Why didn’t the police cite an SUV driver who failed to yield to a cyclist, injuring him?

The intersection of Belle Plaine Avenue and Clark Street, where the cyclist was injured. Photo: John Greenfield
The intersection of Belle Plaine Avenue and Clark Street, where the cyclist was injured. Photo: John Greenfield

The weather in Chicago was lovely last Sunday, so tons of people were riding bikes. Unfortunately, one of them was injured in Lakeview by a driver who apparently failed to yield, yet received no ticket for their negligence.

Earlier this week, the person who runs the Twitter account Southport Corridor forwarded a message to Streetsblog from a person who said she witnessed the aftermath of the crash at about 3 p.m., with the bicyclist lying in the middle of Clark Street near the old 7-Eleven site at Southport Avenue and Clark “bleeding profusely.” She added that “the pedestrians closer to him jumped into action and were applying pressure to his head wound until the ambulance arrived.” The driver who struck him stayed on the scene and was trying to help as well.

“We don’t know what happened, but we have seen way too many drivers blow through stop lights and stop signs,” the witness said. “This blowing off laws and common sense needs to stop for the safety of everyone.” She added that she was hoping and praying that the cyclist survived and will be OK in the long run.

According to Police News Affairs, officers on were on patrol when they observed the 35-year-old cyclist lying in the intersection. A witness on scene told them that the man was pedaling southeast on Clark when the 31-year-old male driver of a Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV attempted to make a left turn onto Clark when the cyclist and the driver collided. The victim was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in stable condition. As of today, there were no citations.

Based on the witness’ description that the cyclist was lying near the old 7-Eleven site, I initially tweeted that the driver must have been heading north on Southport when he made the left turn northwest onto Clark. Since the Southport/Clark intersection has a stoplight, that would have indicated that someone ran a red light.

The crash site. Image: Google Maps
The crash site. Image: Google Maps

However, when I double checked with News Affairs, the spokesperson told me that the driver was actually heading east on Bell Plaine Avenue, a half block south of the 7-Eleven site, when they made the left turn, colliding with the cyclist — apologies for the mix-up. Unlike Southport/Clark, there’s no stoplight at Belle Plaine/Clark. Instead, the driver had a stop sign, while traffic on Clark doesn’t have one.

As such, it appears that the driver should have gotten a ticket for failure to yield to oncoming traffic, i.e. the cyclist, before pulling into the intersection to make the left turn. So why wasn’t he cited? “Not every [crash] results in citations or charges,” said the News Affairs spokesperson. “It is up to the discretion of the responding officers, as there are different circumstances with each incident.”

Still, it seems clear that the driver acted negligently and should be held accountable. Here’s hoping that the cyclist makes a speedy and full recovery. And hopefully he’ll get compensation for his injuries, apparently caused by someone who didn’t fully grasp his responsibility to be careful while piloting a high-speed multi-ton vehicle that can easily kill people.

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