The driver of a vegetable oil tanker ran over and killed Catherine Cong Ye, 24, as she crossed a Kennedy Expressway off-ramp along Randolph Street while walking toward the Loop yesterday morning at around 8:30 a.m, reports ABC7. The driver was turning right onto westbound Randolph Street when the ladder on the right side of the tanker struck Cong Ye and she was then run over. She died on the scene about 15 minutes later. The driver was cited for “failure to exercise for due care for a pedestrian in a roadway,” but it appears that no criminal charges were filed.
Tazeen Hamidi, who crosses the intersection frequently, told ABC7 that she and her friends will drive to the West Loop to avoid walking across the intersection. “Every time we walk we think of how dangerous this is when the cars are either exiting or entering the highway,” she said. “They’re so fast, so it’s really hard to cross the street.”
Off-ramps are dangerous because drivers are still adapting from the high-speed highway environment to local streets. According to Tom Vanderbilt in his book Traffic, “studies have shown that drivers who drove for at least a few minutes at 70 miles per hour drove up to 15 miles per hour faster when they hit a 30-miles-per-hour zone than drivers who had not been previously traveling at the higher speed.”
But the Chicago Police Department does not seem interested in exploring the factors that contributed to this preventable death, telling ABC7 simply that “this was incredibly bad timing and… a freak accident.” For pedestrians in Chicago, is there ever a good timing to be walking? Most pedestrian traffic injuries in Chicago’s central business district occur when the pedestrian is within a crosswalk [PDF].
The ABC7 segment demonstrates one of the major issues with walking around the Kennedy Expressway entrances downtown. People drive right over the crosswalk and ignore stop signs and stop bars:
Details of this crash are uncertain, but since oncoming traffic comes from the left, and Cong Ye was walking from the right, it’s quite possible the driver never looked in her direction. Additionally, at this location, the placement of the stop bar doesn’t help drivers see what’s around them. After stopping at the stop bar, a driver cannot see clearly before entering the street, but must move forward, stop again, and look for an opening in traffic. It’s more efficient, and now expected, for drivers to stop where they can best see cross traffic, which happens to be after the crosswalk. Adjusting the placement of the crosswalk and the way the off-ramp intersects Randolph Street could address this problem.
The Chicago Department of Transportation’s new Complete Streets Design Guidelines discuss the problems posed by expressway on- and off-ramps. The guidelines say that drivers must be slowed down “from highway to street speeds before they arrive to the intersection.”
Fatality Tracker: 2013 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 7 (6 were from hit-and-run crashes, 2 in truck crashes)