Eyes on the street: Railroad tracks in intersection being removed


Crossing railroad tracks while bicycling is more than a bumpy annoyance. It can also cause a crash. The abandoned railroad track is finally being removed this month from the intersection of Division Street and Halsted Street. This is likely part of the larger project that removed the Kingsbury Street railroad track from Division Street to North Avenue this summer.


Also new at this intersection is a new street name sign. It uses a different typeface, with larger text, but forgoes the grid numbering system (it would have “800 W” written on the sign).


What the intersection looked like earlier this year in March.

Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?


An overhead view of the new design. View all images and site plans

Ed. note: In the spring of 2011, I suggested friends and readers of my blog Steven Can Plan write letters to the Chicago Department of Transportation about the distinct lack of bicycle infrastructure in the plan to redesign the intersection and streets at Damen Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, and Elston Avenue. It’s more than an intersection overhaul.  I then reported that it appears the letters you and I sent were positively received and bicycle infrastructure was added to the plan. The project, now set forth, will have three separated intersections (which should reduce the complexity of traffic signal cycles and automobile turning movements) all connected by roads with four travel lanes. Elston and Damen Avenues will have protected and conventional bike lanes, respectively. A Grid Chicago reader emailed us three weeks ago to ask us to reconsider our support for that design.

Tony Horvath lives in Lakeview and is a business analyst for Merrill Corporation. He doesn’t own a car but remembers the intersection from when he used to own a car and drove through it often. He commutes by ‘L’ but has also biked through the intersection and in the area. -Steven Continue reading Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

Fatality Tracker: Driver turns truck right in front of cyclist, killing him

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 22 (10 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 6 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 8 (our last update listed 7)
Skateboard: 1 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)

A person riding a bike on westbound Augusta Boulevard was killed this morning when a driver of a truck traveling in the same direction turned right onto northbound Ashland Avenue. The crash happened at “about 10 AM”. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The Cook County medical examiner’s office said the man was in his 50s and was pronounced dead at 10:35 a.m.

The driver of the truck, Danny Darling, 47, of Michigan City, Ind., remained at the scene and was ticketed for making an improper right turn, Mirabelli said.

There is a discussion about this on EveryBlock, with details from apparent witnesses. In 2011, 7 bicyclists died in traffic. An improper right turn is another name for “right hook”, which is regulated by Municipal Code of Chicago 9-16-020. In this case it carries a fine of $500.

View Ashland & Augusta in a larger map. This is one of those intersections where the bike lane ends very prematurely before the intersection, in this case ~190 feet before the westbound Augusta stop bar.

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time. View previous Fatality Tracker posts.

Observations from Europe: Near side traffic signals reduce crosswalk blocking


The driver of a Chevy Equinox blocks the crosswalk at North Avenue and Oakley Boulevard in Wicker Park. If the only traffic signal was on the near side of the intersection, she wouldn’t drive into the intersection as she wouldn’t be able to see when the signal turned green. But with far side signals, she can still see the light change. 

It took me a while to see what was happening. I think I first noticed that people driving their automobiles were never blocking crosswalks while waiting at a red light. And people on bikes were doing a good job at respecting the crosswalk boundaries, too. I next realized I was doing it, too: waiting behind the crosswalk. I’d do this at intersections with hundreds of pedestrians and intersections with none. I then became aware of where the bike signal was: at the edge of the intersection, before you entered the intersection. And there wasn’t one on the other side.

Welcome to traffic in Germany, where traffic signals are mostly installed on the near side of intersections and rarely on the far side. The effect is simple but pleasant and profound: people stop at the stop bar, before the crosswalk. If you didn’t stop there, you wouldn’t see the signal and you wouldn’t know when it turns green. The near side signal also means fewer signal heads to install. Where in Chicago, a lot intersections have 3-5 signal heads, many German intersections I cruised through had 2. The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and California Avenue has 3 signal heads for each direction, although there is only one lane in each direction.


This photo shows the effect of near side signal heads. It’s labeled to show where the signals are, and to whom they are directed. The Google Street View below gives you another view of this intersection in Munich, Germany. 

View Nymphenburger Straße and Dachauer Straße in a larger map. This Google Street View is from the point of view of the driver of the silver BMW station wagon in the above photo.

This intersection, of Nymphenburger Straße (“stross-uh”) and Dachauer Straße, has cycle tracks with bike lane crossings between the intersection and the crosswalk. Near side signals keep automobiles out of both crossings, then. Eastbound Nymphenburger Straße has three lanes, one of which is for left turns. It has 4 signal heads, all on the near side. Two signal heads are for left turns: one is low, for drivers waiting at the stop bar, and one is high for approaching drivers. Two signal heads are for through movements and right turns: again, one is low, and one is high.

This wasn’t a tool mentioned in the pedestrian plan, and I’ve not heard of it being a feature anywhere in the United States, but I’d love to experiment with removing far side signals and using only near side lights at intersections. Pedestrians would have a much easier time crossing the street.

N.B. Attorney Brendan Kevenides, a sponsor of Grid Chicago, has requested that we discuss in the future features of transportation we experienced in Europe that we disliked. I’ll get right on that as soon as I can figure out what they were. I’m kidding, I have a few in mind.

Fatality Tracker: Hit-and-run of pedestrian on Damen overpass, but charges filed

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 19 (9 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 4 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 6

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.  Continue reading Fatality Tracker: Hit-and-run of pedestrian on Damen overpass, but charges filed

Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections


Bonus: The Chicago Transit Authority is building an auxiliary entrance at the Roosevelt Green and Orange Lines station, on the south side of Roosevelt, near the Starbucks, Jewel, and dry cleaners. This was previously exit-only. The new entrance will speed up trips for those who transfer from the eastbound #12 Roosevelt bus to this train station. Photo by the CTA. 

There are six stories (five transit, and one bicycling) mentioned in this September 4th edition of Grid Bits. The Chicago Transit Authority has been very busy in the past few months.



Chicago Sun-Times will sponsor three years of the “first day of school free rides” program that gives all Chicago Public Schools students a free ride today and in 2013, and 2014.

Sun-Times Media is contributing more than $150,000 to the program, designed to promote first-day attendance for CPS elementary and high school students.

Continue reading Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections