Kane County official's close call illustrates hazards for cyclists
Like he always does, Carl Schoedel grabbed his gear, pushed off on his bike and began the 9-mile trek to work early Tuesday.
It was his birthday, so Schoedel treated himself to an Egg McMuffin and coffee. Then following his usual winter route, he headed west on the wide shoulder of Route 64 near St. Charles around 6:30 a.m.
Meanwhile, a teenage driver also heading west on Route 64 strained to see the road through his frosted windshield.
Schoedel felt a sudden impact, then mercifully nothing -- until he came to in a hospital bed bruised, bloody -- but miraculously intact.
"I consider myself lucky," said Schoedel, who besides being a hard-core cyclist is also Kane County's director of transportation.
Federal data shows cyclists were struck by the front of a vehicle in 78 percent of the 840 fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2016, "so it's amazing to hear he's OK," said Kyle Whitehead, public affairs director for the Active Transportation Alliance.
Schoedel, 55, drove to work Thursday despite injuries to his face and head, plus some neck strain.
He doesn't remember anything after being hit.
"I ride my bike to work most days. I've been doing that for the last 11 years," Schoedel said.
When commuting between home in Geneva and work in Campton Hills, Schoedel takes the Great Western Trail in mild weather. But in winter, he typically uses Route 64.
"It has an 8-foot paved shoulder lane so you can be far away from traffic, and until recently it felt relatively safe," said Schoedel, who wears a helmet.
But the wide shoulder didn't stop Schoedel from getting slammed Tuesday a few miles west of Randall Road by a 16-year-old who received an unforgettable lesson in driving basics.
The civil engineer flew into a ditch, lost consciousness and was rushed to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva after a witness called 911.
The driver, who thought he'd hit an object "like a garbage can or mailbox" continued, then crossed into the eastbound lanes of Route 64 and collided with a tree, ending up in a ditch, Kane County Sheriff's Sgt. Steven Collins said.
The teenager "failed to clear off the frost from his windshield not allowing him to see," and was cited for failure to give aid or information in an accident and improper lane usage, Collins said.
Nationwide, the number of cyclists killed rose by 1.3 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, when 829 people died. Across the region, 21 cyclists were killed in 2015 compared to the nine-year average of 15.7, Active Transportation Alliance reports.
"The vast majority of streets in the Chicago region and across the state are still designed to move cars and trucks as fast as possible with little regard for safety," Whitehead said.
As cycling season begins, the alliance is lobbying hard in Springfield to build a safer infrastructure for walkers and cyclists with Senate Bill 2016, which would dedicate an annual stream of revenue for that purpose. The Senate Transportation Committee members will consider it this week.
The alliance also supports Joint Resolution 24 to broaden transportation funding for those who use two wheels, not just four wheels, in a pending capital bill.
Schoedel's trusty Giant Cypress bike is battered but he measures his own physical discomfort as "almost like you had a heavy workout at the gym."
Doctors are still evaluating the extent of his injuries.
Psychologically, "I'm more matter of fact (about his brush with death). I'm not spooked, I'm focused on trying to heal."
He thanks the first-responders -- Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District and the sheriff's police.
As for future rides? "Knowing myself, I'll be back on the bike."
Had a close call with a car or a bike? Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And be careful out there.
Do you use Cumberland Circle in Des Plaines? Avoid it until November if possible because IDOT is converting the iconic traffic circle into a "modern roundabout" as of this week. The result will be a bigger turn radius for trucks, new islands guiding cars into lanes, overhead signs and crosswalks.
In the interim, North Wolf Road and State Street will be closed at the circle and lanes reduced at Golf Road.
One more thing
Expect overnight lane closures on the Tri-State at the O'Hare Oasis this week as workers remove a beam. It's curtains for the glass structure over I-294, which means drivers near the oasis should be alert for traffic shifts from nighttime to dawn Monday through Thursday.
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