2012 Chicago fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 21 (9 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 5 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
The Chicago Tribune reports:
A bicyclist was struck and killed by a semi truck on the Near North Side this morning, apparently when he swerved to avoid an open car door, authorities said. Police at the scene said the accident happened just before 9 a.m. on Wells Street in front of Walter Payton High School, just north of Oak Street.
The bicyclist was in the southbound lane and turned suddently to avoid an open car door and fell underneath the front wheels of the truck’s flat-bed trailer, police said.
As of 10:20 a.m., rescue crews were still working to remove the body. The bicycle lay near cars parked along the curb. The victim is male, but no other information was available.
I gather from this report that the bicyclist had a choice between two evils, but the one to their left – the truck – probably wasn’t known. From the photo in the article, it appears the truck and downed bicycle are closer to Maple Street than Oak Street. We can see a completely faded bike lane in the photo. While it’s speculative to link the bike lane’s condition to the crash, it’s not to link this design to the crash. Transportation planners and designers who come from countries where crashes like this are an extremely rare occurrence have said that parked cars should protect bike lanes and not have bicyclists protect parked cars. In other words:
Can you believe that there are still traffic engineers elsewhere putting painted bike lanes on the LEFT side of parked cars and not along the sidewalk? Actually getting paid to design them like that? It boggles the mind that these people aren’t relieved of their duties. 100 years of cycle track experience. You’d think that they would know better.
This bike lane design is obsolete and deficient as it causes bicyclists to ride in highly unsafe situations.
A similar crash happened in 2008 with Clinton Miceli, a recent college graduate. He was bicycling north on LaSalle Street (which doesn’t have a bike lane), was doored, thrown into another lane of traffic and run over by a second automobile and died. Until the day comes when we’re willing to give up parking spaces for safe bicycling routes, “share the road” is the best place we’ve got.
October 6, 2012: The cyclist was Neill Townsend, 32 years old. There was a vigil held at the crash site Friday night. Here’s a photo one of our contributors took at the event.
October 8, 2012: Townsend graduated from University of Kentucky, where his father is a professor. The Lexington Herald-Leader posted an obituary, and information on memorial services in Lexington.
October 9, 2012: This isn’t news, but needed to add it: the driver who opened the door leading to this crash, Alexander Squiers, was cited for opening a car door in traffic (Chicago Sun-Times). “[W]hen such violation interferes with the movement of a bicycle”, the fine is $150, while “if such violation causes a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle”, the fine is $500. We don’t know which level of fine Squiers received. (See 9-4-025 and 9-80-035 in the Municipal Code of Chicago.)
This is the second fatal semi-truck and bicycle crash this year. The driver fled from the crash in August and I believe is still at large.
* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time and includes only people who died in the Chicago city limits. View previous Fatality Tracker posts.
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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