South Side Dad Says He Wants Justice After Being Right-Hooked on 31st Street
Andrew Berg, a McKinley Park resident who commutes year-round with his two small children from their home to Hyde Park via cargo bike, is trying to recover damages after being struck by a right-turning driver within a gap in one of the 31st Street protected bike lanes last spring.
On Wednesday, May 25th, Berg was biking home solo in the rain from his job at the University of Chicago. He was pedaling his “long-tail” cargo bike west by in the 31st Street protected lane with a green light when westbound driver Amy Kudlov made a right turn onto Indiana Avenue in her Acura TSX sedan. Berg says Kudlov struck him in a “mixing zone” just east of the intersection, where drivers are supposed to yield to bike traffic while merging across the bike lane. Berg was knocked to the pavement suffering abrasions to the right side of his body, including his elbow, knee, and ankle.
Kudlov, stopped her car, got out, and asked Berg if he was ok, he says. “Initially, I was in shock and concerned primarily with my physical wellbeing,” he said in a statement. “I checked my extremities and did not seem to have any broken bones. Ms. Kudlov apologized repeatedly, saying that she hadn’t seen me, that she saw that she could turn at the last minute and did so quickly, without realizing I was there. She said that she heard me scream and that’s why she stopped.”
Although it was raining at the time of the crash, Berg says he had two lights on in the front of his bike and three in the back, so he should have been easy to spot. Kudlov gave him her name and telephone number and promised to send him her insurance info that evening.
Two firetrucks arrived at the scene and a firefighter put a gauze bandage on Berg’s right elbow. “Because I didn’t feel like any bones were broken at the time, I declined additional medical attention and did not accept an offer to go to the hospital,” he stated.
Eventually, two police officers arrived in an SUV and one of them interviewed Berg in the about the events of the crash inside the vehicle, he says. “He asked if her car struck my bicycle,” Berg stated. “I responded that I didn’t know if it struck the bicycle. I did not believe that it struck my body because I didn’t have pain on the left side of my body, the direction that her car came from, but that I was unclear whether her car had struck my bicycle [causing] me to fall from the bike or if in my attempt to veer so quickly I had fallen. I did say that if she didn’t hit me, she came damn close.”
Due to Berg’s uncertainty in his still-shaken state and the officers’ decision not to get out of the SUV in the rain to examine the bicycle, they decided not to issue Kudlov a citation, according to the cyclist. It was only when Berg was preparing to leave the scene that he noticed that the rotor on the disc brake on the left side of his front wheel was bent, which indicated that Kudlov had struck him from the left. Although the handlebars were also misaligned, Berg says he was able to ride the bike two miles to Blue City Cycles in Bridgeport and drop it off for inspection, and he was eventually told the rim, rotor, spokes, and tire needed to be replaced.
The next day Berg got his wounds treated at a clinic and got X-rays taken of his right elbow, knee, and ankle at the University of Chicago Medical Center to make sure he didn’t have hairline fractures.
Berg says he went to multiple police stations to try and speak with the police officers who responded to his crash and was unable to do so. “The first desk sergeant I spoke to… said, ‘Well, I would never ride a bicycle in the City of Chicago.’ Not helpful.”
According to Berg, Kudlov never responded to repeated calls and text messages. “Since she failed to provide me her insurance information at the scene (promising to do so later) I filed a small claims case against her to recover tangible losses as well as intangible losses due to physical and property damage,” Berg stated. Lawyers for Allstate, Kudlov’s insurance company, filed a motion to have his case moved from small claims to jury and, several motions later, Berg will go before an arbitration panel downtown on November 21.
Via Freedom of Information Act requests, Berg was able to obtain recordings of 911 calls made by a female third-party witness reporting the crash to make sure someone came to his assistance. He hopes that this Good Samaritan, who didn’t provide her name to the authorities, will come forward and testify at the hearing.
While Berg wants compensation for his bike and injuries, he also wants to see the city install truly safe bike infrastructure that prevents this type of crash. “I ride twelve miles roundtrip daily throughout the year with my kids across the South Side because I believe in eco-friendly healthy transportation and see cycling as a key feature of the future of vibrant sustainable American cities,” he said. “Not only do we need more and better-designed protected lanes on the South Side, we need protected intersections and other investments so what happened to me doesn’t kill me or my kids next time.”