Book club update #1: More crashes close to home


This is the first “book club” update. Read the introduction

I only read up to page 102 in Tom Vanderbilt’s “Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)” before I had to return it to the Chicago Public Library. And since it was overdue I didn’t have the chance to renew it. I liked the book so much and I was underlining and making notes in a public book so I decided to buy it.

My used book arrived from Amazon and I wanted to tell you about one of the (hundreds of) interesting facts and findings: Continue reading Book club update #1: More crashes close to home

Is anybody actually using Chicago’s new pedestrian safety flags?


Flags at Francisco and Devon – all photos courtesy of CDOT, taken the day the flags were installed

[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

This fall the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) used a shock-and-awe strategy to raise awareness of pedestrian safety issues. As part of its $495,000 “It’s Up To You” safety campaign, funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CDOT placed scary ads on trash receptacles and buses, illustrating the devastating effects of reckless driving. The department also installed 32 dead-white mannequins along Wacker Drive representing Chicagoans killed by cars last year.

CDOT’s latest ped safety initiative is also in-your-face, but in a kinder, gentler way. On December 8 the department zip-tied canisters of blaze-orange safety flags to poles at ten uncontrolled (no stoplight or stop sign) intersections near senior centers, schools and hospitals all over town. Since state law requires cars to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, you’re supposed to grab a flag, wave it to signal drivers to stop, cross the street and leave the pennant in the container on the other side.

On the Monday three days after the flags were installed, I visited locations around the city to find out whether people were actually using the flags, or just stealing them.

Continue reading Is anybody actually using Chicago’s new pedestrian safety flags?

Safer roadway designs: How Danes make right turns

I went to Copenhagen, Denmark, in January 2011, and I was there for about 48 hours. I met Mikael of Copenhagenize, who lent me his Velorbis bike. I biked as much as possible, at all hours of the day, and I encountered a lot of the cycling infrastructure that makes it easy to bike and encourages the hundreds of thousands of trips by bike a day – even in winter!

This photo essay shows one of the ways you can design an intersection to facilitate safe right turns and through-maneuevers, for both people driving and cycling, as seen in Copenhagen. I’m posting this to show an alternative to the centered bike lane design common in Chicago that leads to many unsafe merge maneuvers that I mentioned yesterday in A tale of five bridges (first photo).


The driver of the white taxi on the left yielded to bicyclists going straight before making a right turn from the left lane to the right lane and enter the Kennedy Expressway ramp. Not everyone yields.  Continue reading Safer roadway designs: How Danes make right turns

How often is alcohol a part of crashes in Chicago?


This photo of a car elevated in a brick wall North Avenue and Kedzie Avenue by Katherine Hodges is not related to the story below. 

comment was left on EveryBlock, in response to a crash at Lincoln and Fullerton, “What a shock, alcohol was involved” (here’s a newspaper’s report). I presume that many other people think alcohol is typically a cause or factor in automobile crashes. I looked at the data to know if it’s true.


From 2007 to 2010, there were 394,651 reported crashes. Of those, responding police officers marked on the crash reports (SR-1050) that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs was a primary or second cause in only 3,647 crashes, or 0.924%. However, this does not tell the full story. That “cause code” (#8) is to be used when an arrest is made. When an arrest is not made, officers are to use “had been drinking” (#19), from which the data shows 1,030 crashes. Adding them together, you have 4,677 crashes. In other words, alcohol is a contributing primary or secondary cause in 1.185% of crashes. Continue reading How often is alcohol a part of crashes in Chicago?

Grid Bits: Taxi reforms, bike sharing update, crash analyses


Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein gives a thumbs up to stricter taxicab regulations. This photo was taken on a bike ride with John Greenfield for this article. Okay, he actually wasn’t giving a thumbs up to that, but I can only imagine that he would. 

There are six stories in this edition of Grid Bits.


(1) Taxis

In October, we linked you to the Chicago Tribune’s coverage on unsafe taxi drivers and how it’s sometimes hard to revoke or suspend their driver’s or chauffeur’s licenses. Monday, Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Beale announced proposed changes to the taxi ordinance to deal with this and other issues: Continue reading Grid Bits: Taxi reforms, bike sharing update, crash analyses

Chicago pedestrian study roundup

John wrote about the City of Chicago’s pedestrian plan and public meetings in June. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune wrote about a study released by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis.

Skip over the “Key Findings” section on pages 7 and 8 (PDF). You’ll find useless factoids that, when you read them twice, tell nothing. For example, “The Chicago Transit Authority rail stations with high numbers of nearby pedestrian crashes were along the Green Line, Red Line – Dan Ryan branch, and Blue Line – O’Hare branch.” That statement is as precise and informative as telling a pizza delivery driver you live within two miles of Western and Diversey Avenues.

In the news

  • Chicago Tribune – Posted online yesterday with today’s date (to coincide with a Monday press release from CDOT), the Tribune “exclusively” analyzed some of the findings. The actual report is better than this article (some paragraphs are lifted straight from the report), but the article adds some juicy bits about taxis and their drivers.
  • The Architect’s Newspaper – Its metaphorical headline could be slightly misleading – “City of broadening sidewalks” – as sidewalks in Chicago have generally been narrowed instead of widened. But I get the relationship to the Sandburg poem and the Pedestrian Plan vision.
  • Let’s Go Ride A Bike – After reading the Tribune article, Dottie said, “Improving the safety of pedestrians by working to change the culture of speeding and recklessness will naturally improve the safety of bicyclists.”

Resources and related items

  • Pedestrian Crash Analysis technical report – You won’t find the raw data here, but it is more detailed than what you read in the summary report.
  • 3D pavement markings on Clark Street – CDOT in partnership with Western Michigan University and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration applied markings to the roadways in an experiment to see if their color and 3D effect would make that intersection safer for pedestrians to cross.
Read more policy insights from Steven Vance.