How could death of Sam Bell, 2nd cyclist killed on Milwaukee in 2022, have been prevented?
Tragically, Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago’s busiest biking street, is also one of the city’s deadliest corridors for cyclists. Here’s a list of reported bike fatalities on Milwaukee in Chicago from the past two decades.
- On July 9, 2003, Rob Heinbockel, 49, was fatally struck by a drunk driver at Milwaukee and Gale Street in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.
- On August 16, 2016, Art Institute of Chicago student Lisa Kuivanen, 20, was killed when they were biking on Milwaukee at Racine Avenue in the River West neighborhood and a right-turning flatbed truck driver failed to yield, crushing them.
- On November 6, 2019, school guidance counselor Carla Aiello, 37, was riding southeast in the Milwaukee bike lane when a dump truck driver made a right turn in her path at Kilbourn Avenue in the Irving Park neighborhood, crushing her to death.
- On July 24, 2021, Thomas “Tommy” Travers, 59, was fatally struck by a minivan driver on the 5300 block of Milwaukee Avenue in the Jefferson Park community. The motorist was not cited.
- On May 4, 2022, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck barista Nick Paringayan, 22, on his bike on the 3800 block of Milwaukee Avenue in Irving Park, across the street from where Carla Aiello was killed.
Sadly, a sixth name was added to that list yesterday morning. An elderly driver who failed to yield while making a left turn fatally struck youth mentor Samuel Bell, 44, as he rode an e-bike on Milwaukee at Huron Street in River West. He was the second person biking to be killed on Milwaukee in this part of town since 2016, and the second person killed on the avenue this year.
According to Police News Affairs, on Thursday, September 8, at about 11:45 a.m., Bell was riding an e-bike southeast on Milwaukee towards Huron Street (700 N.) (A person associated with the Divvy bike-share program told Streetsblog they are almost certain the the bicycle Bell rode was not an electric Divvy.)
The southeast-bound bike lane has concrete curb protection at this location, and the spot where the bike lane crosses Huron is highlighted with green paint to remind turning drivers to watch out for bike traffic. Unlike the northwest-bound bike lane, the southeast-bound lane is not located to the right of parked cars here, so there are unobstructed sight lines.
According to police, a 79-year-old man who lives in west-suburban Forest Park was driving a Hyundai Elantra sedan northwest on Milwaukee when he made a westbound left turn onto Huron, striking. Bell. The cyclist suffered head trauma and was taken to Northwestern Hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 12:20 p.m.
The senior was ticketed for failing to yield the right of way while making a left turn, police said.
The traffic crash report provides more details on what allegedly happened. The driver told responding officers that Bell “came out of nowhere” and the driver tried to stop in time but failed. Again, the street design gave the motorist plenty of warning that a cyclist might be approaching, and provided a clear view of the bike rider.
According to the report, the driver told police that Bell flew off his bike and landed on top of the vehicle before falling on the ground. The motorist said the bike rider was talking after the collision.
The driver agreed to submit to DUI testing at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital and was taken there, the crash report stated. But several nurses told police the facility doesn’t do DUI testing. When officers asked the motorist if he would go to Rush Hospital for testing, he refused.
My wife was the first person on the scene and called 911 for a biker who was hit heading south in the MKE bike lane by a north bound car turning left. The biker was in very serious condition when taken by medics. The responding officer parked in the bike lane. @bikelaneuprise pic.twitter.com/A7eMhRkSlO
— Jordan (@JordanLarkinE) September 8, 2022
Ashley Huerta, the woman mentioned in the above tweet, told Streetsblog she was biking northwest on Milwaukee on her way home from the office and had just passed Huron when she heard the crash and sprinted to the scene, where she was the first bystander to arrive. Bell was lying on top of his cycle, which Huerta said was a Monday brand “electric motorbike,” near the front-right corner of the car. He was wearing a helmet and a backpack. She called 911.
“His eyes were open when I got there, and shortly after that they closed,” Huerta recalled. “His breathing was labored. He was gasping for air with long pauses, and then he stopped and I didn’t know what to do.” Other bystanders arrived on the scene, and firefighters quickly arrived, followed by an ambulance and police. Huerta said Bell’s right wrist looked broken, there were scratches on his face, and when first responders opened his shirt, she saw scratches and bruising on his chest.
What could have prevented a tragedy like this? Requiring skills testing for driver’s license renewal would help ensure that as people age, they still have the reaction time necessary to safely pilot a multi-ton, high-speed vehicle with blind spots. And clearly there should be more severe consequences for killing someone with your car through negligence than a simple traffic citation.
One bike advocate noted on Twitter that Milwaukee and Huron intersect at a soft, roughly 135-degree angle, which allows drivers to whip along the corner at high speeds. At some intersections on Milwaukee, like Belden Avenue (2300 N.) in Logan Square, the city has modified the junction with paint-and-posts, which can be eventually be upgraded to concrete, to create a 90-degree angle, forcing motorists to slow down. “All streets intersecting Milwaukee should be at right angles,” the advocate argued.
Streetsblog freelancer Steven Lucy noted that if the bike lane had been continuous and raised above the street level, a common scheme in bike-friendly countries, the motorist would have been forced to hit the brakes before crossing the bikeway.
A continuous sidewalk + bike lane, which would force a car to slow to a crawl when turning, would have likely prevented this death even if a collision still occurred.
At some point we have to decide if we care more about lives or fast left turns.https://t.co/NJvA2swIjn pic.twitter.com/aXl9bftSAi
— Steven Lucy (@slucy) September 9, 2022
Bell worked at Midtown Educational Foundation which helps low-income youth by providing educational assistance, teaching life skills, and doing outreach to parents. He also served as a board member for the organization. “Sam had some of the most amazing stories [about] these children whose brothers and fathers died due to gang violence,” his coworker and friend Kevin Klein told the Sun-Times. “He was able to work with these kids to keep them off the street and keep them on a good path.”
“Meeting these kids he mentored as high schoolers or sixth graders as adults, and seeing the impact he had on their lives and the regard that they held him in, was just so amazing,” Klein added. “He was so focused on helping others.”
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 August 28, 2022, Shawman Meireis was fatally struck by a Corvette driver racing another motorist in a Corvette at 65th Street and Cicero Avenue in the Clearing neighborhood.
- On August 10, 2022, Taha Khan, 5, died after he was struck by a hit-and-run Jeep SUV driver at Devon and Cicero avenues in the Sauganash neighborhood, and then hit by a Volvo driver.
- On August 5, 2022, Angela Short, 14, was standing at a bus stop when she was killed after a Mercedes driver ran a red at 79th Street and Racine Avenue in Auburn Gresham, striking a Jeep, which careened onto the sidewalk. Three other people were injured in the crash.
- On August 2, 2022, Lawrence Ware, 52, died after he was crossing the street in the 4000 block of West 5th Avenue in West Garfield Park when a hit-and-run driver struck him, and another motorist ran over him.
- On July 30, 2022, a driver struck and killed Octavio Bahena Urquiza, 38, on the 4500 block of West Diversey Avenue and fled the scene.
- On July 4, 2022, a Jeep driver reportedly struck and killed a man on the 3200 block of South Pulaski Road in Little Village and fled the scene.
- 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 17, 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 September 8, 2022, Samuel Bell, 44, was riding an e-bike southeast on the 700 block of North Milwaukee in River West when an elderly Hyundai Elantra sedan driver made a left turn onto Huron Street, fatally striking Bell.
- On August 27, 2022, an SUV driver ran a stop sign and fatally struck Fengan Yan, 55, at 26th Street and Stewart Avenue in the Armour Square community.
- On August 11, 2022, a van driver struck and killed Pablo Rodriguez, 55, near 99th Street and Avenue L in the East Side community and fled the scene.
- 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.