me? You are putting the blame on the CYCLIST!?!! This guy in the merc was hammered and driving too fast and now this innocent kid on a bike is dead. Even if he was blowing through an intersection ( which, if you would learn to read, he was not ) I don’t see how the drunken ass in the car is the victim in your mind.
    You might also want to take a moment to consider the fact that this kids family are probably reading every news story they can find right now trying to understand this horrific event and here you are saying it is HIS FAULT HE’S DEAD. PLease consider that notion and then think to yourself “what kind of person am I to post this where is family will almost surely see it” and then make your choice whether or not to delete….

  • karen

    Bobby wasn’t the kind of rider that blew through intersections….he obeyed the laws. He was an advocate for safe cycling by all. And he wasn’t riding on Larramie….he was riding on Clybourn.
    FYI – The driver has been arrested for drunk driving and will appear in bond court today.

  • Wow. I’m almost speechless. I hope I’m never on a street riding my bicycle that you’re driving on. You’ll probably hit me just to get another cyclist off the road.

  • Anonymous

    Ryne Sanhamel, while driving drunk with a Blood-Alcohol level of .125
    drove into and killed cyclist Bobby Cann. Rather than allowing him to
    bargain for a plea agreement he should get a full trial, in open and
    public court, to determine his sentencing for this Reckless Homicide and
    Aggravated DUI felony crime.

    That’s why I created a petition to Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s
    Attorney, which says:

    “Ryne Sanhamel, while driving drunk with a Blood-Alcohol level of .125
    drove into and killed cyclist Bobby Cann. He should stand full trial and
    not a negotiated plea bargain to determine his sentence.

    Will you sign this petition? Click here:


  • Ian

    However well – intentioned, I am concerned that this petition is misguidedand ineffective. Please do not believe that signing it is anything but an under-informed feelgood effort.

  • Anonymous

    The petition was printed and mailed last Thursday, 400-plus pages with over 4500 ‘signatures’ including the comments. As of today, Tuesday, these are more then 5200 signatures.

    Each signing produces an email to the States Attorney’s office.

    What are we ‘under-informed’ about? Why are you concerned?

  • Alex Oconnor

    @J. Rhodes : Defender of Drunk Drivers and spiteful idiot….well done

  • Concerned

    I cannot testify to the type of bicyclist that Bobby was. I can tell you that in 30 years of living in Chicago, I have seen only 1 bicyclist obey street laws (for example, stopping at stop signs, red lights, yielding to traffic that has the right of way, going the right way down a one way street, etc.) on one occasion. Other than that, they continually weave through traffic and violate just about every rule of the road. Pedestrians almost always have the right of way. Bicyclists do not and must share the road with vehicles and obey the rules of the road. This ALMOST NEVER happens. When evaluating a complex situation like this, we must be open to the LIKELY possibility that both San Hamel was Drunk and Cann was not observing the rules of the road. We must keep an open mind and acknowledge these possibilities.

  • Cann was universally described as an ambassador for safe, lawful cycling, so it’s very unlikely he was not observing the rules of the road. San Hamel, on the other hand, had a blood alcohol level of .127 and prosecutors say he was driving at least 20 mph over the speed limit. It should be pretty obvious that the cyclist was an innocent victim of the motorist’s irresponsible decisions.

  • Julia Sugden

    As a cyclist in Chicago who actually does obey traffic laws (in an effort to get rid of negative cyclist stereotypes and to protect myself), even in bike lanes I have had drivers come zooming through the bike lane to pass on the right (this passing on the right thing is so scary!), or opening doors without looking. It is just dangerous no matter how you look at it. I do agree that for everyone’s safety, it might be good to have some major streets that are bike free, while making smaller streets safer for bikes and increasing protected bike lanes. And, I know I’m late on this, but to those who think of cyclists as lawless on the road, I don’t like that kind of biking either, but you could have easily made your points without making assumptions about Cann. Your comments appear to have been written in poor taste without consideration for his friends and family.


Bobby Cann Case Is Progressing Slowly

It may be a long road to justice for Robert “Bobby” Cann, the bicyclist who was killed by an allegedly drunk, speeding driver last spring in Old Town. There was little progress during a brief court hearing for motorist Ryne San Hamel last Friday, and it will likely be several months until the police department’s […]

Driver Who Killed Bobby Cann Asked Judge For His Mercedes Back

At a September 23 court hearing, Ryne San Hamel, 28, who allegedly struck and killed bicyclist Bobby Cann, 25, while drunk and speeding, requested that the state give him back his impounded Mercedes, according to victim advocate Sharon Johnson. Prior to the hearing, the summary suspension of San Hamel’s driver’s license was rescinded, Johnson said. […]