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

Desira Miller. Photo: Lost Lake
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

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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  • Jake J. Phineas

    “If this bus driver faces no penalty for their obviously illegal behavior, it will send the message to other drivers that failing to yield to oncoming traffic and keep a lookout for vulnerable road users is no big deal.” Well hopefully the CTA driver was an illegal alien because that means they did nothing wrong, right Greenfield?

  • David P.

    Perhaps you can respond to the content of the article instead of using it, or wherever, as a platform for a pet subject?

  • Jake J. Phineas

    Well, Greenfield wrote a long article about how it was noble to let an illegal alien go after hitting a cyclist. So him talking about how mad it makes him in this case really is confusing to me. Seems like a really inconsistent attitude.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, SBC is not a platform for spouting irrelevant anti-immigrant rhetoric. Comment along those lines will be deleted and repeat offenders will be banned from commenting, per our comment moderation policy:
    http://chi.streetsblog.org/about/comment-moderation-policy/

  • Riley Casey

    Why is the cyclist victim’s insurance in play at all? Why is there a Go Fund me needed for this person ? The bus driver did serious harm to the cyclist on behalf of the CTA. Why are they not making her whole for ALL of the consequences of their actions?

  • Tooscrapps

    I believe the Go Fund Me is for loss of income. That would be covered by a supplementary insurance, which few people carry, not health insurance. She could take paid sick leave, but again, in Chicago, employers only must offer 5 days of paid sick leave.

    If she sues, she can recoup the loss of income, but that could take months/years.

  • Guest

    Typically if you are injured by someone else’s negligence, your health insurance pays your medical bills, so you can get treated immediately. Your health insurer then brings a subrogation claim against the negligent party, to recoup what it spent on your medical bills.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Maybe I am missing something obvious, but going from Diversey and Kedzie to southbound on Central Park at Belmont doesn’t seem to follow the narrative. It doesn’t change the bus driver’s
    responsibility, but it would be helpful to know what the actual dynamics were, as Belmont in Avondale will be stuck with this construction hot mess for many months (and then next year when they re-close the segment by Kuma’s to finish the work started earlier this summer).

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