The Big Lie: Infrastructure Will Keep Us ‘Safe’

Background Reading

Summary

Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down. Jennifer Kraft

Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down. Jennifer Kraft

Despite what you read in StreetsBlog bicycle infrastructure can only take you so far. The rest is up to you.

That beer you have with your buddies on the night of your graduation from college can be the last one you sip on your own.

And even if the city gives you $1.5M it cannot restore your mobility. That is why you get the money to pay the nurses who will clean and care for you physical needs.

Setting BUI Aside

There is never a time when bicycle infrastructure alone will sustain you. It can’t. To allow a cycling advocacy organization to lull you into giving them money for more infrastructure on the promise that it will keep you and your family ‘safe‘ is ludicrous.

Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

One of these days some thoughtful lawyer is going to put the very idea of bicycle infrastructure and the hollow promise that the millions paid across the country is worthwhile on trial for fraud.

Just like highways you will always have someone who manages to do what no one ever thought would be attempted. Riding along the Chicago Lakefront Trail is challenge enough for most individuals. Riding the retaining walls along the lakefront is simply not on my bucket list. And it should not be for you either.

We cyclists are a risk-taking lot. Otherwise we could never have the courage to ‘ride in traffic‘. But despite all the blather about how dangerous drivers can be, there is still our own selves whom we need to conquer.

Walt Kelly was right. “We have met the enemy and his is us.”

Is Society Responsible For Protecting Us From Ourselves?

This is a graphic from the page of the lady who fell:

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Jennifer Kraft’s Web Page

You can get a better feel for the way the lakefront retaining wall is built from this photo:

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Another Look at the Retaining Wall

You can visit the ChainLink to see what the folks there had to say about this unfortunate incident. But this one response stood out for me:

Reply by Simon Phearson 3 hours ago
It’s not part of the LFP. At around the curve near Oakwood (approximately 3900 S), there’s a path leading away from the main trail that leads to the top of a storm wall where, apparently, Jennifer had chosen to bike. It’s clearly not part of the “Lakefront Trail” – despite having ridden around that curve hundreds of times over several years, I had to pause and look for the path she must have followed to get to it. It’s not hidden, but it’s also not something I’ve ever accidentally gone down.

And no cyclist with any sense would ride on top of it, being too narrow and pedestrian-heavy (in moderately pleasant weather) for safe travel. She basically rode off where there’s a break in the wall.

She (with her lawyers) has been running this publicity campaign for months. I’d guess it’s designed to pressure the city into a settlement, since the facts make her look pretty reckless. I’m not sure why the journalists suckered into this scheme haven’t taken a moment to actually visit the trail or the spot where she fell, but they apparently aren’t doing so.

I don’t want to be too harsh about it, because what happened to Jennifer is a life-changing tragedy, and I’m sympathetic. But her accident was her fault, not the city’s.

My Own Experiences On The Chicago Lakefront Trail

My own bicycle club has had leaders conduct group rides along these retaining walls. They do not look dangerous when viewed from the Chicago Lakefront Trail itself. But clearly this was a situation where the rider was either unfamiliar with the setup of the stones (and thus should have stayed away from them) or was perhaps practicing a fancy move or two on her bike.

Either way at some point you need to take responsibility for your own actions. There are not enough signs available that would make a difference to most people.

Take for instance this sign:

bikeportland.org posted this photo, with an explanation that is was a “bootleg” addition to the stop sign that authorities planned to remove.

bikeportland.org posted this photo, with an explanation that is was a “bootleg” addition to the stop sign that authorities planned to remove.

Stop means stop, and traffic studies show that there is really no need for the supplemental signs.

Stop means stop, and traffic studies show that there is really no need for the supplemental signs.

Ever see anyone ignore one of these? I have, all the time. And of course when something untoward occurs while running one of these your average cyclist will find a lawyer who will try to make the case that the thing was placed too far to the right and thus required a turn of the head to see it clearly.

Or it was invisible in the dark and despite the fact that the rider was not using any headlights (as required by law) it contributed to the danger at that intersection.

And I simply cringe at the thought that cyclists are going to get their own lane north of the beach volleyball courts to blast along as fast as they care to with their heads down and their eyes on their GPS units anticipating a new Strava™ record!

No good will come of this. Just you watch and see.


Another Article (Tribune)

Jennifer Kraft, 34, is suing the city of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and A&L Inc., the company that built the stretch of lakefront bike path where she was paralyzed in an accident near East 37th Street. (Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune)

Jennifer Kraft, 34, is suing the city of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and A&L Inc., the company that built the stretch of lakefront bike path where she was paralyzed in an accident near East 37th Street. (Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune)

Jennifer Kraft filed the suit Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court against the city of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and A&L Inc., the company that built what she calls the “carelessly designed” stretch of the bike trail at 37th Street.

The path looked continuous,” Kraft said. “My helmet shattered everywhere.”

Kraft accuses them of designing and building an “unreasonably unsafe and dangerous” bike path and failing to adequately warn bicyclists of the turns and sudden drop-offs along that stretch of trail. The 34-year-old woman said she is now paralyzed from the chest down after plunging nine feet down an abrupt drop from the dark pathway April 25. She claimed a “zig-zag” design with a “raised lip” propelled her bike off the trail.

The lawsuit claims the city was negligent because there were no signs or rails to prevent the crash and that the curve “does not allow a user … to decipher whether the trail comes to an abrupt end or continues on.

That day, the chemistry teacher said she had finished work at a nearby high school and gone over to a friend’s house before getting on the lakefront path at 52nd Street around 8 p.m. It was about dusk on the first warm day of the season. She said she occasionally biked to and from work but had not taken that exact route before. She was 30 minutes into a ride on her Motobecane bicycle, heading to her home in the Loop, when the crash happened.

Late in the day for riding that stretch of the Chicago Lakefront Trail. Having gone to a friend’s home makes me wonder if she had anything to drink while there. And of course I never venture out at night (or even dusk) without lights!

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