Jezniah Smith Honored at Ghost Bike Ceremony: “He Had a Beautiful Heart”

Dozens of family members and friends of fallen cyclist Jezniah Smith, as well as members of the bike community, came to honor him at a “ghost bike” memorial installation last night in Humboldt Park. Smith, 34, was fatally struck on on Wednesday, January 11, at Division and Sacramento. During the ceremony around 40 people, including many cyclists who didn’t know Smith but identified with his case, listened to his uncle Jesse Short and family friend Ruby Eldefonso remember Smith as a caring and contented person.

At about 10:40 p.m. on the night of the crash, Smith was riding west on Division when he was struck by Jeffrey Martin Randall, 36, who was driving a Chevy Cruze car northbound on Sacramento, according to police. Randall, a resident of Saint Augustine, Florida, was not ticketed. A Police News Affairs spokesman said this indicates that responding officers believed he had the green light.

Jezniah Smith
Jezniah Smith

However, Smith’s family has retained personal injury attorney Mike Keating (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Randall so that the CPD’s file on the case, as well as any witnesses and surveillance footage, can be subpoenaed. The police report on the crash makes no mention of surveillance footage or independent witnesses, so Keating said it’s possible the police simply took Randall’s word for it that he had the green. The suit was filed on Friday.

At the ceremony, Eldefonso said Smith was always willing to lend a hand to friends and neighbors. “He took people to the store to help them get something they needed,” she said. “He was my buddy and he had a beautiful heart.”

“He rode his bike everywhere,” Smith’s mother told DNAinfo. “He was just joyful. He always had a smile on his face.” She added that, in addition to biking, he enjoyed listening to music and drawing.

While the causes of the crash aren’t yet known, it’s worth noting that Division/Sacramento is a broad intersection with five travel and turn lanes in each direction. And while Division has buffered bike lanes east of California, this stretch has no bike facilities.

The intersection sees an average of one bicycle or pedestrian crash each year, and about six other car crashes annually, according to crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation compiled on the Chicago Crash Browser.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help cover the family’s funeral expenses.