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Cyclist Who Died After Avondale Crash Was the First Bike Fatality in 4 Months

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 1.14.49 PM
The 3400 block of North Kedzie, where cyclist Robert Lewis was struck on September 2. He died from his injuries on Friday. Image: Google Street View

At last week’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, Chicago Department of Transportation deputy commissioner Luann Hamilton discussed the fact that there were no fatal bike crashes in the city between May and August of this year. “It’s great, especially because we just got through the summer cycling season window, with more cyclists out than ever,” she said.

According to Illinois Department of Transportation records, there were an average of three bike fatalities in Chicago from 2009 to 2013 during those four months. 2014 was a particularly bad year, with six cyclists struck and killed during those months, and eight fatalities altogether.

The total for all of 2015 so far is also low, with only two bike-related deaths between January and August, compared to an average of 3.6 fatalities by this time from 2009 and 2013, Hamilton said. “We think that the work we’re doing on encouraging safer cycling and encouraging people to get out and enjoy bicycling is contributing to our good performance, but I think the most important thing is safety in numbers.” Data shows that, as the number of people biking in a city increases, drivers get better at sharing the road with cyclists, and bike fatality rates drop, she said.

Assistant CDOT commissioner Sean Wiedel reported that Divvy use has increased this year with the expansion of the system from 300 to 475 stations. Last year, 10-12,000 bike-share trips was typical on a busy summer day, but this year 14-16,000 trips is the norm on a busy day.

This chart shows that the number of bike fatalities has been lower so far this year, compared to recent years.

Hamilton added that more people are also using their own bikes for utilitarian and recreational trips. She said she hoped the months-long trend of zero fatalities would continue. “But I think there’s a long way to go to make it safe for everyone to cycle in all parts of Chicago.”

Sadly, the city’s good luck streak ended last Friday, when cyclist Robert Lewis died from injuries sustained when he was struck by a semi driver on Wednesday, September 2, in Avondale. Lewis, 48, was biking on the 3400 block of North Kedzie at around 1:30 p.m. when the trucker struck him, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Lewis, who lived nearby on the 3000 block of West School, was transported to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m. on Friday, according to the medical examiner’s office. On Sunday, an autopsy found he died of multiple injuries, and high blood pressure and heart disease were listed as a factor in his death, the Sun-Times reported.

This morning, Police News Affairs was unable to provide additional information about the crash.

Fatality Tracker: 2015 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 26 (10 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 3 (two were hit-and-run crashes)

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