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Unfortunately, Parking Issues Dictate How Robust 45th Ward Bikeways Will Be

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North of Irving Park, much higher retail density and metered spaces make stripping parking for bike lanes a heavier lift. Note the lack of parked cars at the time this photo was taken. Photo: Google Street View

Milwaukee Avenue is Chicago’s busiest biking street, with as many as 5,000 bike trips a day during the high season, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, with most of that cycling taking place between Logan Square and the Loop. But the Blue Line corridor is becoming an increasingly popular place to live, and we’re seeing transit-oriented development proposals in neighborhoods like Avondale, Portage Park, Old Irving Park, and Jefferson Park. As more car-free and car-lite residents settle further northwest along Milwaukee, bike traffic is going to increase on stretches of the road that are farther from the Loop.

So it’s great that the 45th Ward Alderman John Arena recently announced the ward is teaming up with CDOT to install bikeways along Milwaukee between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue – a two-mile stretch. On the shorter section between Addison and Irving Park Road, Arena and CDOT aren’t letting narrow right-of-way stop them from improving safety. Ninety-two little-used parking spaces will be stripped from the east side of Milwaukee on this stretch to make room for buffered bike lanes, which help provide extra breathing room for people biking.

Unfortunately, however, there will be no major improvements to the longer segment of Milwaukee between Irving and Lawrence. The city won’t be moving any parking from this segment, so there will only be room for “sharrows,” the bike-and-chevron road markings that have been shown to have relatively little effect on improving bike safety.

45th Ward residents voted for the bike lanes project as the top priority in the ward’s May 2015 participatory budgeting election, so the facilities will be bankrolled with $100,000 from the district’s $1.3 million discretionary budget for that year. Work on the bikeways should start later this year, DNAinfo reported.

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Most of the housing on Milwaukee between Addison and Irving has off-street parking, so there’s relatively little demand for street parking. Photo: Google Street View

Since Milwaukee between Addison and Irving doesn’t have enough right-of-way for parking on both sides, travel lanes and buffered bike lanes, CDOT recently did eight parking studies on this stretch to see how many spaces were actually being used. The department found that, since this segment has little retail, and much of the housing has off-street parking, curbside spaces were seeing little use. In addition, the absence of metered parking makes it relatively easy to strip parking.

The project also with involve the removal or relocation of several stops for the #56 Milwaukee bus between Addison and Irving, DNA reported. The city says this will shorten travel times and enhance safety.

The higher density of retail between Irving and Lawrence combine with less off-street parking for residences, and the resulting higher parking demand, made removing dozens of parking spaces on that stretch a non-starter, Arena said.

Notably, this stretch is just south of a four-lane stretch of Milwaukee north of Lawrence where CDOT previously proposed converting two of the lanes to protected bike lanes, which would have required the removal of a few parking spots for sight lines. After a major backlash from residents, the road diet idea was scrapped and the department installed buffered lanes instead – a much more modest safety improvement.

Another issue with removing parking between Irving and Lawrence is the city’s despised parking meter deal. The presence of metered spaces on this stretch would make parking removal much more complex because the city would either have to replace these spots with new metered spaces elsewhere in the area, or compensate the parking concessionaire for lost revenue.

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Cynthia Tatman, 56, Fatally Struck on Stretch of Devon With No Sidewalks

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The 5800 block of West Devon, looking east. Police reported the crash site as the 6300 block, which has sidewalks. But ABC footage shows it actually took place several blocks east, on a stretch like this, with a 40 mph speed limit and no sidewalks, close to the North Branch Trail. Image: Google Street View

56-year-old Cynthia Tatman was fatally struck early Tuesday morning while jogging in the Norwood Park neighborhood on a four-lane, high-speed stretch of Devon Avenue.

At around 7:05 a.m., Tatman was running east in a westbound travel lane of Devon next to Caldwell Woods, police said. She lived on the 5800 block of North Navarre Avenue, and neighbors told ABC she jogged in the area regularly.

According to investigators, a westbound driver swerved to avoid hitting Tatman. However, they said the next motorist, driving a tan Honda CR-V SUV, did not have time to avoid the jogger and struck her. Tatman was transported to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The driver, whose SUV sustained front-end damage and a smashed windshield, stayed on the scene and was not immediately cited. Major Accidents is currently working to determine if the motorist will receive a citation, according to Police News Affairs.

The police stated that the crash took place on the 6300 block of Devon, which has has residences to the south, a 30 mph speed limit and sidewalks. However, footage from the ABC report shows that the crash site was actually on a stretch of Devon with forest preserves on both sides, a 40 mph speed limit, and no sidewalks. The ABC footage also shows that it was location where the North Branch Trail closely parallels Devon.

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Mayya Medovaya, 78, Fatally Struck by Turning UPS Truck Driver in North Park

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The crash site from the driver’s perspective, looking south. Image: Google Street View

A UPS truck driver who was making a right on red fatally struck a senior Monday afternoon in the North Park community, according to police.

At around 4:45 p.m., the 78-year-old woman was crossing the street at Peterson and Central Park in a crosswalk when the 64-year-old male driver made a right turn on red and struck her, according to Police News Affairs. The victim was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital in critical condition, where she was soon pronounced dead.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office has identified the woman as Mayya Medovaya of the 5800 block of north Pulaski, about six blocks from the crash site. She was the fifth vulnerable road user to be fatally struck by a commercial vehicle in Chicago in about nine weeks.

The UPS driver was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, according to News Affairs.

The police crash report stated that the driver had been heading west on Peterson and made a northbound right turn onto Central Park. However, photos of the truck parked at the north side of Peterson, just west of Central Park, following the crash, posted by several news outlets, plus a report by WGN, indicate that wasn’t the case.

The WGN reporter stated that Medovaya was walking south across the west leg of the intersection when she was struck, which would be in keeping with the final location of the truck. Therefore, it appears that the driver was also heading south on Central Park and made a right turn, westbound, onto Peterson when he struck the victim.

Witness Micheal Weldler told WGN that traffic on Peterson had the green at the time, which would mean both the pedestrian and the driver had a red light. It appears that right turns on red are legal at this location.

However, even if Medovaya was crossing against the light, that has limited relevance to this case. Even when both the driver and pedestrian have a green, it’s all-too-common for right-turning motorists to carelessly strike pedestrians in crosswalks. Moreover, a driver turning right on red is still responsible for ensuring that the relevant crosswalks are clear before making the turn.

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Take a Virtual Spin on the (Partly Finished) Elston Curb-Protected Bike Lanes

As I’ve written, it’s a shame that the valuable riverfront land at the southeast corner of Fullerton and Damen will likely be redeveloped as big box retail with tons of parking in the aftermath of a project to reroute Elston Avenue so it bypasses that intersection. The silver lining of the project is that this new, curving five-lane stretch of Elston, which opened to motorized traffic last week, will have curb-protected bike lanes.

Prior to construction, the six-way Fullerton/Damen/Elston intersection saw about 70,000 motor vehicles per day, and consistently ranked among the city’s top-five intersections for crashes, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which is doing the $36.3 million street relocation. In an effort to unclog the intersection, they’ve moved through traffic on Elston about a block east on land occupied by WhirlyBall, which relocated to a nearby, larger space at 1823 West Webster, and the Vienna Beef factory, which will soon be moving to 1800 West Pershing in Bridgeport.

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Elston, which formerly intersected with Fullerton and Damen, has been relocated one block east. Image: CDOT

The entire bypass project was supposed wrap up this spring, but according to CDOT spokeswoman Sue Hofer, it’s currently not slated for completion until this December. But starting last week northeast- and southeast-bound motorized vehicles began using one lane in each direction on the new section of Elston, which crosses Damen a block north of Fullerton/Damen intersection.

The old, two-block stretch of Elston just southeast of Fullerton/Damen remains open for local traffic under the new name Elston Court. Under the new traffic pattern, vehicles are allowed to turn right from eastbound Fullerton onto Elston Court, but vehicles from northbound Elston Court south of Fullerton are only permitted to turn right, eastbound, on Fullerton.

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Cyclist Francisco Cruz Remembered as a Good Samaritan, Driver Still at Large

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Francisco “Frank” Cruz

Family and friends are remembering Francisco “Frank” Cruz, fatally struck on his bike by a hit-and-run van driver in West Garfield Park Wednesday night, as someone who went out of his way to help others. Meanwhile, police have yet to apprehend the motorist, despite the fact that the van bore the name and phone number of a local realty company.

Cruz was bicycling south on the 200 block of North Pulaski Road at 10:19 p.m. when the driver of a northbound white commercial cargo van turned left onto Maypole Avenue and fatally struck him, police said. The driver did not stop to render aid but instead contined west on Maypole.

An image of the van taken by a security or traffic camera. The phone number visible on back of the van is for Advanced Realty Network, a brokerage at 2427 West Madison. Yesterday the businesses was closed and was not answering phone calls, various news outlets reported. As of Friday afternoon, the driver had not been apprehended and police had not disclosed whether the motorist worked for the company or if the van was stolen. Anyone who has information can contact the police at 312-745-4521.

ABC reported that Cruz, a father of seven who was also nicknamed “Pops,” was on his way home from work as a handyman when he was struck. A coworker told CBS the two of them discussed bicycle safety on a regular basis. Cruz, who didn’t have a driver’s license, said he worried about being struck while riding in the street, according to the coworker.

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The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van whose driver struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night. Image: CPD

According to CBS, Cruz also frequented a Church’s Chicken on Pulaski near the crash site, where workers say he helped out with security and often escorted female employees after work to make sure they got home safely. “He helped everybody,” said his stepson Michael Burdine told CBS. “He was a good guy.” Burdine said he had been talking to people in the neighborhood trying to get more details about what happened. “We want justice.”

Footage of the crash that shows Cruz was riding with the flow of traffic, was captured by a security camera at Family Meat Market, a convenience store at the southwest corner of the intersection. “The driver just goes right into him, like he might not have been paying attention,” the store’s owner told CBS. “You hit somebody, it doesn’t matter who they are, you gotta stop and try to help them out.”

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Francisco Cruz, 58, Fatally Struck by Van Driver While Biking in West Garfield

The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van that struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night.

The Chicago Police Department provided this image of a commercial cargo van whose driver struck Francisco Cruz Wednesday night. Image: CPD

We will update this post throughout the day as more facts are made available. 

Francisco Cruz, 58, was struck and killed while biking in West Garfield Park Wednesday night by a cargo van driver who fled the scene. This newest tragedy happened the day after art student Lisa Kuivinen while riding a bike in West Town Tuesday morning. Cruz’s death is the fourth bike fatality this year; all four cases involved a commercial driver.

Cruz was bicycling south on the 200 block of North Pulaski Road at 10:19 p.m. last night when the driver of a northbound white commercial cargo van turned left onto Maypole Avenue and fatally struck him, police said. The driver did not stop to render aid but instead contined west on Maypole.

Cruz, of the 1300 block of South Christiana in North Lawndale, was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

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The intersection of Pulaski and Maypole from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View

The police are trying to apprehend the driver and provided an image of the van taken by a security or traffic camera. The phone number visible on back of the van in the image is associated with Advanced Realty Network, a brokerage at 2427 West Madison. A call to the number reached a voicemail for the company. While it’s not clear that the driver was employed by Advanced, presumably the police will visit the company for more information. Anyone who has information can contact the police at 312-745-4521.

As of Thursday afternoon, several people had left abusive comments in the reviews section of Advanced’s Facebook page. Please keep in mind that this is inappropriate, since we don’t even know for sure yet that the driver works for the company.

Cruz’s death follows those of three other bike riders who were fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers this summer. Courier Blaine Klingenberg was struck and killed by a tour bus driver on June 15 in the Gold Coast. Divvy rider Virginia Murray fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver on July 1 in Avondale, and Lisa Kuivinen was also struck and killed by a the driver of a flatbed truck on August 16. Active Transportation Alliance advocacy director Jim Merrell responded to the news on Twitter this morning, tagging Mayor Emanuel’s and the Chicago Department of Transportation’s accounts.

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Local Leaders Weigh in On 31st Street Beach Transportation Issues

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An aerial view of 31st Street Beach. The park district plans to more than double the size of the an existing parking lot, center. Image: Google Maps

Last month I reported on the Chicago Park District’s plans to expand a parking lot at the southwest corner of 31st and Lake Shore Drive, a short walk from 31st Street Beach and Harbor. The proposal would enlarge the lot, currently 60,000 square feet of asphalt, by 85,000 feet — that’s about 1.5 football fields worth of existing green space that would be replaced by blacktop.

The project would add more than 250 spaces near the beach, which already has over 650 existing garage and surface lot spaces within a five-minute walk. It would cost $1.6 million, paid for harbor bond funding.

I noted that Friends of the Parks has endorsed the project. Executive director Juanita Irizarry told me last month that if the group advocated against more parking at the South Side beach, they would have essentially been “tell[ing] people of color that they can only utilize the beach if they arrive by CTA or bicycle.”

On the other hand the Active Transportation Alliance is against the parking expansion. Executive director Ron Burke argued that transit, walking, and bike access should be improved instead. “Let’s give people MORE open space, play areas, trails and other attractions and LESS pavement for cars,” he said via email.

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The design of the expanded parking lot. Image: Chicago Park District

After my article ran, Delmarie Cobb, a lifelong Bronzeville resident and owner of the Publicity Works PR firm fired off an angry email to 4th ward alderman Sophia King’s office about the parking plan and cc-ed me. “Now, the city wants to take more green space so the harbor users will have more parking options,” she wrote. “There’s plenty of parking at the old Michael Reese parking lots.”

In addition to the 650 aforementioned nearby beach and harbor parking spaces, there are 250 public parking spots at the former hospital site, a ten-minute walk from the beach at 31st and Cottage Grove. The city purchased the property under Mayor Richard M. Daley as part of its failed bid for the 2016 Olympics.

“Until the city decides what to do with that land, it should be used to accommodate beach goers,” Reese wrote. “We’re already paying for that land, so why should we pay an additional $1.6 million for 250 parking spaces?… On Fullerton, the city [built] six additional acres for green space. At 31st St., the city found 85,000 square feet of green space to turn into a parking lot.”

4th Ward staffer Prentice Butler declined to comment on the lot expansion project, except to confirm that Alderman King is in favor of the plan.

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This sign installed by the entrance to the garage last winter indicated that the garage was for boaters only. Photo via Delmarie Cobb.

When I reached Cobb this afternoon, she told me that she has since realized that, while the parking lot expansion will eliminate green space west of the drive, it won’t affect parkland closer to the beach that is used for barbecues, land she says is in short supply. While that’s less objectionable to her, she still finds it problematic that money was found for more asphalt while a community center originally planned as part of the harbor project, completed in 2012, was never funded.

While the park district and the 4th Ward haven’t had much to say about why exactly it’s believed that another 250 spaces are needed, Cobb offered an explanation. She provided a photo taken last winter of a permanent sign installed by the garage entrance claiming that all public parking spots in the 317-space facility was full, and spaces were only available to people with harbor passes. “Obviously the garage wasn’t full in the middle of the winter, but they were treating it like a private garage for boaters,” Cobb said.

Cobb says that when King took office last spring, she asked the park district to remove that sign and put up a new one stating that the garage spaces are available to the general public. Cobb recently went out with an intern and interviewed boaters to learn more about the parking situation. She says the boaters, many of whom live outside of the city, told them the lot expansion is planned because harbor pass holders were sometimes having trouble finding space in the now-public garage.

“The boaters said they don’t feel they should have to schlep all their stuff from the Michael Reese site to the harbor,” Cobb said. “That’s fine for the residents, but not for the boaters.”

“It just goes to show, the city can always find money to do what they want to do, such as projects to entice tourists,” Cobb said. “But they can never find money for the things we need like the community center, things that improve quality of life for neighborhood residents.”

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Toolkit Will Help Cities Bring Shared Mobility to Low-Income Neighborhoods

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A screenshot from SUMC’s new mapping tool showing the locations of car-share (blue dots) and Divvy locations downtown, and on the West and Near South sides. The map also shows high (purple) and medium (orange) opportunity areas for shared mobility.

The Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center hopes their new interactive toolkit, released last week, will help cities expand the use of car-sharing, bike-sharing, and other forms of shared mobility, especially in low-income communities with limited transportation options. The toolkit includes a Shared Mobility Benefits Calculator, a Shared Mobility Policy Database, and an Interactive shared Mobility Mapping and Opportunity Analysis Tool.

SUMC executive director Sharon Feigon says the toolkit was developed in partnership with 27 North American cities through the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network. “They wanted to better understand and manage shared-mobility as new technologies emerge,” she said. “We’re hopeful that our toolkit will shed some light on how these technologies are working and shine some light on best practices.” To supplement the toolkit, they’ve also produced a report with an overview of each tool, plus policy recommendations, trends by city, size, and type, and shared mobility growth scenarios for each of the cities.

“Our interest is to really encourage the use of transit along with shared mobility to decrease the use of private cars,” Feigon added. “Our vision sees public transportation as the backbone and shared mobility as something that can enhance the transit system.” For example, services like bike-sharing and one-way car-sharing can facilitate “last mile” trips to and from rapid transit in locations where its difficult to access a station by walking or a fixed-route bus.

One-way car-sharing services like Car2Go, which allow customers to pick up a small car, drive it a short distance and leave it at any number of designated parking spots around town, have been popular in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. But Feigon said the mode hasn’t come to Chicago yet because of the complications caused by our city’s much-reviled parking contract. Mayor Emanuel’s office is currently looking into whether it could be implemented here, she said.

The benefits calculator allows cities to see the potential benefits of adding shared mobility nodes such as car-share and bike-share vehicles. For example, the calculator projects that – based on June 1, 2016 figures — Chicago could eliminate ten percent of private vehicle trips by adding 37,373 transit commuters, 8457 car-share vehicles, 6,908 bike-share cycles, and 18,313 ride-sharers or car-poolers. The result would be 11,167,065,800 fewer vehicle miles traveled, 418,800 fewer metric tons of emissions from personal vehicles, and $411,444,500 saved in personal vehicle transportation costs.

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Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

This street view rendering shows how bumpouts and signs would add “filtered permeability” on Manor Avenue, by allowing only bicyclists and pedestrians to continue north and south past Wilson Avenue. Image: CDOT

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues. Read more…

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U. of C. Doctor Gary Toback Fatally Struck While Jogging by Jackson Park

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Gary Toback.

University of Chicago doctor and professor Gary Toback, 74, was struck and killed by an SUV driver while running in the South Shore neighborhood this morning, authorities said.

At around 6:40 a.m., Toback, a kidney specialist, was jogging near the intersection of 67th Street and South Bennett Avenue on the south side of Jackson Park, according to authorities. Toback lived nearby on the 6800 block of South Bennett, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Neighbors described him as a running enthusiast, ABC reported.

According to police, a 40-year-old woman lost control of the Jeep SUV she was driving and rolled the vehicle, striking Toback. The vehicle landed near 67th and South Jeffery Avenue, several hundred feet east of the location where Toback was struck, police said.

Toback was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. The driver and a two-year-old girl who was riding in the vehicle were taken to Comer Hospital in unkown condition, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs.

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The intersection of 67th and Bennett from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View

Charges have not yet been filed against the driver, Amezaga said. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 14 (seven were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 2