A dump truck driver has received negligent driving and improper right turn citations after colliding with and killing a bicyclist on the Northwest side of Chicago earlier this month.
Around 7 a.m. on November 6th, Carla Aiello was biking in the Union Ridge neighborhood between Milwaukee and Kilbourn avenues when she was struck by the trucker. Aiello was a school counselor at the Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart in Wicker Park, and was 37 years old.
The truck driver was identified in the police report as Juan Gonzales of Posen. He and Aiello had both been heading southbound on Milwaukee, and when Gonzales turned right onto Kilbourn, he immediately hit the cyclist–causing her to roll beneath the truck.
A bystander at the nearby Grayland station witnessed the crash while he was waiting for a Metra train.
“I saw the truck make a turn, and that’s when I heard the woman scream,” said Eric Kliethermes, who says he saw Aiello get pulled under the dump truck’s back wheels. “It was horrifying.”
Kliethermes then tried to run to the scene to help, as he is CPR-trained, but knew immediately that it was too late.
The truck driver was “in tears” and “hysterical” according to Kliethermes.
The crash took place in a section of road that does indeed have a bike lane. According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Rules of the Road, all motorists must check bike lanes when making a right turn.
Aiello is now the second bicyclist in two weeks to be killed in a crash within the Irving Park neighborhood, and the third so far in Chicago during 2019.
Kliethermes, who is a bicyclist himself, said he has no idea how the trucker could have seen Aiello, even though the truck wasn’t moving particularly fast.
Often, drivers and bikers assume truckers have a better view of the road because they sit higher off the ground, but this is rarely the case. Truck drivers may have larger mirrors and a bigger forward view, but they still have sizable blind spots in which they can easily lose small vehicles and, of course, bicyclists.
Blind spot areas of large trucks include directly in front, directly behind, and along each side–especially on the right side, where Aiello was struck.
A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the driver’s reflection in the truck’s side mirror, you are in a blind spot. Staying in these blind spots disallows the truck driver’s ability to avoid a dangerous situation in which you may get hit.
For truck drivers–and all motorists–Watch For Me CT has many important safety rules to follow in order to stay out of accidents like these with bicyclists:
-Keep in mind that cyclists are often not allowed to ride on sidewalks and must use the roadway.
-Be aware that cyclists may take to the lane–it is their right to use it if needed.
-Do not honk your horn, as this could scare the cyclist and cause them to act erratically.
-Yield to oncoming cyclists when turning left at an intersection.
-Always check your blind spots for cyclists, and keep an eye out for cyclists approaching and passing you at intersections–they may not know they are in your blind spot.
Equally important is staying safe around pedestrians:
-Do not pull into a crosswalk while waiting to make a turn.
-If pedestrians are walking in a crosswalk, always yield to them when making a right turn.
-Stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian, and so that you have enough space to avoid hitting them in case you end up rear-ended.
-Never pass a car stopped at a crosswalk, and keep an eye out for cars stopped in the street, as they may be allowing a pedestrian to cross.
-When waiting for a break in traffic while turning, be aware that pedestrians may have moved into your path.
-Look in all directions before entering an intersection in case they are any ‘late running’ pedestrians.
-Be mindful around bus stops or taxi stands, as passengers may decide to suddenly cross the road.
It’s also important to check for bike lanes where the striping may be faded and hard to see–which Joe Sislow, a member of the Northwest Side committee for the Chicago Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, says is the case on the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue where Aiello’s crash occurred.
While there are protected bike lanes closer to the downtown area, Sislow said that the Northwest Side gets little attention regarding its bike infrastructure.
“It hasn’t been prioritized,” he explained. “How in two years did those lines completely fade away?”