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Johnel Washington, Killed in Austin by Trucker, Was 3rd On-Street Bike Fatality of 2017

The crash site. Google Street View

A semi truck driver who failed to yield while making a right turn caused the death of 31-year-old cyclist Johnel Washington on July 26 in the Austin neighborhood.

At 12:44 p.m. Washington was biking north on Laramie Avenue approaching Lexington Street, just south of the Eisenhower Expressway, according to a report from the Chicago Police Department provided by the Chicago Department of Transportation. The 44-year-old male truck driver was also traveling northbound and made a right turn onto Lexington.

“The driver stopped mid-turn, but the cyclist could not stop in time, hitting the cab of the truck” the report states. “The cyclist’s head hit the pavement.”

Washington, who lived on the 1200 block of South Kolin in North Lawndale, was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. He was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. An autopsy determined that he died from his head injuries.

The driver was cited for failure to yield to a cyclist.

Washington was the third person to die while biking on Chicago streets this year, preceded by Jezniah Smith, 34, who was fatally struck on January 11 in Humboldt Park, and Louis Ray Smith, 56, who was struck and killed on June 5 in East Garfield Park. At today’s MBAC meeting, CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld noted that all three deaths occurred on the West Side and Near West Side in neighborhoods designated as high crash areas by Chicago’s Vision Zero plan.

Washington was the first cyclist to be killed by a truck driver in Chicago this year. At least four people riding bikes died in the region 2016 after they were struck by the drivers of trucks and were crushed under the wheels, which helped lead to City Council passing an ordinance requiring side guards and convex mirrors on some large trucks operating within Chicago. CDOT officials noted that side guards likely would not have made a difference in Washington’s case because struck the cab of the truck and didn't go under the wheels, but added that safety mirrors might have prevented the crash by reducing the driver's blind spots.

Fatality Tracker: 2017 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 31
Bicyclist: 3

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago streets. The pedestrian count above is based on Chicago Police Department data for January through July released by the Chicago Department of Transportation, plus media reports for August and September. In addition to the on-street bike fatalities, on June 24 a cyclist was riding on a CTA train platform when he fell on the tracks and was fatally struck.

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