Records indicate bicyclist injured by CDOT trucker is a CDOT safety ambassador

Still from security footage showing the CDOT trucker dragging the cyclist, who is blurred in the image.
Still from security footage showing the CDOT trucker dragging the cyclist, who is blurred in the image.

Documents and online evidence strongly indicate that the woman who was struck and critically injured last week in Avondale, by the driver of a truck owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation, works for CDOT as a SAFE (Streets Are For Everybody) Ambassador. The program’s stated goals are “encouraging and educating cyclists and pedestrians, reducing traffic crashes by working with all road users, and making Chicago a safer place for active transportation.”

On Tuesday, June 23, a 31-year-old woman was biking northwest on Milwaukee Avenue and then turned right, eastbound, on Belmont Avenue, according to Police News Affairs. The male truck driver, 48, who was also heading northwest on Milwaukee turned east on Belmont at the same time as the cyclist. The trucker ran over the cyclist, trapping her underneath the vehicle and dragging her, only coming to a stop after witnesses flagged him down. The truck was equipped with side guards, safety gear that may have prevented the victim from being crushed under the wheels.

The woman was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, and her condition was later upgraded to serious-but stable. Witness Esteban Burgoa stated that she was conscious after the crash and gave a “thumbs-up” as she was being taken away in a stretcher.

Police News Affairs said today that there have been no charges or citations in the case. Area Five was investigating the case.

According to the crash report, the driver is Eric O. Carrasquillo, who lives in the Portage Park community, and he was driving a truck owned by CDOT.

The crash report states that the victim is Whitney R. Warner, who lives in the Logan Square community.

Image from Warner's LinkedIn profile.
Image from Warner’s LinkedIn profile.

A LinkedIn profile for Whitney Warner states that she began working as a SAFE Ambassador last month. She worked as an intern for CDOT’s Vision Zero program from last October to this May. Prior to that, Warner worked as a CDOT Bicycle Ambassador from August through September of 2019. And in June 2019 she did surveying work for the transportation engineering firm Sam Schwartz, collecting and recording curbside management data for 415 curbs in Chicago as part of a pilot project.

The LinkedIn profile states that Warner graduated from Purdue University in 2012. If, like most graduating college students, she was about 22 years old at the time, that would put her present age at about 30, around the age of the crash victim.

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Warner riding a bike at Knoxville Open Streets. Photo: Instagram

Warner’s Instagram account includes photos of her riding a mountain bike with front suspension, similar to the bike from Tuesday’s crash.

The bike from Tuesday's crash. Image: Esteban Burgoa
The bike from Tuesday’s crash. Image: Esteban Burgoa

Streetsblog Chicago contacted CDOT this morning for confirmation that the victim of Tuesdays crash works as a SAFE Ambassador and an update on her condition. CDOT has not yet confirmed or denied that SAFE Ambassador Whitney Warner was the crash victim.

I wish Ms. Warner a full and fast recovery from her injuries. And, assuming this was a case where a CDOT driver negligently injured someone working for CDOT riding a bike, or even if it wasn’t, it’s clear that the department needs to rethink its safety protocols.

It’s highly problematic that a trucker, working for the department tasked with creating safer conditions for people on bikes, failed to exercise due before making a turn, critically injuring a cyclist, and wasn’t even ticketed for his actions. The fact that all signs indicate that the victim was a person hired by that same department to promote bike safety just makes the irony that much more terrible.

Warner was one of two cyclists critically or fatally injured last week. On Sunday at around 6:50 p.m., van driver Oscar Martinez Guerro, 40, allegedly struck and killed Issac Martinez, 13, on his bike in the 8300 block of South Lawndale Avenue in Ashburn. Christina Whitehouse, founder of the website Bike Lane Uprising, which documents bikeway obstructions, helped organize vigils for the boy on Monday and Tuesday.

“It feels like this administration has a low level of appreciation for [sustainable] transportation in the city,” Whitehouse said. “If Mayor Lightfoot had the authority to ground all public transportation in Chicago [during the George Floyd protests], why can’t she use that same power to build safe streets? And if a safe cycling ambassador like Whitney Warner can be hit while biking by CDOT, which is tasked with keeping all of us safe on the roadways as well as building safe infrastructure, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

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