A distracted driver destroyed the memorial left for a biker who was killed while trying to access the lakefront trail. Credit: Provided//Bike Lane Uprising

DOWNTOWN — A driver smashed into a light post at the same lakefront spot where a driver hit and killed bicyclist Gerardo Marciales about a year ago — highlighting the dangers bicyclists and pedestrians face there, local activists say.

The Dec. 11 crash on DuSable Lake Shore Drive at Balbo Drive severely mangled a white ghost bike set up to honor Marciales’ memory. Local advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising shared video of the incident this week, saying the light post still hasn’t been replaced — further endangering people trying to cross there.

The crash and video have left Chicago’s biking community frustrated yet again after years of pleading with the city to make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“The ghost bike was placed there as a memorial for Gerardo, and to see it destroyed in that way reminded me how his life was destroyed in the same way,” said Jaime Bolognone, Marciales’ fiancee. “It was disturbing to see and a reminder that the intersection continues to be extremely dangerous.

“I’m thankful that it wasn’t a person who was hit, but it could’ve been.” 

The crash damaged the ghost bike and completely destroyed the plaque that accompanied it. Credit: Provided//Bike Lane Uprising

Transportation activists said the city needs to create safer paths for bicyclists and pedestrians heading to and from the lakefront trail. 

Better bike infrastructure could start with better lighting, wider medians, longer timers at crosswalks and more accountability for reckless drivers, said Christina Whitehouse, the founder of cyclist advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising, which shared a video of Wednesday’s crash. 

“Ultimately, this is a dangerous location, and it proves itself over and over,” Whitehouse said. “We don’t have the infrastructure necessary to keep anyone in the community safe — not bikers, not pedestrians, not even drivers.

“At this point, it’s basically up to drivers themselves to take the initiative to drive like they live in this community and care about it.” 

The video shows the driver going onto the concrete median, taking out the light post and driving over several posts meant to protect pedestrians at the intersection. The driver then swerves in the street and goes onto the sidewalk on the other side of the road, crashing into a fence.

No citations were issued, a police spokesperson said.

Police said the driver was trying to avoid hitting another car. But Bike Lane Uprising’s representatives said there’s no sign of that in the video.

“The police made it seem like it was tiny, that the driver just hit the pole and that was it,” Whitehouse said. “I mean, the driver lost control after they hit the pole and went veering all across Lake Shore Drive and hit the other side of the fence. If someone was in that area, they would’ve been hit, as well.”

Pedestrian and bicyclist advocates have said crossing DuSable Lake Shore Drive to or from the lakefront is particularly perilous. Bicyclists and pedestrians have to cross in front of cars or take tunnels, which are not always accessible, for the journey.

Marciales was walking his bike in the crosswalk when a driver hit and killed him last spring. Adé Hogue, a well-known competitive bicyclist, was killed while riding his bike on Grand Avenue toward lower DuSable Lake Shore Drive in November 2021.

And the intersection at Balbo Drive, where Marciales was killed and the December crash happened, has garnered particular attention for being dangerous.

“This particular access point to the trail is right Downtown, and one of the most tourist-y destinations you could possibly think of,” Whitehouse said. “If Chicagoans are having this hard of a time making their way to and from the lakefront, imagine how hard it is for people outside of the city.” 

About a month has passed since the driver took out the post, and it hasn’t been replaced, Whitehouse said. She said it’s left pedestrians stranded on the median between the lanes of Lake Shore Drive because there’s no button to request a walk signal. 

Multiple missing light posts along Lake Shore Drive leave some intersections dark, making it harder for drivers to see pedestrians, Whitehouse said.

Traffic signals in the area don’t provide pedestrians much time for crossing the street, forcing those who can’t move fast enough to wait on a narrow median between lanes of fast-moving traffic, Whitehouse said. 

“The median was so narrow that you could barely even fit a bike — even the ghost bike we placed there actually spilled over the side,” Whitehouse said. “We’re asking tourists to stand there, people with their families and pets, and this is a major access point to the lakefront trail. Even after the city widened the medians a bit, we’ve still seen really dangerous interactions at that location.” 

Whitehouse said she wants to see more “political willpower” for making the city’s streets safer for everybody.

Bolognone said dangerous driving serves as a “painful reminder that more needs to be done and quickly.”

“Gerardo was literally the best person I’ve ever known, and losing him has been completely devastating. And it was preventable,” Bolognone said. “I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve gone through and what Gerardo’s family has gone through, because it’s absolutely senseless that he had to lose his life.” 

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