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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Bicyclist Dies Days After Driver Hit Him In West Loop, Dragged His Bike Under Car, Officials Say

Bicyclist Paresh Dinesh Chhatrala had been hospitalized after the crash. The driver tried to take off but was stopped by witnesses, police said.

Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — A bicyclist has died days after a driver hit him as he cycled in the West Loop.

Bicyclist Paresh Dinesh Chhatrala died Wednesday afternoon at Stroger Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Chhatrala had been hospitalized in critical condition after a driver hit him Saturday.

The crash happened 10:10 p.m. when a driver swerved into oncoming traffic, hitting a bicyclist near Madison and Peoria streets, police said. The driver tried to take off, going several blocks with the victim’s bike lodged under her car until witnesses stopped her, police said.

Courtney Bertucci, 30, of Joliet, was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and cited for driving without insurance and for her failure to show care to a pedestrian in the roadway, police said. Her bond was set at $10,000.

The crash threw the bicyclist — later identified as Chhatrala — to the ground, causing massive head and facial trauma, police said.

Chhatrala’s friends launched a GoFundMe to raise money for his family to pay medical and funeral expenses. As of Friday morning, its raised $10,800 of its $50,000 goal.

“The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one. In loving memory of a dost (friend), bhai (brother), and beta (son),” his friends wrote.

In 2019, the city spent $400,000 to remove median concrete planters along Madison Street. Christina Whitehouse, founder of advocate group Bike Lane Uprising, said drivers increasingly sped along the street after the planters were removed, making pedestrians and cyclists vulnerable.

“There was no conversation about adding protected bike lanes instead of using that space for planters. They just removed them and now people are able to drive as fast as they want,” Whitehouse said.

West Loop neighbors are pushing to have a stop sign installed at the intersection, CBS Chicago reported.

Armando Chacon, president of the West Central Association, said for years there’s been a push to make Madison Street safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The association plans to start advocating for a new, safer streetscape.

Suggested changes to Madison Street include speed bumps, elevated intersections, pedestrian islands and expanded sidewalks along Madison Street, Chacon said.

The West Central Association will have letters of support ready for residents to sign in the near future. Before anything moves forward, community meetings would be held so the streetscape is designed with residential input.

For now, Chacon called on visitors to the West Loop to respect the neighborhood.

“To those coming to the West Loop from other parts of the city… you need to respect our residents,” Chacon said. “We need to keep the people that live here. We need to keep them safe.”

Cyclists that have been killed in recent months include Adé Hogue, 32, who was riding his bike west on Grand Avenue toward lower DuSable Lake Shore Drive when a driver hit him; Jose Velásquez, 16, who a truck driver struck  in December in Back of the Yards; and Gerardo Marciales, 41, who a driver struck and killed while he rode his bike in a crosswalk across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from the Lakefront Trail in February.

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