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Pedestrian Deaths Are Rising. What Can The City Do?

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Vision Zero Launch Day

Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld speaking at the Vision Zero Chicago launch event last year.

City of Chicago

One year into Chicago’s Vision Zero pedestrian safety program, the results are a mixed bag. The city has implemented 90 pedestrian infrastructure improvements — things like new bike lanes, electronic speed limit signs, and so-called “bumpouts,” which shorten crosswalks by blocking cars from turning.   

But as the Chicago Tribune reports pedestrian deaths are up 31 percent in the first five months of this year. That’s compared to the average during those months from 2012 to 2016.

So, what does that look like on the ground? Twenty-one people have been struck and killed by vehicles in Chicago so far in 2018.

Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, joins Morning Shift to discuss the work the city is doing to address this growing problem and that challenges it faces in bringing the numbers down.

Who’s affected?

Rebekah Scheinfeld: Traffic crashes are a real problem throughout our city. Every year in Chicago 2,000 people are killed or seriously injured from traffic crashes. And seriously injured means incapacitated and taken away in an ambulance. That means every three days someone is killed on our streets and every day five people are seriously injured. So it’s a real problem and it’s a public health problem.

Challenges in changing driver behavior

Scheinfeld: This runs very deep. Unfortunately, a lot of these driver behaviors, people see them as victim-less crimes. When you’re late to work, trying to get your kids to school and get to that doctor’s appointment you don’t think speeding is going to risk anything except maybe a ticket. But speed kills. We need to think about how our actions are contributing to this public health crisis. We have the power collectively to change our behaviors and we need to harness that. We set out in our Vision Zero Chicago plan to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes by 2026. It is an ambitious plan but every day we see this happening on our streets. And every death is one too many so we can’t accept anything less than the goal to get to zero.    

Launch of new Electronic Crash Reporting System

Scheinfeld: Previously, the public had to wait more than a year to get information about crashes. We have implemented an electronic crash reporting system in the city of Chicago. We are going to be sharing that information so that the public can see where crashes are happening and what type of crashes are happening in a matter of days. We really want to continue this private partnership so that universities and advocacy organizations are partners in the public sector and the private sector. They can work with us to use that data to help come up with more research and analysis to help develop additional tools to fight this scourge.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web.

LEARN MORE: Column: Vision Zero traffic safety program battles deadly driving culture (Chicago Tribune 6/11/18)

Vision Zero Official Website (CDOT)

City increasing transparency and launching data sharing projects to help focus efforts to improve roadway safety(City of Chicago) 

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