Ride into the safety zone: new traffic calming and ped safety treatments


Englewood resident Denise King tries out the new refuge island at 63rd and Claremont.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

Running late as usual, I hop on my bicycle and sprint south from Logan Square, fortunately with a sweet tailwind at my back. I’m heading to the ribbon cutting for new Children’s Safety Zone traffic-calming and pedestrian-safety treatments at Claremont Academy Elementary School, 2300 West 64th Street in West Englewood.

The city has 1,500 of these safety zones, designated areas within one-eighth mile of schools and parks. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is planning to install additional infrastructure at dangerous intersections within these sectors to discourage speeding and make crossing easier. Currently there are about 3,000 pedestrian crashes a year in the city, with about 800 involving kids (full data below). And in this era of rising obesity rates, the goal is also to encourage more children to walk to school and to play at their local park.

Continue reading Ride into the safety zone: new traffic calming and ped safety treatments

70% of pedestrian deaths happened at night nationally. What about in Chicago?


CDOT, NHTSA, and Western Michigan University are involved in the installation of these optical illusion zig-zag markings, part of an experiment to see if they improve night time visibility. You can read more about them on Steven Can Plan. Since installation, I’ve asked CDOT multiple times for the results of the experiment and each time the report hasn’t been finished. 

A reader forwarded me an announcement email about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts 2010 Data (.pdf) in which one of the “facts at a glance” included this one: “Close to 70 percent [of fatal pedestrian crashes] took place at night”. He asked, “What percent of ped fatalities in Chicago happen at night? 70% seems disproportionately high.”

I looked it up. “Night” in this analysis means situations where the Illinois Department of Transportation crash data is coded as “Darkness” or “Darkness, lighted road”. I’ve divided the data in a table below to show the difference between those two designations. Continue reading 70% of pedestrian deaths happened at night nationally. What about in Chicago?

Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information


A press conference was held last Thursday at the southeast corner of Dearborn Street and Madison Street to announce the city’s first pedestrian plan. Present were commissioners of transportation and public health, Gabe Klein, and Bechara Choucair, respectively, Metropolitan Planning Council vice president Peter Skosey, and various CDOT staff.

After 20 minutes of speeches from Klein, Choucair, Skosey, and Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke, CDOT pedestrian program coordinator Suzanne Carlson and Klein applied a diamond shaped decal to a sidewalk corner across Madison Street. The bright yellow “sticker on the street” says, “Be Alert. Be Safe. We’re all pedestrians.” It’s part of the Pedestrian Safety Campaign launched last year that also included 32 mannequins scattered around Wacker Drive and then to other sites, as well as orange flags at certain crosswalks, and a somewhat grotesque ad campaign on trash bins and buses.

The Pedestrian Plan has its merits and faults. The document is nicely designed, easy to read, informative (it does a great job introducing people to “pedestrian safety tools” that are mentioned later in the plan), but still speaks to the car-centric profession of traffic (transportation) engineering exhibited in Chicago. Continue reading Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information

Are Chicago’s pedestrian safety campaign posters too depressing?

This could be your grandson

Editor’s note: Michelle Stenzel is a co-leader of the North Side planning district in the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan and co-chair of Bike Walk Lincoln Park, a committee to make walking and cycling safe in that neighborhood. All photos feature ads in the campaign and were taken by Stenzel. -Steven

The posters began popping up in the Loop last year in October, around the same time the mannequins appeared on Wacker Drive. Most of them have pictures of pedestrians who were seriously injured or killed in a crash. Not real victims, of course, actors presumably, but the photographs are graphic. The people are lying unconscious in hospital beds, with neck braces, head bandages, facial lacerations, and IV tubes. One poster shows a crash occurring from a viewpoint within the car, with the driver’s head hitting the steering wheel and the victim’s body bouncing off the shattered windshield. Another shows a dead man, still sprawled on the street where he was killed. Continue reading Are Chicago’s pedestrian safety campaign posters too depressing?

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?

My nominations for some of Chicago’s best green transportation features


View from 35th/Bronzeville/IIT station by Brandon Bartoszek

Newcity magazine recently invited me to highlight some of my favorite aspects of the local sustainable transportation scene for their Best of Chicago issue. Here’s what I selected:

Best CTA Station


This city has a number of memorable el stops, like the O’Hare Line’s Damen station, with its fascinating view of Wicker Park’s buzzing North/Damen/Milwaukee “crotch,” and the sparkling-clean, Apple-sponsored North/Clybourn stop, complete with a sleek new seating plaza. But I love the Green Line’s 35th/Bronzeville/IIT station for two reasons. Just north, trains zoom through a super-cool, 530-foot stainless steel tube above the Rem Koolhaas-designed McCormick Tribune Campus Center. And while the Sox/35th Red Line stop is a madhouse after baseball games, CTA blackbelts know you can skip the crowds by strolling two blocks east to the nearly empty Green Line station.

State Street and 35th Street

Continue reading My nominations for some of Chicago’s best green transportation features