A right-turn channelization from southbound Kedzie Avenue to northbound Milwaukee Avenue. From 2005-2011 there were 7 pedestrian crashes (including a fatal hit-and-run crash in 2009) and 4 bicycle crashes. The crash data do not allow me to relate any of them to a specific hazard at this location.
The groundbreaking Chicago Pedestrian Plan says goodbye to this pedestrian safety hazard. I can’t wait to say goodbye to the right-turn channelization on northbound Elston Avenue at Ashland Avenue (why? one, two, three).
Goal: Improve non-standard intersections
You’ll find the right-turn channelization (characterized by the presence of an additional crosswalk and often a concrete island) most often at intersections with diagonal streets. The Chicago Pedestrian Plan, in Goal 8 of the “Connectivity” chapter, will “remove all channelized right turn lanes by 2015″. This is an excellent idea because it reduces crossing distance, reduces car travel speeds (which is the determining factor of an injurious or fatal crash), and reduces the likelihood of a right-angle (t-bone) crash. Download the Chicago Pedestrian Plan.
Connectivity: Goal 8, page 69 in the Chicago Pedestrian Plan.
While right-turn channelizations are mainly a pedestrian safety issue, they have adverse consequences for bicyclists as well. Where Elston meets Ashland, there is a paint-only right-turn channelization that allows drivers to turn right across a through-bicyclist’s path (which is illegal in addition to being dangerous, municipal code 9-16-020).
This seems to conflicts with the Mid Term Action item above it, “Remove channelized right-turn lanes intersect at acute angles”. There are some right-angle intersections with right-turn lane channelizations. For example, westbound Adams Street at the Kennedy Expressway, or its complement, the left-turn channelization on eastbound Jackson Boulevard at the Kennedy Expressway. While these two examples will be investigated because of Goal 10, Improve expressway entrances and exits, the milestones and action items there are not as strong as decisive as “remove all channelized right turn lanes by 2015″.
But the intersection of Harrison and Halsted Streets isn’t covered there: it has two right-turn channelizations (on the north corners) right outside of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where thousands of students and others cross daily to reach 8/Halsted buses and the Blue Line station. At this intersection, there were 2 pedestrian and 4 bicycle crashes from 2005-2011. Another disadvantage of the right-turn channelization is that it disallows drivers moving through it from seeing bicyclists approaching in that direction. I suspected that pedestrian crashes would be higher but perhaps the high level of pedestrian traffic in turn makes for safer driving. At this particular intersection, pedestrians and drivers become a nuisance to each other: pedestrians cross against the crosswalk signal and drivers block the crosswalk, waiting for a break in traffic into which they can make a legal right-turn on red.
View Turn lanes and the Chicago Pedestrian Plan in a larger map in which I’ve marked the intersections in this article as well as intersections with right-turn lane channelizations that I believe would be eliminated based on the action item in Connectivity Goal 8, improve non-standard intersections. Notice that the crosswalk across the Jackson Boulevard turn lane into the Kennedy Expressway is 60 feet long. 60 feet to cross a single lane of traffic. Lanes are normally 9-14 feet wide.
The Chicago Pedestrian Plan doesn’t directly address wide-radius intersections, like Roosevelt Road and Halsted Street (the scene of 13 pedestrian and 7 bicycle crashes from 2005-2011), that enables (encourages) drivers to turn right at high speeds, who, when braking for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, would have to decelerate more quickly than someone traveling slower at a smaller-radius right-turn. This example is likely addressed with Goal 10, Improve expressway entrances and exits, of which the intersection Roosevelt Road and Halsted Street is not.
The six-way intersection before improvements, page 70, in the Chicago Pedestrian Plan. The text mentions removing right-turn lane channelizations, but the graphic doesn’t show it.
The six-way intersection after improvements, page 71, in the Chicago Pedestrian Plan. Crosswalks for all movements have been added; at some intersections, like Damen-North-Milwaukee, people cross where there is no crosswalk. This drawing shows crosswalks in exactly those places.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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