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Pickup driver accused of causing 16-bicycle crash
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/28/2007 12:22 AM

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Luke Seemann says he'll ride on St. Mary's Road in Libertyville Township on Saturday, one week after being in a 16-bicycle crash authorities blame on a pickup truck driver.

"I'm a little nervous," said Seemann, 31, of Chicago, and a XXX Racing-AthletiCo's competitive team member. "But I don't want to be intimidated."

Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Thompson said the crash happened about 9:05 a.m. Sept. 22. Three bikers riding in the single-file pack suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Thomas F. Lynch, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was charged with improper lane usage and failure to provide aid and information. He was given a notice to appear in Lake County court Oct. 29 on the misdemeanor charges.

Lynch disagreed with the version of events from police, the bikers and an independent witness.

"They're lying through their teeth," he said Thursday before referring further questions to his attorney.

Lynch was driving a 1996 GMC Sierra truck north on St. Mary's Road near Everett Road when he passed the bicyclists on the left, cut back to the right and slammed his brakes, Thompson said.

Seemann said the bikers with XXX Racing-AthletiCo had a split-second to react. He said one rider, 31-year-old Chris McNally of Chicago, sliced his shin on the truck's tailpipe.

Thompson said the 16 bikers crashed and piled up, with some landing in a ditch.

"It's shock," Seemann said. "It's disbelief. Once it settles down, it's anger and frustration."

McNally and Grant Davis, 26, of Chicago were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Thompson said Robert Willems, 39, of Chicago, was treated at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

Lynch kept driving after the cyclists went down, then telephoned sheriff's police to report side-view mirror damage. Thompson said Lynch followed a direction to return to the crash site.

Thompson said Lynch first told deputies he heard a thump while driving and thought a bicyclist punched his truck. Police said Lynch later stated he jammed his brakes in front of the bikers to avoid hitting a squirrel.

Before the crash, Thompson said, a 51-year-old Mettawa man safely passed the cyclists on northbound St. Mary's Road. Authorities said that driver, through his rear-view mirror, witnessed Lynch cut in front of the bikers and suddenly brake.

Seemann said he believes Lynch, like other motorists, became frustrated with the riders. He said his team and other bikers frequently use St. Mary's Road, in part because it isn't congested.

"I don't think he was trying to hurt us," Seemann said. "I do think he was trying to scare us."

Thompson said bicyclists may drive on streets with motor vehicles as long as Illinois' rules of the road are followed. A new state law also requires motorists to provide cyclists a 3-foot buffer when passing them on roadways.

XXX Racing-AthletiCo's bikers typically journey from Chicago to Highland Park, where they make a pit stop. Some bicyclists continue north to St. Mary's Road near Libertyville.

Seemann said bicycle and walking paths won't work for his group because the racers travel too fast and would pose a danger to others.

"I think everyone needs to be aware we're trying to share the road," he said.