Streets for Cycling concerns: What about Logan and Western?

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LOOK!

You ask, I answer. Or, really, the Chicago Crash Browser (super beta draft version) and automobile collision data from the Illinois Department of Transportation answers. James Baum asked on The Chainlink:

From an engineering point of view I am very interested in how they plan on “fixing” the mess that is the Logan Blvd underpass. I feel that this area definitely fits under the “do the easy stuff first and the hard stuff last”  category on the hard side. The intersection is dangerous enough for motor vehicles and I’d like to see some crash statistics for autos there.

I agree that cycling through here is a problem; it seems that getting through here regardless of mode is a problem, though. The Moving Design group of design activists, of which I took part, created a large visual to raise awareness (“LOOK!”), using stencils, hair spray, and a fire extinguisher.  Here are all the pedestrian and “pedalcyclist” crashes. Notice how few pedestrian crashes there are within 250 feet of the center where Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue meet. That might be because few people actually walk here, avoiding it like the plague our streets are:

  • 10 people injured (out of 28 people involved) in 12 crashes
  • 1 fatality (Tyler James Fabeck, on a bicycle)
  • 2 people in the crashes were walking, 10 people in the crashes were cycling, the remaining 16 were inside cars (and none were injured)
  • No recorded pedestrian or pedalcyclist crashes in 2005, 2006, 2010
  • These are represented in the map screenshot above.

In the same analysis period (2005-2010) as the pedestrian and pedalcyclist crash analysis above, there were 327 crashes involving 835 people (including the 12 crashes and 28 people in the above analysis). Unfortunately, I cannot tell right now which ones happened on the Kennedy Expressway and which ones were on the surface. There’s a column that I can filter on (called “National Highway System”) but it’s not correctly applied to many records. Neither is the route number (if they were I could filter out all I-90 and I-94 records) – inconsistent data is a major issue. I cannot do any analysis or show a map until I can separate these.

Missing data

To make this a better analysis, I need more data.

  1. I first need to figure out the “on highway” versus “off highway” distinction so I can get a more accurate number of the crashes that were not pedestrian or pedalcyclist related.
  2. I need to know the traffic counts in all directions for all road segments. The nearest traffic count was conducted  over half a mile away, at Western Avenue and Palmer Street.
  3. Bike counts. None have been taken in the area in years, if ever.

Any infrastructural change at this intersection will have to involve the Illinois Department of Transportation, an agency well-known to support bicycle safety: just look at how they are delaying the Jackson Boulevard protected bike lane from Ogden Avenue to Halsted Street.

What ideas do you have about “fixing” this problem? See also the discussion I’ve started on EveryBlock about this intersection – it’s not just about safe cycling. Lawyer Brendan Kevenides has also written a post.

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A ghost bike placed under the Metra viaduct for Tyler James Fabeck, who died here while cycling, on April 20, 2008.

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Payton Chung outlined a lot of the problems of the route on Logan Boulevard (the east-west and diagonal segments) and Diversey Parkway.

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A screenshot of the Chicago Crash Browser, a very big work in progress. It shows only the 12 pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes discussed above and in the embedded map.

13 thoughts on “Streets for Cycling concerns: What about Logan and Western?”

  1. Re: The Jackson Blvd. PBL, there must be some way to put pressure on IDOT to move. I’ve just written emails to my state senator and rep, pointing out this incomprehensible delay. Maybe if we can get a few more people to do that, we can get IDOT to back off (now and in the future).

  2. I see that the data is through 2010. I don’t you if you recall but there was a cyclist fatality there in October. I think it was the first Saturday of the month around 10:30am.

  3. I live very close to this intersection and walk through there frequently, usually taking a non-crosswalk route across Western along the south side of Logan, because anyplace I’m walking to (Target, Strack & Van Till) is on that side. I would be surprised if the lack of pedestrian incidents owed to a lack of pedestrian traffic, as I see people walking across that intersection all the time. A lot of them are kids coming from or going to the skatepark beneath the Kennedy.

    The problem with this intersection for bicyclists results from three factors, one on Western and two on Logan. The problem on southbound Western is the weird routing of traffic headed for the Kennedy onramp to the right, making the movement of cars somewhat unpredictable. (Also, they fly through there hoping to beat the light where the ramp comes back to Western.) On Logan eastbound, you first have a sharp curve beneath an overpass were it’s dark and drivers are paying more attention to the lights they’re approaching than to bicyclists. Then, when traffic crosses Western, the street seems to narrow significantly … or at least that’s how it seems. Traffic in the left-turn lane on westbound Logan forces eastbound traffic to the right, so that cars in the right lane (which goes away in a minute anyway) passes very close to the curb.

    As for solutions, this is one of very few circumstance in which I would support a protected bike lane. I say eliminate the right lane of Logan before the overpass and replace it with a protected bike lane that continues across. This would help car traffic as well as you wouldn’t have people fighting in that merge where the road is already confined. My second suggestion would be to eliminate the left turn lane for westbound Logan.

    1. To reduce the amount of traffic “weirdness” and unpredictability, I would suggest reducing how Jones Street interacts with Logan Boulevard. For example, people could only turn right from Jones Street (from the parking area) into Logan Boulevard. And Jones Street between Western Avenue and Logan Boulevard could only be accessed only with making right turns in and out of it (no left turn from NB Logan into Jones). All so confusing to describe! Let’s make maps. 

      1. Here’s something funny: I didn’t even realize Jones Street had a name. I had to look on Google Earth to see where it was.

        Part of your thought is a good step. I don’t know how much problem Jones between Logan and Western really causes. You’d think traffic would have used that as a cut-through between Logan and Western to avoid the light, but I have almost never seen that happen. Maybe I’ve been missing it.

        On the southeast side, though, Jones is almost exclusively an exit for the Target parking lot and for that little sports complex. (I was, in fact, very surprised when LAZ put up the parking machine there, as I thought that was Target property.) I would love to see something restricting left turns there. The traffic issues caused by the whole Target parking lot are horrible at all three exits. Too much traffic in too confined a space.

        1. My idea is really about keeping the effects/impacts of one intersection out of the effects/impacts of the other. Surely someone with more experience designing safe traffic situations (the Dutch are pretty damn good at it) should chime in. heh

  4. I think all of our Kennedy intersections would be significantly improved with better striping. It wouldn’t cost much, and would at least tell people where they are “supposed” to go. To really “solve” the problems for users of Logan, I think will require reducing Logan from four lanes to two from Western to the start of the service drive. The available area could provide for an expanded shoulder, buffered or protected bicycle lane, or any number of other mechanisms. 

    That said, the most trouble I’ve had in that intersection has been when going westbound, and having cars behind me insist on sharing a tight lane while trying to pass me, to get around all of the other traffic, so that they can speed down Logan, only to slam on their brakes at the first light to the west. This is counter-intuitive, though. Westbound traffic shouldn’t be that bad; after all, the road is expanding to additional lanes. This suggests something different going on. (Or maybe it makes sense: the lure of the open road ahead).

    Perhaps this is really more a product of the mess that is the entire Logan/Elston area. By the time people get to the Western intersection, they’ve moved 4 blocks in 20 minutes. They’re sick and tired and ready to hit the gas. Maybe fixing the intersection really does mean fixing the Logan/Elston intersection, as well as the Logan/Jones intersection. At least for westbound traffic.

    I live about a mile from this intersection and would really like to do more grocery shopping at S&VT, but avoid it because of the mess here.

    1. Striping would probably do wonders for a lot of intersections, like at all Kennedy intersections. Having to curve through an intersection, without lane markings or a curb on the side to guide you is extremely awkward and then dangerous because you don’t know if you are curving correctly, trying to adjust your direction based on those to your sides. 

      I like to shop at Aldi, but I always avoid the one that’s 0.7 miles away from me because when I come back home, I have to turn left across 4 lanes of two-way speeding Belmont traffic. 

  5. Am I the only cyclist with enough humility to walk my bike through this underpass? It’s not like it can be widened due to the pillars for the highway and train overpasses. Why are so many of my fellow cyclists so unbending? Also, why would anyone admit that they walk on the no-crosswalk side? Do you have a death-wish or something? Sheesh.

    1. “Am I the only cyclist with enough humility to walk my bike through this underpass?”
      Choosing to walk a bike across the street is not about having or not having humility. There are risks involved with every action we make and we rarely receive all of the information about risks involved in order to make a decision that “saves our life” or “puts us in danger” at this intersection. The amount of humility one has shouldn’t play into how one gets around. The transportation system should be constantly modified to ensure that all are able to travel safely.
      “It’s not like it can be widened due to the pillars for the highway and train overpasses.”
      The travel lanes can be narrowed, reduced by 1 in each direction.

      “Also, why would anyone admit that they walk on the no-crosswalk side? Do you have a death-wish or something?”
      The risk of being injured at this intersection while walking and the risk of being injured while cycling here are not well known. It’s not clear that one is less at risk if they walk across the Western Avenue.

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