Organizers of Friday Vigil: We Won’t Wait Until 2026 to Prevent Bike Deaths

Anastasia Kondrasheva.
Anastasia Kondrasheva.

In the wake of the bike/truck collision that took the life of Anastasia Kondrasheva on Monday, as well as several other recent bike fatality cases, this Friday activists are holding a candlelight vigil and ghost bike installation at the crash site. The organizers say they’re through waiting for the city of Chicago to make progress on its four-year-old goal of eliminating all traffic deaths. Instead, they’re demanding that major steps be taken immediately to prevent such tragedies, especially those caused by commercial drivers.

Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health coach, was biking to work Monday morning when a flatbed truck driver made a right turn into her path at Addison Street and Damen Avenue, fatally striking her. The driver was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to police.

Last Thursday evening Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, was killed in a crash with a concrete truck in Evanston. Since June, four other people have been fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers while biking in Chicago: Blaine Klingenberg, Virgina Murray, Lisa Kuivinen, and Francisco Cruz. Like Kondrasheva, Murray and Kuivinen were also killed by right-tuning flatbed truck drivers.

Kristen Green prepares memorials for Kondrasheva and Chuyuan Qiu. Photo: Chicago Ghost Bikes

Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox, passed away last Sunday from injuries sustained in a June bike/train crash, bringing Chicago’s total 2016 bike death toll to six.

Friday’s vigil and ghost bike installation will take place at Addison and Damen from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Some 180 people have RSVPed on Facebook to say that they will attend. It’s also likely that participants from Chicago Critical Mass will ride from Daley Plaza to the ceremony.

“We are gathering the cycling community and Chicago community to honor the memory of Anastasia Kondrasheva and to demand safe streets now,” reads a statement from the vigil organizers. “In light of the six bicyclists and 18 pedestrians who have been killed in Chicago in 2016 many of which involving large commercial vehicles in densely populated neighborhood streets, we no longer accept the empty promises of Chicago’s [‘zero in ten‘] plan.”

In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022, a target inspired by the international Vision Zero movement. Earlier this month the city announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release later this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.

Following Kondrasheva’s death, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told the Tribune that her case shows why Vision Zero is badly needed. “This is another tragedy that underscores the urgency of our mission,” he said.

Rebecca Resman, a former Active Transportation employee who organizes the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass family ride and runs the Chicago Family Biking page on Facebook, came up with the idea for the vigil. “When I heard about the death at Addison and Damen, I was in shock, angry, scared, and tired of hearing news that another cyclist had been killed,” she told me.

Resman lives a couple of blocks from the crash site, and her first reflex was to head to the intersection. “I felt I needed to get down there and make sure that people understand that there are fragile human lives passing through this intersection every day. She brought along her two young children in a cargo bike, along with signs that read “Please put the phone down” and “Don’t hit me.”

Rebecca Resman
Rebecca Resman bikes with her daughter Sloane. Photo: Oren Miller

“As the organizer of a Kidical Mass ride, I’ve heard that the number one reason people don’t bike is concerns for their safety,” Resman said. “So I’m working with Anastasia’s family and other organizations to figure out a way to constructively unite and demand change.”

Chicago Ghost Bikes, a new organization led by Kristen Green, who arranged the installation of the white-painted bikes as memorials at the Murray and Kuivinen crash sites, will be installing a ghost bike for Kondrasheva. They also plan to install a memorial for Qiu in Evanston. Active Trans and Chicago Ride of Silence organizer Elizabeth Adamczyk have also been involved in the discussions for planning the vigil.

Resman says she has confirmation from Kondrasheva’s boyfriend Adrian Juarez that the fallen cyclist’s immediate family will attend the vigil. “Her family is still processing their loss,” Resman said. “We’re working with them to try to figure out the best way to harness the attention that Anastasia’s case has received.

It looks like one way the activists will do this will be to put pressure on the city to accelerate its Vision Zero efforts. “If [the city’s ‘zero in ten’ goal] had been more than lip service back in 2012, some of these people would still be alive,” Resman said. “We’re also discussing ideas for more regulation and accountability for people who are driving professionally.”

“On Friday we’re going to honor Anastasia and call for safer streets right now,” Resman concluded. “We can’t wait until 2026.”

When commenting on articles about traffic fatalities, please be mindful of the fact that family members and friends of the deceased person may be reading the post.

  • hopeyglass

    I’d be really interested in learning what the “empty promises” of the Vision Zero plan are, given it hasn’t been released yet, right? (—->

    I’m all for people releasing their individual feelings via performative public grief rituals, however to throw global initiatives as well as complex routes to systematic change out with the bathwater seems a bit excessive.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The organizers were referring to the “zero in ten” goal of CDOT’s Chicago Forward action agenda, released in 2012, with the stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2022. I’ve edited the article to clarify that. The recent announcement of the upcoming Vision Zero plan moved the target back to 2026.

    Kristen Green from Chicago Ghost Bikes said she was unable to get in contact with Francisco Cruz’s family to ask them about installing a ghost bike at the site of the crash in West Garfield Park. I’ve talked with Cruz’s siblings and they told me their mother wants to move on from the tragedy.

    Fox just passed away on Sunday. I haven’t heard about plans for a ghost bike memorial for him yet.

  • hopeyglass

    Thanks, John!

  • A. Weaver

    Again, as I expressed earlier, total and complete condolences.

    Regarding errant motorists who may possibly be simultaneously driving while celling…..

    John, do you have any idea whether CPD when there is a fatality that occurs between a motorist and cyclist or pedestrian, whether CPD takes the phone from the truck driver or motorist, to determine whether the truck driver or motorist who struck the cyclist or pedestrian, was on their phone when the incident occurred?

  • what_eva

    It’s not as simple as just taking the phone. While call logs would show a call, fewer and fewer people are making calls. Police/prosecutors would be more likely to get records from the carrier which would show texts, traffic (ie was the person browsing, etc). Whether CPD or CCSA do that is a different story as both are pretty drastically overworked these days.

  • Blkbear

    This is very tragic and terrible.
    But I’m wondering how a vision 0 plan could prevent deaths? And how, if this was “rolled out” in 2012, it may have had an impact.

  • hopeyglass

    As John says, it wasn’t rolled out in 2012. Also I was at the MBAC meeting and as I recall, the recent data doesn’t show an uptick in deaths, altho it was a pretty small sample, so.

    I have no issue with people working to I suppose try and force the city to only use “safe” contractors as an intervention, or whatever smaller scale actions these organizers propose. But we have to do these in tandem with larger actions, especially those that have been worked on tirelessly by public health and transportation activists ACROSS the city. If we want systemic change, we have to think about the system. I think this point sums it up for me, at least: “Vision Zero places the core responsibility for accidents on the overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, and enforcement.” Targeting individuals or focusing on geographic areas because they’ve resonated solely with you (whether it be because you identify with the victim because of identity or geography) is a good way to affect small scale change, and understandable, but tossing out work that hasn’t even BEGUN yet is lazy activism.

  • ginger88

    It’s interesting that they use cameras, but don’t collect fines. Too bad that would never work in Chicago. Politicians are too greedy and CDOT does everything they can to rake in every dime possible. No wonder the photo enforcement programs have been, and will continue to be, colossal failures in Chicago.

  • planetshwoop

    By what measure have they been “collossal failures”? I think they have mostly worked as intended: people slow down and don’t run through stop signs. They have modified the behaviors as intended.

    The problem is that they aren’t more widely used.