Driver fatally struck Jan Kopec, 83, on his bike in Archer Heights

Kopec and his wife Jozefa celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
Kopec and his wife Jozefa celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

On Friday, August 21, a driver struck and killed 83-year-old Jan Kopec as he rode his bike in the Archer Heights neighborhood on the Southwest Side. With his passing, our city has already seen six on-street bike fatalities this year, two more than in all of 2019.

According to police, on Friday at about 6 p.m. Kopec was cycling north on Kostner Avenue crossing Archer Avenue. Mario Aguilar, 56, was driving a 2006 Ford truck south on Kostner when he attempted to make a left turn onto Archer and failed to yield to Kopec, striking him. Kopec, who lived in the neighborhood, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The intersection of Kostner and Archer, looking south. Image: Google Maps
The intersection of Kostner and Archer, looking south. Image: Google Maps

Aguilar, who lives in the nearby Sleepy Hollow community, was charged with a felony for driving with a revoked / suspended license, according to a police spokesperson, who added that Aguilar previously lost his license for driving while intoxicated.

“He was a great neighbor, his family and neighbors were his pride, his wife whom he called Mama was his love,” one mourner posted on Kopec’s obituary page. “St. Bruno and neighbors have missed his smile dearly He was an exceptional pillar in helping others.”

“Pań Kopec was always smiling,” wrote another. “Nothing bothered him. His smile was sweet, inviting, warm, genuine, and very contagious that one could not help themselves but to smile along with him. Sadly, it is not with a smile I write this but with tears of such a tragic, sudden, and unexpected loss.”

Kopec was the sixth person biking killed on Chicago streets so far this year, when our city is seeing a cycling boom as more people have turned to cycling for socially-distanced transportation and recreation. (Last week a seventh person, Mark Goodman, 56, died after suffering brain injuries in a crash with another cyclist on the Lakefront Trail near Belmont Avenue earlier this month.)

In comparison, only four cyclists were killed on Chicago streets in 2019. Our city averaged about 5.8 on-street bike fatalities per year from 2012 to 2016.

Here are the other people who died in on-street bike crashes this year:

Fatality Tracker: 2020 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 18
Bicyclist: 6

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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