Reading about the tragic death of a young woman in Greektown, I am once again angered by the continual failure of Chicago police and prosecutors to act under the laws of Illinois.
I'm not certain what has happened or will happen in this particular case, but the Chicago police generally charge people who kill bicyclists with minor traffic offenses -- you know, failure to yield, failure to stop, etc. So people who injure or kill other people -- meaning injuring or killing us -- get off with a slap on the wrist, at most. I hear people, even other cyclists, excusing this by saying the incidents were just "accidents".
I do believe that some of these tragic events may just be "accidents". However, when it comes to enormous trucks right-hooking and killing cyclists, that's nonsense. Let me explain.
There is a charge called "reckless driving" under Illinois law. It's defined as follows:
(625 ILCS 5/11-503) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-503)
Sec. 11-503. Reckless driving; aggravated reckless driving.
(a) A person commits reckless driving if he or she: (1) drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
(2) knowingly drives a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
(b) Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, except as provided under subsections (b-1), (c), and (d) of this Section.
(b-1) Except as provided in subsection (d), any person convicted of violating subsection (a), if the violation causes bodily harm to a child or a school crossing guard while the school crossing guard is performing his or her official duties, is guilty of a Class 4 felony.
(c) Every person convicted of committing a violation of subsection (a) shall be guilty of aggravated reckless driving if the violation results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another. Except as provided in subsection (d) of this Section, aggravated reckless driving is a Class 4 felony.
(d) Any person convicted of violating subsection (a), if the violation causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to a child or a school crossing guard while the school crossing guard is performing his or her official duties, is guilty of aggravated reckless driving. Aggravated reckless driving under this subsection (d) is a Class 3 felony.
So, a person who drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons, and whose violation results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another, section (c), is guilty of nothing less than a Class 4 felony.
Now, what does "willful or wanton" mean? As set forth in the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1-101, et seq., and fairly enough in my opinion, willful and wanton conduct is "a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property."
When you drive a huge dump truck down a congested city street, knowing you have an enormous blind spot on the right side, and you make a right-hand turn without making sure traffic is cleared to your right, in my opinion that shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others. And when you kill somebody in the process, you should be charged with, at a minimum, a Class 4 felony. Not a traffic ticket. A felony. Felony. And prosecutors should go for a conviction on that, not just bargain down for a conviction on a mere traffic offense, as they generally do.
This being Chicago, a city owned and run by developers, great architecture be damned, I'm not aware that this has ever happened. The police generally give tickets for minor traffic violations, nothing to see here, move along, and there are absolutely no real consequences to the drivers for their actions, regardless of how they are changed. Look at the Bobby Cann case. What a freaking joke!
I laugh when I see those signs on the back of trucks warning people not to approach their right side in an intersection. Those stupid signs do not excuse any behavior by truck drivers when they turn. They are nonsensical. If you can't see to make a turn, then you shouldn't be turning. Period. Get cameras in your truck. Have a helper get out and scope around. Anything. But just turning with huge blind spots is, in fact, willful and wanton. And when you kill somebody, you should be charged with a felony. The problem is that the police don't do that.
Sorry for the length of this post. I'm just feeling heartsick about the young women who have been obliterated around construction sites lately, with the police and prosecutors too lazy to do anything substantial about it. I apologize.
Completely understand your POV. Human life should mean more than it does. I'm tired of motorists being treated like their lives are of more value than cyclists. I've been sick thinking about this all day.
So many points of failure - the driver, the company that didn't put in sideguards, didn't have adequate mirrors, and the infrastructure because there is NO accommodation for cyclists, just pedestrians and motorists when there's construction. In fact, bumping out that sidewalk eliminated the bike lane and became part of the problem.
I find it very alarming that, in a bike lane/commute route situation altered to an unsafe condition by construction, even a very experienced cyclist like Angela Park didn't survive a close encounter with a truck.
With the huge number of current building construction sites in the Loop, River North, Wicker Park and other areas of the city (many of them on heavily used commute routes), we face a lot more hazardous situations than in a more average year (one with less construction).
After the latest cyclist fatality I've had the opportunity to converse with people I don't normally interact with because of my minor riding injury and come to the realization that there still is a huge amount of Chicagoans that are 'cycling naysayers'. "What? You bike? On the city streets? Are you crazy? You shouldn't be doing that! Others shouldn't be on the streets cycling either. It's TOO dangerous! Look what happened recently! And you, look, you hurt yourself. Stop already! People on bikes don't belong or need to be out there! Take public transportation. What's wrong with you? See, I told you that you shouldn't be cycling !"
Geez ! This was the typical crux of the 'cycling naysayers' comments while I was (and am) medicated and trying to recover. Of course they don't realize or state what they understand is the inherent risk in any situation or mode of transport. But perhaps they are unnecessarily concerned about my personal safety. That's OK. I guess? But what the naysayers don't understand is that no situation is ever remedied unless and until something is advocated for change and enacted to protect those that need those protections for their safety. That mission for us is now even more entrenched !
'Cycling Naysayers' be aware ! We belong, and we are not going away ! We ourselves are going to work on being more alert and careful and we are going to especially express that you, as vehicle drivers, do the same. And we are going to continue to press for the proper, infrastructure changes for our safe travel ! Ride on !
On the opposite side of the fence, I had a positive conversation today with someone very sympathetic who heard the point I was making about our streets being SHARED spaces where we all need to watch out for each other, have some compassion, and recognize that other people on the road (regardless of their mode of transportation) are just trying to get somewhere in one piece. I feel like that basic point is completely lost in most of the discussions that come up after a bad crash or fatality.
"What? You bike? On the city streets? Are you crazy? You shouldn't be doing that! Others shouldn't be on the streets cycling either. It's TOO dangerous! Look what happened recently! And you, look, you hurt yourself. Stop already! People on bikes don't belong or need to be out there! Take public transportation. What's wrong with you? See, I told you that you shouldn't be cycling !"
The subtext being, of course, "You must be nuts to ride a bicycle on the streets since I'm in my car usually speeding, staring at my phone, not signalling, blocking the crosswalks, eating, applying makeup, flinging open my door, etc.."
Which is then just a short stretch to the Cycling Scofflaw Menace narrative we read so much about all throughout comment sections after most bicycling articles.
The stupid, it burns.
Big trucks are poorly suited and equipped to share the streets with all the regular traffic I'm realizing. On the highway I've seen these large machines cause many wrecks with their blind spots. On our streets this tragedy and many others even with pedestrians have occured. I read a heartbreaking story of a couple visiting our city. The wife got lost and tried to cross the street unaware of a big truck turning in her direction and got killed. The truck did not stop. The husband was wondering what the commotion was down the block as he went looking for his wife. He was destroyed when he found out it was his wife :(