I am sick of the of police representatives making excuses for drivers who crush cyclists.
Yesterday a 37-year-old woman was traveling down Milwaukee Ave., in a bike lane to the right of a dump truck. The dump truck fatally right-hooked her. Once again, the cycling community mourns for a tragic death and for the loved ones of the victim.
Police spokesperson Sally Bown commented that the truck driver was "legally making a right turn" and "did not see the bike on the right side". The old "blind spot" excuse lives on. The old implication that killing somebody because your vehicle has a blind spot is somehow just one of those unfortunate things that happen....
Drivers have a duty to keep a proper outlook when they drive. They are not excused from this because they are driving some poorly-designed vehicle with a blind spot. Especially when there are many ways, including better mirrors, sensors, and camera systems, to eliminate such blind spots. This is 2019, not 1919. It is negligent on its face to drive a huge truck on crowded residential streets with blind spots along its sides. No such vehicles should be allowed on the road, period.
So no, Sally Bown. That dump truck driver wasn't legally making a right turn. He was a lazy sod who, even though bicycles are all over on Milwaukee Avenue, didn't bother to make sure he was clear before he turned. And it is of no relevance that he didn't see the bicyclist on the right side -- it was his responsibility to make sure that he could before he made that turn. That driver acted completely recklessly and should be charged appropriately. No doubt the police will give him a minor ticket or two, if even that.
There is a duty at all times to be aware of such situations. If your truck renders you blind, then find another job or a better truck. Those trucks with the stupid diagrams on the back showing that they might run you over if you're to their right should be banned from city streets. Telling someone you're going to kill them before you kill them doesn't make it legal.
Jim, wonderful, heartfelt post. You're one of my favorite posters on The Chainlink!
I entirely agree. How many young women have ventured out on busy streets this year, unaware of the danger of those big, open-sided trucks? And have been run over, crushed, killed, by those big rear wheels cutting sharply across the bike lane as the driver hooks right. And in that last desperate second, have seemed to come out of nowhere!
Dump truck drivers are usually paid on a per-load basis; the more loads they deliver, the higher their pay. So they have no motivation to slow down...for anyone! My practice is to NEVER ride up alongside an open-sided vehicle: dump truck, garbage truck, flat-bed, 18-wheeler, etc. Let them go...straight, left, right, I don't care. I'm safely back, out of the way!
Thanks! I'm with you about keeping to the back of those big trucks. Regardless of who has the right to ride where, they scare me. I've been right-hooked a couple of times and have some different bikes and ugly fingers to show for it.
It's sad that these kinds of incidents are totally preventable, and in more than one way.
Do you think more people just don't know about the strategy you and clp mention?
Cycling Savvy has a couple of good videos:
Although some incidents can be avoided by taking care to stay behind, rather than to the right of trucks, they can always pass you and make a quick right hook on top of you. Approaching intersections, I try to take the lane to discourage this, but it's sometimes impossible to do that if the car traffic is really fast-moving. This is not an ideal world.
I am a real believer in defensive riding, but no matter how much effort we put into learning and using defensive riding strategies, we can always be killed by incompetent/distracted/reckless drivers. Until the penalties for casually killing cyclists and pedestrians with vehicles are made more severe, nothing will change for the better.
FYI - Bike Lane Uprising is holding a call to action/creating a people protected bike lane tonight at the section this occurred at:
You're right Juan...was she even wearing a protective helmet when she rolled under those big rear wheels?
Cyclists are blamed by drivers and most media for being a lawless pack of renegades, darting in and out of traffic. But some traffic studies say otherwise. Here's a good article I just found from OUTSIDE magazine that's a couple years old:
This is another awful tragedy that could have been prevented.
I totally agree with your assessment, and am constantly wondering why all large commercial vehicles are not required to be equipped with blind spot monitoring systems, 360 degree cameras, warning sensors, automatic emergency braking, etc. These are features that come standard on many passenger vehicles, but the requirement for a $150k commercial dump truck bought just a few years ago is a mirror.
Of course, perhaps the most simple improvement would be to require side guards on all commercial trucks operating in our city. These are inexpensive and help save lives. The city has already acknowledged this and requires them on vehicles working on city contracts. It's time to require them for all trucks.
None of this excuses a professional driver with (presumably) a commercial license that requires specialized training and experience from failing to see a cyclist or checking their blind spots before making a turn.
+1 on the side guards. It seems so obvious.
Thank you for posting. I was at a company meeting yesterday and trying to compartmentalize so that I didn't lose it. Finally at night, not knowing her name, knowing that I may know her and even if I don't, knowing she has loved ones that will be devastated I lost it late last night. Didn't sleep.
Issues with reporting: the garbage conclusion CPD gave - driver not at fault, making "legal" right turn on green. Correction: illegal right-hook killing cyclist in the bike lane. From what other cyclists have said on Twitter, a bike lane that had paint so faded you can't see it. According to Fox 32, there are some gruesome details and the driver stopped after he heard her screaming. I've seen the age reported as both 33 and 37. Many members of the press really failing to report the crash with accuracy and full knowledge of the laws so further spreading misinformation about the crash. The usual calling it a "tragic accident" and mentioning a "truck hit a cyclist" rather than what really happened - a driver, at fault, hit a cyclist. Clearly, he overtook her on that street before the turn and did not take her into consideration when he turned. Clearly it was a right hook. Also, press like the Chicago Tribune only getting information from CPD (incorrect information), didn't do research, and didn't bother to follow up on the fact that the truck DID NOT have wheel guards. WHY?
Why is nothing done to enforce the laws we have, ensure CPD officers actually know the laws they are supposed to enforce, and why do we let the commercial truck driver off the hook so easily? I am one of many that has spent over 24 hours on pins and needles waiting to hear her name and learn her story. And then we mourn. And have a ghost bike. There is so much loss involved in losing a member of our community to something that could have been prevented many times over with so many preventative measures that aren't implemented, enforced, etc. And don't get me started with how easily one can obtain a commercial license to drive a massive truck.
At this point, the driver hasn't received so much as a ticket. The usual victim blaming has occurred. Bike Lane Uprising did an important and valuable thing by immediately having a human protected bike lane vigil and inviting the press. Christina contacted all of us to help get the word out yesterday. CL had messages on FB and Twitter.
Soon, when we know more, I'm going to adjust the title and add an update when we know her name. This becomes important for Ghost Bike Memorials, legal follow ups and makes it searchable for the future. I've needed to go back to find information and assume others will need the same information as well.
This tragedy has all the signs of what happened to Virginia Murray.
And Angela Park at Halsted and Madison.