Cyclist Killed on Stony Island, Where Aldermen Have Blocked Protected Lanes

The driver who opened their door in cyclist Luster Jackson's path was not cited.

The 7200 block of S. Stony Island. CDOT has proposed a road diet with bike lanes on the avenue, which could have prevented this crash, but aldermen have blocked the change. Image: Google Maps
The 7200 block of S. Stony Island. CDOT has proposed a road diet with bike lanes on the avenue, which could have prevented this crash, but aldermen have blocked the change. Image: Google Maps

Luster Jackson, 58, was struck and killed on his bike Saturday, July 28, in South Shore when a driver opened a car door on him, forcing him to swerve into the path of another motorist.

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, at 6:48 p.m. Jackson was biking north on the 7200 block of South Stony Island when the first driver opened their door in his way. As the cyclist made a sharp move to the left to avoid the door, the second motorist, also traveling northbound, struck him.

Jackson, who lived in the Jackson Park Highlands neighborhood was transported to the University of Chicago Hospitals, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. His death was ruled an accident.

According to Officer Ronald Westbrooks from Police News Affairs, the driver who struck Jackson was cited, but Westbrooks said he didn’t have information on what the citation was. The driver has a court date on August 31.

Although opening a car door on a bicyclist is an offense that carries a $1,000 fine in Chicago, the motorist who did so was not cited, according to Westbrooks.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has proposed converting a lane or two of eight-lane Stony Island between 67th and 79th into protected bike lanes, which would virtually eliminate the possibility of cyclists getting doored. This stretch of Stony Island lies mostly within the 5th and 8th Wards. The exact location of the crash was on the short segment of the avenue within the 7th Ward.

Aldermen generally have the final say on whether bike infrastructure gets installed in their districts. While South Side cycling advocates have told me that 7th Ward alderman Greg Mitchell is generally pro-bike, 5th Ward alderman Leslie Hairston and 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris have previously voiced opposition to the protected lanes.

According to South Shore resident Elihu Blanks, Harris said to him at a 2016 ward meeting, ‘I don’t like that project—we don’t bike on this side of town.'” Hairston told me she believed that the “road diet” would cause traffic jams, and that Stony Island is too dangerous for bike lanes. But as this latest tragedy shows, people are biking on the avenue because it’s one of the few direct north-south routes in the area, and it’s too dangerous not to have bike lanes.

Read more discussion of the case on The Chainlink and the blog for Illinois Bike Law.

Update 8/1/18, 8 PM: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the recent fatality took place in the 7th Ward, and that both 5th Ward alderman Leslie Hairston and 8th Ward alderman Michelle Harris have opposed protected bike lanes on this stretch of Stoney Island.

Fatality Tracker: 2018 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 24
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-April 2018 released by the Chicago Department of Transportation, plus media reports for May, June, and July.

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  • Courtney

    A preventable death. =[
    I hope Hairston will change her tune or residents will vote her out for someone who is interested in improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in the district.

  • Curtis Myers

    There’s blood on Leslie Hairston’s hands here.

  • Bennett Block

    Are you aware that the 7200 block of Stony Island is not in the 5th Ward along with other parts of Stony Island Ave. This is a very slanderous caption that seeks to place blame on a specific individual for something that was truly an accident. Bike lanes don’t prevent doors from being opened. Very disappointed in the way this was reported.

  • Bennett Block

    It was Hairston who invited CDOT to the meeting and the residents that attended were opposed to the lanes, but wanted to see some other changes take place. I was there and it doesn’t seem like you were there.

  • David Henri

    Accident my ass. Dooring a cyclist is no accident. Why wasn’t the first driver issued a citation and fined $1000. There’s blood on the police officer who didn’t issue the citation.

  • Courtney

    You’re right, Bennett. I wasn’t there. I moved to the North side where I have a short walk to the Red Line and plenty of bike friendly streets to bike on. However, I am of the mind that EVERYONE should have the choice to bike SAFELY in our city. EVERYONE should be educated on looking out for cyclists. EVERYONE should have access to quality high-speed and reliable public transportation.

  • Bennett Block

    Why would you assume that thedriver intended to injure the cyclist? Let’s look for a way to educate people rather than putting “blood” on everyone’s hand.

  • Bennett Block

    Agreed! Everyone should be educated, why don’t you draft something so it can be introduced as part of licensing requirements. I don’t think cycling awareness is a component. It wasn’t when I received my DL.

  • Dave from Collinsburg

    Thank you I remember this!

    I remember CDOT had secured funding and come up with renderings of the bike lanes and multiple options for the lanes and everything, and then the Honorable Leslie Hairston was the one who said that they could come to the meeting and in fact she almost forced them to if I remember correctly.

    Secondly I am glad she listened to the community on something like this because everyone knows that random people are smarter than the “professional” transportation enginiers at a shop like “CNOT”.

  • Courtney

    Yeah, most of the time when I am signaling my intentions most drivers don’t even know what the signals mean.
    I had a driver laugh when I screamed out of fear when they just flung their car door open and almost hit me.
    It’s very easy to see things from the driver’s perspective if you only drive and never cycle in this city or any other urban environment.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks for pointing out that the crash occurred — just barely — outside the 5th Ward, in the short stretch of Stoney Island that’s within the 7th Ward.

    However, there’s nothing slanderous about noting that Hairston’s opposition to the protected bike lanes was a possible contributing factor in this death. Most of the proposed project area, between 67th and 79th streets, is within Hairston’s Ward. However, it’s also true that some of the project area is within 8th Ward, where Alderman Michelle Harris is also opposed to the project, so she deserves some blame as well. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

    “Bike lanes don’t prevent doors from being opened.” True, but protected bike lanes prevent cyclists from being struck by those open doors. Chicago-style protected lanes are on the right side of the parking lane, so there’s no danger of being doored by people exiting the driver’s side. And a wide striped buffer or concrete curb is installed to the right of the parking lane, so that if someone opens a door on the right side, the cyclist is out of harm’s way. Even if the cyclist panics and swerves to the right, there’s no risk of being struck by another motorist, as happened in this case.

    CDOT proposed the protected lanes on this stretch of Stony Island back in 2014. If Hairston and Hairston hadn’t blocked them, it’s entirely possible that they would have been installed by now, and that Mr. Jackson would still be alive.

  • Curtis Myers

    The ordinance says nothing about “intention.” The motorist who swung their door open into the cyclist’s path was in violation of the law and was partially responsible for the fatal event.

  • Curtis Myers

    Yes, particularly “random” people that may or may not accurately represent the larger community.

  • Guy Ross

    Not everyone: Specific people directly responsible for the death of a citizen by their actions and indirectly through their inaction.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Here’s a map of the portion of Stony Island that the bike lanes would run though. Purple is Hairston’s ward, pink is Mitchell’s district, and beige is Harris’ ward.

  • rwy

    In Evanston, the right side often has an overgrown shrub, and on the left side a car is parked within the buffer. I manager to dodge an opening door on Church St the other day, not so sure I’ll always be that lucky.