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Lawyer for Ginny Murray’s Family: Bike Lanes Might Have Made a Difference

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Virginia Murray on her recent trip in Europe.

This morning the parents of fallen cyclist Virginia “Ginny” Murray, fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver on July 1, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and his company, A&B Flooring Supplies. The family’s attorney says safer bike infrastructure could have helped prevent the crash.

Murray, 25, is believed to be the first person to have been fatally struck while using bike-share in the United Stated. At around 9 a.m. she was riding a Divvy bike north on Sacramento Avenue in Avondale when she rode up on the right side of the flatbed truck, which was stopped at a red light at Belmont Avenue, according to police.

After the light changed, the driver, 28-year-old Cosmin Radu, turned east, striking Murray. She was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:58 a.m. Radu was charged with failure to yield to a cyclist in the roadway and not having the proper driver's license classification to drive the truck.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Murray’s parents Jim and Nancy Murray in Cook County Circuit Court by attorney Jeffrey Kroll of the personal injury firm Salvi, Schostock, and Pritchard. The suit argues that Radu failed to keep a proper lookout for cyclists and yield the right of way to a cyclist. Kroll explained that the suit does not yet mention the commercial driver’s license issue because the firm is not yet certain whether the weight of the vehicle at the time of the crash would have required Radu to have a CDL license.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000, the minimum amount needed to get a case into the circuit court’s Law Division. “In Cook County, you cannot ask for a specific dollar amount,” Kroll said.

“Potentially, the driver failed to yield the right of way to Ginny Murray,” Kroll said. “She was clearly visible and she clearly had the right of way. Our position is that he made a right turn without signally when he shouldn’t have and this clearly caused her death.”

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Image from security camera footage showing Murray approaching the truck from the right.

Kroll added that, after reviewing security camera footage from a nearby gas station, experts working for the law firm believe Radu didn’t signal his right turn. Therefore Virginia Murray had no warning that the driver planned to head east on Belmont, rather than north on Sacramento.

“The driver told witnesses he didn't see Ginny either prior to the crash or at the time of impact,” Kroll said. Of the four witnesses the firm has spoken with, two said Murray seemed to be heading north from the light, while the other two said it appeared she was turning east.

“We know that Ginny was going [from her home in Wicker Park] to a babysitting job,” Kroll said. “Where she was going, she could have either been making a right turn or going straight. Regardless, she had the right of way per the municipal code,” said Kroll.

Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago states:

When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.

Ghost bike vigil for Virginia Murray
"Ghost bike" memorial to Murray at the crash site. Photo: Steven Vance

A report today by the Sun-Times quoted Kroll as saying, “Asking bicyclists and motorists to peacefully coexist is a recipe for disaster. Ginny’s death tragically marks the nation’s first bike-sharing death. But if we cannot find a way to safely accommodate bikes on busy roadways, this will not be the last tragedy of this nature.”

“What I meant is, Divvy and the city of Chicago are encouraging bike use,” Kroll told me. “The number of people biking in Chicago has risen dramatically in recent years. This incident happened in a location where there are no bike lanes. My concern is when you increase bike use without improving bike infrastructure and hope for the best.”

In 2014 Chicago Department of Transportation staff discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Belmont from Kedzie Avenue to Halsted Street with the 33rd Ward Transportation Advisory Council (Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance is a member of the TAC). However, there has been little movement on the project since then. 33rd Ward alderman Deb Mell recently said she plans to push CDOT to follow through with the plan.

“Bike lanes may have made a difference in Ginny’s case,” Kroll said, adding that the presence of the lanes might have served as a reminder to Radu to watch for cyclists. “I do know a driver not keeping a proper lookout ultimately caused Ginny’s demise, but preventing this kind of tragedy in the future is going to require someone to rectify this situation.”

Kroll said Virgina Murray attended St. Ignatius High School in Chicago, and got a degree in communications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, receiving the highest GPA in the college of communications. She later took a job in marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor, where she worked until a few weeks before the crash.

Shortly before the collision, she returned from a trip to Europe and was working as a babysitter. Kroll says Murray planned to pursue her passion for helping others by applying to library science school this fall, with the goal of working at a library in an underserved community. “She was a terrific young woman,” he said.

Updated 8/3/16: The next court date in the case is Thursday, August 4, 10 a.m. at the Daley Center, 50 West Washington, room CL07.

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