Fatality Tracker: Why we do it, and bringing transit up-to-date


2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 22 (10 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 5 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 8 (our last update listed 7)

This is a special Fatality Tracker post. There were no pedestrian, pedalcyclist, or transit fatalities in Chicago recently. This post brings our transit number up-to-date as it was missing one person. I also wanted to explain why we publish Fatality Tracker.

On March 2, 2012, a man was struck by a CTA train at the Grand Red Line subway station. “Fire Department officials said the unidentified man was pinned under the trains at the station at 521 N. State at 5:45 p.m.”, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The article quoted Thank you to Tracy Swartz for helping us ensure that we were aware of all the fatal incidents.

Why Fatality Tracker?

I answered the question myself in April, but it’s useful to give others’ perspectives on the reasoning behind the sorrowful task of making a list of how and when people died. The following blockquotes are reader responses to an anonymous commenter on a post from September 2012 about the cab driver whose car killed Eric Kerestes.

There is a very real downside to transportation in this city in that sometimes people die. And far too often, these deaths could be prevented. We can not and should not sweep incidents like this under the rug. It needs to be made known, so we can see the current reality of transportation and discuss what needs improvement. Ignoring it in favor of pretty pictures and feel-good stories won’t make it go away. -BlueFairlane

That’s why.

GridChicago exists to fill a very clear void in local transportation reporting; in terms of ped-transportation-death tracking as well as a wide assortment of other non-private-motorized transportation matters. -Kevin M

That’s why.

It’s purpose is to bring to light the dangerous situations walkers and bikers face in Chicago on a day-to-day basis. This blog would certainly love to never post another entry to the fatality tracker, but the sad reality is that people are getting killed far too often by crazy, unsafe motorists. -Adam Herstein

Again, that’s why we do it.

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time. View previous Fatality Tracker posts. Overhead photo of the ‘L’ by Clark Maxwell.

Safety of biking hasn’t changed, only our realization on what it takes to improve safety


This photo exhibits many risks we take because of our current and unchanging designs, a potential dooring scene similar to that which led to the death of Neill Townsend on Friday. Photo by Mike Travis. 

I hate car-centric design. I equate it with theft. It takes away space for efficient and free modes of travel and reduces the quality of air and aural serenity, not to mention the danger to those within and without a car. Improving bike infrastructure is secondary in making a bike culture: the most important task is to highlight the irresponsibility, risk, damage, inefficiency, and death that Chicago’s car culture brings to the city.

Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist, asks in the headline of her column today, “Is biking less safe, or does it just seem so?” Data is missing so we cannot answer this question empirically; there’s data for reported crashes, but no information on how many people are cycling and for how many miles. Continue reading Safety of biking hasn’t changed, only our realization on what it takes to improve safety

Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations


A Metra train crosses Canal Street in downtown Chicago. Photo by David Wilson. 

There are 6 articles in this transit-focused edition of Grid Bits, a sporadically occurring category of posts that summarize and link to recent articles in other news media. At the end you’ll find two Grid Chicago-authored commentaries. The first attempting to explain the logistical reasons why CTA’s Blue and Red Lines, the busiest, don’t have 5000-series cars; the second recommending a possible weekend-only pilot project to allow bicycles on South Shore trains.

In the federal transportation bill that was signed into law in early July, a provision was included that requires the Federal Transit Administration to work with state departments of transportation to develop safety regulations for transit providers across the country (including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace). No such regulation currently exists, as it does for intercity bus travel, air travel, and highways, among other modes. Transit agencies, understanding consequences of poor emergency responses, have been self-regulating. It remains to be seen if such regulation will be an improvement over past self-regulation. The Chicago Tribune reports: Continue reading Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations

Not every bike lane is cause for a celebration


The Grand Avenue bike lane is less than 2 years old and came with destroyed pavement. This photo was taken between Clark and LaSalle Streets. 

The addition of a bike lane on any given street is not necessarily a victory for citizen cyclists. In order to to be a worthy expansion of the cycling network, bike lanes should be installed (with appropriate contextual modifications) on streets where such an addition makes the roadway more conducive to comfortable cycling. Grand Avenue isn’t one of these streets. The addition of a bike lane between Orleans Street and Navy Pier in 2010, when no other changes were made to the street environment and design, did not make the street better to cycle on. There were preexisting issues that have remained long after the lane was striped.


A right-turn lane would likely have fit at LaSalle Street, but instead drivers use the bike lane to prepare for their turn.  Continue reading Not every bike lane is cause for a celebration

Take back the bike lane



Take it back. The bike lane that is. Take it back from those who park in it, put their valet signs in it, park valet cars in it, pickup and drop off passengers in it, or generally illegally block the bike lane, forcing cyclists to merge into faster moving traffic to avoid it.

Two weeks ago, feeling sick and tired of the disrespect people have for facilities the City of Chicago and its funding partners (mainly the federal government) have built for the exclusive use of people riding bicycles, I confronted three people about their parking in the bike lane.

Continue reading Take back the bike lane

Reactions to CDOT’s Chicago Forward Action Agenda vary


Transit, safety, and congestion make up parts of the Action Agenda. 

Below are excerpts from others’ reactions to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s two-year plan, the Chicago Forward Action Agenda.

Ryan Richter, writing for Transport Nexus:

I think the very first performance measure, to increase activity, sales revenue, and occupancy rates in neighborhood commercial districts, is a fantastic example of breaking out of the silo. This is a problem that will have to be addressed city-wide through multiple agencies. Recognizing that streets can “add value”  to the neighborhoods means that you begin looking at streets in “complete” terms, as in how can a street serve multiple modes simultaneously?

Continue reading Reactions to CDOT’s Chicago Forward Action Agenda vary