“School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark is second cyclist killed at Logan/Western within 13 years

Kevin Clark
Kevin Clark

Update 5/27/21, 12:15 PM: The Chicago Police Department confirmed reports that the driver and another witness said Clark rode through a red light before the driver struck him. One possibility was that he was trying to execute an “Idaho stop,” treating a stoplight like a stop sign, which is legal in a few states, and failed to notice the oncoming driver or misjudged her speed.

CPD still hasn’t specified which citations the driver received, so we don’t know whether speeding, distracted driving, or other violations may have been factors in the collision.

Update 5/27/21, 9 AM: The Active Transportation Alliance provided the following statement on the case. “We were deeply saddened to hear of the fatal crash that occurred early Wednesday. Each and every fatal crash is preventable and this case is sadly no different.

The entire area near Western and Logan is unsafe for people walking and biking. In 2018 we worked with Logan Square Neighborhood Association on recommendations to improve the intersection based on input from residents and support from [32nd Ward alderman Scott] Waguespack and [then-1st Ward alderman Joe] Moreno. We’ve since shared those recommendations with [current 1st Ward alderman Daniel] La Spata, who replaced Alderman Moreno in 2019.

When the report was released, the city said these were good recommendations for safety improvements and they were evaluating the findings. Unfortunately, we’re not aware of any movement towards implementing these changes since then. The city’s capital plan should provide opportunity to advance equitable, sustainable projects like this one but thus far the plan lacks necessary focus and transparency. As you note in your story, it requires the cooperation of the state department of transportation.”

Early this morning a driver struck and killed Chicago musician Kevin Clark, 32, who appeared as the young drummer in the 2003 film “School of Rock,” as he rode his bike at Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue in Logan Square, an intersection that has seen many bike, pedestrian, and motorist crashes, and at least one other cycling fatality.

Clark was the second nationally-known Chicagoan to die on a bike in the region this month, following the May 8 crash death of architect Helmut Jahn in far-west-suburban Campton Hills.

According to the Chicago Police Department, on Wednesday, May 26, at about 1:20 a.m., Clark was bicycling east on Logan. At Western Avenue, the southbound driver of a silver Hyundai Sonata sedan struck him. The cyclist “sustained trauma throughout the body” and was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital. Clark was pronounced dead at the hospital at 2:04 a.m.

The driver, a 20-year-old woman, was uninjured,  CPD said. She was issued citations, but as of Wednesday evening the department did not have an update on the specific violations.

According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times’ David Struett, Clark lived in Lakeview East and played in multiple bands. His newest group Jess Bess and the Intentions played its debut show Saturday, his mother Allison Clark said. “They were unbelievably fantastic and they would’ve gone somewhere… He’s just a raw talent. He’s got a heart of gold.” She recalled how her son, who had no acting experience, was able to secure a part in “School of Rock,” the beloved movie about misfit children and adults finding a sense of belonging by playing rock music, starring comedian Jack Black.

SCHOOL OF ROCK, Jack Black, Kevin Alexander Clark, 2003. ©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection
Jack Black and Kevin Clark in School of Rock in 2003. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Kevin’s high school friend, bandmate, and housemate Rob Goldberg told the Sun-Times he was unsure why the drummer was riding towards Logan Square, but that he had friends who live on the Northwest Side. A memorial is planned for Clark tonight at Highwood’s Wooden Nickel bar.

Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

Logan Boulevard is an important bike route between Logan Square, Lakeview and Lincoln Park, and there are bike lanes on the short stretch of the Boulevard that runs southwest-northeast between Western and Diversey Boulevard. Yet the Logan/Western intersection is a dangerous junction for people biking and walking, since it’s the complicated, skewed nexus of two multilane streets, plus Kennedy Expressway access ramps, and sight lines are obscured by the the expressway and and Metra elevated Union Pacific-Northwest Line tracks.

Looking west at Logan/Western. Image: Google Maps
Looking west at Logan/Western. Image: Google Maps

Clark was at least the second person biking killed at Logan/Western in recent memory. In April 2008 a driver fatally struck Tyler Fabeck, 22, at the intersection, and he bled to death from his injuries.

Ghost bike memorial to Tyler Fabeck at Logan/Western. Photo via Andrew Bedno
Ghost bike memorial to Tyler Fabeck at Logan/Western. Photo via Andrew Bedno

A few years ago the Active Transportation Alliance partnered with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Port Urbanism to collect feedback from residents over ten months to identity and build support for improvements along the stretch of Logan between Rockwell, two blocks west of Western, and Diversey.

In November 2018 ATA released the report Reimagining Logan Boulevard to Lathrop Homes highlighting feedback collected and also offering recommendations for the area. According to the report, this stretch of Logan is a high-crash area for pedestrians, bike riders, and drivers alike. Between 2011 and 2016, the study area saw 48 pedestrian crashes, 70 bike crashes, and 1,707 motor vehicle crashes.

Image: ATA
Image: ATA, Port Urbanism

A crash analysis done by Streetsblog’s Steven Vance today found there have been 498 total crashes total at Logan/Western since January 20, 2016.

Traffic crashes in the vicinity of Logan/Western between 1/20/16 and 5/26/21. Blue diamonds are bike crashes and light orange diamond are pedestrian crashes. Image: Steven Vance
Traffic crashes in the vicinity of Logan/Western between 1/20/16 and 5/26/21. Blue diamonds are bike crashes and light orange diamond are pedestrian crashes. Image: Steven Vance

The ATA report highlighted the many issues affecting walking and biking in the area, such as faded crosswalks, pedestrian signals set to the minimum walk time, narrow sidewalks, and the bike lanes that end abruptly at Western. The document recommended adding a new crosswalk and bike lanes to the intersection, building protected bikeways on Logan Boulevard, and other safety upgrades, but 3.5 years later none of those recommendations have been implemented.

The report recommended adding new bike lanes and a new crosswalk to the intersection.
The report recommended adding a new crosswalk and bike lanes to the intersection. Image: ATA, Port Urbanism

One issue has been that the Logan/Western intersection is controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has historically dragged its feet on approving any Complete Streets upgrades that might inconvenience motorists in any way. IDOT’s record has improved somewhat in recent years. For example, the department recently allowed the Chicago Department of Transportation to install bike lanes on North Avenue, a state highway. But this second tragic bike fatality at Logan/Western underscores the fact that we can’t wait any longer for safety improvements at this location.

Passages in this article about the ATA and Port Urbanism report were adapted from a 2018 Streetsblog Chicago article by Lynda Lopez.

Fatality Tracker: 2021 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 8
Bicyclist: 2

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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG