2012 Chicago fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 19 (9 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 4 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Robert Butler, a 51-year-old resident of Bellwood, Illinois, was killed in a traffic crash on Friday, September 7, at 4:30 AM, on the Damen Avenue overpass of the Stevenson Expressway. He was a pedestrian in probably the least-pedestrian friendly area in the region. The driver and his passenger were arrested; the driver, Anthony Castillo, 23, was apprehended less than a mile away in the McKinley Park neighborhood and charged with:
- Reckless Homicide-Motor Vehicle
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident w/Injury or Death
- Possession of Controlled Substance
- Failure to Reduce Speed
The passenger was charged with misdemeanor possession of cannabis. This story was originally reported by the Chicago Tribune. See a Google Street View image of the crash location after the jump, and more information on this type of highway intersection.
I’ve never walked or biked over this bridge, and I’ve only heard of how uncomfortable it is. I would probably board a bus just to cross the interchange. The interchange has a name: SPUI (pronounced “spoo-ee”). It stands for single point urban interchange. It apparently interchanges a higher volume of traffic between a highway and local road faster than other types of interchanges (the “diamond” being the most common in Chicago). It uses fewer signals. It allows right-turning traffic to turn right into an on-ramp at the same time as left-turning, opposing traffic turning left into the same on-ramp. This one has a pedestrian crossing distance of 290 feet, of which 120 feet is on refuge islands. These intersections have the distinct disadvantage of requiring a person who wants to cross the ramps to actuate a pedestrian crossing signal. I predict the entire time to cross this intersection is over 3 minutes (including wait times), a rate of 1.6 feet per second (this doesn’t include the several minutes of uphill walking to reach the intersection). Normal crosswalk signals are timed for someone who is traveling greater than 3 feet per second, but this intersection has a slightly different signal phase pattern than other types.
A similar interchange in Boise, Idaho, has a total crossing of 644 feet. It was designed with bike lanes, but with about 325 feet of “exposure”. This happens when there’s barrier on both sides of the bike lane. It’s a common problem with “centered” bike lanes, and with long, angled intersections (think Elston Avenue at Ashland Avenue, going northbound). Without a barrier like a curb or raised concrete island, bicyclists are exposed on both sides to turning and merging traffic.
In the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 meetings, attendees often expressed their displeasure and discomfort in traversing streets over expressways, and through the intersections with them. This is probably the least comfortable in the city limits.
This graphic shows how the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recommends bike lanes be installed on SPUIs. AASHTO is notorious for promoting bikeway designs that are as far from European and 8 to 80 as possible.
* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time and includes only people who died in the Chicago city limits. View previous Fatality Tracker posts.