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Cyclist injured at Oak/Michigan under similar circumstances as Blaine Klingenberg’s death

The intersection of Oak and Michigan. Image: Google Maps

Last month a 42-year-old man riding a bike was struck by a driver at Oak Street and Michigan Avenue, sustaining a broken ankle. The incident appears to have parallels with the June 2016 crash that took the life of bike courier Blaine Klingenberg, 27, at the same location.

According to the Chicago Police Department, last month's incident occurred on Saturday, June 27, at about 5:15 p.m. Police News Affairs said the cyclist was riding east on Oak "when he proceeded through a red light."

The 43-year-old male driver of a sedan then struck the bike rider, police said. A resident told Streetsblog he witnessed the crash and said it appeared that the victim lost his foot in the collision. However, News Affairs said officers on scene applied a tourniquet to the cyclist's leg, and the man merely sustained a broken ankle. He was transported to Northwestern Hospital in stable condition.

An aerial view of the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. Image: Google Maps
An aerial view of the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. Image: Google Maps
An aerial view of the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. Image: Google Maps

The Oak/Michigan intersection, located at the north end of the Magnificent Mile, is a complex and intimidating junction. Here, Michigan is seven lanes wide. To the north are on- and off-ramps for Lake Shore Drive as well as curving roadways leading to and from Inner Lake Shore Drive. In addition to heavy foot traffic on Michigan, there's an underpass leading to the Lakefront Trail and Oak Street Beach just east of Michigan on the north side of Oak. Changes should be made to the intersection to make walking and biking to the lakefront safer and easier.

Klingenberg's crash happened on Wednesday June 15, 2016, at around the same time of day, 5:30 p.m. According to friends of Klingenberg, he was on his way to meet up with colleagues at Oak Street Beach after completing messenger work when the collision occurred. He was bicycling north on Michigan through the intersection when he was struck and dragged by Charla Henry, a tour bus driver with the now-defunct Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Company, who was driving westbound. Klingenberg was rushed to Northwestern and pronounced dead on arrival.

Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook
Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook
Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook

The Chicago Police Department crash report clearly laid the blame on Klingenberg, stating, “The victim disregarded the light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the collision.” Henry has not been issued traffic citations or charged with a crime. However, two witnesses told me they were convinced the bus driver was at least partly responsible for the messenger’s death because she also entered the intersection after her light turned red.

The following month a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Klingenberg's father, stating that Henry was guilty of one or more of the following acts and/or omissions:

    • Disobeyed a solid-red traffic signal
    • “Failed to exercise the degree of care and caution tht a reasonable person under similar circumstances would have exercised in the operation of the [double decker] bus”
    • “Failed to keep an adequate lookout”
    • “Drove the… bus at a speed at a speed that was greater than was reasonable given the traffic conditions and the use of the highway”
    • Failed to avoid hitting a bicyclist
    • “Was otherwise careless or negligent in the operation of the … bus”

According to Brendan Kevenides, an attorney with the lawsuit FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor), which represented the Klingenberg family, "a confidential settlement was reached between the parties."

Similarly, there may be more to the story of this recent case than that the victim "proceeded through a red light." This article will be updated if Streetsblog is able to track down more info on what happened.

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