a requiem for bobby cann

In Chicago I commuted by bicycle for 3 1/2 years before relocating to Jackson, Mississippi. I loved pedaling my way to and from work, which was located on the 400 block of N. Michigan, if you’re familiar with Chicago. It was always an interesting challenge to navigate my way through the neighborhoods of Pilsen, Greektown, West Loop, South Loop, and River North. I took different routes, depending on my mood and timing. I gulped fresh air like it was water. Bicycling was both exposure and freedom. Exposure to the threat of distracted drivers. Freedom from the dank and dirty CTA buses and their erratic time schedules.

Then May 29, 2013 happened. I saw news on Twitter that a drunk driver hit and killed a bicycle commuter on N. Clybourn. The drunk driver, Ryne San Hamel. The dead cyclist, Bobby Cann.

Source: Chicago Reader,Death of a Cyclist,” October 30, 2013.

As details of the crash emerged, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. San Hamel, a young man from Park Ridge and co-owner of AllYouCanDrink.com, got drunk at a Cubs game and then drove himself, his brother, and two friends downtown. San Hamel barreled southbound on Clybourn, speeding at 50 MPH. San Hamel’s vehicle smashed into Cann on his bicycle at about 6:30 p.m. Game over for Cann, in the most literal meaning. He died at Northwestern Memorial some 30 minutes later.

I read somewhere that San Hamel was previously arrested twice for drunk driving, and again, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance was searching for court advocates for Cann’s family, who is from New Hampshire. No brainer, at least for me. I volunteered and attended training at the River North Police District.

The day that San Hamel was arraigned at 26th and California I will never forget. Cann’s family and loved ones congregated. There were so many supporters for Cann that most of us stood in the hallway during the proceeding. Cann’s mother emerged from the courtroom flanked by family members and wept loudly. To see the anguished face of a parent who lost a son, it’s just the most humbling thing. Awful.

I was living in Jackson by the time San Hamel was sentenced in February 2017. A friend reached out and asked me if I had heard about the sentence. I hadn’t so researched it online. For the third time, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. San Hamel was sentenced to 10 days’ jail time for killing Cann. Ten.

Chicago Reader published an article called “Death of a Cyclist” in October 2013. You can read it here.