Hit-and-run driver critically injured Alexandra Betzel on her bike in Avondale
Update 2/12/21 3:20 PM: Alexandra Betzel’s family said that as of Friday afternoon she was awake and responsive and is expected to recover, Block Club Chicago reported. “The police confirmed she was completely in the right,” Betzel’s sister Joanna Blazek said. “For this to happen it just concerns me for all other people who ride bikes as their main mode of transportation in the city. It makes me feel like no one is safe.”
Chicago on-street traffic deaths were up 45 percent last year, due in part to an increase in speeding by drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there’s less street congestion to slow them down. 2020 also saw the most on-street bike deaths in the past decade, with nine fatalities, up from four in 2019.
Thankfully no one has been killed on a bike in Chicago so far this year. But on Wednesday, February 11, a driver inflicted life-threatening injuries on a young woman riding her bike in Avondale, and then fled the scene.
According to Chicago Police News Affairs, on Wednesday around 2:20 p.m., Alexandra Betzel, 31, was cycling north on the 3500 block on North Kimball Avenue, just south of Addison Street, when a driver in the left hand land struck her while attempting to change lanes to turn right onto Addison. The motorist then ran over Betzel with the back of the vehicle before continuing to flee east on Addison. Betzel was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition.
Betzel’s family said she’s in stable condition but is in a medically-induced coma and is breathing with aid from a ventilator, with injuries to her ribs, chest and face, mostly on her left side, according to a WGN News report. “It’s heart wrenching,” Betzel’s father Shaun said. “You just want to cry.” The family said Alexandra was riding home after doing an errand.
“She’s a very experienced rider and she’s always so safe,” Alexandra’s sister Joanna Blazek told WGN. “She’s a huge advocate for bike safety and especially in the city of Chicago.”
The family is asking the hit-and-run driver to turn themself in. “We are all trying to get through it together, and we just hope whoever did this does the right thing, or if someone knows the person who did this does the right thing, and calls the police,” Shaun Betzel told WGN.
Betzel’s family told ABC Chicago the driver was in a black SUV with tinted windows. News Affairs said they could not confirm this.
Bike Lane Uprising, a website for reporting bikeway obstructions, tweeted this morning, “Portillo’s, which is located near the intersection of the hit and run has provided their security camera footage to police.” A BLU rep said they got this information from Portillo’s legal team.
While this stretch of Kimball, which has one travel lane in each direction plus turn lanes, is a popular north-south bike route, and was previously highlighted on the city of Chicago’s bike map as a recommended route, it currently has no bikeway treatment. There are access ramps to the Kennedy Expressway a few blocks west on Addison and a few blocks south on Kimball.
This is so sad and enraging. I have biked that area of Avondale / Irving Park so many times. Never feel safe on Kimball, Addison, Belmont, no bike infrastructure and you get drivers going to/from expys… Have switched to side streets / sidewalks-only around there
— Michael Agoston (@agonistesatlast) February 12, 2021
People with information about the case should call Major Accidents at 312-745-4521, or leave an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.