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Stop the child killings. Joshua Avina-Luna, 15, hit by van driver on bike, is 4th kid to die this month.

Looking south on the 6200 block of South Austin at a location where an alley intersects with the avenue. Image Google Docs

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 crash location is a few blocks east of Nathan Hale Park. Image: Google Maps
The crash location (bike icon) is a few blocks east of Nathan Hale Park. Image: Google Maps
The crash location is a few blocks east of Nathan Hale Park. Image: Google Maps

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.

Speed cam ordinance sponsor Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and the 15 order alders who voted for the legislation in committee: Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Sophia King (4th Ward), Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), Anthony Beale (9th Ward), Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward), Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), David Moore (17th Ward), Matthew O’Shea (19th Ward), Silvana Tabares, (23rd Ward), Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward), Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), Tom Tunney (44th Ward), and Debra Silverstein (50th Ward).
Speed cam ordinance sponsor Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and the 15 order alders who voted for the legislation in committee: Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Sophia King (4th Ward), Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward), Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), David Moore (17th Ward), Matthew O’Shea (19th Ward), Silvana Tabares, (23rd Ward), Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward), Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), Tom Tunney (44th Ward), and Debra Silverstein (50th Ward).
Speed cam ordinance sponsor Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and the 15 order alders who voted for the legislation in committee: Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Sophia King (4th Ward), Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), Anthony Beale (9th Ward), Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward), Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), David Moore (17th Ward), Matthew O’Shea (19th Ward), Silvana Tabares, (23rd Ward), Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward), Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), Tom Tunney (44th Ward), and Debra Silverstein (50th Ward).

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)

Pedestrian: 17
Bicyclist: 5

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)

2022 Chicago bike fatality cases

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