Fatality Tracker: Two more pedestrian deaths make November a terribly active month

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 27 (12 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 6 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 8
Skateboard: 1 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)

Two pedestrian deaths since Friday’s Fatality Tracker update make for 5 this month.

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, Christopher Cooper, 44, of Bronzeville, “stepped into northbound traffic on the 7900 block of South Stony Island Avenue at about 11:15 p.m. Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said.” “Police have issued the driver of the Cirrus, 23-year-old Frederick Jackson, a citation for failing to exercise due care.” (Chicago Tribune)

On Monday, November 19, 2012, 8:27 AM at 1501 W Cermak Road. A messaged emailed to me from the Chicago Police Department News Affairs office said:

A private dump truck ran over a 48-year-old male pedestrian as he was crossing in a crosswalk at Laflin & Cermak Rd. The victim was later pronounced DOA at Stroger Hospital.

The 48-year-old driver of the truck, Eduardo Cantu, of the 1800 block of Gunderson Ave, Berwyn, IL, was cited with Running a Stop Sign, Striking a Pedestrian in the Roadway, and Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk. At this time, Mr. Cantu is scheduled to appear in Traffic Court December 27, 2012.

This location is the site of the new Cermak and Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape project. This intersection received newly marked, international style crosswalks and a pedestrian refuge island. It’s directly in front of Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen.

Inexpensive gas this week, and the Thanksgiving holiday, means more driving, so November might be as deadly as August was this year.

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time. View previous Fatality Tracker posts. The Illinois Safety Data Mart reports 28 pedestrian crashes (likely excluding the two in this update) but their information is incomplete until it’s fully processed.

Grid Shots: Under the ‘L’


Marisa Novara at the Metropolitan Planning Council suggested today’s Grid Shots theme after seeing this beautiful garden underneath the Pink Line elevated structure at 19th Street just west of Paulina Street in Pilsen.


Every year at a specific date and time, the sunset aligns with the Chicago street grid, allowing for some dramatic shots of the sun. Here’s the sun as it reaches the horizon seen under the ‘L’ tracks on “Chicagohenge”, September 24, 2012. Photo by Dubi Kaufmann.


A car is driven in this dramatic nighttime shot of the Lake Street ‘L’. Photo by Gabriel Michael.


Wells Street is carried under the ‘L’ starting just south of Hubbard Street and continuing to Van Buren Street. Taking a photo northward at Wacker Drive is popular. Here’s the same view by another photographer. Photo by Drew Baker.


The CTA Red Line descends from the elevated structure just south of Armitage Avenue, where it shared a viaduct with the Brown and Purple Lines. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Add your photos to our Flickr group for consideration for future Grid Shots posts. View past Grid Shots post. See what themes are coming soon.

Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives


The People Spot at Little Black Pearl art center in Bronzeville. Photo courtesy of CDOT.

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

Local pundits like ex-Sun-Times columnist Mark Konkol and the Tribune’s John McCarron and John Kass have trashed the city’s new protected bike lanes as a waste of space on the streets. But Chicagoans tend to overlook the massive amount of room on the public way given over to moving and parking private automobiles.

A new Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) initiative called Make Way for People is dreaming up more imaginative uses of the city’s asphalt and concrete, creating new public spaces that are energizing business strips. In partnership with local community leaders, the program is taking parking spots, roadways, alleys and under-used plazas and transforming them into People Spots, People Streets, People Alleys and People Plazas, respectively, lively neighborhood hangouts.

“It’s not a top-down program where we come in and say, ‘We think you need a People Spot or a People Street,’” says Janet Attarian, head of the department’s Streetscape and Sustainable Design section. “Instead we say, ‘We want to help you build community and culture and place and, look, we just created a whole set of tools that wasn’t available before.’”

Continue reading Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives

CDOT cuts ribbon on greenest street in America


Looking east along Cermak Road at the Benito Juarez Community Academy along the “greenest street in America”. 

Okay, we first need to discuss the hyperbole in the headline. “Greenest street in America”. Really? At a press conference on Tuesday, October 9, in front of the Benito Juarez Community Academy, politicians and city staff described the features and collective effort to get to this point. I talked to David Leopold, project manager for the Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to understand how Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue in the Pilsen neighborhood could be considered the greenest street in America.


Watch the press conference on Vimeo.

My first question, “What’s the second greenest street in America?” He replied, “We don’t admit that there is one”.

All kidding aside, it really is, he explained. CDOT has been experimenting with sustainable landscaping, construction, and pavement techniques for more than half a decade. Its green alley program is probably the most well-known. It also operates the sustainable backyards program. Another project is the permable pavement parking lot at Desplaines and Polk Streets at the new location for Maxwell Street Market. Next to the parking lot is a bioswale (landscaping that naturally absorbs water, keeping it from our sewers that combine waste water and runoff) with underground monitoring tools.

In 2009, to start off the project, CDOT installed monitoring tools along Cermak Road, before visible construction began. Then came a bioswale at the high school (1450 W Cermak Road), smog-fighting bike and parking lanes on Blue Island Avenue, and multiple bioswales along both streets to divert runoff from the sewers. To cap it off, information kiosks with street lighting powered by wind turbines and solar panels were added as well as new sidewalks and crosswalks.

Back to it being the greenest street in America, Leopold said that they couldn’t find any other street that used as many sustainable techniques in a single project. The leaders in sustainable street design are in the Pacific Northwest (Portland and Seattle, specifically), but those were more focused on plantings and water diversion while Cermak/Blue Island has transportation elements as well.


After the ribbon cutting. View all photos from before, during, and after construction.

Updated October 14 to add links and refine narrative. 

Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues


Active Trans staffer Lee Crandell talks to Enrique Rico. The three poster boards are displayed at the bottom. 

Riders for Better Transit is reaching out to bus riders across the city to inform them about plans to build better bus service on Western Avenue or Ashland Avenue (or both?). They visited six bus stops last week with informational posters. Lee Crandell, campaigns director for Active Transportation Alliance, was staffing the exhibit at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue in Pilsen when I visited last Wednesday. One goal of the outreach, Crandell said, was to “make a public meeting in the street for those who couldn’t attend” the static meetings.

When I arrived, Enrique Rico was waiting for the northbound Ashland 9 bus. I noticed the next bus was coming so I tried to ask Rico a quick question before leaving, starting with if he had heard of BRT (bus rapid transit) before now. He said he hadn’t, but Crandell informed me that Rico had told him earlier he was familiar with the enhanced bus services in Mexico City. The Metropolitan Planning Council, a major sponsor of this traveling exhibit, had sent a few of its staff members to Mexico City to explore the 4 line Metrobús system that opened in 2005. Continue reading Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues

Pilsen pedaling: Irv’s Bike Shop turns forty


Art Abel, Rick Ortiz, Veronica Ortiz, Angel Carabes.

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

One thing I love about bicycle stores is they often double as community centers. Irv’s Bike Shop, a mom-and-pop store in Pilsen that marks its fortieth anniversary this month, is a great example. “We have a family vibe because it’s family and close friends that work here, and our customers see that,” says staffer Veronica Ortiz, whose brother-in-law Enrique “Henry” Ortiz owns the shop and husband Ricardo “Rick” Ortiz manages it. “And our shop is considered loyal to the neighborhood because we’ve been part of the community for so long.”

Original owner Irv Rout, eighty-three, grew up in Pilsen a few blocks from the store at 17th and Racine. After serving in two wars he opened a general merchandise shop with his wife Zora “Violet” Rout in the next storefront west of the present-day bike shop. In 1972 he opened the current location and began stocking bike parts. “A fellow said ‘Why don’t you sell tires and tubes,’” Irv tells me over the telephone from his home in suburban Hillside. “‘The kids will find you.’”

During the first few years he owned the bike shop, the neighborhood transitioned from mostly Czech, German and Eastern European to mostly Mexican. The Ortiz’s uncle Rafael “Ralph” Cartagena, now living in Florida, was Irv’s first employee. Victoria, Henry and Ricardo, as well as non-related staffers Arturo “Art” Abel and Augustin Toledo, grew up near the shop and liked to spend time there after school and on weekends. Back then the store also sold toys and housed a couple of arcade games. “It was a good place for the kids to hang out,” says Irv. “The mothers sent their kids there because they knew they wouldn’t get into any trouble.”

Continue reading Pilsen pedaling: Irv’s Bike Shop turns forty