Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chicago Bicyclist Dies After Collision With Semi-Truck In Milwaukee Bike Lane

Milwaukee Avenue at Racine

A 20-year old Chicago bicyclist has lost their life as a result of a collision with a semi-truck that took place on the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane. According to reports, the collision took place in the southbound lane of Milwaukee Avenue near its intersection with Racine. The collision occurred at approximately 8:15 a.m., in the middle of rush hour. 

This intersection is in Chicago's River West neighborhood and is passed by thousands of bicyclists every day. This section of the Milwaukee bike lane is not part of the protected Milwaukee bike lane where there are bollards and space between the bike lane and the southbound lane for motor vehicle traffic. At this location both motor vehicle and bicycle traffic run parallel to one another. 

Chicago Bicycle Law Prohibits Driving Motor Vehicles on Bike Lane

However, the bicycle lane is clearly marked in bright green and is clearly marked for bicycle traffic only. Chicago law provides that the operators of motor vehicles may not drive on a bike lane. The purpose of this law is to provide safe and reliable routes of travel for bicyclists. In Chicago, the Milwaukee bike lane is well known and immediately recognized as a key route for bicyclists. Here is the section of the Chicago Municipal Code providing that bike lanes are only for bicyclists: 

9-40-060- Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited -The driver of a vehicle shall not drive, unless entering or exiting a legal parking space, or stand, or park the vehicle upon any on street path or lane designated by official signs or markings for the use of bicycles, or otherwise drive or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such path or lane. The driver of a vehicle shall not stand or park the vehicle upon any lane designated by pavement markings for the shared use of motor vehicles and bicycles, or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such lane. 
Certain State and Federal Laws Address Duties of Truck Drivers

Since the vehicle involved was a semi-truck, there are specific rules and regulation that apply to the drivers of these vehicles. The drivers of these trucks are expected to be professionals and drive with the utmost care. These rules and regulations exist not just in state and local laws, but also in federal regulations. Here are some of the key laws that apply to a bicycle crash of this nature:
  • 49 C.F.R. Section 383.111 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires a professional driver to recognize and avoid potential hazards at all times around a turning tractor truck. 
  •  Section 11-1003.1 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code states that every driver of a vehicle must 1) always exercise care to avoid colliding with pedestrians and bicyclists, and 2) sound their horn to provide warning of an impending impact.
Right Hook Crashes Are Prohibited by Chicago Bicycle Laws

The report from ABC 7 implies that this may have been a "right hook" crash where the driver turned right across the path of the bicyclist. A "right hook" crash occurs when a turning vehicle travels directly across the path of a bicyclist and causes a collision between the turning motor vehicle and the bicycle. Chicago law explicitly prohibits "right hooks" by turning vehicles. Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago specifically addresses "right hooks." The ordinance states:
When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.” 
According to Alisa Hauser of DNAInfo.com, there are charges pending against the driver of the semi-truck involved in the collision. A witness to the crash relayed to the journalist that the bicyclist and the road bicycle were under the cab of the truck. This would tend to indicate that the bicyclist was run over given the placement of the two vehicles. It is unclear, however, exactly what direction the semi-truck was travelling at the moment of impact. 

In the end, another Chicago bicyclist has lost their life in a crash with a motor vehicle. This is a tragic loss of a young life. Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the cyclist. 

Edit: The victim of the crash, Lisa Kuivinan identified as non-binary and preferred gender-neutral pronouns. This post has been edited.