Man Killed Sunday Was 4th Person Fatally Struck on North Avenue This Year


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The 2700 Block of West North Avenue.

A man killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sunday is the latest in a series of people fatally struck on speeding-plagued North Avenue, in 2014.

Around 8:25 p.m. Sunday, a 55-year-old man was crossing northbound on the 2700 block of North Avenue near Cermak Produce, according to Officer Janel Sedovic from Police News Affairs. The man’s identity has not yet been released, pending notification of his next of kin, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Sean Riley, 33, of the 1400 block of North Bell, was driving eastbound when he struck the victim. He stayed on the scene following the crash. The victim was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Riley was found to have a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit of .08 percent, according to Sedovic. He has been charged with felony aggravated DUI resulting in an a death, operating a vehicle without insurance, and fail to exercise due care to avoid a collision with a pedestrian in the roadway. A bond hearing is scheduled for today.

The victim was the fourth person fatally struck by a driver on North this year. On April 21, Kim Kyeyul, 72, rear-ended a semi truck with his car on North just east of the Kennedy Expressway. After he exited his car to talk to the other driver, a second trucker killed him.

On April 24, Jennie Davis was crossing in the 5500 block of North Avenue in Austin when a speeding motorist fatally struck her – a similar scenario to this latest crash. And On Sunday, June 1, an out-of-control SUV driver fatally struck Charles Jones, 73, who was reportedly standing in the street just west of the Kennedy.

Most of these cases involved a too-fast driver and/or a difficult pedestrian crossing. In general, North is a five lane street with two travel lanes in each direction, a turn lane, and parking lanes. By Cermak Produce, the street is 76 feet wide, and that excess width encourages speeding and creates a long crossing distance for pedestrians.

car stuck in a building, North & Kedzie, Chicago
A driver crashed into this building at 3200 W. North on 7/10/11. The motorist suffered broken legs. Photo: Katherine Hodges

North, designated as Illinois Route 64, is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, and so far the state has prioritized maintaining traffic flow over creating safe conditions for all road users. In general, the state has been unreceptive to requests by residents to improve pedestrian safety by adding infrastructure such as refuge islands and curb bumpouts. However, an island was recently added on the 2900 block, by the Humboldt Park green space.

Nearby residents agree that something needs to be done to reduce the number of crashes on North. “North Avenue needs either speed cameras or some way to curb drivers from going so fast on that strip,” commented Richard W. Biasi on DNAinfo.com’s writeup of the latest fatality. “I have personally witnessed four vehicle / pedestrian incidents in the last few weeks on North Ave.”

Streetsblog Chicago reader David Altenberg had a similar comment on my post about the Davis case. “In the last five years, I have seen three separate buildings with vehicles crashed into them on North Avenue,” he wrote. “Unsignalized crosswalks… are terrifying and dangerous to cross, but crossing at a signal often requires a detour of up to a quarter-mile. IDOT has designed North Avenue to move cars quickly, and it meets that goal tragically well.”

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 18 (5 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 4 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

  • Talman Ave

    I live a block from this intersection and cross it regularly. The closest traffic lights are California and Rockwell Ave, two blocks in either direction. A main reason people cross right here is to either get to Tip Top Liquors or Cermaks, both of which are busy all day. On any given day, I have been in groups of up to 20 people scrambling across the street at this intersection to go about their day. The city needs to figure out a way to keep this intersection safe, especially with the Bloomingdale Trail and the amount of private development going on in the area.

  • jimsey

    Crossing North anywhere is an absolute nightmare. In a cruel twist, I actually submitted this stretch of North Avenue to Active Transportation’s “dangerous intersections” program from earlier this month.

    The lack of an island refuge, visible crosswalks, a way too wide road, and the asshats at IDOT make North Avenue a disaster as this article illustrates and the death tally this year so far indicates. IDOT should be vilified and ashamed for their continued neglect and woeful ignorance on this subject.

  • David Altenburg

    This one really hit close to home for me – literally and figuratively – because just a couple hours before this crash I was with my family at Humboldt Park, blocks away from the crash. Whenever we go there, crossing North Avenue terrifies me – even at a traffic light. Every time I cross with my family, it’s far too easy to visualize the most important people in my life being taken out of it by any one of the many speeding vehicles that use this road as an expressway. North Avenue is so dangerous that you are risking your life just by waiting at a light for your turn to cross – the cars on this street won’t be stopped by curbs or sidewalks, as the photo above attests.

    4 people so far this year – over 1/5th of Chicago’s pedestrian fatalities. Until IDOT can do the right thing and redesign this street to slow traffic down to appropriate urban speeds, the deaths will continue. 2 years ago, CDOT laid out the goal to eliminate pedestrian fatalities citywide within a decade. We could make so much progress towards that just by fixing this one street!

  • cjlane

    “Most of these cases involved a too-fast driver and/or a difficult pedestrian crossing.”

    Um, most of them involved a DRUNK driver. Period. 3 out of the 4, and both of the ones that involved a pedestrian crossing issue. Reviewing the SB stories on each of them, there is no evidence–apart from supposition–that any of them were speeding.

  • April 24: Difficult pedestrian crossing and too-fast driver — victim flew up in the air, hood of car was badly dented.

    June 1: Too-fast driver — SUV flipped.

    August 24: Difficult pedestrian crossing.

  • David Altenburg

    The latest DNAInfo story on Sunday’s crash states that a police officer witnessed the driver going 40mph:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140826/humboldt-park/bucktown-man-charged-with-drunken-driving-fatal-humboldt-park-crash

  • Right. Also, people struck at the 30 mph speed limit usually survive.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Has the city addressed the poorly striped crosswalks yet?

  • ohsweetnothing

    I don’t know if the city has but I doubt it’d make much of a difference. I used to shop at the Cermak on North and the existence of crosswalks on that stretch is a cruel joke.

    They restriped a bunch of crosswalks along Fullerton west of Kimball this year, which is similarly wide and also used as an E/W expressway. All it’s done is give me something to point to angrily while car(s) simultaneously honk and swerve around me at 40mph.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    What does “Difficult pedestrian crossing” mean?

  • Long crossing distance — 5 lanes — with no stoplights or stop signs for traffic on North, refuge islands or curb bumpouts.

  • cjlane

    That makes *one* that is definitely a “too fast” driver. And still *3* that were (alleged) DUIs.

  • cjlane

    “Too-fast driver — SUV flipped.”

    You didn’t actually read the linked story about it, John. The drunk SUV driver ran a red and caused another car to flip. The SUV may or may not have been speeding–the proximate cause of that accident was the impairment of the driver.

  • David Altenburg

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at. No one is claiming that alcohol did not contribute to these deaths, but that does not mean the design of the street did not contribute as well. Unfortunately, we’re going to have drunk drivers (and texting drivers, and inexperienced drivers, etc) for the forseeable future, so we should design streets to reduce the damage that they do.

    When you have 4 unrelated deaths in 1 year on 1 street, that is pretty damning evidence that there’s a problem with the street. After all, other streets have drunk drivers as well.

  • Incorrect. The SUV driver ran a red, struck a Camry, and flipped his SUV, striking the victim: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-prosecutors-drunk-driver-caused-crash-that-killed-panhandler-20140603-story.html The fact that the SUV driver flipped his vehicle suggests that excessive speed was involved.

  • oooBooo

    Let’s see, there are life altering penalties for driving with an arbitrarily high BAC but somehow the penalty of a speed camera is going to stop someone who’s driving with a BAC > 0.08? That’s the the point being made.

  • David Altenburg

    The point of the article is that the design of North Avenue is dangerous and should be altered. The only reference to speed cameras in the article is in a quote from a nearby resident.

    I agree that speed cameras are insufficient. This street needs far more radical measures than those. If fact, I’m not sure if any of the blocks where the deaths this year have occurred are even legally eligible for speed cameras.

  • oooBooo

    Not the point of the article, the point of this comment that started this thread branch.

  • cjlane

    Off duty cop. Eyeballing the speed. That’s not admissible.

  • cjlane

    ONLY when there is some braking. The typical drunk driver ain’t hitting the brakes. 30 mph, with no slowing, is still typically crippling to fatal.

  • cjlane

    Fair enough on the SUV flipping; the first article I had found wasn’t clear.

    That said, you’re making a tenuous conclusion, John. The SUV made contact with the Camry (which is described in different stories as ‘exiting southbound’ and ‘stationary’) on the SUV’s passenger side (bc the Camry was on the northside of North, and the SUV was westbound) and then flipped *onto* the passenger side, which would seem to require either (1) a 3/4 roll over the roof, or (2) spun front to back before flipping on the side. Either way requires a lot of force from the side–and do note that the police report is going to be written to place blame on the drunk causing the accident (ie, the SUV struck the Camry), even if the overturning of the SUV was the result of a t-boning by the car coming off the exit ramp. It’s just not a well supported conclusion that the SUV was speeding.

  • cjlane

    2700 W North Ave is 1/8 mile from Humboldt Park AND 1/8 mile from Moos Elementary. So that one is qualified.

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