The parents of a three-year-old child who was killed by a lorry driver in Chicago as her parents were forced to move out of a cycle lane due to a utility company’s truck being parked there are suing the owners of both vehicles, as well as the city, for wrongful death.
Elizabeth Grace ‘Lily’ Shambrook, who was being taken by her parents to a summer day camp, was sitting on the child seat of her mother Kate Snow’s bike as they cycled with her father Tim Shambrook on 9 June 2022 when they had to move into the road due to a Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) truck reportedly being illegally parked in the bike lane at a traffic light, reports ABC News.
That brought them next to an articulated lorry belonging to global food industry giant Mondelez, and when the driver of that vehicle moved away from the traffic lights, he knocked Ms Snow and her bike over, with Lily crushed beneath the rear wheels of the vehicle.
Clifford Law Offices, which is acting for the parents, has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Cook County alleging negligence on the part of ComEd and Mondelez, as well as Penske Truck Leasing, which employed the driver of the articulated lorry.
The city of Chicago is also being sued for “wilful and wanton misconduct” in relation to its failure to monitor ComEd’s actions after issuing it a city permit and for failing to effectively protect and separate cyclists using the bike lane from other traffic.
Richard Burke, a partner at the law firm, said: “Multiple factors converged to make this an unsafe location and intersection on the day this happened.
“That starts with the fact that Kate Snow – Lily's mom – was riding in a designated bike lane on what is primarily a residential neighbourhood.”
Burke added that the infrastructure was meant to allow people to cycle “with ease and presumably with safety, and so they were doing exactly what they were entitled to be doing on the street.”
On the other hand, the complaint alleges negligence on the part of ComEd for “intentionally and knowingly usurping use of the designated bike lane” and illegally parking in an “unsafe” place.
Mondelez and Penske Truck Leasing are also accused of having “negligently operated, managed, maintained and controlled their tractor-trailer truck”, “driving their vehicle without making sure it was safe to do so”, and for allegedly continuing to drive on after colliding with the Ms Snow and her child.
Finally, the city of Chicago is being sued for “wilful and wanton misconduct”, as the law firm’s senior partner Robert Clifford argued that the authority’s “concern for others” was missing when it allowed ComEd to drive and park its large and heavy vehicles in residential neighbourhoods.
“The City of Chicago issued a permit to ComEd without adequate concert for the size and amount of heavy equipment that would be brought into the neighbourhood, or where their vehicles actually would be parked,” Clifford said.
“We all co-exist in a society where it takes cooperation and concerns for others who need to do their jobs to ensure that senseless tragedies like this cease. That concern was missing.
“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 can’t be tolerated.”
Following the youngster’s death, the city of Chicago announced that it would place concrete barriers alongside cycle lanes to stop motorists from entering them.
It has also passed a law requiring signs to be put in place warning cyclists when construction work is taking place within bike lanes – although Mr Shambrook and Ms Snow said such measures were “too late for Lily”.
They said: “In her honour, we are forever committed to making Chicago a safer biking community so that her death wasn’t in vain.
“People have to care. The city has to care. Corporations have to care. They all need to respect bicycle lanes and the bicyclists using them.”
“Hopefully, this lawsuit will open the eyes of many because we would never want this tragedy to happen to any other family anywhere.”
The clear dangers associated with the drivers of large vehicles driving or parking in cycle lanes has been an issue covered frequently on road.cc in recent months.
In November, a bus company in Dublin announced that it was carrying out a “full investigation” after one of its employees was filmed driving a double-decker on both the cycle lane and footpath in order to undertake a queue of traffic.
The shocking video, which was captured on a motorist’s dash cam, prompted local Green Party councillor Carolyn Moore – speaking at a meeting on the Road Safety Authority’s ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ campaign, which encourages cyclists and pedestrians to wear bright, reflective clothing at night so they can avoid being struck by motorists – to call for the campaign to instead focus on the behaviour of drivers.
Later that month, a lorry was spotted parked on a protected cycle lane, forcing cyclists to ride back out alongside traffic on Oxford’s notorious Plain roundabout.
The bike lane in question had just been completed earlier that week as part of the local council’s plans to improve safety measures for cyclists at the infamously dangerous roundabout, where University of Oxford researcher Dr Ling Felce was killed when she was struck by a lorry driver in March 2022.
And on Thursday’s live blog, we featured a cycle lane on Liverpool’s Dock Road which was not only covered in broken glass but also blocked by a parked oil tanker.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.