Stop the child killings. Joshua Avina-Luna, 15, hit by van driver on bike, is 4th kid to die this month.
4:24 AM CDT on June 29, 2022
This is a developing story. This post will be updated as more information becomes available.
Chicago's already-heartbreaking and disgraceful list of children fatally struck by speeding, distracted, or otherwise negligent adults in motor vehicles this month just got even longer. Earlier in June, drivers struck and killed three kids on scooter, bike, and foot, respectively: Rafi Cardenas, 2; Lily Shambrook, 3; and Ja’Lon James, 11.
Now there's yet another name to add to that tragic roster. Last Friday, June 24, Joshua Avina-Luna, 15, was struck and killed on his bike by a delivery truck driver near 62nd Street and Austin Avenue, half a mile west of Midway Airport in the Clearing neighborhood.
What we know about Joshua's crash
According to initial information from police, Joshua was biking east across Austin (6000 W.) at around 4 p.m. Friday. He was at the entrance of an alley when he was struck, which may indicate he was using the alley as a low-traffic east-west bike route. The crash site is a few blocks east of Nathan Hale Park.
The van driver, a 65-year-old man, was driving south on Austin when he struck Joshua, inflicting a head injury. The teen was transported to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead on Monday afternoon, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Joshua was the second Chicago teen killed on a bike by a cargo vehicle driver within about six months. On December 10, 2021, Jose Velásquez, 16, was killed by a truck driver in Back of the Yards.
According to the police, the van driver driver who killed Joshua was not cited.
Why wasn't the van driver ticketed?
It may seem unthinkable that you could kill a person, let alone a child, with your vehicle and not even be penalized with a traffic ticket. But in my experience tracking Chicago bike and pedestrian crash cases for about a decade, this kind of thing is quite common.
The driver may have told responding officers something to the effect of, "He came out of nowhere, and I had no time to stop," and police tend to give the motorists who kill pedestrians and bike riders the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, Joshua wasn't able to provide his side of the story.
At the very least, the driver should have been cited for failure to exercise due care for a person in the roadway, per Chicago ordinance 9-40-160: "Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle... and shall exercise proper precautions upon observing any child... upon a roadway." The reasoning behind this law is that, even if a kid makes a mistake, the adult driver of a multi-ton, high-speed vehicle that can easily kill people has the responsibility to do everything in their power to ensure that the punishment for a youthful error isn't a death sentence.
Irresponsible responses to the child death crisis from alderpersons and news outlets.
During an epidemic of child traffic violence deaths, we should be able to count on our leaders to take bold action to stop the carnage. Some local politicians such as 47th Ward alderperson Matt Martin, state representative Kam Buckner (Il-26), and Congressional rep Mike Quigley (5th) have responded by voicing support for policy and infrastructure changes to prevent these needless deaths.
But sadly in the wake of the first three child killings this month, 16 alderpersons took the completely counterproductive step of voting in committee last week to allow drivers to do 39 mph in 30 zones without fear of speed camera tickets. That's a speed at which struck pedestrians and bike riders almost aways die. They did so largely because speed cameras are unpopular with motorists who dislike having to change their driving habits to avoid a ticket. That's the very definition of irresponsible governance. The legislation will like go before the full City Council for a final vote next month.
Joshua was killed in the 13th Ward, where the local alderperson is Marty Quinn. He voted for the ordinance that would essentially legalize speeding by 9 mph. So if Quinn offers any thoughts and prayers for the child's loved ones without committing to change his speed camera vote next month, that will be a very empty, cynical gesture.
Equally disappointing, WBEZ ran a piece basically cheerleading those alders by making the provably false claim that the cams "don't slow down" drivers and "show little safety benefit." After Streetsblog and others called them out for it, WBEZ was forced to retract that statement.
WBEZ should help make amends for the damage they've done by publishing a follow-up article about automated enforcements that includes the voices of people impacted by traffic violence. They could start by reaching out to the families of Rafi, Lily, Ja'lon, and Joshua.
What you can do to help address the child fatality crisis
Send a letter to your alderperson asking them to vote against the ordinance that would raise the speed camera ticketing threshold to allow motorists to travel at deadly speeds with impunity.
Sign the Safe Streets for All petition demanding action from your alderpersons, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Chicago Department of Transportation to stop the carnage.
Fatality Tracker: 2022 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets (including one scooter-on-sidewalk case)
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.
2022 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases (including one scooter-on-sidewalk case)
- On June 16, 2022, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a Ja’lon James, 11, as he crossed the street in the 3300 block of West 16th Street in North Lawndale.
- On June 12, 2022, a distracted Nissan Altima sedan driver fatally struck Peter Paquette, 75, at Irving Park Road and Hoyne Avenue in North Center.
- On June 2, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas at Eastwood Avenue and Leavitt Street in Lincoln Square as the toddler rode a mini-scooter into the intersection.
- On May 27, 2022, a Honda sedan driver fatally struck Wilberto Rivera, 76, as he crossed North Avenue at Albany Avenue. He died from his injuries two weeks later on June 11.
- On May 27, 2022, a hit-and-run SUV driver fatally struck Martha Velazquez, 34, on the 2900 block of West Columbus Avenue in Ashburn.
- On May 19, 2022, a motorcyclist fatally struck Timothy Kast, 46, as he crossed the 5300 block of West Irving Park Road in Portage Park.
- On May 11, 2022, a BMW sedan driver struck and killed 82-year-old Concepcion Lopez, as she waited at a CTA bus stop on the 2100 block of West Peterson in West Ridge.
- On May 10, 2022, a left-turning van driver failed to yield to failed to yield to Berta Arroyo Salgado, 73, as she crossed the street in a crosswalk at Chicago Avenue and Paulina Street in West Town, killing the senior.
- On May 6, 2022, a Cadillac sedan driver ran a red light at Roosevelt Road and Damen Avenue on the Near West Side, struck another vehicle, and careened onto the sidewalk, killing a 33-year-old man.
- On April 18, 2022, a left-turning sedan driver fatally struck Yehuala Melkama, 44, as she walked in a crosswalk at Hazel and Sunnyside avenues in Uptown.
- On March 27, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Larry J. Davis, 68, at 3350 S. Kedzie Ave. in Little Village.
- On March 17, 2022, a left-turning driver struck and killed Miriam M. Grande, 70, at Grand and Austin avenues in the Belmont Central neighborhood and fled the scene.
- On March 15, 2022, a car driver fatally struck Allen Lee Jr., 88, as he attempted to cross Western Avenue at 109th Street in Morgan Park.
- On February 8, 2022, a Chicago police officer struck Javion Marquel Johnson, 20, with an SUV after Johnson had been shot multiple times, potentially contributing to his death, at 12111 S. Stewart Avenue in Rosehill.
- On January 20, 2022, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck Richard Haljean, 57, as he crossed Touhy Avenue at Oriole Avenue in Edison Park.
- On January 15, 2022 Angel Thomas, 35, was walking to her car on the 4300 block of West Jackson Boulevard in West Garfield Park when an SUV driver fatally struck her and fled.
- On January 12, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Deborah Renee Jones, 67, in the 6800 block of South Stony Island in South Shore.
2022 Chicago bike fatality cases
- On June 24, 2022, a cargo van driver fatally struck Joshua Avina-Luna, 15, near 62nd Street and Austin Avenue in the Clearing neighborhood
- On June 9, 2022, a semi truck driver ran over and killed Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, 3, riding in a child seat on the back of her mother’s bike at Leland and Winthrop avenues in Uptown. The mother was uninjured.
- On May 4, 2022, a Nissan Versa sedan driver fatally struck Nick Parlingayan, 22, on his bike at Milwaukee and Kilbourn avenues in Irving Park.
- On April 16, 2022, an allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run Volkswagen Jetta driver fatally struck Paresh Chhatrala, 42, near Madison and Peoria streets in the West Loop.
- On February 28, 2022, a BMW sedan driver ran a red light at Balbo Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive in the Loop, fatally striking Gerardo Marciales, 41, on a Divvy bike.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes about transportation and other topics for additional local publications. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
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