Neighbors gather to mourn Lincoln Square toddler killed by car, push for cyclist safety measures

“I’m hoping we can look back and say this is a time when things changed,” Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said following the death of 2-year-old Rafi Cardenas.

SHARE Neighbors gather to mourn Lincoln Square toddler killed by car, push for cyclist safety measures
Chalk art that read’s Rafi Forever at a block party to celebrate Rafi’s life by having a safe space for kids to ride bikes and scooters on Leavitt Street behind the Sulzer Regional Library on Wednesday.

Chalk art that read’s Rafi Forever at a block party to celebrate Rafi’s life by having a safe space for kids to ride bikes and scooters on Leavitt Street behind the Sulzer Regional Library on Wednesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Two-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas took his last scooter ride earlier this month. On Wednesday, his neighbors gathered to remember him and call for change.

Less than three weeks after Rafi was struck and killed by a car while driving a mini scooter in Lincoln Square, his neighbors showed up by the dozen to mourn and celebrate his life at a block party Wednesday in his honor.

Rafi was one of three children hit and killed in Chicago car crashes in three weeks, prompting a renewed push for pedestrian and cyclist safety measures.

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“I’m hoping we can look back and say this is a time when things changed,” Ald. Matt Martin (47th) told the Sun-Times.

Martin said the tragic deaths of children need to be followed with city action on meaningful safety measures, including concrete-protected bike lanes on busy roads like Clark Street and working with the Cook County to address problematic intersections.

“This could be an inflection point,” he said.

Upbeat music accompanied kids riding bikes and drawing with chalk outside Sulzer Regional Library as neighborhood groups and the Chicago Department of Transportation spoke about bike safety.

“A car crash is not an accident; it’s something that can be predicted and prevented,” said Department of Transportation Safe Ambassador Lizeth Solis.

For some friends of Rafi’s family, like Max Pardo, his death sparked sadness that quickly turned to rage. An avid cyclist himself, Pardo said he recently visited the intersection where Rafi was struck, Leavitt Street and Eastwood Avenue, and watched drivers roll through stop signs.

“I just fumed at every single one,” he said.

He described Rafi as “the most chill, laid-back kid,” and remembered seeing him with his parents in Lincoln Square’s Winnemac Park.

“He was just happy to be there,” Pardo’s partner Olivia Lothary added. “Just hanging out on dad’s shoulders.”

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