Chicago’s spike in cycling fatalities continues with first e-Divvy death on Near West Side

The electric Divvy bike from the fatal crash. Image: ABC Chicago
The electric Divvy bike from the fatal crash. Image: ABC Chicago

Update 10/16/20, 3:15 PM: The Cook County Medical examiner identified the victim as Andrew Ryan Biesen, 28, of the 1200 block of West Grace Street in Lakeview. Biesen worked as a filmmaker. Read his obituary here, and tributes from colleagues here.

Update 9/10/20, 2:30 PM: The Chicago Department of Transportation, which oversees the Divvy program, provided the following statement. “We are heartbroken to have learned that a Divvy bike rider was the victim in a fatal crash yesterday morning. CDOT and Divvy extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the victim. The safety of everyone using the public way in Chicago is our top priority. We are working with Chicago police to obtain details of the crash.

Tragically, the pandemic biking boom has correlated with an increase in Chicago cycling fatalities. This morning the city saw its seventh on-street bike death, as a driver fatally struck a man, 28, riding one of the new electric-assist Divvy bikes at Warren Boulevard and Damen Avenue near the United Center on the Near West Side.

At about 7:50 a.m. the cyclist was riding south on Damen when the eastbound motorist hit him, according to police. “The [driver] went through a yellow light and couldn’t stop in time due to water on the street causing him to hit the bicyclist,” police said. However, this afternoon a police spokesperson said the crash report is not yet finalized, so it wasn’t clear whether there were witnesses who stated that the driver had the right of way and slid on wet pavement, or if that was simply the story that the motorist gave to the responding officers.

The cyclist was taken to Stroger Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards, police said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has not yet released his identity.

The driver, who was uninjured, remained at the scene, according to police. No citations or charges have been issued, police said. Detectives are investigating the case.

The Divvy bike-share system launched in summer 2013 and had previously seen only one fatality, the death of Virginia Murray, 25, who was run over by a right-turning flatbed truck driver in July 2016 at Belmont and Sacramento avenues in Avondale. The e-Divvies were introduced on July 29 of this year, only six weeks ago. The new bikes provide an electrical assist to riders that shuts off once a speed of 15 mph is reached.

That’s not to say the new technology was necessarily a factor in this crash. The collision took place at the intersection of two-lane streets with non-protected bike lanes.

The intersection of Warren and Washington, looking south. Image: Google Street View
The intersection of Warren and Damen, looking south. Image: Google Street View

With this seventh on-street bike fatality this year, Chicago has already seen more cycling deaths than the average of about 5.8 on-street bike fatalities per year from 2012 to 2016, and the highest number since 2015, which saw seven deaths during the entire year. (An eighth person, Mark Goodman, 56, died in August of this year after suffering brain injuries in a crash with another cyclist on the Lakefront Trail near Belmont Avenue.)

While it’s not yet certain what caused this latest tragedy, it’s clear that the city of Chicago needs to respond to the recent increase in cycling by picking up the pace of protected bikeway installation, or else we’re likely to continue to see a corresponding spike in bike deaths. Fill out the city’s 2021 budget survey and urge Mayor Lori Lightfoot to keep her campaign promise to earmark $20 million annually for safe biking and walking infrastructure.

Here are the other 2020 on-street Chicago bike fatalities.

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