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Family Of Cyclist Killed In Crash To File Suit As Cycling Community Rallies

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 18, 2017 5:24PM

Ghost Bike / Getty Images / Photo: Spencer Platt

The family of Jezniah Smith, who was fatally struck while biking in Humboldt Park last Wednesday, is filing a wrongful death suit against the driver who hit Smith, according to the family's attorney. At the same time, the cycling community is gearing up to honor Smith with a memorial, scheduled for Monday at the crash site.

Smith was on his bike, traveling westbound on Division Street through an intersection at 10:38 p.m., when he was hit by a Chevy driving north on Sacramento Avenue, police told Chicagoist last week. Smith was taken to Stroger Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Smith’s death was the first cycling fatality of 2017.

Smith’s family only learned of Jezniah’s death on Monday, after his mother reached out to the Cook County Medial Examiner’s Office. The driver has not been cited as of Wednesday morning, according to police. The family’s attorney, from bike-advocate injury firm Keating Law Offices, said it was “unreasonable” for police to take the driver’s word that he had a green light, according to Streetsblog.

"We know that Jezniah was a very careful cyclist who was very familiar with the area," attorney Mike Keating told Chicagoist. "We hope to find out exactly what occurred and seek justice on behalf of Jezniah." Smith lived just a few blocks east of where the crash happened. A police report lists the primary cause as weather and the secondary cause as unknown.

While the family pursues legal options, the cycling community is joining them in mourning and honoring Smith. A ghost bike dedication will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at Division and Sacramento. The experience is always rattling, Kristen Green, who constructs the memorials for Ghost Bikes Chicago, said. “As a cyclist I personally am always nervous, scared and bewildered any time a fatality happens to a fellow cyclist,” she told Chicagoist.

Green connected Smith's family with Keating Law Offices, helped create a GoFundMe page to assist the family with funeral costs, and assisted with creating the bike memorial.

When the cause of the crash is unknown, “the confusion, and sadness often takes hold, but turns into something beautiful,” she said referencing fellow cyclists’ response and Chicago’s vast network of support organizations. “We are a strong caring community,” Green said. “We look out for each other.”

The GoFundMe page was posted on Tuesday. “Our brother Jezniah, an avid bicyclist, was called home last Wednesday night after a traffic accident.” Reads the campaign description. “The entire ordeal of his passing deeply devastated us.”

[H/T Streetsblog]