A 3-year-old girl out riding with her mother in Uptown was killed Thursday when the woman tried squeezing around a ComEd truck illegally parked in a bike lane and was hit by a passing semi.
The semi was pulling away from a stop sign at Leland and Winthrop avenues around 8:15 a.m. when it knocked the mother off balance and the girl was thrown from a child carrier on the bike, according to a police report.
The girl’s father, who was following on his own bike, said his wife was “crowded” between the semi and the ComEd truck. Other witnesses said the mother was startled when the semi started moving, tried to regain her balance and was clipped by the truck.
The child fell off the bike and was dragged by the semi for more than 20 feet, the police report states. The child was wearing a helmet and was sitting in a child carrier attached to the rear of the bike, police said.
Paramedics pronounced the child dead at the scene. The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified her as Elizabeth Grace Shambrook, but her family says she went by Lily Grace.
“We heard the truck stop and we heard screaming. So I stood up and saw a small child in the bike seat, the plastic seat under the rear tire of the car,” Loretta Malone, a neighbor who called 9-1-1, said.
Malone, a trauma nurse, said this was unlike anything she'd ever experienced.
“I’ve watched people lose loved ones before - it’s never easy - and to watch someone lose a child…it changes you,” Malone said.
“She was far too bright a light and this is devastating,” said the father, who asked not to be named. He expressed frustration at the city for not doing enough to protect bicyclists.
The advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising said it has been pressuring companies like ComEd to stop their employees from parking in bike lanes.
“That bike lane was not for ComEd. That bike lane was for the family. And now their child is dead,” said Christina Whitehouse, director of Bike Lane Uprising.
Her group tracks vehicles illegally parked in bike lanes and reaches out to companies to get them to change their policies and deter employees from the practice. Whitehouse said she has reached out to ComEd in the past but hasn’t heard back.
“We forewarned ComEd so many times,” she said.
A ComEd spokesman, replying to a request comment, said the company is “working with local authorities to understand the circumstances of this tragic accident. The safety and security of ComEd customers and employees is always our top priority, and our thoughts are with the family of the cyclist.”
ComEd said it was issued a permit by the Chicago Department of Transportation to perform work in the area and that the company was investigating the crash.
According to the police report, the ComEd truck was issued two parking tickets - one for parking in a bike lane and another for parking within 30 feet of a stop sign.
Bike Lane Uprising has received positive responses from other companies, Whitehouse said. One company said they instituted a policy of firing employees caught twice parking illegally in bike lanes, according to Whitehouse.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said his office has been working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along Leland Avenue.
“We will be reaching out to CDOT to see what further measures can be put in to avoid further accidents,” Cappleman said in a statement.
Neighbors also said they want to see more done to protect cyclists.
“We are the only part of Leland that doesn’t have speed bumps or signs or anything. We’re 100 yards from a daycare and as a community, we’ve been terrified that something like this would happen for a long time,” neighbor Wes Giffiths said.
Last week, a 2-year-old boy was struck and killed by a driver while riding a mini-scooter in Lincoln Park.
“Two babies in one week,” Whitehouse said.