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After Young Man Killed On Deadly NW Side Stretch, Advocates Ask: What Will It Take For City To Fix Milwaukee Ave.?

A driver hit and killed bicyclist Nick Parlingayan just across the street from where a driver killed bicyclist Carla Aiello in 2019. “It’s going to get much, much worse before it gets any better," one cyclist said.

Nick Parlingayan, 22, was fatally struck by a car while riding his bike in the 3800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue May 4, 2022.
Facebook; Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
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OLD IRVING PARK — Another bicyclist has been killed in Chicago — and cycling advocates and neighbors said they are fed up with city officials for not improving bike safety.

A driver hit and killed bicyclist Nick Parlingayan Wednesday night just across the street from where a driver killed bicyclist Carla Aiello in 2019. Parlingayan is the third bicyclist a driver has killed this year in Chicago.

“We’re at a bit of a loss for what exactly to do, what it’ll take, for the city to take this seriously,” said Kyle Lucas, co-founder of transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago.

Parlingayan was riding his bike about 9:20 p.m., going north in the 3800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, when a driver hit him and took off, officials said. A person of interest was being questioned Thursday, but charges had not been filed as of Friday morning.

“Nick was a very sweet, caring, humble and responsible cousin,” cousin Mykel Alegarbes Cadavedo said. “He [was] so loved [by] his parents.”

Paringayan was born in the Philippines and moved to Chicago as a child, said his cousin, Boyd Boen Zamora, who grew up with Paringayan. He attended Alcott Prep in Roscoe Village and worked at Starbucks, according to his Facebook and posts from friends.

“I remember Nick as a hyper kid, always wanted to play around and have fun,” Zamora said. “He was a fun guy.”

Block Club could not reach Paringayan’s parents. His mother, Gigi Javier, told ABC7 she could not believe the news.

“I said I won’t believe it until I see him,” Javier said. “I still want to believe, or [I] hope that it’s not him, but I guess that’s not going to happen.”

Dangers On Milwaukee Avenue

Milwaukee Avenue, where Paringayan and Aiello were killed, is a particularly popular street for bicyclists. It’s known as the “bike highway,” with about 20,000 cyclists using the road daily.

But transportation advocates have long said the street needs better protections for people on bikes and pedestrians. When a driver killed bicyclist Carla Aiello in 2019, the stretch of Milwaukee she was on had bike lanes — but they were only painted, and the paint had faded, advocates said.

Reflective bike lanes and bollards were added six months after Aiello’s death and after a resident took it upon themself to repaint the faded lane markings. The lanes were later officially repainted and bollards were installed; but the lanes are again faded and the bollards are damaged. 

Recently, the area’s become a perfect storm for disaster between a lack of pedestrian protections and the work being done to replace the Grayland Metra station, residents said.

Amanda Marien, who lives near where Paringayan was killed, said the crash could have been avoided if better safety measures were in place and if Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) cared more about that part of the ward.

Marien created a petition last year calling for a stop sign or a speed camera to be installed at Milwaukee and Kostner avenues, and it has received more than 600 signatures. The area has seen multiple crashes, including an instance where a driver hopped the curb and crashed into a day care

Gardiner promised residents a crosswalk at Kostner and Milwaukee and a speed camera in front of Schurz High School, less than a half-mile from where Paringayan was killed.

The speed camera was scheduled to be installed in August, according to an email Gardiner’s staffer sent to Marien. But the camera has still not been installed.

Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., as seen Nov. 3, 2021.

Sue Hofer, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson, did not respond to questions about the speed camera or crosswalk status. She said the department will conduct a review of the fatal crash to have the “best possible factual understanding of what occurred” and its officials plan to work with police as they investigate.

The department “reviews any additional relevant information that may be available, such as video recordings, as well as conducting a field observation at the location,” Hofer said in a statement.

A speed camera could have slowed down the driver who hit Paringayan or helped in catching them, Marien said.

Marien often walks her dogs near Schurz and uses a crosswalk near Wavelend Avenue, but speeding drivers make her feel unsafe, she said.

“They flip you off, and they’re mad that you’re even crossing in the front of their car — those types of people need a camera to be held accountable,” Marien said.

Mike Innocenzi, who lives nearby and heard sirens from the crash, said the construction work has made the underpass more dangerous recently. 

The project has caused the southbound portion of Milwaukee to close, and barriers have narrowed the other side of the road through the underpass, making it so drivers go in the bike lanes. Metra estimates the project will be completed by 2024. 

A Metra spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about safety at the intersection during construction.

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
Since construction began in October to replace and upgrade the Grayland Metra station at 3729 N. Kilbourn Ave., drivers have been pushed into the bike lane because of the street narrowing.

Innocenzi, who sometimes cycles in the summer, said bike maintenance is long overdue.

“We are back to square one,” Innocenzi said. Gardiner “did the right thing in putting in the bollards. … It was a step in the right direction. But now we would like to show some leadership in bringing everyone to the table to see what we can do going forward.”

Gardiner hung up on a Block Club reporter and asked to be texted instead, but he did not respond to questions that were sent. 

While cycling advocates wait for more to be done on Milwaukee Avenue to address these concerns, the number of fatalities along the bike highway grows. Paringayan is now at least the fourth cyclist to die on the street since 2016.

Last summer, Thomas “Tommy” Travers, 59, was riding near Milwaukee and Central avenues when a minivan driver fatally struck him

Aiello died in 2019, and cyclist Rob Heinbockel was killed on North Milwaukee at West Gale Street in 2003.

Under the Chicago’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, Milwaukee is identified as a spoke route, a direct, safe route in and out of the Downtown area. 

Hofer previously told Block Club the transportation department is reassessing the entirety of Milwaukee for safety

But that’s beginning to sound like an empty promise, cyclists said.

“Mark my words — it’s going to get much, much worse before it gets any better,” said Christina Whitehouse, founder of Bike Lane Uprising.

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
Construction on the Metra bridge at Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues detours cars to Addison Street and closes off the southbound side of Milwaukee Avenue.

‘We Need A Radical Change In Our Streets’

For years, Chicago’s bicyclists could call for changes through the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council. But that group hasn’t met since March 2020, even though the numbers of bicyclists killed and injured have gone up in Chicago.

An average of five to six bicyclists were killed every year between 2012-2019 in Chicago, according to state data. But nine bicyclists were killed in 2020 and 10 were killed in 2021, including 16-year-old Jose Velásquez.

Paresh Dinesh Chhatrala died in late April after a driver hit him in the West Loop, and Gerardo Marciales was killed in late February when a driver hit him while he was in a crosswalk Downtown.

Their deaths and Paringayan’s highlight the dangers bicyclists continue to face in Chicago, advocates said.

In April, the city announced it will create a community engagement committee focused on “safe transportation.”

More than a month has passed since then — and two bicyclists have been killed in that time — but Better Streets Chicago’s leaders still “haven’t heard any details” about the committee, Lucas said. He’s sick of waiting and worries people will keep dying if concerns go unheard, he said.

“We need more than paint and posts,” Lucas said. “We need a radical change in our streets. We need a Department of Transportation that takes their job seriously and understands that their decisions and their inaction is literally the difference between life and death.”

Transportation officials were expected to use $17 million from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Works capital plan to add 50 miles of new and upgraded bike lanes during both 2021 and 2022. The upgrades would be “the largest growth in the City’s biking system ever over a two-year period,” according to a news release from CDOT in 2021.

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
A ghost bike to honor Gerardo Marciales was put up Thursday night at DuSable Lake Shore and Balbo drives.

RELATED: City Announces Plan To Add 48 Miles Of Bike And Pedestrian Trails, Give Away 5,000 Bikes To Residents

Kyle Whitehead, a spokesperson for the nonprofit Active Transportation Alliance, which works to improve bicycling and walking conditions, said money is there to build better cycling infrastructure and protected bike lanes along Milwaukee — but action isn’t.

“Right now, because of the work of our organization and of advocates from all around the city, we know there’s a lot of funding available,” Whitehead said. “We know that this infrastructure is what’s needed to prevent crashes and save lives, but we have been unwilling to confront the politics of increasing safety on our streets.”

Milwaukee Avenue has the most ghost bikes of any street in Chicago, Whitehouse said. Her group creates ghost bikes to memorialize bicyclists who have been killed. 

There’s a ghost bike honoring Aiello chained up within eyeshot of this week’s crash. Now, flowers and balloons sit at the foot of a tree near where Paringayan was killed.

Whitehouse said she started buying white spray paint and chains in bulk at the start of this year for the ghost bikes, trying to keep up with the rate bicyclists are being killed in Chicago.

“I thought it was crazy to buy as much as I bought at one time,” Whitehouse said. “We’re already out.”

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