The Chainlink

**I live in North Center and commute downtown to work every day. I just finished crying in my office after hearing about this. I wrote this thing on Facebook that I thought was worth sharing because writing it felt slightly more productive than just sitting in my computer chair and fuming. But honestly guys, what are we going to do about this???**

I TAKE THIS ROUTE ALMOST EVERY DAY. This cyclist was killed on Damen and Addison. I live on Damen and Irving Park.

But this is not me, even though a lot of what I want to say is spurred on by my personal rage and devastation that this these deaths have become run-of-the-mill this in 2016. Why is this still happening? I said to a friend the other day that Bobby Cann, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2013, should have been the last cyclist death in our city. Cann's totally preventable death -- if the man who killed him had been locked away for his multiple PREVIOUS drunk driving offenses like he SHOULD HAVE been if only he wasn't white and privileged and equipped with good lawyers and enough money to get his record wiped clean, Cann would still be here today -- should have been enough to show our city and our mayor that building miles and miles of bike lanes is not enough to protect cyclists. Because this isn't just about bike lanes. Lisa Kuivinen was killed while she was biking in one of Chicago's supposedly safest bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue and a truck driver veered into her lane without looking. This is not about bike lanes. This is about a culture, and a conversation we are not having about the relationship between drivers and cyclists in our city.

Chicago was just named the most bike-friendly city in the country and I know that for me personally, and a lot of other cyclists I know who use bikes as their main form of transportation of every day, that designation feels like a joke. Why?

Because today's death marks the is the SIXTH (I had to edit this after learning about the *****18-year-old****college student who was killed in a crash with a cement truck on Thursday night) CYCLIST DEATH in FOUR MONTHS caused by a COMMERCIAL VEHICLE in our city/around our city.

I am sick over this. I ride these roads every single day. I wear a helmet, I ring my bell when I'm riding in unprotected bike lanes adjacent to parked cars because I know a driver could open their door without looking at any second, I use hand signals, I wear bright colors, I yell when drivers start encroaching into the bike lane without looking, I wear lights at night, I communicate with other cyclists, I stop at red lights, but NONE OF THESE THINGS WILL KEEP ME ALIVE IF A CARELESS (AND MOST LIKELY, COMMERCIAL, GIVEN THE RECENT TREND) DRIVER MOVES INTO MY LANE AND HITS ME.

We also need to realize that even the cyclists who do NOT wear lights, who do not stop at stop signs, who do not wear helmets, STILL DESERVE TO BE PROTECTED AND RESPECTED ON THE ROADS AS HUMAN BEINGS. BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMAN BEINGS. OK, so some cyclists do not follow all the laws. Show me a driver who respects and follows every law every time they are behind the wheel. Human beings all have the ability to be careless and irresponsible, but somehow cyclists are the category of human beings that many of us have decided DESERVE to lose their lives as a result of carelessness.

The article about the 18-year-old college student mentioned that she was not wearing a helmet. This to me feels a little bit like victim blaming. I encourage everyone to know to wear helmets, but the fact is in many crashes a helmet is not going to save your life. We do not immediately ask if victims of car crashes were wearing a seatbelt and then feel vindicated when we find out they were not because that somehow means they deserved to die.

And the worst thing is knowing that if I were to be injured in a crash with a vehicle that hundreds of drivers and internet trolls would be waiting to comment on the news article about the things I should have been doing to prevent my own injury or death.

I'm sitting at my desk in my office looking at my green Surly crosscheck and thinking about how today I will probably take the Red Line home after work. I'd rather bike. It's my favorite way to get around this city. To be very honest, after spending most of 2016 in a deep depression that I'm just now climbing out of, I'm pretty sure that riding my bike - combined with a great therapist and the right antidepressant dosage - saved my life a little bit. But today I'm too sad thinking about how my favorite thing to do in the world could kill me someday. I'd rather have a day where I can get home safely without thinking overtime and looking around me, every second, wondering if the next car that cuts me off is going to be the last one.

(Anyone who comments on this post with any "helpful" comments about what this cyclist and the four other dead cyclists could have done to prevent being killed by careless vehicles will be immediately deleted.)

You can find an edited version that includes links posted to Medium here:

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This is very close to home for me as well. I live blocks from where this happened on Damen. This shakes everything for me too.

I live off Damen & Warner. :( I am basically still shaking over here.

I'm sure I won't be the only person to thank you for expressing feelings that I share. I was hit by a car 4 years ago, luckily not severely injured, but I was doing everything right and the driver did everything wrong, and as you say there is no way to protect ourselves against that. I hate that my loved ones are terrified by me biking to work, because they read the news and watch people drive and fear what can happen. 

The only way to reverse this tragic trend is to have a real cultural shift. And as I watch drivers become more angry, more impatient, and more reckless with each passing week, my hope for that kind of cultural shift dies a little bit more and I feel more hopeless.

Thanks so much for the response, Cheryl. I'm so sorry to hear about your crash and I'm glad you made it out okay. I've also been in similar crashes that could have been so, so much worse. My boyfriend was doored by a driver while biking a few years ago and broke his collarbone and his collarbone will never be totally healed. It's awful. And it's scary to think there isn't a real way to protect yourself in these situations because you CAN be doing everything right and still lose your life.

My family and friends worry about me as well. I always get tired of hearing from strangers that they would NEVER bike in the city because they're way to scared to ride alongside Chicago drivers and it used to really frustrate me to hear that... but now I'm really started to get why in a very visceral, immediate way. But you're absolutely right-- this isn't about being careful, this is about changing culture.

So sorry to hear about your boyfriend getting doored. Sadly, I feel like every cyclist you talk to in Chicago has been hit or knows someone directly who has. 

I love the idea of a protest ride and I'd be happy to work together to organize something like that. I used to work at CDOT so maybe I can check in with my friends there and see if they're planning any type of coordinated response. But this feels like an epidemic -- especially since these deaths are all so similar. If these cyclists were being killed by drunk drivers we would be doing something, right? But yes, I think we need to do something.

I'm interested in doing something like this too.

This looks like a good idea! 

It might be more effective to end the bike ride at the mayor's house.

This could be tied in to Friday's Critical Mass Ride.

ERIN! We are planning an event! Join us!

I believe it's time for this country to begin mandating truck side guards. Truck side guards are vehicle-based safety devices designed to keep pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from being run over by a large trucks rear wheels in a side-impact collision.


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