Dear Chicago: Make biking, walking safer

Advocate wants better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

March 28, 2011

If you’ve ever ventured out into one of Chicago’s famous six-corner intersections, you know the streets don’t always feel safe. The facts bear this out. In 2009 there were over 4,500 crashes between Chicago drivers and pedestrians or cyclists, 35 of which were fatal. This is according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which tracks traffic statistics. (However, as the Chicago Tribune reported recently, these numbers do not include dooring, a common type of bicycle crash that has been excluded from state record-keeping.)  

Adolfo Hernandez, 28, wants to see these numbers change. “I think it would be great if the city said one fatality on our roads is one fatality too many,” he explains. “We shouldn’t have pedestrian deaths or people on bicycles killed by automobiles.”

Hernandez is in a rare position to bend city government’s ear on this topic. In addition to serving as director of advocacy and outreach for the Active Transportation Alliance, a local advocacy group dedicated to making cycling, walking and public transit “safe, convenient and fun,” Hernandez was recently named to Mayor Elect Rahm Emanuel’s transition team. Last week he traveled to Seville, Spain. He and officials from U.S. cities toured cycling infrastructure that Seville has installed. According to Hernandez, changes to Seville’s streets have resulted in an additional 60,000 daily bike rides above the 6,000 the city saw just three years ago. Hernandez calls that “a dramatic shift.” 

Many factors can contribute to making streets safer. One of them is infrastructure—the way city streets are planned and built. Here, Hernandez explains why he wants Chicago to build infrastructure designed to protect vulnerable users in every neighborhood.

Dear Chicago is a project of WBEZ’s Partnerships Program. Adolfo Hernandez was nominated for the series by the Chicago Urban Art Society.


Editor’s note: The producer was a victim of a hit-and-run dooring accident in 2008.