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After Daughter's Accident, Naperville Mom Asks Drivers For Caution Near Cyclists

After her daughter was hit while riding her bicycle in late April, Debbie Zimmerman is asking drivers to slow down this summer and take care around cyclists and pedestrians.

On a warm afternoon late last month, Debbie Zimmerman’s 16-year-old daughter went out for a bike ride. Zimmerman’s daughter had ridden the path through Springbrook Prairie many times before.

On that April afternoon, Zimmerman received a phone call no parent wants. A car had hit her daughter. After spending nearly two hours in the emergency room, Zimmerman brought her daughter home. But, weeks later, her daughter is still recovering from the accident.

With summer on its way and the warm weather bringing out more cyclists and runners, Zimmerman wants drivers and cyclists to be more cautious and aware when they are out riding on Naperville’s streets or paths.

“I can't tell you how frustrated and sad this whole situation makes me,” Zimmerman said. 

The driver who struck Zimmerman’s daughter was ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and failure to provide information, said Sgt. Gregg Bell of the Naperville Police Department.

The woman was not cited for a hit-and-run, though she did leave Zimmerman’s daughter. Bell said the woman asked if the teen was OK before leaving and offered to give her a ride. Zimmerman said her daughter was not about to take a ride with someone who had hit her and who she didn’t know.

The fact that someone hit her daughter and left without knowing if the girl would be OK incensed Zimmerman. Since the accident she has heard from many more friends who reported they have also been hit while cycling.

Zimmerman’s daughter was going westbound on the path when she was hit while crossing at the intersection of Book Road and 75th Street. The car that struck her daughter was turning south onto Book Road and hit her head on.

Be predictable

While some may think getting hit from behind while cycling is the dominant type of crash, Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, said that kind of accident is actually fairly rare.

The accidents more likely to occur are those like Zimmerman’s daughter encountered, he said.  

“Accidents occur more at intersections and the reason for that is bicyclists may not be expected or may not be visible,” Barsotti said. “If someone is biking off road, if their route is against traffic they are more likely to get hit. But the average person doesn’t think that.”

Cyclists have to be predictable when riding and they need to follow the rules of the road, he said.

“You have to ride your bike as if you are driving a car,” Barsotti said. “You have to be predictable. If you are riding in a predictable pattern traffic adjusts to you fairly well.”

Motorists may not stop at the stop line at an intersection and may not notice a cyclists or a pedestrian trying to cross, he said.

Two other main mistakes motorists make are the right and left hooks, he said. The right hook occurs when a motorist speeds around a cyclist and then turns right in front of them, often underestimating speed. The left hook happens when a motorist is turning left in front of an oncoming cyclist that is going straight. They end up coming toward each other and the motorist turns left into the path of the cyclist.

“What we see is that both bicyclists and motorist have to learn a lot about coexisting,” Barsotti said.

Coexisting on the road

Cycling through Naperville is for the most part a pleasant experience, said Todd Stocke, a local cycling advocate. Until recently Stocke was involved with the city’s Bicycling Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which the city has recently eliminated.

The trickiest spots for riders in town are anywhere key trails meet major roads, Stocke said. He said there is a history of accidents taking place at Book Road and 75th Street, he said. Other areas where bike versus vehicle accidents often occur are at The DuPage River Trail crossings at Hobson and Bailey roads, and especially the newer crossing at Washington (just north of the river).

Though there is a lot of signage, the bike and pedestrian crossing at Book Road and 87th Street continues to be a spot where accidents take place, he said.

“The dangers at each of those spots are almost always with turning traffic,” Stocke said. “Cars turning left rush to an opening only to find themselves face-to-face with legally crossing pedestrians or bikes. Right turners look left for cars but not at bikes or pedestrians right next to them. And right turners that fail to stop before the intersection, instead rolling right into the crosswalk (they're always surprised that someone might actually be in that crosswalk).”

Not all of the accidents are caused by motorists alone, Stocke said.

“The dangers can just as easily be caused by cyclists and pedestrians, most specifically by those who fail to use marked crossings, or fail to obey signals. Those riders give the majority of us a bad name,” he said.

A new danger

As if it weren’t enough for cyclists to keep an eye out for drivers and vice-versa, Stocke said there’s an even bigger concern on the roads: Driver’s who text.

“As a cyclist, I used to think drivers on cell phones caused the biggest risk to me,” Stocke said. “They've been replaced by drivers who are texting. Invariably the cars that don't keep their lanes, that swerve unpredictably, and that roll intersections have something in their hands (and it ain't the steering wheel).“

Nearly two weeks after her daughter’s accident, Debbie Zimmerman is concerned about her daughter’s recovery. She has memory lapses and has been seeing physical therapists twice a week for rehabilitation.

She wishes the city of Naperville was making more of an effort to be pedestrian- and bike-friendly, particularly outside of downtown. She said she believes the motorist who hit her daughter got away with minor citations.

Zimmerman said part of the problem could be the way people in Naperville talk on the phone, text and rush around all the time.

“Maybe everyone just needs to take a deep breath and watch the world around them,” Zimmerman said. “Keep people safe this summer. Leave 5 minutes early and be prepared to stop and wait. If everyone took a few minutes to be a safer driver, think of the difference it would make to our 'kid-friendly' city.” 

Safety Tips

Butch May 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM
If bicycles want rights on roads then buy license plates.
Mary Ann Lopez May 15, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Cyclists have the right to be on the road. ILLINOIS VEHICLE CODE 625 ILCS 5/ "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle . . ." Section 11-1502
Julio G Atlas May 15, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Thanks for publishing this, Patch! It would be great if it were repeated monthly.
Kotes May 15, 2012 at 04:57 PM
They should have to be insured also. I would never catagorize with saying "ALL" but a lot of the bicyclist think they can just ride wherever. They don't stop at stop signs nor stoplights if it's clear traffic for them to get across. Try doing that with your motor vechicle. I've also seen them go around buses. Bicyclist are required, just as motor vechicles, to wait for the arm of the bus to retract. This particular intersection talked about in this article should not even be an option for bikes. That path should be closed off. Even down the road just a short distance where the path crosses over Book Road at 83rd... time and time again I see the bicyclist just sail on across the road. Now that the light is in there, it has helped somewhat. And it's not just the bicyclists, runners, too. They don't want to slow down. It's not ALWAYS the motorists fault, but they are the ones who always seem to get the blame. And bicyclist that ride in groups.. SINGLE FILE please. 5 abreast is just asking for trouble, yet I also see this especially along 119th, and 127th (west of 59).
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 05:12 PM
This means bike riders need to: A. Stop at stoplights and stop signs. B. Signal when turning. C. Yield to DO NOT WALK signals at crosswalks. D. Ride with the direction of traffic not against. It also demands a hint of common sense. A 20 lb. bike isn't a 700 lb. fully loaded Harley Davidson . You're an idiot to pull into the left turn lane at Ogden & River to make a left turn on Ogden. You're in a safer place if you DISMOUNT, walk across at the crosswalks then proceed in the roadway. There's too many cycle jerks in Naperville. They play "get in your face" while violating every bike rule of the road on the books. Many cities have adopted a "share the road, share the rules" approach and bike riders are getting citations for their carelessness and arrogance. I agree with Butch! There ought to be a license tag (TAX) for adult size bikes that typically "share" the road. There also ought to be a law requiring joggers to wear highly visible vests when jogging on the streets too!
Jeff Cagle May 15, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Every time one of these accidents happen, motorists carry on about the idiots on bikes who ride through red lights or stop signs as if they are some kind of menace to society even though the motorist has a couple thousand pounds of steel and glass protecting them, while the cyclist might have a few ounces of plastic and foam on their head. It got me thinking: Has anyone ever read an article about someone on a bicycle disobeying a traffic signal, slamming into someone driving a 2,000+ pound vehicle and seriously injuring or killing the person inside that vehicle while walking away without a scratch? I sure haven't.
Kotes May 15, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Cyclists have the right to be on the road, so do cars, trucks, etc. So, if it's on the road, it should require license and insurance. Not all bicyclists ignore the laws, but I would venture to guess it's a very high percentage. Very tired of these bicyclists riding down the major highways. I agree with Analyze This - get off the bike, walk it across and then be on your merry way. Putting a 20# bike in the middle of traffic so you can turn left is just asking for trouble. I love to bike, but I stay on the paths. Unfortunately the US isn't set up for riding the bikes on the roadways in very many places. I saw one guy riding down I-88 a few weeks back.
Mary Ann Lopez May 15, 2012 at 08:13 PM
In this case the girl wasn't turning left. She was crossing with the light and the driver who hit her didn't wait for her to get across the road before turning right hitting the teen. The cyclist was visible. She wasn't being evasive. She had the right of way.
The Sentinel May 15, 2012 at 08:31 PM
First...Kotes, shut the @#$% up. Second: Thanks Mary Ann. Third: I ride MY bike every day on a 5-mile look along residential streets. I ride int eh same ddirection as cars, stop for stop sighns WHEN THERE ARE CARS PRESENT, and ofetn will STOP for cars who want to turn in front of me. I also never ride across an intersection but always wait for the walk signal. And I am going blind. That said, I cannot temm you how MANY cars pass me with just inches to spare. Often, if I pull into a traffic lane just to pass a parked car, cars behind me often speed by in the hopes of beating me to the parked car and THEN to a stop sign. AND...I get the finger more times than I GIVE it. In short, many drivers just don't care about bikers. I'd also like to remind those here that nikers are NOT supposed to use sidewalks to ride on. So it's either on the street or stay at home and I'll be damned if I'll stay at home.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 08:50 PM
No arguement from me on this incident.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Stopping at the light and stop signs are mandatory however, you can blow through them all day until you get caught! I watch bikers blow through both even when cars are present. Somewhere in my files I have video evidence.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Wow.... your mommy really trained you how to whine like a spoiled brat now didn't she? By being an unsafe bike rider, you become a menace to yourself. You get hurt and it's everybody else's fault. "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!" FYI.... I have all the respect in the world for bikers who play by the rules.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Sentinal.... You are right. There is a significant number of drivers who son't give a rat's bottom half about bikers. To them I say you aren't in too big of a hurry to not kill or maim someone. Get off your freaking cel phone and pay attention!
The Sentinel May 15, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Yeah, and stopping for red lights and stop signs is mandatory for car too yet plenty of motorists blow through them on a regular basis.
Kotes May 15, 2012 at 09:10 PM
I also agree.. No arguement about the accident. I believe the cyclist was in the right. The Sentinel... GROW UP.. .obviously your Mother didn't teach you well. This is a discussion, not an arguement. I feel sorry for you that the only way you can make a point is in your "fake" words (cuz we all know what @#$% means), Go preach it to God.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Sentinel I have a problem with those types. Sit at River and Oswego sometime and watch them run through those stop signs five in a row within the shadows of the NPD. By the way, most Naperville cops blow most stop signs even when they know they're being seen by the public.
The Sentinel May 15, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Kotes: Who's arguing. I was expressing MY point. Obviously your mother didn't teach YOU well. Obviously I CAN make my point is to use @#$% OTHERWISE, you fool, I'd have been bounced. You can't take a little criticism, huh. Tch tch, shame on you. If you felt this is a discussion, then you wouldn't have commented what YOU said to me. You'd have let it go. YOU turned it into an arguement, not me. Maybe you need a time-out. Go take one.
Analyze This May 15, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Wow.... look at all the sparks flying! Will I be seeing any of you a peace rally anytime soon? Kumbaya man!
Kotes May 15, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Sit on Book and 83rd and watch them blow through the light. Shoot, you can say that just about at any intersection. Again, it's not all, but it happens more often than not. Back in the 60's we had to have a tag for our bikes, in Naperville. I don't recall the cost of it, but it was a tag you put, usually, on the rear of the bike frame. .
John Galt May 15, 2012 at 09:57 PM
The intersections at Hobson, Bailey and Washington on the new DuPage River Trail are pretty bad, I've seen incidents where a motorist is looking left to make the right turn on red and the bikers are crossing with the signal, the driver makes the turn and there's someone in the intersection crossing. Hate to predict something bad but it's a disaster waiting to happen. The River Trail's a nice ride, but was poorly planned....
Kotes May 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM
John..there are a lot of badly thought out trails around Naperville. The finally put a light at the one on 83rd and Book a few years back. They need a flasher or something to warn the bikes to stop...major highway or intersection ahead. There's only so much you can do. Same with motorists...there's always going to be a few that aren't using common sense or are pre-occupied with something else.
The Sentinel May 15, 2012 at 10:15 PM
No sparks flying here as far as I'm concerned. But you better ask Kotes. And I doubt you'll see me at any peace rally.
The Sentinel May 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Whho blows thru them, the bikes...or the cars. If you want to be technical. it's both. OOne thing Naperville did right was to put a bike "lane" on each side of McDowell. However, that hasn't stopped cars from "blowing by" about a foot from my left handlebar.
Jeff Cagle May 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Did I say I myself was an unsafe bike rider? No. I'm simply stating something you don't ever read about. I'm not really interested in getting maimed or killed because of my own negligence. I'm also not commenting anonymously, so feel free to google my name and stumble across my blog where I've talked at length about bike safety, about accidents in Illinois where cyclists have been killed while obeying the rules of the road while the driver only getting slapped on the wrist with "improper lane usage" tickets — not to mention the close calls I've personally had around Naperville since I started riding seriously a few years ago. And if you ever see a cyclist out on the road with neon green shoe covers that you might feel like you need sunglasses to look directly at, that's me, and I'm wearing them because of too many cars not giving me the 3 feet that the law requires as they pass me, or ignoring my right-of-way when I stop at a stop sign and it is my turn to proceed through, or simply just not seeing me because they aren't paying attention. There are violators of the law on both sides of this issue, but the fact of the matter is that cyclists and pedestrians are the only ones who will end up injured and killed between a collision with a vehicle — whether it's their fault or the driver's.
Analyze This May 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Kotes.... This is a topical coincidence! About 6:30 (5/15) I was Northbound on Book from 87 th and as I was a approaching 83rd on a GREEN light, some guy on a bike zipped across against the RED going West about 100 feet ahead of me. There was nobody behind me and the light changed about 5 seconds after I cleared the intersection. Yes, you are right about the bike tags. I also remember when officers Rowe and Zittnan came out to the schools for bike safety week. They had applications for the sticker with them and I think they were FREE or fifty cents at the most at the time. Everything I learned at those safety classes I remember today even though I haven't ridden a bike for at least 20 years. Those who choose to ignore the rules or asssume everybody else is watching out for them are at risk.
Kotes May 16, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Happens on a daily basis there. They don't even low down. Coming from foliage and brush on the west side...can't see them until they are about already flying by. Zittna ..there's a name i haven't heard in a long, long time. He was a stickler..whatever you did, you weren't going to talk you're way out of. Rich Rowe was a good one. He use to stop and buy lemonade from us when we were little.
Kotes May 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Oopss...slow not low. Sorry, typo
Analyze This May 16, 2012 at 01:43 AM
WOW... Our memories of those two are so fresh! Rowe caught me riding my motorized go-kart and retrieving a basketball from the roof at Beebe. Fortunately I never had a run-in with Zittnan but we encountered each other many times as I matured. There was a time I could name every cop on the NPD before it grew to the size it is now. I remember when Mayor Pradel was a rookie in 1966! I grew up in the Saybrook subdivision, went to Beebe one year, then Washington JR., and graduated from NCHS when North was only freshman and sophomores. I'm guessing we are probably within a few years of each other.
Kotes May 16, 2012 at 03:06 AM
We are 3 years different. :). Are you on facebook? There is an awesome page called Downtown Naperville, the way it use to be. Check it out if you haven't.

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