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, very helpful-- thank you.

I rewrote some of this and edited it to add links if anyone wants to share this version on social media, etc. There's a lot less yelling in this version:

@ErinVogel Is it possible for you to edit the title of this thread to replace "this morning" with the date it happened? Each day it gets bumped to the top it makes me think another person died.

I agree, very very tragic. It appears the cyclist at Damen & Addison was the victim of a right hook. There are no bike lanes along Damen. There are two potential scenarios: the truck was at the intersection first and the cyclist shoaled up along the right side of the truck, or the cyclist was at the intersection first and the truck just flat out cut her off with his right turn. The trick to being safe in this situation is to not ride on the right side of any traffic, or to move into the traffic lane and prevent the truck from coming around the front of you. One thing that helps me in this situation is having a good quality helmet mirror (my favorite is Tiger Eye bike mirror) that allows me to see a potential vehicle attempting to come around. Often times I can even see their turn signal so I know I need to be in front of them. All of this is particularly important if there is a bike lane because the design of having car/truck traffic that is turning right in front of the bike lane is very dangerous. I urge everyone to get a mirror and ride your bike just like you would drive your car. It's always a bad idea to pass on the right in a car too. Be keenly aware of your potential for being in a drivers blind spot.  I hope you won't let these events stop you from riding your bike! 

The thing I found odd about Damen is that it appears to be the more-or-less recommended north/south bike route through Roscoe Village. I followed a friend from work to another guy's house (another bike-crazy guy Jeff wanted me to meet). He just followed Google's directions, which took us straight up Damen. Yow! I'm a pretty unfazible commuter, but Damen was no fun during the afternoon rush. The strange thing for me was that once we got to this guy's place, I realized he only lived a couple blocks east of the North Channel Trail. Had I known where we were actually headed, I would have strongly suggested another route to Jeff.

That's what makes the conditions on Damen so inexcusable IMHO, though.  It is pretty much the best route through Roscoe Village if you're heading from say Wicker Park up to Lincoln Square or something similar.  Damen has bike lanes for much of its length, except in the area where this cyclist was killed, and that area has always been a heavily traveled nightmare for cyclists. 

that's why it's important to have a mirror and get in the traffic flow. Never sacrifice your safety for someone else's convenience. Be where other road users are expecting you to be. Be watching that you have been seen by them. Be predictable. The bike lanes are not necessarily the safest place to be.

I'm a seasoned commuter, and am not afraid to take the lane when I need to, but I'm not taking the lane for a 12 block stretch of Damen where the bike lane disappears.  To each their own, but I disagree that the idea of taking the lane makes up for poorly designed infrastructure.      

Yes, this section without bike lanes HAS been a problem for a long time. As some of you may remember, there was a previous bike fatality several years ago on this section of Damen.


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