WBEZ | pedestrians http://www.wbez.org/tags/pedestrians Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The five scariest things I learned from Chicago’s pedestrian plan http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20crosswalk%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px; " title="Can Chicago make streets safer for pedestrians? (Flickr/Vicki Wolkins)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F61491687&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;color=ffe12b" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Rose Harris was struck by a car and killed Thursday night, near the intersection of 79th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-woman-hit-by-car-dies-20120928,0,1432638.story?track=rss">According to the <em>Tribune</em></a>, the 59-year-old West Side resident stepped out into the street between two cars; the driver who hit her did not have time to react.&nbsp;</p><p>The stretch of 79th Street where Harris was killed is one of the most deadly in the city &ndash; at least for pedestrians. Chicago has labeled it a &quot;high crash corridor,&quot; respsonsible for a significant portion of the pedestrian deaths we see here every year. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s safer to be a pedestrian in Chicago than to be one in New York, Los Angeles or Dallas. Blame L.A. traffic, maybe, or those Texas super highways if you&rsquo;d like; according to an analysis done by the city, between 2005 and 2009 we averaged fewer crashes between cars and pedestrians than did our large urban peers.</p><p>But as the death of Rose Harris illustrates, that doesn&#39;t mean Chicago is safe for people on foot.</p><p>Thirty-four Chicagoans died in 2009 after being hit by cars. The victims that year included 36-year-old <a href="http://www.marthagonzalezmemorial.com/">Martha Gonzalez</a>, a mother of two who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street at 18th and Halsted. Gonzalez and the others who died that year came from a total of 3,130 total collisions in which, according to the eerily technical language used in Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestrian/2011PedestrianCrashAnalysisSummaryReport.pdf">2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis</a> &ldquo;the pedestrian was the first point of contact for the vehicle.&rdquo; Turns out 2009 wasn&rsquo;t such a bad year, either: Nearly twice as many pedestrians were killed by cars here in 2005.</p><p>These numbers may seem small compared to say, the number of people who die in car crashes on Illinois highways: When I drove home via I-90/94 Wednesday night, the count from the digital sign read &ldquo;721 traffic deaths this year.&rdquo; By the next morning the count had ticked up to 724.</p><p>But Gabe Klein, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation, believes that even one pedestrian death here is too many. &ldquo;These are preventable,&rdquo; he told me earlier this week. &ldquo;They are not accidents.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein is spearheading Chicago&rsquo;s ambitious &ldquo;Vision Zero&rdquo; goal, a ten-year plan to eliminate <em>all </em>traffic fatalities in the city. To this end, earlier this month CDOT released <a href="http://chicagopedestrianplan.org/">the city&rsquo;s first-ever pedestrian plan</a>, a set of proposals aimed at making Chicago streets safer for walking.</p><p>Some of the interventions outlined in the plan are already being put into place: Signs popped up at intersections around this city this summer, reminding drivers that it&rsquo;s state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Sadly, the plan does not <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-don%E2%80%99t-chicago-drivers-stop-crosswalks-100855">call for mimes</a>.) Other ideas in CDOT&rsquo;s plan are more expensive and will take longer to implement: &ldquo;road diets,&rdquo; like the one given to Humboldt Boulevard through Humboldt Park, that shrink wider roads to slow down traffic and often make room for bike lanes. A few ideas suggested in the pedestrian plan &ndash; like straight up banning left- and right-hand turns at all of Chicago&rsquo;s iconic six-corner intersections &ndash; will strike many as audacious and unnecessary.&nbsp;</p><p>While proposals like the one above are certainly eye-catching &ndash; <a href="http://gridchicago.com/2011/building-chicagos-first-pedestrian-scramble/">pedestrian scramble</a>, anyone? &ndash; what really caught my eye was some of the stats that piece apart just what the city is up against here.</p><p><strong>Crashes in the crosswalk</strong></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with this one:</p><ul><li>&nbsp;&ldquo;78% of all [pedestrian] crashes. . . occurred within 125 feet of the midpoint of an intersection.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />According to the city, the most common place for a pedestrian to be when a crash occurs is walking in the crosswalk with the signal. So as a pedestrian, <em>you can be doing everything right and still be killed</em>. Frankly I find this disturbing, and apparently I&rsquo;m not alone. &ldquo;It <em>is</em> disturbing,&rdquo; Gabe Klein told me. &ldquo;We think most pedestrians are obeying the law. We think people in cars are not taking seriously their responsibility as drivers of a 3,000 lb. piece of equipment.&rdquo; Klein cited by way of example a woman &ldquo;taken out by a cab&rdquo; while crossing in the crosswalk on Sheridan: &ldquo;He ran over her like she wasn&rsquo;t there.&rdquo;</p><p>Speaking of cabs. . .</p><p><strong>Watch out for taxis&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;28% of pedestrian crashes in the central business district involved taxis.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Beyond the obvious &ndash; there are more cabs in this part of town as well as a higher concentration of pedestrians &ndash; Klein puts blame squarely on the cabbies themselves. &ldquo;My feeling is that there are some really bad actors on the taxi side that are driving really badly,&rdquo; he said. Klein said he takes cabs often and that he&rsquo;s &ldquo;seen them break the law when I&rsquo;m in the back of the car and had to call it into 311.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Ahead of the curve. . . in hit-and-runs</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;40% of fatal pedestrian crashes in Chicago were hit and run. By comparison 20% of fatal pedestrian crashes nation-wide were hit and run.&rdquo;</li></ul><p>I found this stat especially disturbing. I myself was the victim of a hit-and-run crash in 2008 (although I was riding my bike, not walking, at the time) so I know first hand that there are unscrupulous jerks driving around Chicago. But <em>twice as many</em> unscrupulous jerks?</p><p>&ldquo;We meet with the police every two weeks and we talk about this,&rdquo; Klein said. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>A lot happens after dark. I think often we have people drinking and driving &ndash; I think they hit someone and they get scared and they flee.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein also mentioned here how fast people in Chicago drive. Did you know that the speed limit in Chicago is 30 mph unless otherwise stated? You wouldn&rsquo;t know it from, say, driving down Western Avenue. . .</p><p><strong>Wide roads are the deadliest roads&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;Although arterial streets account for only 10% of Chicago&rsquo;s street miles, 50% of fatal/serious crashes occurred on them.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because of Chicago&rsquo;s grid, these wider, faster streets &ndash; Western, Fullerton, Cermak etc. &ndash; are unavoidable and apparently deadly. (<em>See: Rose Harris</em>)&nbsp;According to the pedestrian plan, they&rsquo;ll also take the longest and will be the most expensive to fix.&nbsp;</p><p>At least the city knows where to start?</p><p><strong>Your mom tells you to look both ways for a reason</strong></p><p>Finally, there&rsquo;s this:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;15 to 18 year old pedestrians had the highest crash rate.&rdquo;</li><li>&ldquo;Older pedestrians were more likely to be struck in a cross walk than other age groups&hellip;&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because younger people drive less &ndash; as Klein pointed out, &ldquo;Millennials are not buying cars anywhere near the rate&rdquo; of people of his generation &ndash; and older people walk more slowly, <em>Chicago&#39;s most vulnerable citizens are getting hit and killed the most</em>. Kids are mostly likely to be hit during the after-school hours of 3 to 6 p.m. Maybe Rahm&rsquo;s plea for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-speed-camera-bill-chicago-96152">speed camera legislation</a> wasn&rsquo;t just a cynical revenue-generating ploy after all?</p><p>The city has a lot riding on getting this right, beyond even the lives at stake: Urban planners often point to a city&rsquo;s walkability as a key factor in its overall livability. And I for one hope the city does get it right &ndash; for the likes of Rose Harris and Martha Gonzalez, and for those of us already glad we don&rsquo;t live in L.A.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 28 Sep 2012 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 New plan promises safer streets for pedestrians http://www.wbez.org/news/new-plan-promises-safer-streets-pedestrians-102235 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pedplan.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="image-insert-image ">The Chicago Department of Transportation released a comprehensive <a href="http://chicagopedestrianplan.org/draft-pedestrian-plan/" target="_blank">plan</a> on Thursday to make the city&rsquo;s streets safer for pedestrians.</div><p>About 3,000 traffic accidents injure pedestrians in Chicago each year.</p><p>The plan calls for more crosswalk striping, neighborhood traffic circles and safety zones near schools and parks.</p><p>The 114-page document is the result of seven public meetings over the last year.</p><p>Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all need to take responsibilty to prevent accidents.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not just distracted drivers that we&#39;re worried about,&quot; Klein said. &quot;People on their cell phones are walking out into intersections getting hit by cars.&quot;</p><p>The plan will rely on mostly federal funds to make the walkablity improvements.</p><p>Some low-cost projects like adding crosswalk stripes and posting signs are already in progress at intersections with the highest accident rates.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 13:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-plan-promises-safer-streets-pedestrians-102235