Family of Issac Martinez, 13, killed on his bike, were joined by cyclists at vigil

Mourning family members and friends of Isaac Martinez were joined by cyclists who formed a "human-protected bike lane" to honor him. Photo: Mia Park
Mourning family members and friends of Isaac Martinez were joined by cyclists who formed a "human-protected bike lane" to honor him. Photo: Mia Park

Update 7/1/20, 12 AM: According to Police News Affairs, Oscar Martinez Guerro, 40, of the 6700 block of South Karlov Avenue, has been charged with fatally striking Issac Martinez. The charges include one felony count of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, one felony count of failing to report a crash resulting in death, one misdemeanor count of failing to render aid, one misdemeanor count of driving an uninsured motor vehicle in a crash resulting in bodily harm, one citation for failure to reduce speed to prevent a crash, one citation for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, and one citation for failing to give notice of a crash. A court date is scheduled for July 1 at Central Bond Court, 2600 S. California Ave.

Update 6/30/20, 3:30 PM: At the family’s request, there will be another vigil tonight, Tuesday, June 30, from 6-8 p.m. at 83rd Street, Columbus Avenue, and Lawndale Avenue. Bike Lane Uprising will be leading cyclists there again, leaving at 5 p.m. sharp from the UIC Halsted Blue Line station, Halsted and Van Buren streets. According to BLU, local alderman Derrick Curtis said he plans to attend.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to support Issac’s family.

Yesterday evening’s heavy rain didn’t stop family, friends, and neighbors of Issac Martinez, the 13-year-boy who was fatally struck on his bicycle Sunday in the Ashburn neighborhood by a hit-and-run driver, from showing up to honor his life with a memorial at the crash site. And at least a dozen bike community members braved the weather to show their support for Issac’s loved ones by riding to the vigil to form a “human-protected bike lane.”

Isaac Martinez.
Issac Martinez.

According to police, around 6:50 p.m. Sunday, Isaac was biking south on the 8300 block of South Lawndale Avenue when a southbound van driver struck him and fled the scene. Isaac, who lived on the 7800 block of South Kilpatrick Avenue, later died at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Officers used surveillance footage to track the driver to a nearby home, where they arrested him. As of this afternoon, charges were still pending.

During yesterday’s memorial, loved ones left candles, flowers, and balloons by the roadside. There was a placard with photos of the Issac and a wooden cross, and mourners wrote messages and drew images with chalk on the sidewalk. Many tears were shed and prayers spoken. Family members declined to be interviewed.

Bike Lane Uprising, a website that documents bikeway obstruction, organized the ride to the vigil. BLU founder Christina Whitehouse tweeted that “Issac’s cousin offered each and every person present chocolate chip cookies. On behalf of his family, he thanked each one of us with tears in his eyes.”

During the memorial, Whitehouse said that the purpose of the forming the human-protected bike lane at the crash site was to draw attention to the case and the need for more safe cycling infrastructure. She noted that, since Issac was over the age of 12, the law required him to ride in the street instead of on the sidewalk. “He was doing exactly what he was legally required to do. And what we saw was that it just wasn’t safe for him to follow the laws. We need more safe biking infrastructure… Paint-only lanes are not going to cut it. We need really, barrier-protected bike lanes.”

Neighbor Jessica Lopez said she didn’t know the family personally, but she was there “to support the family and this tragic loss… It’s something that should have never happened with a hit-and-run and a little kid just bicycling through his neighborhood.”

There are no bike lanes in Ashburn, and Lopez said that building bikeways could help prevent future tragedies. “The streets are wide enough. Especially on Columbus it’s a very busy street and there should definitely be more safety precautions [like] bike lanes. Maybe bike crossings or children’s crossings. We have a lot of schools here but not too many safety crossing signs or even crosswalks across this busy street.”

The human-protected bike lane with a banner reading "Safe Bike Lanes Now." Photo: Mia Park
The human-protected bike lane with a banner reading “Safe Bike Lanes Now.” Photo: Mia Park

Vanessa Massis, who lives a block away from the crash site, said she came out to support the family. “We’re trying to see if we can do something about the speeding on this block, on Lawndale, and this intersection here. There have been a lot of [crashes], and just trying to see what we can do about it. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and it’s become too dangerous.”

“If they can put speed humps along Lawndale, that would be great,” Massis added. “I’m not sure what they can do about this intersection, but there are a lot of [crashes] here. Not just bicycles but cars and trains.”

Metra’s Southwest Service line parallels Columbus, and there’s a station at 83rd. On February 12 of this year, pedestrian Christopher T. Davis, 19, was fatally struck about half a mile southwest of the Martinez crash site at 87th Street and Pulaski road, after a driver was caught in front of a Metra gate and their car was hit by a train. Three other people were critically injured in the crash.

Mourners left messages and images on the sidewalk in chalk. Photo: Mia Park
Mourners left messages and images on the sidewalk in chalk. Photo: Mia Park

Neighbor Barbara Robinson agreed that the six-way 83rd/Lawndale/Columbus intersection is particularly dangerous. “People are trying to get around the trains, and that causes a lot of [crashes]… People need to watch out for these children anyway. I don’t understand, what is [drivers’] rush. You see the kids out here on their bicycles and they’re trying to get to the corner store… It shouldn’t be like this.”

South Shore resident Elihu Blanks, who attends the quarterly Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meetings at City Hall, said he rode to the vigil in solidarity with Issac’s family. “A problem anywhere is a problem everywhere. So I came here from South Shore to show support for a community far from me in hopes that all communities can support each other, from north to south, east to west.”

Click here for information on the second vigil tonight at 6 p.m. at 83rd, Lawndale, and Columbus.

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