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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.

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Without Planning, Mega Parking Lot Could Replace Megamall

Logan's Crossing rendering (looking west)

A rendering of a new building that could replace the Megamall, a longstanding indoor market that stretches for almost 700′ along Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. Image: Sierra U.S.

Terraco and Sierra U.S., two commercial real estate firms, have started marketing to potential tenants space within a new development at the site of the defunct Megamall, along Milwaukee Avenue northwest of Sacramento Avenue in Logan Square. Marketing documents published by Curbed Chicago show a new building housing 166,390 square feet of retail, including a supermarket and a health club — and a whopping 426 parking spaces, both within the building and in a surface lot behind it.

The plan proposes nearly enough parking to fill an entire city block, but surprisingly, that’s just five percent more than the minimum of 406 spaces that Chicago’s zoning code requiresWhereas most of the retail customers, just as elsewhere in the neighborhood, would likely arrive by foot, transit, or bike, a huge parking garage would only appeal to drivers — and so plentiful parking would probably induce driving to the site. That’s even though the site is ”on a designated primary bicycle spoke route, a block from a major transit hub and a city-owned parking lot lonely for cars,” as local urban planner Lynn Stevens says. Stevens also points to a previous community workshop, where two-thirds of participants didn’t want additional parking in the area.

Stevens urges that local officials should develop a plan that could guide the fast-paced development along Milwaukee Avenue through Logan Square. In the absence of a unifying plan, the decades-old underlying zoning – amended piecemeal by developers and three different aldermen – becomes a de facto plan. Stevens, who writes the Peopling Places blog about Logan Square development, said, “a plan… would establish policy guidance for future growth and implementation of social, economic and physical [design] goals. Absent a plan, all we have is the Zoning Code that guides private physical development, but, as we know, [that] is subject to change at the whim of an alderman.”

She added that development policy for the area is done in “isolation” at many different agencies. In the absence of any plan, each “property owner envisions development to maximize profit under the existing zoning — or the zoning he thinks he can get out of the alderman.” And since existing zoning specifies conventional retail for the Megamall site, the result is the conventional Terraco/Sierra proposal.

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PBLs Off the Table in Jeff Park, But Milwaukee Still Needs a Road Diet

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CDOT rendering of Milwaukee with a road diet and protected bike lanes.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has proposed three possible street reconfigurations for Milwaukee from Lawrence to Elston. Unfortunately, the one that CDOT originally said would have had the greatest safety benefit for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers is now off the table.

The scenario where the current five-lane speedway would have been converted to two travel lanes and a turn lane, plus protected bike lanes, is no longer under consideration, according to 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh. He said that Alderman John Arena and CDOT jointly concluded that PBLs weren’t a practical solution for this stretch, due to the high number of driveways.

Since protected lanes would have involved moving the parking lanes to the left side of the bike lanes, parking spaces would have had to be eliminated at each intersection and curb cut to ensure that cyclists and motorists could see each other. This would have required the removal of 20 percent of the parking spots on Milwaukee. However, parking counts show that, in general, spaces on this section of Milwaukee are currently used as little as 50 percent of the time, and not more than 90 percent of the time, so there would be a relatively minor impact on the availability of parking.

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Rendering of a road diet with wide buffered lanes.

The two other alternatives are still under consideration. One would involve a road diet with wide buffered lanes, which CDOT says would still have a significant safety benefit for all road users. The other would maintain all five lanes but add narrow buffered lanes, which would provide a minor safety benefit for cyclists and pedestrians, but have practically no effect on car speeds.

It’s a shame that protected lanes are no longer being considered, since this stretch of Milwaukee would greatly benefit from a major reboot. This section consistently averages well under 20,000 vehicles, making it the least busy stretch of Milwaukee in the city. But while Milwaukee south of the Kennedy Expressway is generally a two-lane street, north of the Kennedy it has two travel lanes in each direction, plus turn lanes, and the excess capacity encourages speeding. Recent CDOT traffic studies found that 75 percent of motorists broke the 30 mph speed limit, and 14 percent exceeded 40 mph, a speed at which studies show pedestrian crashes are almost always fatal.

Since speeding is the norm here, it’s not surprising that there’s a high crash rate. The project area saw 910 crashes between 2008 and 2012, causing at least 17 serious injuries and three deaths, according to CDOT. In January of this year, two men were killed in a rollover crash on the 6000 block of the street, just south of Elston.

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Community Meeting Scheduled About Jeff Park P-Street Proposal

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The proposed Jeff Park P-Streets. Image: Google Maps

Interestingly, some of the city’s outlying wards are leading the way when it comes to creating pedestrian-friendly business districts. Last week, I reported how 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell has proposed an ordinance that would designate three Albany Park retail strips as Pedestrian Streets. Earlier this week, 45th Ward Alderman John Arena sent a letter to constituents announcing that he has filed an ordinance to do the same thing on two streets in Jefferson Park.

The P-Street designation is intended to preserve the existing walkability of business districts and foster future ped-friendly development. It blocks the creation of big box stores, gas station, drive-throughs and other businesses that cater to motorists by forbidding the creation of new driveways.

The designation requires that the whole building façade be adjacent to the sidewalk. The main entrance must be located on the P-Street, and at least 60 percent of the façade between four and ten feet above the sidewalk must be windows. Any off-street parking must be located behind the building and accessed from the alley.

Arena wants to create P-Streets on Milwaukee from Giddings to Higgins, and on Lawrence from Laramie to Long. Located just south of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, this X-shaped district is the heart of the local retail area.

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The River of Traffic On Ridge/Hollywood Hurts Edgewater’s Livability

Ridge Avenue speed and traffic study

Walking across Ridge at Wayne can be dicey.

The Edgewater neighborhood along the north lakefront should be a pleasant place to walk. It’s the second-densest community area in the city, with 56,521 residents in an area just 1.5 miles across, and boasts lively commercial areas like Andersonville. Yet local residents say that their neighborhood is effectively cleaved into two by a roiling river of car traffic. The north end of Lake Shore Drive pumps tens of thousands of cars through the neighborhood, first onto Hollywood and then to Broadway or Ridge and onto Clark and Peterson.

To welcome this invading army of cars, over a dozen houses were leveled in the mid-1950s (animation below) to transform these local streets into four-lane traffic sewers — roads meant to move many cars, quickly. This turned Hollywood and Ridge into impassable barriers, according to local residents like Claire Micklin. She says it’s practically impossible to use marked crosswalks, because drivers simply refuse to stop. Even when traffic backups make it possible to get halfway across, fast-moving traffic thunders past in the other direction. Micklin says she dreads trying to cross, or even to walking alongside the streets — since parking is banned, the never-ending traffic runs right next to the sidewalk:

Drivers drive as if they are on an extension of Lake Shore Drive, grinding to a halt at the lights that break up the thoroughfare. The cars just keep on coming, and even two of the four lanes are clear, there are usually cars speeding by on the other two lanes. I have seen people push baby carriages into the crosswalk, hoping that the other two lanes of traffic will stop. Even with a baby carriage in the middle of the road, people do not stop, and the person usually has to do a quick reverse back to where they started to cross.

Micklin lives just north of the tangled intersection where Hollywood, Ridge, Broadway, and Bryn Mawr all meet within one block of one another. The most convenient retail to her is clustered around the Bryn Mawr “L” stop, just south of Hollywood, or in Andersonville, a few blocks southwest, and none of the nearest crosswalks to her have traffic signals. Even where there are signals, as at Ridge and Hollywood, the streets are obviously engineered for cars: The signal timing favors the Ridge-Hollywood through traffic, and requires pedestrians to press a “beg button” that’s inaccessible to children or people in wheelchairs. The intersection even features a highway-style, concrete Jersey barrier to keep skidding drivers from rolling right into someone’s home.

Kevin Zolkiewicz lives a block south of the speedway. Like Micklin, he has to cross Hollywood or Ridge to get to services like the restaurants or the library on Broadway. He calls the walk “miserable… [I] have to go out of my way to cross at a light,” Zolkiewicz said, adding that Ridge “acts as a barrier between Andersonville and the rest of Edgewater.”

The never-ending stream of cars at Ridge and Hollywood. 

Streetsblog contributor Justin Haugens and I observed traffic at two problematic intersections that Micklin identified — Ridge/Wayne just west of the Ridge-Hollywood intersection, and Hollywood/Magnolia just to the east. These intersections are between traffic signals, so motorists are used to speeding up rather than stopping at these locations.

The two intersections both feature all four marked crosswalks, but the legs across the wider streets have faded nearly to black, neither have pedestrian refuge medians, and neither has a “stop for pedestrians” sign. (CDOT says that they will not install these on four-lane roads, due to the low probability that drivers in all four lanes will actually obey the sign.)

Micklin said that, due to the angled junction in between these two intersections, “there’s no visibility to see oncoming cars, and [thus] know that you can cross safely. I’ve been stuck in the middle of the road before, and people still don’t stop.” We noticed half a dozen people during our study doing just that: Wiggling between stopped cars headed in one direction, then waiting in the middle of the road before running across the other lanes.

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Speed Camera Cut Dangerous Speeding Next to Senn Park By 73%

Senn Park & High School speed camera

Cameras have tamed what had been an epidemic of 40+ mph speeding next to the “Young Lincoln” park, along Ridge at Clark and Thorndale in Edgewater.

Fast times on Ridge Avenue, in front of Senn High School, are now over: The speed camera that CDOT installed in front of Senn Park has sharply cut the number of speeders cruising at a dangerous 40+ mph. Right after the camera was first installed, roughly seven out of 1,000 drivers received an official mailed warning for driving more than 10 mph above the speed limit. After the camera had been on for 44 days, it finally began issuing citations but sent tickets to fewer than two out of every 1,000 drivers.

While researching street conditions on Ridge Avenue for an upcoming article Streetsblog crunched the numbers from the first days of Senn Park’s speed camera, to see whether it was working. The change was startling: During the 30-day initial warning period, 6,725 vehicles received warnings for driving more than 10 mph over the speed limit – but in the first 30 days of live citations, only 1,811 vehicles were ticketed. That’s a 73 percent drop in the number of dangerously speeding drivers. That rate remained the same well into the camera’s second month of issuing citations.

Ridge Avenue is subject to the citywide speed limit of 30 mph, and the speed camera only monitors traffic during park hours, which are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Although Illinois law allows citations for drivers going 6 or more mph over the speed limit, CDOT currently only issues warnings or citations when its cameras see a car exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Since Ridge at this location is within a school zone, with a speed limit of 20 mph when children are present between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., the camera could also enforce that lower limit.

Streetsblog followed up with our own speed survey of our own, training our radar gun just south of the camera at Wayne Avenue – and found that although the camera may have tamed truly dangerously high speeds, drivers are still going too fast on this block. Wayne is right where drivers see “SAFETY ZONE” painted across each lane, but before where the speed camera monitors northwest-bound cars.

During one weekday rush hour, 35 out of 195 drivers in the curbside lane over 15 minutes – 18 percent – were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit. None of these drivers were going fast enough to trigger the camera, and thus a ticket, but all of them were still putting pedestrians at risk. Had any of them happened to crash into a pedestrian at those speeds, the pedestrian would probably have died: a majority of people hit by cars at 30 mph live, while 80 percent of those hit at 40 mph die.

Correction: The number of drivers observed speeding was misreported. 18 percent of drivers were clocked speeding, not 68 percent. I regret the error.

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Driver Kills Cyclist at Northwest Corner of Midway Airport


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The crash site from the driver’s perspective.

Less than two weeks after a bicyclist was fatally struck at Archer and Lawndale avenues in the Brighton Park neighborhood, another bike rider was struck and killed in the adjacent Garfield Ridge community.

At about 12:45 a.m. Sunday morning, Park Forest resident Gary Reyes, 44, was cycling eastbound on 55th Street at Central Avenue, according to Officer José Estrada from Police News Affairs. This large intersection, located at the northwest corner of Midway Airport, features five lanes of traffic in both directions.

Reyes was struck by Elizabeth Lara-Salas, 37, who was driving southbound in a 2011 Chevrolet Impala, Estrada said. He was taken to Christ Hospital in critical condition and later pronounced dead, according to the police.

Police charged Lara-Salas with “failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident,” Estrada said, adding that it is not yet known whether the cyclist or the driver had the right of way, and that there weren’t many witnesses. Major Accidents is investigating the crash.

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 17 (5 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 4 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

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Successful Pilot Means New “Bus on Shoulders” Routes For Pace

Governor Quinn Expands Green Transportation Program on Illinois’ Highways

Governor Quinn speaks to the cameras. Photo: Pace, via IDOT

For the past three years, Pace has run two express bus routes down the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) from Bolingbrook and Plainfield to downtown Chicago and the Illinois Medical District, and used the expressway’s shoulders to bypass traffic jams. Creating these dedicated transit lanes has resulted in better reliability — on-time performance jumped from 68 to 93 percent — and faster service, which when combined with comfortable (and wi-fi equipped) buses, has led ridership to jump 226 percent.

Governor Pat Quinn hosted a press conference yesterday at UIC to sign a new law that makes the pilot project permanent, and expands the program. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), gives the Illinois Department of Transportation full authority to allow buses on any “specially designated” shoulder in the state.

Before the pilot, IDOT spent $9.5 million to rebuild the shoulders on the Stevenson so that the heavy coaches could ride on them, and plans to spend another $363,000 so that the buses get three more miles of smooth sailing. A press release from Quinn’s office said that this fall, IDOT will outline improvements that would be needed to run buses on shoulders along the Edens Expressway (I-94) between Foster Avenue and Lake-Cook Road, through Northbrook, Glenview, and Skokie.

The Illinois Tollway will be including beefed-up shoulders as part of its reconstruction and widening of I-90 from the Kennedy in Chicago to Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. The tollway and Pace will also construct park-and-ride lots at the Randall Road and Route 25 interchanges in Elgin, and at Barrington Road [PDF]. The press release said that the Tollway is also building the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access Road to accommodate bus on shoulder operations. 

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P-Street Designation for 33rd Ward Business Strips Moves Forward at City Hall

Albany Park, Chicago

Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Photo by Aaron via Flickr

A few months ago, a proposed suburban-style Walgreens, across the street from the Kimball Brown Line station in Albany Park, inspired a campaign to ban car-centric development in the neighborhood’s vibrant retail districts. Now, an ordinance to officially classify stretches of Montrose, Lawrence, and Kedzie in the neighborhood as Pedestrians Streets, or P-Streets, is moving forward in City Council.

After residents objected to Walgreens’ plan to build the drugstore with a parking lot occupying the southwest corner of the Lawrence/Kimball intersection, 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell asked the company to go back to the drawing board to create a more walkable design. Walgreens still hasn’t provided an alternative plan. Meanwhile, the alderman asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to look at the possibility of creating P-street designations along several business corridors in the ward.

The designation is intended to prevent development that encourages driving and discourages walking, biking, and transit use. It forbids the creation of new driveways, and requires that the whole building façade be adjacent to the sidewalk. The main entrance must be located on the P-Street, and at least 60 percent of the façade between four and ten feet above the sidewalk must be windows.

On P-Streets, any off-street parking must be located behind the building and accessed from the alley. Meanwhile, developers who build on P-Streets near transit stops can get an “administrative adjustment,” exempting them from providing any commercial parking spaces. In effect, the designation ensures that future developments will be pedestrian-friendly, and blocks the creation of drive-throughs, strip malls, car dealerships, gas stations, car washes and other businesses that cater to drivers.

At a June 25 City Council meeting, Mell introduced an ordinance to create P-Streets on Montrose from California to Kimball, Lawrence from Sacramento to Central Park, and Kedzie from Montrose to Lawrence. The legislation will likely go before the city’s zoning committee in early September. If the committee approves it, the ordinance will go before the full City Council for a vote.

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State Shouldn’t Pay for Employee Parking at an Office 2 Minutes From the ‘L’

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The office building, right, and the garage across the street. Image: Google Streetview

Yesterday DNAinfo reported that a block club is pushing to expand permit parking in Uptown and Andersonville, in response to complaints that workers at a nearby office building are taking up too many parking spaces on side streets. The Illinois Department of Human Services recently took over three floors of a ten-story building at 5050 North Broadway, owned by Imperial Realty, to house about 400 workers. The building is otherwise largely empty.

Representatives for the DHS workers, local alderman Ameya Pawar, and Imperial all argued that the perceived parking woes should be addressed by providing free spaces for employees in a six-story garage across the street from the office, also owned by the real estate company. The lone voice of reason in the article came from a state official, who pointed out that public transportation is a viable alternative for getting to the building, located only a two-minute walk from the Red Line’s Argyle stop.

The Winona Foster Carmen Winnemac Block Club has been seeking support for converting about 1,100 curbside spaces on nearby side streets to permit parking. The process requires support from 65 percent of residents within the Block Club’s boundaries. Block club president Randy Heite said the move is necessary because there’s a dearth of parking for residents during the day, partly due to DHS workers using on-street spots.

Fran Tobin, an organizer from the Alliance for Community Services, which includes a union representing state employees, claimed that the parking shortage is to blame for workers arriving late to the DHS offices. “They are driving around and around, looking for parking,” he said.

Since there are roughly 400 employees and about 200 clients visiting each day, he argued that several hundred spaces are needed. Tobin said state officials should “take responsibility for the damage they’ve made,” by addressing the perceived parking nightmare. He said that renting spaces for employees at the garage, which has room for more than 600 cars, “would certainly be the most logical thing to do.”

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