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Driver Fleeing in Stolen Car Seriously Injured Cyclist in Terrifying Avondale Crash

The crash site. Image: Google Street View

Yesterday at about 3:20 p.m., engineer and bike racer Geoffrey Harding, 40, had picked up his daughters from their first day of elementary school on his cargo cycle, and was taking them to an Italian ice stand to celebrate, when an “insane” driver nearly struck them. Harding and the girls were traveling south on Sacramento Avenue at George Street in Avondale when he made eye contact with an eastbound motorist who was stopped at a stop sign, so he figured it was safe to proceed.

Suddenly, the eastbound female driver of a gray Honda Accord came up behind the stopped vehicle at a high rate of speed, swerved to the left of it, and made a southbound right turn onto Sacramento, barely slowing down at the intersection, Harding said. “She didn’t even turn her head to see if was safe to go,” he recalled. “She missed us by maybe three feet.” He added that his daughters, seated behind him, didn’t really see the near-miss, so they weren’t alarmed, but he was. “I yelled out, ‘Oh my God! That person’s driving like a maniac. They’re going to hurt someone.”

Geoffrey Harding. Photo: Marcelo Marcos
Geoffrey Harding. Photo: Marcelo Marcos
Geoffrey Harding. Photo: Marcelo Marcos

Sadly, Harding’s prediction came true seconds later, after he saw the Honda driver, who appeared to be about 30, veer to the left around a line of vehicles stopped at a red light at Sacramento and Diversey Avenue, heading into oncoming traffic. A northbound pickup truck suddenly appeared. Harding’s not sure whether its driver had turned north from westbound Diversey, or if northbound traffic on Sacramento had just gotten a green.

The Honda driver swerved to the left, attempting to avoid a head-on collision, but hit the truck’s front passenger side, causing heavy damage, Harding said. The Accord then careened towards a Marathon gas station at the northeast corner of the intersection, across the street from Fat Rice restaurant. It struck the rear driver side of a car parked by the curb north of the gas station’s driveways. The Accord finally came to rest near the northernmost gas pumps.

That was when Harding noticed that there was a road bike wedged beneath the Honda. Then he saw a female cyclist, who appeared to be in her late 20s, lying in the road. She was wearing combat-style boots and canvas cargo pants. “I know a lot of cyclists, so I was wondering if I knew her,” he said, but the woman’s arms were covering her head, so he wasn’t able to see her face.

Three or four men came to the cyclist’s aid while Harding stayed back, since he had his daughters with him. A female bystander called 911, safeguarded the cyclist’s backpack, and tried to confort her. “[The cyclist] was able to speak and answer questions, but she was in a great deal of pain,” Harding said.

Meanwhile, the Accord driver was nowhere to be seen, so Harding thought she might have fled. However, she was later found unconscious behind the wheel.

When police arrived at the scene, Harding offered to tell them what he saw, but the officers said they already had plenty of witness statements. According to Officer Jose Jara from Police News Affairs, the unconscious driver was taken to Norwegian Hospital, and the cyclist was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital in stable condition. He added that the car was stolen, but said he had no further information about the case, including whether the driver had been charged yet.

Harding says his daughters weren’t traumatized by the crash, but were concerned about how shaken he was. “I didn’t see the cyclist get hit and, presumably, go over the hood, or else I wouldn’t have even be able to sleep last night,” he said. He thinks the bike rider was heading north when she was struck. “She seemed to have been in the most awful spot at the worst possible time.”

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