Keep making our streets safer for bicyclists, pedestrians

The tragic death of a 3-year-old is a sobering reminder that more needs to be done to keep vehicles out of bike lanes. The city should consider raising the fine for motorists who drive, park or sit idling in a bike lane.

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A bicyclist stops to visit a memorial at the corner of North Winthrop and West Leland avenues, where a 3-year-old was killed when her mother’s bicycle was hit by a semi.

A bicyclist stops to visit a memorial at the corner of North Winthrop and West Leland avenues, where a 3-year-old was killed when her mother’s bicycle was hit by a semi.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

With the warmer weather and the official first day of summer kicking off next week, more bicyclists will be on the road.

Which means motorists need to pay extra attention.

There is no question safety on the streets is only possible if everyone — drivers, pedestrians and cyclists — follows the rules of the road.

But those behind the wheel need to bear in mind that if they make a mistake, the consequences are especially risky. Drivers are operating a motor vehicle that weighs 2,000 pounds or more — a mere tap can hurt others.

Even the presence of a standing vehicle where it doesn’t belong can lead to a deadly accident.

Editorial

Editorial

Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook’s tragic death is a sobering reminder of this reality. The 3-year-old was killed last Thursday while she was with her parents as they cycled near their Uptown home in an area advocates say offers little protection to bicyclists.

Had a ComEd truck not been illegally parked in a bike lane, Lily Grace might have been enjoying another bike ride instead of being memorialized with bouquets of flowers where she died.

Lily Grace; A memorial at Winthrop and Leland avenues, where 3-year-old Lily Grace was killed in a bicycle crash.

Lily Grace Shambrook; A memorial at Winthrop and Leland avenues, where 3-year-old Lily Grace was killed in a bicycle crash.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; provided photo of Lily Grace

Lily Grace’s mother was knocked off balance when she tried squeezing around the ComEd truck and was hit by a semi pulling away from a stop sign at Leland and Winthrop avenues, police said. Lily Grace, who was wearing a helmet, was thrown from the child carrier on her mother’s bicycle and dragged by the semi for more than 20 feet, the Sun-Times’ David Struett reported.

Nothing is more heartbreaking to a parent than losing a child, and losing them in a situation that could have been avoided surely makes that unbearable pain even worse.

Additional safeguards are needed to keep future tragedies like this from happening.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said his office has begun talks with the Chicago Department of Transportation about making Leland Avenue safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

That discussion should include suggestions from groups such as the Active Transportation Alliance and others, and be used as an opportunity to address additional problem areas that haven’t been taken up before by CDOT, which, to its credit, plans to add more than 125 miles of new bikewaysby the end of the year and continues to build protected bike lanes and upgrade existing ones.

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A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

The city should consider raising the fine for motorists who drive, park or sit idling in a bike lane. Currently, violators can face a $150 fine and possibly have their vehicles towed, but police can also opt to ask the motorist to move or educate them about the city’s rules instead.

Maybe the ComEd driver, who was issued a pair of parking tickets after Lily Grace was killed, would have thought twice about where to leave the truck if the fine was higher.

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