Protected bike lanes demanded after mom apparently lost control, toddler struck by semi
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago bike safety advocates are calling for change after a 3-year-old girl was fatally struck by a semi Thursday morning.
Elizabeth Grace Shambrook was killed when she was hit while riding on the back of her mother's bicycle, according to police.
It happened around 8:15 a.m. in the 1100-block of West Leland Avenue in Uptown Thursday, officials said.
The semi was pulling away from a stop sign at Leland and Winthrop avenues around 8:15 a.m. when it knocked the mother off balance and the girl was thrown from a child carrier on the bike, according to a police report.
The girl's father, who was following on his own bike, said his wife was "crowded" between the semi and the ComEd truck. Other witnesses said the mother was startled when the semi started moving, tried to regain her balance and was clipped by the truck.
The child fell off the bike and was dragged by the semi for more than 20 feet, the police report states. The child was wearing a helmet and was sitting in a child carrier attached to the rear of the bike, police said.
"We just heard screaming and then we turned around and, I'm assuming it was the father, just pounding on the truck to back up so they could pull the child out from under it," said Tim Bartsch, witness.
Her father said she went by Lily Grace, and he described her as smart, funny and vibrant.
Her father said the accident was entirely preventable. He is upset the ComEd truck was parked in the bike lane, and that the semi was driving down a residential street.
"For some reason there's always 18-wheelers, all food trucks, going down here all the time," Bartsch said. "The Christopher House is right there with kids playing all the time. It doesn't make any sense why Leland is a massive intersection for 18-wheelers."
Local leaders agree something needs to change. City data shows 484 bicyclists have been involved in crashes so far this year.
Alderman James Cappleman said he plans to ask the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) for a safety review on this area of Leland and Winthrop where the girl was killed.
"I can't imagine what a parent goes through. This will be something that will haunt this parent for the rest of her life," Cappleman said.
A spokesperson for CDOT confirmed they are conducting a complete review of what led up to the child's death and said in a written statement: "The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is committed to protecting the physical safety of every person on the street - whether they are walking, biking, or driving. Yesterday's tragedy underscores the importance of the City of Chicago's ongoing commitment to reducing traffic fatalities through a whole of government approach that employs safety strategies and community partnerships."
Leland Avenue is a designated bike route that features dashed trails on the side of the road. But the bike lanes are unprotected, which means there are no barriers between riders and motor vehicles.
"Paint is not protection!" said Courtney Cobbs, with Better Streets Chicago. "Paint is not going to protect you when a car weaves into the bike lane."
It's a route Cobbs tries to avoid.
"There aren't any speed humps," Cobbs said. "The road is really wide, and there nothing to prevent anyone from weaving."
Now, that route is marked with a memorial for Shambrook. The toddler's death came just weeks after a 23-year-old bicyclist was hit and killed near North Milwaukee and Kilbourn avenues last month. That intersection now has plans to build raised concrete curbs to protect riders.
"It's a tragic crash and a preventable crash," said Kyle Whitehead with Active Transportation Alliance.
The Active Transportation Alliance said those bike lanes aren't enough sometimes because of how busy city streets are.
"That's something we see, not just in this neighborhood, but in neighborhoods all across the city and it's something people have longed complained about and pointed to as something the city should address," Whitehead said.
The organization is asking city leaders for more infrastructure to slow cars down. Whitehead said that can happen with raised crosswalks and raised intersections, among other things.
"We need to be paying extra attention and investing more into the safety infrastructure that we know can prevent crashes and save lives," he added.
"If the city really wants to make it happen, they can make it happen," Cobbs said. "And, the fact that they aren't doing it says that my life is not a priority. The lives of people who get around by bike are not a priority, right now."
ComEd issued a statement saying, "ComEd was issued a permit by the Chicago Department of Transportation to perform work in the area, however, our investigation into the accident is ongoing."
Police are still investigating the incident with the assistance of the Major Accident Investigation Unit.