Active Trans Launches a New Crusade Against Dangerous Intersections

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 4.52.15 PM
McCormick and Touhy in Skokie was ranked the worst intersection for pedestrians in suburban Cook County. Image: Google Maps

The Active Transportation Alliance was instrumental in creating the Transit Future campaign, with the goal of creating a dedicated funding source for regional transit. Now they’re also pushing for dedicated funding for pedestrian infrastructure, while raising awareness of Chicagoland’s many hazardous intersections, with their new Safe Crossings initiative.

“It’s really important that we recognize the challenges that pedestrians face across the region,” Active Trans’ director of campaigns, Kyle Whitehead, told me. “People tend to assume that these dangerous and difficult intersections are going to stay that way. We want people to realize that there are proven solutions to address these issues. If we can raise awareness and muster resources, there’s the potential to solve these problems throughout the region.”

This morning, Active Trans released a list of ten of the most dangerous intersections in the city of Chicago, and ten of the most hazardous junctions in suburban Cook County. Topping the urban list is the notoriously chaotic North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection in Wicker Park, with 43 reported pedestrian and bike crashes between 2006 and 2012. In the ‘burbs, the worst-ranked junction is Skokie’s McCormick and Touhy intersection, where two six-lane roads cross next to the North Shore Channel Trail bike-and-pedestrian path.

The crash data, provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation, was only one of the factors Active Trans used to compile the lists. They also incorporated feedback from their planning and outreach staff, plus public input. The group received more than 800 responses to an online survey that was posted on their blog, shared via social media, and emailed to members. Here are the full lists:

CHICAGO

Intersection/Crossing

Bike/Ped Crashes

Milwaukee/North/Damen

43

Cicero and Chicago

38

Halsted/Lincoln/Fullerton

37

79th and Cottage Grove

36

Dearborn and Ontario

36

Ashland and 63rd

33

Cicero and Madison

31

Ashland and Cortland

29

63rd and King

24

Elston/Western/Diversey

21

 SUBURBS

Intersection/Crossing City

Bike/Ped Crashes

McCormick and Touhy Skokie

18

Cermak and Cicero Cicero

17

Cermak and LaGrange/Manheim Westchester

12

Dempster and Shermer Morton Grove

11

Ogden and La Grange Rd LaGrange

11

Glenview and Harms Rd Glenview

10

Madison and 1st Ave Maywood

10

Harlem and Madison Oak Park/Forest Park

10

79th and Harlem Burbank

10

147th and Halsted Harvey

9

The fact sheet accompanying the press release Active Trans issued today includes some grim statistics about the dangers to local pedestrians. Last year, there were 4,700 reported pedestrian crashes and 130 fatalities in Illinois. In Chicago, pedestrian fatalities made up one-third of all traffic fatalities in 2012, compared to about 14 percent statewide, probably due to the higher percentage of trips made on foot here. And, although arterial streets make up only 14 percent of the city’s street miles, 50 percent of serious and fatal crashes took place on them.

Active Trans is advocating for using infrastructure and better traffic enforcement to reduce or eliminate traffic fatalities in the region. This is in keeping with the city of Chicago’s 2012 “Chicago Forward” action agenda, which set a goal of eradicating traffic deaths by 2022.

Beyond fixing intersections with high crash rates to reduce deaths and serious injuries, Active Trans wants to improve junctions where hostile conditions discourage walking. These so-called “barrier crossings” are often located near schools, senior housing and shopping centers, where many more people might walk if it was safe to do so.

Safe Crossings Site Map
Active Trans’ map of the most dangerous intersections in Cook County.

For example, Active Trans found that the six-way intersection of 79th/Stony Island/South Chicago, on Chicago’s Southeast Side, had a high number of pedestrian crashes. But the group also found that the overall level of pedestrian activity there is low, because it’s such a daunting intersection to cross. The junction of 183rd and Halsted, in south-suburban Homewood, also is a major barrier. Kids who live less than a mile to school ride the bus because it’s not safe to cross here.

Many of these unsafe and intimidating intersections can be improved with better infrastructure. Some of the potential solutions include high-visibility crosswalks, refuge islands, curb bump-outs, pedestrian-friendly traffic stoplight timing and countdown signals, speed feedback signs, road diets, and traffic calming devices like speed tables and roundabouts.

However, Active Trans notes that there is currently no dedicated funding source for maintaining pedestrian infrastructure in Chicago. Usually, these improvements are made as part of road reconstruction projects, or bankrolled by aldermanic menu funds.

“Until we establish a sustainable funding source for pedestrians, we are unlikely to make substantial progress on improving intersection safety and making our streets more livable and walkable,” said Active Trans director Ron Burke in a statement. “We can’t afford to ignore these problems, and fail to invest in readily available, proven solutions any longer.” The group is also advocating for non-infrastructure strategies for reducing crashes, such as better enforcement of exisiting traffic laws, lower neighborhood speed limits, and better crash data collection.

In the near future, Active Trans hopes to schedule walkability assessment events with local community organizations at the worst intersections, Whitehead said. “After we come up with some concrete ideas to fix these intersections, we’ll bring them back to our planning experts, who will use them to create recommendations that are feasible in terms of costs and specifics.”

To show your support for the Safe Crossings campaign, sign Active Trans’ new online petition.

  • what_eva

    Neither Touhy nor McCormick are 6 lane roads. McCormick never has more than 4 lanes its entire length. Touhy might somewhere west, but not anywhere east of at least Park Ridge. Both are 4 lane roads at that intersection. That said, due to turn lanes, there are there are 6 lanes to cross on the S and W legs and 5 lanes on the N and E legs (no right turn lane on those two). The channel trail crosses the E leg.

  • Julia

    I unfortunately contributed to one of those intersection stats this year. Glad to see something positive coming out of it.

  • Fred

    How many of the crashes at McCormick/Touhy were off the street in that horrifically designed area on the NE corner of the intersection? That corner is criminally poorly designed in several aspects:
    1) There is only a single ramp from street to sidewalk, and it is off to the side
    2) There is a light pole right at the top of the ramp
    3) The ramp does not align with the path
    4) The bushes at the path entrance are often overgrown, causing poor visibility and conflicts between users entering/exiting the path

    So when traveling north on the path on a bicycle, you must veer west in the intersection to hit the ramp, you then must make a hard right just past the light pole to line up to enter the path. If you do not get all the way to the right, there is a possibility of hitting people exiting the path, that you can’t see. I’ve been in several near misses right at that area travelling in both direction.

    Simply adding a ramp to the east of the light pole that aligned with the path would probably eliminate a vast majority of the issues at that intersection.

  • Guest

    This:

  • The important thing, as far a pedestrian safety at the intersection is concerned, is the number of lanes at the intersection. The six lanes at each leg create very long crossing distances.

  • Guest

    This:

  • what_eva

    Agreed, but they’re still both 4 lane roads. When you say 6 lane roads, I think of Schaumburg where an intersection of 6 lane roads means more like 9-10 lanes to cross (eg Golf/Meacham).

  • Annie F. Adams

    I posted this on the ATA page: I walk, bike and drive in the loop. By
    far the closest I have come to death is when I walked across Wacker
    with a walk sign and the car driver had a green arrow. He didn’t see me. On Tuesday I walked to the train from my office in a bright
    orange jacket–and was almost hit by 2 cars. One making an illegal turn
    onto Wacker into a full pedestrian crosswalk. A totally unenjoyable
    experience. This has to change if our city is to be vibrant place for all people from ages 8 to 80, as well as tourists who don’t know we have one of the highest pedestrian kill rates in the country! (& as a person who drives in the loop. There is NO need for this kind of driving. There is a red light one block away. Chill out!)

  • Annie F. Adams

    Which got me thinking of something my brother who was visiting from Boston said “pedestrians cross streets illegally all over the place here!” Yes they do. The infrastructure is not built for them. So after 30 seconds of waiting (yes that is a stat) they go for it! Or at the Merchandise Mart on Wells under the Brown Line ignore the “do not cross” signs and cross the street to the pedestrian walkway between the buildings. Those pedestrians paid just as much for those streets as the cars. Let’s build stuff they will use safely! Cars are not (from my impression) trying to kill pedestrians. The streets are just built to move cars fast and ignore any other user like bikes and pedestrians.

  • Lisa Curcio

    I know your article makes it perfectly clear that you are discussing crashes between auto drivers and pedestrians and between auto drivers and cyclists, but the way the table is set up it looks like you are reporting crashes between bicycles and pedestrians. I am surprised some article skimmer has not made a comment yet. :-)

  • MrMerchMart

    I hate that they (sort of, the lines are faded but still visible) removed the crosswalk on Wells, south of Kinzie, outside the merchandise mart. People still cross there and that’s not gonna change. I’m convinced I’m going to see a pedestrian get hit by one of the many drivers I see flying through this area daily.

    I hate when the city just gives up on making an area safer for pedestrians. If the crosswalk wasn’t being respected, we need more creative solutions and/or better enforcement.

  • Velocipedian

    I think that area under the Merch Mart El should be converted to a wide Japanese style pedestrian crossing (http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/japan-tokyo-shibuya-pedestrians-crossing-street-royalty-free-image/200153806-001) with a giant speed bump just south of it.

  • Velocipedian

    This last post and the graphic read like a Copenhagenize post — these are desire lines for the bicyclist.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Yes! A raised crosswalk would work great here! Wish we could compel Ald. Reilly and the Merch Mart to make it happen!

  • Oof

    I am 99% with you. But any Bostonian complaining that Chicagoans cross streets illegally is seriously projecting. ;)

  • Annie F. Adams

    LOL! I was wondering about that. A friend of mine who drives there says she is constantly freaking out that she is going to hit someone. That said. The city was built for pedestrian traffic.

  • Kevin Mulcahy

    The Ogden/Chicago/Milwaukee intersection should definitely be near the top of that list, judging from what I’ve seen on other crash data maps.

  • Anon

    As a daily (driving) commuter on Lincoln Ave, the Lincoln/Halsted/Fullerton intersection is no surprise on this list. The bike lane on Lincoln basically disappears around that massive 3 way intersection. That’s an irresponsible way to mark a road! You’re telling bikers “it’s safe to ride here” when it’s truly not, and just as they have to navigate cross-traffic & right-turning cars the street tells them “haha, good luck!”.

    I have no problem sharing the road with bikers as long as the right of way is 1. segregated 2. properly demarcated. Unfortunately many of our legacy roads are not wide enough to fit A. cars driving, B. bikes, C. car parking. Throw in buses and it’s a nightmare, and the marking around intersections is just abysmally unsafe.

    As a driver, there is nothing more stressful than an inexperienced Divvy biker going 15 mph weaving around opening doors of parked cars and into your driving lane, especially since they will often pass you at stop signs/red-lights and you will have to do it all over again. It’s obviously unsafe and as the driver you feel incredibly responsible for someone else’s safety. I’m sure its also stressful for the biker.

    I do not blame the bikers though! I blame the city for allowing “bike lanes” on poorly marked and overly cramped roads.

    As a solution I would gladly sacrifice one side of street parking to create space for a two way bike lane, similar to what we have on Dearborn in the loop.

  • Interesting ideas here. But next time you clock someone on a Divvy going 15 mph, please let me know — I’ll call Guinness.

  • skyrefuge

    Most guys in the Divvy wave of the Chicago triathlon averaged more than 15mph, with an amazing 22.3mph over the 7.5-mile course winning it (http://results.active.com/events/transamerica-chicago-triathlon/supersprint/expanded?div=MDIVVY&sort=finish_time&direction=asc ) And a reasonable cadence of 91rpm will get you to 15mph (http://www.thechainlink.org/forum/topics/divvy-gear-ratios?commentId=2211490%3AComment%3A864859 ). But yeah, your average “inexperienced Divvy biker” just riding somewhere probably isn’t hitting that speed too often.

  • jeff wegerson

    Divvy riders are the shock troopers of guerrilla biking. Their quasi-suicide bomber tactics terrorize the overwhelmingly superior car drivers into frightened care and attention as well as increased braking. They also serve as the “bad cops” so the rest of the biker forces can come off as the “good” and rational cops.

    And yes driver sacrifices are the best solutions. It’s either sacrifice parking or sacrifice urban speed. The new Argyle speed limit will be 10mph. As a driver I’d settle for 18mph on sections of many secondary urban arterials like Webster, Granville, Clark, Southport and Damen for instance.

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