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Paralyzed Bicyclist Sues City, Saying Lakefront Trail Dropped Nine Feet

Paralyzed Bicyclist Sues City, Saying Lakefront Trail Dropped Nine Feet

By Ted Cox on December 30, 2014 12:13pm 

 Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down. Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down.
Jennifer Kraft

THE LOOP — A 34-year-old schoolteacher is suing the city over a bike accident last year on the South Side's lakefront trail that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Attorneys for Jennifer Kraft, a teacher of high-school chemistry, said in a suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court that the city and the Chicago Park District were responsible for her falling nine feet when the trail "abruptly ended without warning" at 37th Street.

According to the suit, the accident took place April 25. Kraft was northbound on the bike trail when it ended, and she fell nine feet onto concrete. "While Jennifer’s helmet saved her life, she remains in a wheelchair as she fractured three neck vertebrae, both shoulder blades, and punctured her spine at chest level," according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm representing her.

Kraft is paralyzed from the chest down, according to the firm, and the suit charges the city and the Park District "carelessly and negligently designed the trail by failing to warn bicyclists of an abrupt drop-off on the trail."

"Jennifer's life has been forever changed because of this unsafe trail," said Patrick Salvi, managing equity partner at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard. "Not only does the trail design concern us, but the trail has no warning signs, railings, lights or other safety protections — not then, not now."

The suit seeks unspecified damages for personal injury.

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I think here (note 37th St in the lower left hand corner, and the break in the revetments(?) in the upper right):

This map let's you scroll. Looks like there's a similar break around 43rd street...and her crash site at 37th. To get people to sign their petition related to the lawsuit, spots have been labeled in google maps as dangerous drops. 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=z_TxFLyaQTdY.k6k_xBca1w6I

Yeah, mine was just a snapshot. I didn't know how to get a URL with any annotation. If you scroll north or south along the breakwater, you'll notice that there are ramps (likely meant for pedestrians only) onto the wall. I would seem that either you eliminate the ramps or provide ramps everywhere there is a gap in the wall. At the very least, cyclists should be strongly dissuaded from riding on the wall.

She was not on the bike trail.  Fishing for money.  Offensive

I've ridden that stretch many times. Along the lowest level, adjacent to the lake, you can ride all the way from Belmont to Fullerton on a completely flat and level surface, quite safely, I might add. (But you do have to watch out for broken glass). It's a beautiful ride, particularly at the junction with the Fullerton bridge, as you mentioned. The only problem is that once you reach Fullerton, you have to carry your bike up the rock ledges to get back to the bike path, which is kind of fun, actually. Adds a little spice to the ride and works a different set of muscles. And if your date is not up to that task, you can be chivalrous, flex your muscles a little bit more and carry her bike back to the path for her, too. Her respect and admiration for you will grow exponentially. (Or is that no longer politically correct in this age of fairness, equal opportunity and women's rights?) 

But your point is well taken. It's not a bike path, was never intended to be used as such and should be obvious to anyone. No signage needed. 

Bob Kastigar said:

There are other similar locations like this.  Riding southbound on the Lake Front path as you approach Belmont you can continue south on the path, or you can make a sharp left turn, ride along the boat loading structure and continue south directly along the lake.  Eventually you'll rejoin the LFP around Fullerton. 

This is far more scenic and attractive and usually has fewer cyclists but lot of pedestrians.  It takes longer and it has several up-and-down ramps and drop-off.  It isn't intended for bicyclists. 

Recently I had a visitor from Germany and we rode down to the Field Museum.  I took her along this path and she really appreciated the view of the downtown area.  I did give a mild warning about looking down at the ramps instead of looking up at the downtown buildings.

No signs are needed along this route because it's pretty obvious you're following a route not intended for bicycles.  You have to go out of your way to get there.

Good reason to not ride fixed in the real world (off the velodrome).

Mike Zumwalt said:

They could install reflectors at the edge but that's only helpful if you have a light.

My own brush with OMG I almost hurt myself was riding East on Chicago ave. I hate the bridges that are open grates because of the slippery tire movement so I went up on the sidewalk.

OOOOPS! the other side of the walk past the bridge is 3 steps, luckily I was on my Mt. Bike and improvised very fast and rode down the steps. WHEW!

Now had I been riding fixed I'd be layed up somewhere eating through a tube.

What does riding fixed have to do with being able to stop or air over 3 stairs?

Just because you are riding fixed it does not mean you do not have a brake.

Irvin Steinert said:

Good reason to not ride fixed in the real world (off the velodrome).

Mike Zumwalt said:

They could install reflectors at the edge but that's only helpful if you have a light.

My own brush with OMG I almost hurt myself was riding East on Chicago ave. I hate the bridges that are open grates because of the slippery tire movement so I went up on the sidewalk.

OOOOPS! the other side of the walk past the bridge is 3 steps, luckily I was on my Mt. Bike and improvised very fast and rode down the steps. WHEW!

Now had I been riding fixed I'd be layed up somewhere eating through a tube.

That's the spot. There are a number of similar breaks in the revetment along the lake; they're needed to allow any water that gets trapped behind it escape back into the lake.

Signs would seem a small thing to install but, having ridden that section of the lake, anybody who doesn't see the gap coming isn't paying attention to where they're going. Or riding too fast for conditions - reports are she was riding at dusk and couldn't see.

Skip Montanaro 12mi said:

I think here (note 37th St in the lower left hand corner, and the break in the revetments(?) in the upper right):

Yep, you nailed it. It's amazing how similar bike riding is to driving, isn't it? 

You should always be able to stop within the distance illuminated by your headlight(s) and it's illegal to ride after dusk or before dawn without one.



Reboot Oxnard said:

Or riding too fast for conditions - reports are she was riding at dusk and couldn't see.

A little bit of compassion goes a long way here.

I agree with you Anne. Regardless of how this happened, it is tragic. Heartbreaking to see the two pictures (before and after) and know that her life is changed forever.  


Anne Alt said:

A little bit of compassion goes a long way here.

I don't think anyone said she was fishing for money? You can sue the city for getting a flat tire or a bent rim on your car after hitting a pothole but unfortunately much like riding a bike anywhere in the city/world there are a lot of hazards and the lawyers representing the city have more resources and money to fight your claim and deny it or they'd have a rash of frivoulous lawsuits.

Then again it may point out a flaw in the design and create safer pathways for multi use as that's what they're designed for, not just cycling.



Asper K said:

She was not on the bike trail.  Fishing for money.  Offensive

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