Kinzie Street crash story: Report them all

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Last Tuesday a friend of mine called me around 6 PM to describe that he had just witnessed a cyclist get involved in a collision with an automobile at Canal Street and Kinzie Street. From my friend’s point of view (which was a couple hundred feet west of the intersection), the cyclist was turning left from westbound Kinzie Street (after exiting the bridge) onto southbound Canal Street. The driver was traveling east on Kinzie Street.

My friend approached the scene and asked the driver to pull over and exchange information with the cyclist. The driver moved her car to Canal Street. My friend then met with the fallen cyclist and talked him through all of the steps of things to do after a crash:

  1. Call police and file a crash report
  2. Keep calm (this is probably the hardest part and I have no doubt that my friend’s presence here served to reassure the cyclist that they were not alone in this crash). This includes not talking about who might be at fault.
  3. Get witness information
  4. Preserve evidence; get information from the other parties; take pictures (my friend photographed the driver involved)
  5. Take care of yourself, get medical attention (this cyclist didn’t want it when asked by the 911 operator)

From the way my friend told me the story, it seems that the cyclist who crashed wasn’t sure of what they should do after the collision. I’m glad my friend did. He and I have talked about it many times; we have it listed on Moving Design spoke cards on our bikes, and it’s on the back of the blue Get Lit flyer.

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It is important to report each and every crash. Do it for dooring-type crashes, too. Do it at a police station later if you don’t want to wait around for an officer to show up at the scene (although this is better). I asked Twitter for some help in figuring out how many bike crashes go unreported. In my quick review of all the articles and studies people sent me, it seems that crashes that result in serious injury are more likely to be reported. One study concluded the following about car and bicycle reporting rates (for all countries it surveyed):

  • 95 percent for fatal injuries
  • 70 percent for serious injuries (admitted to hospital)
  • 25 percent for slight injuries (treated as outpatients)
  • 10 percent for very slight injuries (treated outside hospitals)

It also said that “reporting is highest for car occupants and lowest for cyclists. In particular, single-vehicle bicycle accidents are very rarely reported in official road accident statistics.” The study was by Rune Elvik and Anne Borger Mysen from Oslo, Norway. Another study, this one of hospital visit records in California, New York, and North Carolina, by Jane Stutts and William Hunter found

…the only factor found to be associated with police reporting of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes was the severity level of the injury: bicyclists who were hospitalized or killed were 1.4 times more likely to be reported on the state crash files than were bicyclists receiving emergency room treatment only. [For pedestrian crash reporting, age was a factor.]

Even though the reported crash will likely end up as a dot on a map, those dots mean that something about that place is not right and that it should be looked at to see how the street can be redesigned to mitigate conflicts. If all crashes were reported, the map may have 5 times as many dots. High bike crash locations (based on reports to police) include the following (data period 2007-2010):

  1. Elston, Damen, Fullerton – see the changes occurring there in several years
  2. Milwaukee, Paulina
  3. Chicago, Halsted
  4. Milwaukee, Chicago, Ogden
  5. Milwaukee, North, Damen
  6. Cortland, Ashland
  7. Montrose and the Lakefront Trail
  8. Milwaukee, Armitage, Western
  9. Damen, Clybourn, Diversey
  10. Clark, Halsted, Barry

How many crashes have you been involved in and didn’t report?

N.B. If you’re cycling west in the Kinzie Street bike lane and you want to turn left onto southbound Canal Street, the street design doesn’t give you any clues as to how to do that. From the way the bollards are positioned and the pavement striped, it appears that you’re not allowed to make a left turn. To make a left turn, position yourself in the travel lane, make a complete stop at the stop bar, wait for the intersection to clear, and make a left turn. A box turn would probably not work here as the intersection is mostly treated like a three-way T intersection; the residential driveway entrance at the north side has such little traffic and isn’t very integrated into the intersection.

Updated 10:50 with list of top 10 bike crash locations in Chicago according to analysis with GIS software by Nabil Nazha and myself. 

10 thoughts on “Kinzie Street crash story: Report them all”

  1. Good job describing what to do and the challenges of turning at the intersection. I’m curious, was the westbound cyclist trying to turn left from the bike lane or did he merge into the car lane first?

  2. Great post. One issue I’ve encountered is resistance from the police if you have to make a report at the police station, so it is good to emphasize that you should wait for the police to arrive on the scene if you can. I witnessed a cyclist get hit by a car during rush hour at Lake and Des Plaines last week. He was injured. Although the police and CFD arrived promptly, the police did not arrive until long after the victim had been transported to the hospital. I was able to get the names of the witness and a photo of the driver and the car (the driver, to her credit, stayed at the scene and waited for the police) and took a trip down to 18th/State to make a report. The officer working at the desk did everything he could to avoid doing anything: he told me I had no right to make a report, that I was at the wrong place (he said make the report to hit-and-run, even though it was not a hit and run), that he thought I might just be angry at the driver and intended to slander her. He also took umbrage when I said that I and two others waited for the police for nearly an hour, but had to leave to get to our jobs. But once I showed him a photo of the scene and the car on my phone, he got on his computer and discovered that there was an investigator assigned. A 30 second call alerted the investigating officer that I was at the station, and she showed up 20 minutes later and took my information and statement. (She also confirmed that the cyclist was OK, just shaken and bruised–thank goodness–and that she had found the driver and confirmed that the driver was insured.)

  3. I always hate to hear a fellow cyclist has been in an accident. Unfortunately if this cyclist has become like the rising majority of cyclist they did not stop at the 4-way stop sign at the intersection, and caused this accident. As cyclists we need to be defensive in our riding. I can’t tell you hay many cyclist I see daily think they own the road even above fellow cyclists, and pedestrians. While we have the right of way psychics tell us different we can’t hit a car and win. It’s not worth a life, the pain or a lifelong disability to not stop. Please take time to have a safe ride folks.

    1. The problem with your assessment is that we don’t know what the cyclist–or for that matter, the car that hit him–did at the intersection. We don’t know whether the cyclist was turning left from the car lane or crossing the car lane by turning left from the bike lane. We don’t know if the driver ran or rolled through the stop sign, or if the bicyclist ran or rolled through the stop sign, or what. Without that information, we can’t make any pronouncement about who caused the accident or how any party should respond.

      The thing about this intersection is that people in all modes of transportation always run it. They always have, and the bike lane hasn’t changed that. (My personal opinion is that it’s made it worse safety wise, as it’s now harder for drivers to see the bicyclists.) Worse, few cars heading west on Kinzie signal their intention to make a left turn onto Canal, making the entire intersection more treacherous. Everybody needs to pay attention to what they’re doing at this intersection.

  4. That list of intersections with the highest count bike crashes is very interesting, thanks for providing it. The good news is that with the exception of the Montrose/LFT point, all 9 other of those intersections have at least one street, if not two streets, designated on the Streets for Cycling 2020 Draft as either spoke routes or crosstown bike routes. This means they’ll get attention and upgrades over the next few years, and hopefully make the intersections safer. Those streets include Clark, Halsted, Chicago, Milwaukee, Damen, Elston and Clybourn.

    1. The location of bike crashes is probably better for measuring exposure (i.e., levels of bicycling) than actual risk or danger. There are plenty of places in the city that are more dangerous for bikes, but because nobody bikes there (because it’s dangerous), there are no crashes. That said, the goal is zero crashes, so it is good that we’ll have a chance to address the design at those locations.

  5. I was hit by a car last November…luckily just some scrapes and bruises after sliding across the hood of the car and army rolling into street and again luckily not into oncoming traffic. The driver pulled into a nearby parking lot after I said I was calling the police. To no surprise he and his other teenage friends got freeked and fled the scene. Nearby pedestrians got plates for me. After police arrived, filled out paperwork, and gave me the news that nothing would really happen after this paperwork was filled out…gave me this great piece of advice…”You are better off bribing the driver for money for your bike instead of going through this whole process”

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