Man Dies 3 Days After Bike-Truck Crash in Archer Heights

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The crash site, looking northeast on Archer.

A 55-year old man died Thursday afternoon, three days after a truck driver struck him on his bicycle in the Archer Heights neighborhood.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the man as Leopoldo Rodgriguez, of the 5000 block of South California in the Gage Park community. On Monday, August 4, at around 3:05 p.m., Rodriguez was riding southwest on the 4700 block of South Archer Avenue, according to Officer José Estrada from Police News Affairs.

Rodriguez was struck in the crosswalk at the south leg of the intersection of Archer and Lawndale Avenue, according to Estrada. This indicates that the cyclist had been riding on the sidewalk, in the opposite direction of traffic.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 2.34.02 PM
Path of SW-bound cyclist is in orange; NE-bound truck driver is in blue.

As Rodriguez rode southwest, the driver of a northeast-bound semi truck attempted to make a right turn to head south on Lawndale, Estrada said. The cyclist was pinned under the truck. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. He was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, and an autopsy found that he died of a head injury, according to the medical examiner’s office.

No citations have been issued, Estrada said, adding that Major Accidents is investigating the case. “It looks like it was just an unfortunate accident. A lot of cyclists don’t understand that they need to use the same rules of the road as drivers, so we have accidents like this that could be avoided.”

It’s true that wrong-way cycling and sidewalk riding by adults are too common in Chicago, and can contribute to crashes. In my experience, these behaviors seem to be more prevalent on the South and West sides of the city. For example, while checking out new bike lanes on the South Side last week, I spoke with a cyclist who argued that riding against traffic is safer, even though studies show the opposite is true. Clearly, more education and outreach is needed.

However, it’s easy to understand why Rodriguez may have believed he was safer biking on the sidewalk. This stretch of Archer has two lanes of traffic in each direction, plus left-turn bays — but no bike lanes — making it a hostile environment for cycling.

Since Archer is a direct, diagonal bike route downtown, it really should function as the Milwaukee Avenue of the South Side. As such, it’s designated as a bike-priority Spoke Route in the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. If traffic volumes allow, Archer would be a good candidate for a road diet with travel lane conversions, which would calm traffic and create safer walking and biking conditions. At the very least, marked bike lanes are needed on this section as soon as possible.

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 17 (5 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 3 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Is the traffic volume on Archer comparable to Milwaukee? Seems like a street with a heavy volume of truck traffic too from Chinatown to Midway.

  • David P.

    I think it is a bit problematic to say that he was riding the ‘wrong way’ when he was riding on the sidewalk rather than in the street – this arises from the sort of intermediate nature of a person on a bicycle, neither a car nor a pedestrian. We do not speak of pedestrians walking the wrong way on sidewalks, because there is no wrong way.

  • If you’re going to bike on the sidewalk, it’s probably safer to do it in the direction of traffic. The fact that the cyclist was coming from an unexpected direction for bike-speed (rather than pedestrian-speed) traffic was probably a factor in why the trucker didn’t notice him.

  • David Altenburg

    This is really terrible and tragic. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Rodriguez would have been just as likely to be hit if he had been a pedestrian (and therefore crossing legally).

    Has anyone ever studied the visibility of crosswalk users at diagonal (versus 90-degree) intersections? It certainly seems like they would be less visible to turning vehicles when there’s a greater angle between the pedestrian (or cyclist)’s location and the vehicles destination. This is once reason why I think it’s unwise for cyclists to use the crosswalks as a way to cross diagonal intersections faster than a complete light cycle (such as is common at Grand/Milwaukee). Unfortunately, pedestrians don’t have much of a choice.

  • BlueFairlane

    As far as the first part of this goes, I think in a lot of cases the difference is that somebody on a bicycle–even a slow-moving bicycle–moves from a place completely off the street and out of mind to being in the path of a moving vehicle much more quickly than a pedestrian could. This appearance is more unexpected, and the driver has less time to react.

    Meanwhile, I do suspect the extremely tight turn the driver was making contributed, in that the driver’s eyes would be more to the right than the eyes of somebody making a 90-degree turn. In short, the driver was looking sharply to the right rather than in front of him, and he didn’t expect anybody to be in front of him anyway.

  • what_eva

    I just had this happen to me a couple hours ago. I was driving NB on Damen turning EB on Diversey (had just left Costco). 6-way intersection, I’m crossing Clybourn with my turn and it’s some distance from the start of my turn to the crosswalk crossing Diversey. It’s clear as I start my turn, then as I get closer, there’s a cyclist riding SB through the crosswalk. Not sure he was ever on the sidewalk, may have come out of the gas station, but he wasn’t riding like a vehicle, he’s either on the sidewalk or salmoning. A pedestrian could not have gotten into the intersection that fast, but a cyclist can.

  • Carmin

    I am interested in the safest way to ride on a sidewalk. I have a kid (6) and we have been riding a lot on the sidewalk this summer. I would take him in a protected bike lane, but he just doesn’t have the ability to anticipate the moves a car might make when there isn’t one. (Sidenote: The law doesn’t seem clear to me whether I can ride with him on the sidewalk, but obviously I have to.) So, is it safest to ride with traffic–at times, I’ve been picking the side with the fewest pedestrians, but I’m re-thinking that strategy.


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