UPTOWN — The parents of a 3-year-old killed while riding on a bicycle with her mother in Uptown last year are suing the city, Commonwealth Edison, Penske and Mondelēz in their daughter’s death.
Attorneys for Tim Shambrook and Kate Snow, parents of Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court Tuesday morning.
The fatal crash occurred June 9 near Winthrop and Leland avenues.
Lily was riding on the back of her mother’s bicycle when her mother was squeezed between an “illegally parked ComEd truck” in the bike lane and a Mondelēz semi-truck, police have said. The driver of the semi-truck hit Lily after they fell, police said.
At a press conference Tuesday, attorneys said Lily’s parents want the lawsuit to raise awareness about the city’s “deficient” enforcement of rules stopping drivers from blocking bike lanes. They are not seeking a specified amount in damages.
“We filed a lawsuit in this case to try to find justice for Lily and to make sure that we have all of the responsible entities named in the lawsuit,” said attorney Bradley M. Cosgrove, a partner at Clifford Law Offices.
Lily’s parents did not attend the press conference.
“Safety should be every elected official’s top priority and our little Lily paid the ultimate price for others’ misconduct and disregard for the safety of bicyclists,” the parents said in a statement.
Neighbors, elected officials and biking advocates blasted the drivers of the ComEd truck and the Mondelez truck and city leaders after the crash.
A spokesperson for ComEd previously said the company had been issued a permit by the Chicago Department of Transportation to perform work in the area.
The driver of the parked ComEd truck was issued two tickets for parking in a bicycle lane and parking within 30 feet of a stop sign, according to police.
“Our thoughts remain with the family affected by this tragic accident. ComEd has cooperated fully with local authorities, and while we can’t comment on ongoing litigation, our top priority is and always will be the safety of the public and our employees,” ComEd spokesman John Schoen said.
Semi-trucks are prohibited from using DuSable Lake Shore Drive. After the crash occurred, neighbors said trucks routinely use side streets throughout Uptown, which they called a “recipe for disaster.”
The semi-truck driver does not appear to have been issued any tickets.
“Our hearts go out to the family who continue to mourn the loss of their daughter. Out of respect for their privacy and the continuing investigation, we have no additional comment at this time,” Mondelēz Spokeswoman Tracey Noe said in a statement.
Law department spokesperson Kristen Cabanban said the city had not yet been served the lawsuit as of Tuesday and declined to comment on pending litigation.
Spokespeople for Penske, which owns the truck, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a video animation showing where the crash occurred, attorneys said the ComEd truck was parked around the corner from an approved staging area on Winthrop. Attorneys also faulted city officials for not putting up signs barring drivers from parking in the bike lane or warning bicyclists about a blocked lane.
Chicago officials issued a permit for the ComEd vehicle without “adequate concern” for where the large semi with heavy equipment would be parked, attorney Robert A. Clifford said.
“The flagrant and repeated disregard for the safety of bicyclists and lack of respect for designated bike lanes by operators of trucks and vehicles create deadly hazards that simply cannot be tolerated,” he said in a statement. “We all co-exist in a society where it takes cooperation and a concern for others who need to do their jobs to ensure that senseless tragedies like this cease. That concern was missing here.”
After Lily was killed, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) introduced an ordinance to City Council allowing the city to tow a car blocking “the free-flow of traffic on a street path or lane designated for the use of bicycles,” similar to how the city already tows cars that are blocking a fire hydrant.
The measure passed last month and increases the fine for blocking a bike lane from $150 to $250, regardless of whether the violation results in a collision, he previously said.
Vasquez’s ordinance also expands the number of city departments that can request a tow for a car blocking a bike lane and allows the Chicago Department of Transportation to revoke the service permit of service vehicle for blocking bike lanes.
Increasing penalties for drivers who block bike lanes is a first step but city officials need to make sure the laws protecting cyclists in bike lanes are enforced, said Richard F. Burke, Jr., another attorney on the case.
“That’s one realistic problem … that laws on books just can’t accomplish without there actually being enforcement and monitoring,” Burke said.
Christina Whitehouse, the founder of Bike Lane Uprising, said bicyclists have repeatedly reported ComEd for violating bike lane laws since the group launched in 2017.
“By 2018, [ComEd] were already repeat offenders. We had already highlighted to the city of Chicago that these utility vehicles are causing issues within the community causing safety hazards,” Whitehouse said.
A ComEd spokesman responded to Bike Lane Uprising’s 2019 tweet asking for more information about that incident but since then Whitehouse continued to receive reports of the utility blocking bike lanes, she said.
“Our database has documented over 33,000 bike lane obstructions. ComEd has been submitted to our database over 50 times over the years,” Whitehouse said. “Lily’s death was not an accident. The factors that led to Lily’s death were known problems and they were preventable.”
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