Removal of West Loop medians contributed to drunk driver seriously injuring cyclist – Streetsblog Chicago

Tragically, an allegedly intoxicated driver with a previous DUI conviction struck and seriously injured a man on a bicycle Saturday night on Madison Street in the West Loop. Compounding the tragedy is that the collision likely would have been avoided had the city not removed concrete medians from the street a few years ago to facilitate faster driving.

According to Police News Affairs, on Saturday, April 16 at around 10:10 p.m., a 42-year-old man was riding his bicycle west on the 900 block of West Madison. The 30-year-old driver of a silver 2008 Volkswagen Jetta compact car was heading east on Madison when she swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a metal construction cover in the road, hitting the cyclist .

The victim was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, News Affairs said.

Police say the driver, identified as Courtney Bertucci of the 1900 block of Elgin Avenue in Joliet, fled and was apprehended in the 100 block of South Aberdeen Street, approximately half a mile from the the accident area. She was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and was cited for failing to exercise caution towards a cyclist on the road and driving without insurance.

Diagram of the accident taken from the police report.
Diagram of the accident taken from the police report.

The police narrative on the crash report, which says the victim is a software engineer who lives about a mile west of the crash site, provides more details about what allegedly took place. It says responding officers arrived at the scene and found the victim “lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from the head”.

The police dispatch then told officers that a witness had called to say the suspect was being held by several bystanders at the Aberdeen site, according to the report. Additional officers arrived at the scene and arrested Bertucci and found his car, which had damage to the hood, windshield and roof. The victim’s bike was stuck under the vehicle. The report contains the gruesome detail that there “appeared to be human teeth embedded in the windshield”.

Officers accompanied the ambulance to the hospital, where a doctor informed them that the cyclist had suffered “serious head and facial trauma”, the report said.

Witnesses who helped apprehend Bertucci provided Streetsblog with more information about what happened. A 39-year-old woman who lives in Little Village said she was in the front passenger seat of a car driven by a friend, with a male colleague in the back seat, heading east two cars behind the suspect when she saw Bertucci swerve. left to avoid the road plate. The collision with the cyclist made a noise similar to that of a gunshot and the victim flew through the air and then landed on the road.

Other passers-by rushed to the aid of the victim, as Bertucci fled in her car, the driver of the first car behind her, as well as people traveling with the resident of Little Village, decided to give chase, said the witness. She added that road rage, as well as gun violence, is common in her southwestern neighborhood, so she was “tired of seeing innocent people getting hurt.”

The colleague in the back seat, a 27-year-old man who lives in the East Side neighborhood, told Streetsblog that Bertucci made a few turns to try to avoid the chase, then parked intending to flee on foot. The two drivers pursuing her locked up her car with their vehicles and then confronted her. “They asked her to get out of the car so she couldn’t do anything reckless,” the witness said. “We knew she was on [drugs] because she claimed she didn’t know what happened.

As bystanders tried to restrain Bertucci from a citizen’s arrest, she eventually escaped and fled on foot down an alley, the East Side resident said. The two men ran after her and cornered her near a parking lot, where they were able to hold her until the police arrived.

According to a post from the anonymous CWB Chicago crime blog, Assistant State’s Attorney James Konstantopoulos says the case is being investigated as a potential DUI, although Bertucci has not yet been charged with the charge. drunk driving. Police found 2.3 grams of a substance suspected of being heroin, according to Konstantopoulos. He added that the suspect was convicted of a DUI in 2014. Bail was set at $10,000 by Judge Kelly McCartney, who cited the severity of the cyclist’s injuries.

(Yes, CWB is a problematic source of information, partly because it organizes fundraisers for the police and, not coincidentally, gets inside information from the cops. However, it is the only media that published most of these details. We have contacted the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for confirmation that this information is accurate.)

The 900 block of West Madison Street, before and after the removal of the concrete medians.  Picture: Google Maps
The 900 block of West Madison Street, before and after the removal of the concrete medians. Picture: Google Maps

It is likely that this tragedy would not have occurred if the city had not removed Madison’s concrete medians between Halsted Street and Ogden Avenue. 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett ordered the demolition, which was paid for with $400,000 in city money earmarked for median upkeep.

“In recent years, the Chicago Department of Transportation had received numerous complaints that planters were blocking traffic and creating traffic jams, particularly at events at the United Center,” the spokesperson for the agency said at the time. CDOT, Michael Claffey, at the Block Club Chicago. But as drivers scapegoated the medians of traffic jams they themselves created, Streetsblog noted that removing the planters would create wider traffic lanes that would make speeding easier.

That’s exactly what happened, longtime West Loop resident Moshe Tamssot told CBS Chicago following the biking accident. “It was dramatic in terms of traffic volume and speed. Since they removed the planters from Madison it has turned Madison from a four lane street to a five lane street which increases speed as well as throughput which increases safety risks for pedestrians and cyclists . He noted that last November, another drunk driver crashed into the wall of a gymnasium in Madison.

Following the accident, West Central Association President Armando Chacon told CBS, “We need to slow down traffic on Madison Street. Period,” adding that the Chamber of Commerce has helped install new stop signs on Throop Street and is now advocating for stop signs on Laflin Street. He discussed raised intersections, curb extensions and flashing stop signs as other potential strategies to discourage speeding.

The irony is that the need for traffic calming on Madison wouldn’t be so urgent if the medians hadn’t been demolished in the first place, but the association supported their removal. In late 2019, Chacon told Block Club that demolishing the planters “will help reduce traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians.” This latest crash proves that this is obviously not the case.

However, now that the medians are gone, the best solution to reduce speeding on Madison, and prevent cyclists from being hit by careless drivers, is not to reinstall the planters. On the contrary, the amount of space available for drivers should be further reduced by installing cycle paths with robust physical protection, such as concrete curbs.

Local bike attorney Michael Keating (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) argued that this bike injury case represents a near-perfect storm of several factors that endanger people who ride bikes in Chicago. “Here we have a drunk driver who sped down Madison Street, which, despite being the literal center of the city, has a wide lane that allows motorists to slow it down,” he said. declared. “Combined with this is a large metal plate from nearby construction which added an additional dangerous factor which resulted in life-threatening injury to the cyclist…We should demand more of our state and local leaders to put up safe streets and call on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to aggressively and forcefully prosecute these crimes with the full force of the law.”

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