RIVER WEST — A driver hit and killed a bicyclist Thursday morning on Milwaukee Avenue in River West, police said.
About 11:45 a.m., the driver was going north in the 700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when they made a left turn onto Huron Street and hit Samuel Bell in the intersection, police said. Bell had been in the protected bike lane riding south, police said.
Bell, 44, was “ejected” from his bike and “landed on top of [the car] before landing on the ground,” according to a police report. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead, according to police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The driver volunteered at the scene to submit to DUI testing at University of Illinois hospital, but nurses refused due to a “chain of evidence and a legal issue,” according to the police report. The driver then refused to be transported to Rush Hospital for DUI testing, according to the police report.
The driver was cited for failing to yield the right of way on a left turn, police said.
Kevin Klein, one of Bell’s close friends and an avid cyclist, said Bell died while being taken to the hospital.
The two met while volunteering at the Midtown Educational Foundation, as Bell “dedicated his life to helping other people,” Klein said. At the foundation, Bell worked with low-income youth — many of whom were deeply impacted by his mentorship, Klein said.
Klein said the “most upsetting thing” is the lack of immediate repercussions drivers face when they hit someone.
“Sam had the right of way,” Klein said. “Yes, everyone is upset that somebody died, but what repercussions are there to anybody? None.”
Adding to the frustration: The officer who responded to the crash parked in a protected bike lane nearby — endangering other bicyclists, Klein said.
“All the other cyclists had to put their lives in danger by driving in the car lanes” while the officer was there, Klein said. “It’s so mind-bogglingly infuriating.”
That issue has become a particular flashpoint recently, as 3-year-old Lily Shambrook was killed riding on her mother’s bike in June when a ComEd truck parked in an Uptown bike lane forced her mother into traffic. Some aldermen are now pushing for an ordinance that would allow the city to tow cars blocking bike lanes.
Police did not respond to questions about why a responding officer parking in a bike lane.
There’s been a rise in drivers killing bicyclists during the pandemic.
An average of five to six bicyclists were killed yearly between 2012-2019 in Chicago, according to state data. But nine bicyclists were killed in 2020, and 10 were killed in 2021.
This year, drivers have killed at least eight bicyclists in Chicago.
A driver ran a stop sign and fatally hit 55-year-old Fengan Yan in Armour Square on Aug. 27.
And Bell is at least the second bicyclist to be killed this year on Milwaukee Avenue, a popular thoroughfare for bicyclists. In May, a driver fatally hit Nick Parlingayan as he rode on Milwaukee Avenue in Old Irving Park.
“People need to understand [when you drive recklessly] you’re putting someone else’s life at risk,” Klein said.
Klein said a memorial for Bell is in the works with the help of bicycle advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising, but no further details were immediately available.
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