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Bike Crashes

Officer turning left in SUV collided with oncoming teen bike rider in W. Humboldt Park

If the officer chose to make a left after their light turned red, or failed to yield to oncoming bike traffic, do they deserve some blame?

The teen on the ground after striking the turning officer’s SUV. Image via Citizen.com: https://citizen.com/-NaOwNJPHOGkwUjWtXIq

The municipal code of Chicago (section 9-16-020) states that, "The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a bicycle [rider] approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard."

Recently a Chicago Police Department officer in an SUV made a left turn in the path of a teen who was bicycling towards them, which caused the youth to strike the windshield. Fortunately, the collision didn't result in serious injuries. But it does raise the question of whether the officer was following the letter of the law here, or do they deserve some blame for the crash?

According to CPD Media Major Incident Notifications, last Thursday, July 27 at about 3:57 p.m., on the 1000 block of North Pulaski Road in West Humboldt Park, "A CPD marked squad was at a stop turning [westbound] when a bicyclist failed to stop at a red light and struck the squad car." The brief report said the 15-year-old male bike rider was taken to Stroger Hospital and was listed in good condition.

Image of the collision from the CPD crash report.

The CPD crash report provides more details of the department's account of what took place. The driver of the squad car, a 2021 Ford Explorer SUV, is listed as a 32-year-old woman. The report states that one of the officers who was involved in the squad car immediately requested an ambulance for the injured bike rider.

When responding officers arrived, the teen, who lives about two miles north of the crash site, was talking to Chicago Fire Department paramedics and bleeding from the face and arms, the report states. There was damage to the squad car's front passenger side wheels and windshield. A responding officer was able to take the teen's information on the scene before he was taken to Stroger.

Augusta and Pulaski, looking north. Image Google Maps

A responding officer then talked to the crash-involved police, who both said they had been driving north and "were [in] the turning lane, facing northbound on Pulaski Rd. waiting at the light to turn westbound on Augusta Blvd." according to the report. "Once the light turned red and the vehicles going southbound on Pulaski Rd. stopped at the light, [the officer who was driving] proceeded to safely make the left turn."

The crash report states that prior to the crash, the police were in the south turning lane, outside the intersection, waiting for southbound traffic to stop. After the light turned red, the report says, they entered the intersection and made a westbound left turn onto Augusta, which would have technically illegal. Image: Google Maps

Of course, making a left turn at an intersection immediately after your stoplight light turns red is technically illegal if you're not already in the intersection and there's no turn arrow, which is the case at Augusta/Pulaski. But, for better or for worse, this move is a common practice in our city.

After the officers started turning, the report states, the teen "who was traveling at an accelerated speed, disregarded the solid red signal, crashing into the front passenger's side/wheel" of their squad car.

Aerial view of intersection. Image: Google Maps

The report states the teen was in good condition at the time of the report, and would be undergoing a CT scan. His bicycle was inventoried at the 11th District headquarters.

The responding officers then went to Stroger, where they met with the teen's mother, according to the report. They issued an Administrative Notice of Violation "for MCC 9-52-010(B), which requires all [bike riders] to obey all traffic control devices upon the roadway." The mother refused to sign it.

The report states the responding officers canvassed the crash area for video security equipment. They were able to recover some footage of the incident from a food market at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Video of the crash aftermath can be viewed on Citizen.com.

The officers and the teen, with bloody face, after the crash. Image via Citizen.com

Streetsblog contacted a civilian witness to the crash, who requested anonymity. His account of the incident was similar to the crash report, but with a couple of major differences.

The witness, who was driving south at the time of the crash, reached the intersection after the stoplight was yellow. Unlike the crash report's statement that the officers made their turn after the light went red, the witness says the light was still yellow when they turned. He said they were traveling "at a casual speed," with no lights or sirens activated.

The witness said he knew he had the the right of way as the driver of a vehicle that was continuing forward, rather than turning. However, he chose to yield to the turning police officers by stopping at his stop bar while they turned in front of him.

That's when, the witness said, the southbound teen approached the intersection, riding on the street to the right of the witness' car at a relatively high speed (for a bicycle rider) on a single-speed road bike. The witness agreed with the police that the teen entered the intersection after their stoplight was red, but said he did so just after the light changed from yellow to red.

"There are good cops and there are bad cops," the witness said. "But this wasn't their fault."

Sure, if the teen ran a red, albeit just after the signal changed, he's not blameless here. But if the officer chose to make a left after the light turned red (CPD version of the story), or failed to yield to oncoming bike traffic (witness' version), do they deserve some blame here as well?

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