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Why the Driver Who “Left-Hooked” a Tiki Bartender on Her Bike Deserved a Ticket

Desira Miller. Photo: Lost Lake

In addition to being a bicycle advocate, I’m a longtime tiki bar aficionado. So few things make me angrier than a reckless driver seriously injuring a tiki bartender on her bike, and not even getting a traffic citation.

That’s exactly what happened on the evening of Friday, August 10, when Desira “Baby D” Miller, who works at Lost Lake, 3154 West Diversey in Avondale, was biking home with her boyfriend. According to Police News Affairs, they were pedaling south on Central Park Avenue at Belmont when a northbound CTA bus operator made a left turn, slamming into Miller. She suffered a skull fracture, a compound leg fracture, a broken shoulder blade, and a broken rib.

Thankfully, Miller, who’s 27, came home from the hospital last week, and was in good spirits, according to Block Club Chicago. She has health insurance through Lost Lake that will help cover her insurance bills, but she won’t be able to work for three months. To assist her with expenses during that time, the bar held a fundraising party last Wednesday, and friends launched a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $6,400 to date.

Anatomy of a left-hook crash. Image: Keating Law
Anatomy of a left-hook crash. Image: Keating Law
Anatomy of a left-hook crash. Image: Keating Law

While it’s great to know that Miller will likely be OK in the long run, it’s infuriating that the bus operator may face no consequences for their recklessness. According to police, the bus driver wasn’t ticketed because both vehicles had the green.

That’s absurd, because the operator who was responsible for this “left-hook” crash was clearly in violation of the law. As bike lawyer Michael Keating explained in a blog post, Section 11-902 of the Illinois Rules of the Road explicitly states that “the driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection” is required to yield to an oncoming bicyclist “which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

Therefore, Keating notes, “a left turn may only be made when it is safe to do so. Simple logic dictates that anytime a collision occurs as a result of the ‘left hook,’ that was not a safe time for the motorist to make a turn.”

It’s also not clear that the bus driver will face any discipline from the CTA. When I recently contacted the agency, spokesman Stephen Mayberry provided no update, other than the statement, “CTA is fully committed to investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident. While accidents like these are extremely rare, we believe that one collision is one too many.”

The CTA has a poor track record for disciplining reckless and distracted bus operators. A recent Sun-Times investigation found that, despite a supposed "zero tolerance" policy towards operating buses or trains while using a cell phone, bus operators who are caught using a phone while working are rarely fired, even if their distracted driving results in a crash.

Needless to say, bicyclists who are doing nothing wrong shouldn’t have to worry about being grievously injured or killed by reckless or negligent motorists. If the bus driver who seriously injured Miller faces no penalty for their obviously illegal behavior, it will send the message to other CTA operators that failing to yield to oncoming traffic and keep a lookout for vulnerable road users is no big deal.

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