Today’s Crash, Nick Fox’s Passing Bring 2016 Chicago Bike Death Toll to Six

This morning at 9:30, police had blocked off Addison at Damen following the fatal bike/truck crash. Photo: John Greenfield

Tragically, last week’s epidemic of bike fatalities and serious injury crashes in the Chicago region, has continued into this week. This morning a young woman was fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver in Roscoe Village. She was the sixth person to be struck and killed by a commercial vehicle driver while biking in Chicago and Evanston since June, and the third to be run over by a right-turning flatbed truck driver.

And early Sunday morning, well-liked Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox passed away from injuries sustained from a bike/train crash in June. That means that six people have died from bike crashes in 2016.

According to police, at around 7:50 a.m. today the female cyclist, believed to be in her 30s, was biking north on Damen Avenue south of Addison Street. According to the city’s bike map, this stretch of Damen has “shared-lane markings” – bike-and-chevrons symbols designed to remind motorists to watch out for cyclists.

Police said that the driver of the northbound flatbed truck, carrying construction supplies, made a right turn, heading eastbound onto Addison, and ran over the woman. Witnesses said the woman was killed instantly.

The flatbed track from this morning’s crash. Photo: John Greenfield

According to an ABC news report, witness Carole Cifone said the truck driver immediately jumped out of the vehicle and tried to aid the woman. “The driver was so distraught, they took him away in an ambulance,” Cifone said. “He was just bent out of shape by what had happened [and the fact] that he was responsible.”

Officer Nicole Trainor from Police News Affairs said an investigation of the crash is ongoing and the driver has not yet been cited. According to the Cook County medical investigator’s office, the victim’s name and age had not been released as of early this afternoon.

As of 9:30 this morning, police had closed off two blocks of Addison east of Damen, and the victim’s body still lay in the street covered with sheets. The bike was not visible, but photos from other news reports show a badly damaged road bike.

“Any vehicle needs to constantly be aware of cyclists on the road,” a bike rider named Meg told ABC. “This is a [road with shared-lane markings]. There’s no excuse.”

DNAinfo reported that about ten people were waiting for the #152 Addison bus at the intersection when the crash occurred, and they stayed on the scene to provide testimony to investigators.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.57.08 PM
Nick Fox.

This crash was disturbingly similar to the one that took the life of Divvy rider Virginia Murray, 25, on the morning of July 1, which was believed to be the first bike-share related fatality in the country. Murray and flatbed truck driver Cosmin Radu, 28, were both stopped at a red light on Sacramento Avenue south of Belmont Avenue. When the light changed, Radu turned right, running over Murray.

And on the morning of August 16, flatbed truck driver Antonio Navarro, 37, overtook art student Lisa Kuivinen, 20, as the cyclist rode southeast on Milwaukee Avenue and ran over Kuiven as he made a right turn onto southbound Racine Avenue. In all three of these cases, truck side panels – which are becoming common in countries like Great Britain – might have saved the victims’ lives by preventing them from falling under the truck.

Also today, DNAinfo reported that Garfield Ridge pizzeria employee Nick Fox, 52, died early Sunday morning from injuries received this summer.

On the evening of June 26, Fox, who had worked at Obbie’s Pizza for more than 20 years, was struck by two freight trains on railroad tracks near 60th Street and Narragansett Avenue while biking home from a church carnival. Fox, 52, suffered a broken pelvis, hand, ankle and ribs, and bleeding on the brain.

According to DNA, Fox had been moved from Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago to Kindred Hospital in Northlake to begin a rehabilitation program, but doctors were unable to take him off a respirator in order to begin a recovery regime. After a bout of breathing trouble, he died at 3:59 Sunday morning, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

In addition to this morning’s victim, Murray, Kuivinen, and Fox, 2016 Chicago bike fatalities include messenger Blaine Klingenberg, 29, struck by double-decker tour bus driver Charla Henry, 51, on the evening of June 15 at Oak Street and Michigan Avenue, and security guard Francisco Cruz, run over on the evening of August 17 at Maypole and Pulaski Avenue by a cargo van driver who fled the scene. The hit-and-run driver is still at large, according to police. Last Thursday evening Northwestern University student Chuyuan Qiu died while biking in Evanston after she collided with a concrete truck at Library Place and Sheridan Road.

In response to the recent tragedies, a rally for safe streets called “End Road Death Now” is tentatively planned for this Friday from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Addison/Damen crash site, with details to be announced in the near future. The event is being organized by Rebecca Resman, who helps run the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass family bike ride and the Chicago Family Biking Facebook group.

“In response to the six cyclists that have been killed by commercial vehicles in the past four months in Chicago/Evanston, it’s time to do something big,” Resman wrote. “We have to demand better.”

Update 9/26/16 6:30 p.m.

According to Police News Affairs, the truck driver in this morning’s crash case has been cited for failure to exercise due care to a bicyclist in the roadway.

Although authorities still have not released the identity of the victim, DNAinfo is reporting that a man who identified himself as the woman’s boyfriend recognized her road bike from a published photograph. The man said the crash site was along the route his girlfriend always took to her job as a health coach at an Edgewater health facility, and her coworkers had called him when the woman didn’t show up to work. The boyfriend said he was with the victim’s family. “We can’t believe it… it’s just shocking,” he said.

CBS reported that Rebecca Resman, who is organizing a rally for safe streets at the crash site this Friday came to the intersection today, carrying her children in a cargo bike with signs that read “Please put the phone down” and “Don’t hit me.”

“We’ve had five, six if you count the fatality in Evanston, people killed by people that are professionally driving, and that’s why they need to exhibit more due care when they are driving on our streets,” Resman said.

Update 9/27/16 1:30 p.m. The woman has been identified as Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23. Read more about her life here.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 18 (eight were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 6 (one was a hit-and-run crash)

  • what_eva

    I’m struck by the fact that in all of these deaths, the vehicle is commercial. Commercial vehicle drivers are supposed to get *more* training and because they’re on the road more, should have more exposure to various situations, hopefully becoming better drivers. It was reported at the time that Radu may not have had a CDL (for which I hope Ms Murray’s family bankrupts the company, that’s gross negligence on the company’s part in my book). With these others, how much experience did these drivers have?

    I think the time is now for truck side panels.

  • achicagoguy

    In addition to better education for drivers, there needs to be some rethinking of rules for cyclists at intersections where drivers are making right turns. Maybe cyclists should be required to stop behind turning vehicle and wait (just as another car would).

    Regardless of car’s duty to yield, it’s unwise to try to pass a vehicle on the right in this situation (or even to be standing to its right if it is a lare commercial vehicle. (Please note that I’m not implying cyclist here was at fault or even careless, but making a general observation).

  • rohmen

    One thing that seems pretty clear is that a right hook involving a truck
    is very likely to amount to a fatality.

    My understanding is that right hooks involving cars are pretty common unfortunately (I’ve been in one, along with two friends, and that’s just counting people I’m close to), but people (thankfully) seem to largely be surviving them unless a truck is involved.

  • Given how few drivers signal for right turns (especially on red), it’s not always clear to a cyclist behind them that they intend to turn at all — until the cyclist is even with their rear quarterpanel or door and suddenly the car is diagonal and in front of them.

  • Deni

    You beat me to the comment. I know that when I’m on my bike and someone almost hooks me (luckily only close calls so far) it is always because I didn’t know they were going to do it due to their not signaling. If I come up on a car at a stoplight/sign with their right turn signal on I stay behind them and wait for them to turn before going by, or pass them on the left. But like Elliott said, it seems so few drivers signal right turns in this city, or wait until they are already turning before hitting the signal (I really don’t understand the people who do that).

    So many drivers see not using their signal as no big deal but I think it causes more accidents than people think. I’m curious if in any of these right hook crashes that lack of sing a signal was a factor, though I’m guessing we won’t know that unless there was some really observant witnesses.

  • Guy Ross

    The only action of a cyclist which could be modified to protect cyclists is to make sure you are not undertaking an automobile at any intersection. However, from personal experience and from the reports I follow, this is rarely why cyclists are hit. It is being overtaken at intersections right as the vehicle is turning.

    I know you mean well, but if you really wish to protect people, please concentrate your attention to drivers and the vehicles they are driving.

  • oogernomicon

    If you view comfort and familiarity as the problem, then professional drivers become the most dangerous very quickly. They drive the most, and therefore they are least likely to recognize that what they’re doing is inherently dangerous.

  • what_eva

    My dad worked for a large brown logistics company and was a driver for part of that time. They did a ton of driver training and a big portion of that was effectively “everyone else on the road is a moron, you have a big vehicle, drive very carefully and very defensively”.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I think there are many different kinds of commercial truck drivers, UPS for example seems pretty solid:

    Although I do note the irony regarding left vs right turns. But there are clearly commercial truck drivers which are more used to highway driving, or the more low density, industrial parts of Chicagoland and unfamiliar with high density urban traffic.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Agreed. My admittedly anecdotal take would be that somewhere around 1/3 to 2/5 of motorists don’t use turn signals at all, and another slice use them, but not properly (ie, they activate the signal as they are about to turn or change lanes).

    Some cyclists definitely go around cars on the right that are waiting at a red light, in a right turn lane, with a turn signal on. I see this without fail every time I’m on Milwaukee Ave between Logan and Grand. It’s not like it’s a majority of cyclists (I’d call it ~ 10%), but those few cyclists are creating an overall disruptive effect that is bad for everyone, as the motorist reaction is generally to drift a bit left – which is where the rest of us are, where we belong.

    It ties to a need for better intersection design and education because the current status quo encourages cyclists to use the space freed up for right turning vehicles/bus stops as a passing lane. This is particularly dangerous as so many motorists are doing the same thing.

  • Jeff Gio
  • ohsweetnothing

    I LOVE bike boxes. Two observations though:
    1. Cars need to respect them and/or they need to be enforced (haha fat chance).
    2. Bikes need to be more assertive and USE THEM. For example, the bike box on Milwaukee/Des Plaines/Kinzie are often backed up in the morning without a single biker (until I come along) actually occupying the designated space for us to the left of the traditional bike lane.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Agree 100%.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Agreed, I’d just add that even if cyclists aren’t physically in the box, it provides a substantial and meaningful visual cue to drivers that we not only belong on the street, but that they need to be more attentive at intersections.

    Intersection dynamics are where everything tends to go to hell.

  • What makes the truck right turn incidents all the more tragic is the refusal of lawmakers to require side under ride guards for trucks in the city. Boston passed an ordinance a couple years ago in response to a spate of similar fatalities. Side guards won’t prevent the crashes, but they prevent cyclists (and pedestrians) from getting trapped/pulled under the trucks.

  • Anne A

    I would love to see tickets written when a driver’s failure to use turn signals causes a crash.

  • Anne A

    Also, with the huge number of construction projects happening now in the city and nearby suburbs, some truck drivers servicing these sites may not be familiar with local bike infrastructure, best truck routes, etc. I was talking recently with a truck driver in this category, a guy who is much more used to driving in rural areas and towns on the fringes of suburbia. He said that, between traffic congestion, tighter spaces, many low viaducts, etc., he has to be very careful to stay focused and not get overwhelmed.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Totally. I’ve passed under the Belmont-Kedzie overpass thousands of times in the 15 years I’ve lived nearby, and I still think that it is bewildering (in a bad way) in its complexity. I can’t even imagine what somebody driving to Chicago from out of state must be thinking trying to sort through the sensory overload.

  • Anne A

    So many crashes could be prevented if everyone just used their freakin’ turn signals.

  • Anne A

    When he said that to me, it made perfect sense. This guy isn’t from out of state, but he lives 2 hours outside the city in an area of fairly low density. I’m used to this mess and there are times when I find it overwhelming.

  • Carter O’Brien
  • Courtney

    Hopefully with these recent deaths there can be sufficient momentum/outrage to get the City Council to do that. I’d love to see this be a County ordinance, if that’s possible. I’m keeping folks out in the burbs in mind as well.

  • I’ve been working with other trucking lawyers to get these laws in cities. Great Britain actually has a nationwide system for trucks to have sideguards, blind spot warning systems, and other pedestrian & cyclist safety measures. For example, here’s how an Enterprise rental truck looks in England.

  • BlueFairlane

    This image is just the sort of thing that worries me about side guards.

    Say this truck is making a left turn and hits a cyclist just behind the front wheel. The cyclist gets knocked over, but unless the truck or the cyclist is moving fast, the cyclist will fall down rather than get pushed away. The pivot of the truck will take it over the cyclist’s position, and there’s still at least 6-to-8 inches of clearance beneath the bottom of the guard and the rail. That’s more than enough space for the bicyclist to get caught and either dragged or pulled under and crushed. I would think that for a guard to really do what you want, you need ground clearance that’s measured in millimeters. Otherwise, you’re just creating an illusion of a safer vehicle, which really is just worse than leaving things as they are.

    I’d be interested in knowing whether anybody’s studied the effectiveness of this design and what happens in a crash.

  • That’s a great point — but, they also make side guards (like the one below) that have rebounding properties. In essence, it bounces the cyclist/pedestrian back and away from the truck. There’s never a 100%, all-the-time solution, but side guards have been proven to drastically cut down on fatalities in these crashes.

  • BlueFairlane

    Can you point me to statistics that show side guards have had this effect? I understand they’ve been proven to lessen motorist deaths in some cases, but I’ve seen mixed reviews about bicyclists and pedestrians.

    I think the key is to understand how different side guards behave and which are actually helpful, with actual research to back this up. Any law that says, simply, “side guards are required” will lead to companies stapling aluminum foil to their undercarriage and calling it good enough. We need to be specific about what helps and what doesn’t.

  • The side guards I’m referencing are for pedestrians and cyclists — they won’t do much for cars. The reason for the push on urban areas is you don’t need nearly as rigid of a guard for cyclists and pedestrians as you would for cars (weight, speed, etc.). It’s low-hanging fruit in terms of easy regulation with a significant impact. Here’s a great site for more info:

  • Absolutely. Raising awareness is key — awareness of cyclist and pedestrian incidents as well as a known solution in side guards. Thanks for pushing this in the suburbs!