Google Streetview of the crash site, 26th and East in Berwyn, from the driver’s perspective.
Steven and I don’t normally devote full posts to non-fatal bicycle crashes, but the case of Justin Carver, a friend of a friend of mine, really hit home with me and has also struck a chord with the local bike community. Because of a careless move by a driver, Justin is currently in the intensive care unit, fighting for his life with a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones.
According to Justin’s wife Kim MacGregor Carver, Justin bicycled from their home in Oak Park to his job at the Stickney-Forest View Public Library several times a week. On Monday, December 3, around 5:15 pm, he was riding north on East Avenue in Berwyn, a residential street. When he came to the intersection of 26th Street, the driver of a southbound Chevrolet Suburban SUV made a left turn onto 26th and failed to yield to the cyclist, striking the left side of his body.
Justin, who was wearing a helmet, sustained severe head injuries. Although there were no skull fractures, there was trauma to the front of his brain and bleeding on the brain, and he received lacerations to his forehead. He also suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibia, a broken clavicle and scapula on his left side, and a broken finger in his left hand. “I have to imagine the helmet lessened the impact,” Kim told me on the phone yesterday afternoon, speaking from Justin’s hospital room. “I believe that if he didn’t have his helmet on it could have been over instantly.”
View Carver case map in a larger map
Possible routes of the cyclist (blue), from the library to the crash site, and the driver (red).
The motorist, an 18-year-old male, was driving with a learner’s permit. He had other teens in the car as passengers but no licensed adult, so he was in violation of his permit. He told police that he didn’t see Justin in the dark, although officers confirmed that the cyclists’ lights were working at the time. The police tested the driver and determined he was not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Kim said.
Although Justin’s initial prognosis was not optimistic, he seems to be making slow but steady progress. Following surgery to remove part of his skull and relieve pressure on his brain, he is still breathing with help from a ventilator, but doctors hope to have him breathing on his own soon. An external ventricular drain was used to drain spinal fluid from his skull; he is now off the drain and the pressure in the skull is being monitored.
Due to his tracheal tube, Justin can’t currently talk, but Kim said he sometimes opens his eyes, and when she puts her hand in his, he squeezes it hard. As of yesterday morning he was able to move his right thumb slightly when requested, which is a very encouraging sign. “They can’t predict what his recovery will be, just that it will take a long time and we will have to wait and see,” Kim said.
Justin Carver at the the library.
Obviously there will be some steep medical bills, but the driver only had minimum coverage insurance with a relatively low maximum payout. Kim is working with a lawyer to get a settlement, but this may take many months and the money will not pay all the bills. She has set up this donation site to help cover expenses.
As of yesterday evening, a week after the site launched, 117 people have contributed over $5,000 and donations are still coming in. Many of the donors seem to be local bicyclists who don’t know Justin personally but strongly identify with his story. “Our best wishes to Justin, Kim, and their families,” one posted on the donation site. “We are cyclists who ride in the same area – it could have been any of us.”
“The outpouring of emotional and financial support offered by both the cycling community and Kim and Justin’s personal networks has more than amazed me,” a friend of the couple wrote me. “I am in awe of Kim’s indefatigable support of Justin; they are newlyweds and I am sure this is not what she expected for their first year together. She is with him every day in the hospital talking to him, making sure he is comfortable, making sure he is entertained and keeping Justin’s community updated about his health. She even put an Oakland Raiders pennant up in his ICU room. Her love for him is really beautiful.”
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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