RIVER WEST — Hours after 20-year-old Lisa Kuivinen was struck and killed by a massive truck on Milwaukee Avenue, a fellow cyclist who didn't even know the victim left a letter at the scene to tell the victim they were loved.
"I hope that your death will not be in vain and that it will help show the problems with drivers in this day and age," the cyclist wrote. "I have seen what cars are capable of."
Kelly Bauer talks about the dangers bikers face on Milwaukee Avenue.
Kuivinen, who used gender-neutral pronouns, was hit around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in the 800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, just north of Racine Street and south of the Kennedy Expy. overpass. Kuivinen, of Rolling Meadows, was an undergraduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago studying in the school's fine arts program.
Lisa Kuivinen (pictured) was struck and killed by a semi-truck Tuesday morning.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to Lisa’s family and friends during this very difficult time, and we have made counseling services available to students, faculty and staff," according to a school spokeswoman, Bree Witt.
Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police spokeswoman, said the cyclist was "struck by [a] semi" and taken to Northwestern Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The driver of the 18-wheel flatbed truck, a 37-year-old man, remained on the scene, police said.
He has been issued two tickets, police said: one for driving in a bike lane, and one for failure to take due care with a bicyclist.
The man has a September traffic court date at Daley Center, police said.
The crash came during the morning rush on Milwaukee Avenue, which is regularly packed with cyclists heading Downtown for work. Kuivinen was in a bike lane approaching a massive construction site when the cyclist was hit by the 18-wheel flatbed truck.
Milwaukee is the city's "busiest bike corridor," Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Claffey said, with 500-600 people using it per hour during peak times.
Jim Merrell, a spokesman for bicycle advocacy group Active Transportation Alliance, said the area sees a "huge amount of bicycle traffic." He and Yasmeen Schuller, the president of online bicyclist community The Chainlink, noted that it is one of the most popular bike lanes in the United States.
A note left in honor of cyclist Lisa Kuivinen, who was struck and killed by a semi-truck Tuesday morning. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
"Many cyclists feel safe on a bike lane like Milwaukee Avenue because of its popularity and the large number of cyclists they share the bike lane with," Schuller said. "There is a feeling of safety in numbers."
Though Merrell was not yet certain what happened in Tuesday morning's crash, he said Active Trans is committed to ensuring that there's safe accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians when construction shuts down bike lanes or sidewalks.
"Our heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim," Merrell said.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward encompasses the 800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, said "[Burnett] has no comment [on the crash] because everything is under investigation."
The cyclist struck and killed Tuesday was approaching this construction site, which abruptly ends the bike lane Kuivinen was in. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
Just south of where the collision took place is a construction site at 830 N. Milwaukee Ave. The bike lanes in front of that site have been closed off.
Summit Design & Build LLC submitted an application to the Chicago Department of Transportation earlier this year for "curb lane & bike lane closures at 830 N. Milwaukee for 30 days" after being told that the sidewalk and crosswalk must be left opened, according to city records. CDOT officials could not immediately say the status of that application Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, other cyclists using the bike lane veered into traffic lanes to avoid the construction that abruptly ends the bike lane.
"There's construction crews, there's regular traffic and then the bikers," said Bill Zigmond, co-owner of Chicago Silk Screen, 882 N. Milwaukee Ave. "It's really bad in the morning rush hours."
Ziggy Zigmond, who owns Chicago Silk Screen with his brother Bill, said cyclists often pass one another on that stretch of Milwaukee.
"They come in waves, the cyclists," he said. "It's not unusual here for cyclists to be two and three wide."
Brandon, a Wicker Park resident who declined to give his last name, said he was walking to work, saw the end of the accident and called 911.
According to the witness, the truck had been going southbound on Milwaukee Avenue toward Downtown. He saw Kuivinen under the truck bed and their white road bike stuck under the cab of the truck, he said.
"[They] looked like a real cyclist," the witness said. "[They] had a nice messenger bag that was under [them] and I was hoping [they] had a laptop or something in it that would absorb some of the blow."
He said he rushed to Kuivinen after the crash.
"[They were] in really bad shape and I stood close to [them] and did not want to move her in case anything was broken. I kept saying, 'Hold on, they are coming, they are coming,'" he said. "I'm terribly saddened by this, but I'm glad [they weren't] alone in [their] last moments."
The truck involved in the crash was from Illinois Brick Co., a Palos Hills-based company with several locations and brick yards throughout the state, according to its website. Messages and an email to the company’s owners were not returned.
There are poles and a curb protecting the bike lane on one side of this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, but the other side where the cyclist was hit has painted lanes only. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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