Dispatches from Utah: Why wide streets are unpleasant


One of Salt Lake City’s “saner” downtown streets with one travel lane each direction and left-turn lanes where needed. There’s one light rail lane in each direction. A bicycle priority lane is marked in the two travel lanes. 

Possible extended title: They have so many persistent disadvantages even after several (but weak) mitigation attempts

Preface: Utah law says that people driving automobiles must yield for pedestrians in or approaching crosswalk (stop if in a school zone and the school zone light is flashing). Drivers and bicyclists in Illinois must stop to let people cross the street, in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

If you read my last “Dispatches from Utah” post you remember that I took a ride on the inaugural Frontrunner South train from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah. Then my laptop died and things got hairy. I’ve been back in Chicago for over a week now. Riding the trains, both light rail and the commuter rail, was one of the transportation highlights of my trip. The second was walking a couple of miles from one TRAX light rail station to my family’s home. This walking experienced was then followed by a driving trip to meet my cousin at a “local” Thai restaurant. (When your city is as spread out like Salt Lake City, and less dense than Chicago, your definition of “local” is expanded.)

I drove for 20 minutes to meet him. I drove down Salt Lake City’s State Street for a majority of the way. It’s 102 feet wide, with 3 lanes in each direction, a center turn lane, parallel parking on both sides, and sidewalks. There are no bikeways. Many of the city’s and region’s streets are like this. I had an immediate problem: I was driving southbound but the restaurant was on the northbound side of the street. Under no circumstances did I feel safe slowing down and turning left across 3+1 northbound lanes into the restaurant’s parking lot – I didn’t even know if this was legal. I couldn’t even see the addresses of the buildings on the opposite side of the street. After passing the approximate address, I turned left at a signalized intersection and then did a full roundabout drive through a neighborhood for 3-5 minutes before coming back to State Street, now driving on the same side of the street as the restaurant.  Continue reading Dispatches from Utah: Why wide streets are unpleasant

Fatality Tracker: Semi-trailer truck driver kills bicyclist in Fuller Park, flees


American roadway design requires people riding bicycles and people driving trucks to “share the road”. Photo of a sign in California that says “bikes in lane” by Richard Masoner. Notice that the depicted bike is “in front” of the car.

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 7 (6 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 4 (1, this one, is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 6

According to the Chicago Tribune, a robotic semi-trailer truck struck and killed Evelyn Dean yesterday, while she was bicycling, as it was entering a Norfolk Southern (NS) railroad yard in the block of 300 W 47th Street in Fuller Park.

The semi was entering the Norfolk Southern facility in the 300 block of West 47th Street around 1:40 p.m. Monday when it struck the female bicyclist and immediately fled the scene, Chicago police said, citing early reports.

The unidentified woman, believed to be in her 40s, was dead the scene, authorities said.

The Tribune story (authored by “staff”) used robot car language, which perpetuates a dangerous pattern in crash reporting by removing the real actors of the story, by writing “[it] immediately fled the scene”. A person caused the truck to flee the scene.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, police are seeking the driver and calling this a hit-and-run crash. The Google Street View for this location is below. The entrance to the intermodal yard is between multiple viaducts, which likely affects visibility of people cycling on this street. WGN TV has a news segment.

Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein tweeted yesterday a link to CBS Chicago’s article on the story, adding, “Very sad, why we need protected lanes”. The City hasn’t proposed protected bike lanes on this stretch of road.

View 300 W 47th block in larger map

* 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.

Updated 10:01 to add unrelated photo and change what constitutes robot car language in the quoted passage. Updated 19:50 to add the woman’s name and a link to a WGN TV news story. 

Fatality tracker: Young woman killed by person driving on suspended license


Photo of shops on Cottage Grove Avenue near 87th Street by Thornton29. 

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 7 (6 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 3
Transit: 5

Caprice Cunningham, a 23-year-old mother of three children, was killed while riding her bike near the intersection of 87th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood. Cottage Grove has two lanes in each direction, while 87th Street has a single lane in each direction. The collision happened on Thursday, July 12, 2012. “Cunningham was riding her bike east on 87th Street when she hit the front driver’s side door of a 1964 Ford truck that was northbound on Cottage Grove Avenue, [Chicago Police News Affairs Officer John] Mirabelli said.”

The family is looking for more information about how the crash occurred. From the Chicago Tribune:

While Mirabelli said that a witness provided details to police, the family said they want more witnesses to come forward.

She said she believes the busy intersection has surveillance cameras and they want police to share details of the accident with them.

“We want somebody to come foreword, we want witnesses to come forward, 87th and Cottage, that”s a busy street,” said Michelle Cunningham [relation wasn’t given].

The intersection sees about 40,000 automobiles pass through each day, according to counts conducted by the City in 2006. The intersection is outside any future, potential speed camera zone. Crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation shows 19 pedestrian-automobile collisions and 1 bicycle-automobile collision at this intersection from 2005-2010 (all “possible injury” or greater, but no fatalities). Including all crash types, there were 307 in the same time period, with no fatalities.

The Chicago Tribune also reported the driver’s history on the road (bottom line, this person, who the police nor the newspaper haven’t identified, wasn’t allowed to be driving):

According to Illinois Secretary of State’s records, the driver [a 29-year-old woman] has a troubled driving history dating back to 2001 when she was ticketed for backing up in an area where this was not allowed.

In 2009 and again in 2010 she was ticketed for speeding. Her license was suspended in 2010 after being convicted for not having injurance and suspended again last year after she failed to get high-risk insurance as required, according to records.

The driver was cited for the following infractions:

  • Driving while license suspended or revoked
  • operating a vehicle without insurance
  • Violating restrictions on her driver’s license [the Chicago Tribune article didn’t specify what these restrictions were]
  • Driving an unsafe vehicle [the Chicago Tribune article didn’t specify what was unsafe about the vehicle]

This Google Street View image is looking east along 87th Street at the intersection with Cottage Grove Avenue, where the bicyclist collided with a northbound ice cream truck. View larger.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported on this story. Visit Cunningham’s page on Every Bicyclist Counts.

* 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.

Confusing intersection of Milwaukee-Wood-Wolcott to be redesigned and reconstructed in Spring 2013 (was September)


The photographer, Mike Travis, captioned this photo with “They managed to not get run over at Milwaukee & Wood”. See “Crash stats” below for details on the activity here.

Update September 7, 2012: From the Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA, we get news that this project has been pushed back to spring 2013. It seems IDOT is responsible for this delay. 

The skewed intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Wood Street, and Wolcott Avenue in Wicker Park will be redesigned and reconstructed this year as part of a project to upgrade the signals. The original project only called for upgrading the traffic signals, which are decades old and very hard to see. Their timing is also awkward, providing no “all red” phase between the red phase of one direction and the following green phase of the cross direction. Construction should begin in September, according to the 1st Ward office.

Confusion is compounded with the addition of a rare slip lane on Wood Street at Milwaukee Avenue, which is created by a small island of concrete that only holds a light signal pole for southbound traffic. More often, islands are used to help protect pedestrians from traffic.


View the intersection in a larger map on Bing Maps.

Continue reading Confusing intersection of Milwaukee-Wood-Wolcott to be redesigned and reconstructed in Spring 2013 (was September)

Fatality tracker update: four transit deaths, and 80% of pedestrian deaths this year are hit-and-run crashes


The driver involved in the death of Martha Gonzales at 17th Place and Halsted Street has never been found. Quickly following the incident, Alderman Solis and the Chicago Department of Transportation implemented a few design interventions, including refreshed crosswalk markings, and a leading pedestrian interval that gets pedestrians crossing the street before drivers can start making turns. 

This is the second in a five part series on crash data analysis sponsored by Lawyer Jim Freeman.

2012 fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 6 (5 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 4

I made the Fatality Tracker because I want (need) to demonstrate that our roads are needlessly deadly. I’m not writing this to talk about how they may be dangerous. I don’t feel I can qualify or define that in a way that we’d all accept. So I’ll deal purely with specifics: how many people perished because our culture has an acceptable frequency of traffic deaths.

We report only deaths because of walking, cycling, or using transit. Why? Frankly, because tracking all traffic-related deaths would be too difficult to monitor accurately. I rely on newspaper reports, which don’t list all traffic deaths. If they were reported, the Fatality Tracker would be updated every 1-3 days.  Continue reading Fatality tracker update: four transit deaths, and 80% of pedestrian deaths this year are hit-and-run crashes

Fatality Tracker: Woman dies after being hit by Rock Island Metra train


2012 fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 3
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 0

Updated March 16, 2012: I’ve recategorized this as a pedestrian death, and not a transit death. Also changed the deceased’s home location and corrected the Street View.

Gardenia Boyer, 23, from the Brainerd neighborhood, was struck and killed by an empty Metra train at 95th Street and Vincennes Avenue on the Rock Island branch going south towards Blue Island, Illinois. It happened on Wednesday morning, around 7 AM. She was walking east on 95th Street. There are two tracks here. Walking on 95th Street never seems like a good idea: the first fatality tracker post was about two people killed while crossing 95th Street. She had two daughters.  Continue reading Fatality Tracker: Woman dies after being hit by Rock Island Metra train