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Speed Cameras Issue 1.25 Million Warnings, Cut Speeding 43%

Speed camera near Gompers Park

The first speed camera, at Gompers Park, was turned on nearly a year ago.

The City of Chicago’s automated speed enforcement system continues to succeed in reducing dangerous speeding around parks and schools. The Chicago Department of Transportation issued a press release earlier this month, stating that the number of speeding cars observed by its 51 speed cameras has fallen an average of 43 percent ever since the first week of the cameras’ operation. At some locations, the number of speeders dropped as much as 99 percent.

These stats continue the pattern established early on — just three weeks after a handful of speed cameras started issuing tickets, the number of cars seen speeding had already dropped 65 percent.

The 11-month-old speed camera program started almost a year ago with one installation at Gompers Park, and since then the program has issued “more than 1.25 million warnings to motorists.” Written warnings are issued within a camera’s first 30 days of operation, as well as on the first instance that a motorist is caught speeding, in any zone. Tickets are only issued when drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more.

The release also said motorists received 230,000 citations. That five warnings are issued for every citation might indicate that many motorists receive warnings, and don’t speed through safety zones again.

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Cost Isn’t the Issue With Palmer Square Speed Tables, NIMBYs Are

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Midblock crosswalk on the north side of Palmer Square. Photo: John Greenfield

Last month, a DNAinfo.com article drew attention to a new campaign to improve pedestrian safety at Palmer Square by installing raised crosswalks, also known as speed tables. Unfortunately, factual errors in the piece left the impression that raised crosswalks would be an expensive solution that doesn’t have the Chicago Department of Transportation’s approval. It turns out that speed tables would be quite affordable, and CDOT first proposed adding them years ago. Other changes to the roadway could further discourage speeding and enhance the park – if only the park’s neighbors would allow them.

Ever since Palmer Square got new playground equipment and a soft-surface track in 2009, the green space has become increasingly popular with families and other Logan Square residents seeking recreation and relaxation. However, the current street layout encourages fast driving, which endangers people crossing to the park, as well as cyclists on Palmer Boulevard.

The eastbound portion of the boulevard runs south of the oval-shaped park, with two travel lanes plus a bike lane. Stop signs at the three-way intersections of Palmer and Albany Avenue, as well as Palmer and Whipple Street, help to calm motorized traffic.

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On the south side of the park, stop signs at Albany and Whipple help slow down cars. Photo: John Greenfield

However, on the north side of the green space, there are three westbound travel lanes, plus a bike lane. Albany and Whipple don’t continue north of the park, so there are no intersections or stop signs on the quarter-mile stretch between Sacramento and Kedzie boulevards, which makes it easy for drivers to pick up speed.

While there are marked, midblock crosswalks on the north side of Palmer Square where Albany and Whipple would be, the three travel lanes create long crossing distances and the so-called “multiple threat” scenario. Even if one driver obeys the law by stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk, there’s no guarantee that the motorist in the next lane will do so.

Two churches near the square encourage their parishioners to park in the central lane on the north side of the green space during services and special events. That’s technically illegal, but has been condoned by the local aldermen in the past. This practice further endangers pedestrians, because it makes it more difficult for westbound drivers to see people crossing the street.

As DNAinfo reported, residents have launched an online petition calling for installing raised crosswalks on the northern portion of the boulevard at Albany and Whipple. “A park designed for and frequented by very small children, residential homes and a church borders this portion of the street,” the petition reads. “A school also borders the park and school children often utilize the park for physical education and after school programs. The speeding traffic on the street creates a grave safety hazard.”

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Do All Bike Crashes Deserve Police Reports?

My crash report

The author’s own crash report from 2007.

Crash data, more so than any other regularly collected and readily reported public data sets, shine a bright light upon the most dangerous parts of our city’s streets. Crash reports tell authorities who was injured, where, and under what circumstances, and the Illinois Department of Transportation collects the same information from all police departments statewide. IDOT uses these reports “for a number of vital purposes, including crash analysis, roadway engineering improvements, safety program design, and ultimately, preventing death/injury on Illinois roadways.”

Yet unlike automated counters, having good crash data relies upon people filing reports – and in many cases, people don’t. I talked with two bicyclists who recently had crashes, but declined to file reports afterwards, to understand how the current process could be improved.

Jackie lives in Wrigleyville and works in insurance. She was riding west on Van Buren on June 25th towards home, about to cross State Street. As she tells it:

A person driving a car in the right southbound lane of State Street ran the red light in an effort to turn right on Van Buren. I’m not certain, but I think her head was down — looking at her phone, most likely. She looked up at the last second, and hit the brakes in time to hit my bike, between the fork and the downtube, with her bumper. I was thrown from the bike onto the street.

Jackie stood up, the driver asked if she was okay, and then the driver apologized “profusely.” The driver pulled her car to the curb so the two could exchange contact information. Jackie said she wasn’t going to visit the hospital, and the driver said she would pay for any damages to the bicycle.

Jackie says that filing a crash report was not necessary in the context of her situation.

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Driver Who Killed Jesse Bradley Got 16-Year Prison Sentence

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Jesse Bradley

Unfortunately, due to some crossed wires, I didn’t hear about the outcome in the case of Jesse Bradley, a Northwestern law student killed by an intoxicated driver, until recently. However, Streetsblog readers will want to know that Bianca Garcia, the motorist who killed Bradley while drunk and high and then fled the scene, has received an appropriately long jail sentence. “It’s a very good ending,” said victim advocate Sharon Johnson from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

“My son was so smart and so loving, just a good, good kid,” Bradley’s mother Colleen told me earlier this year. She described the 32-year-old as a shy, quiet person with a dry sense of humor. Having completed a couple years of challenging studies at Northwestern, he’d taken off two terms and was working at a Gold Coast Starbucks, where he’d learned to become much more outgoing by chatting with customers. He was set to finish school that summer and planned to work in business law.

Around 2:30 a.m. on March 24, 2012, Bradley was walking home to his apartment at 1140 North LaSalle after finishing a late shift and getting a snack with coworkers. Garcia, 21 at the time, had been out drinking with friends at several bars that night. As Bradley walked west across the south leg of the LaSalle/Division intersection, Garcia was speeding south on LaSalle, swerving violently. She struck Bradley, killing him instantly, then fled eastbound on Elm, going the wrong way down the one-way street for two blocks.

Fortunately, two police officers were sitting in a squad car on Elm at the time. They pulled Garcia over as she fled south on Dearborn and found her drivers license had expired. A test showed her blood alcohol content was 0.168 percent, more than twice the legal limit, and she had a cocktail of hard drugs in her system. She was charged with felony aggravated DUI and several other counts.

According to a Sun-Times report, Garcia had been pulled over by police at least six times in the previous five years. The first time was in 2008 when she was seventeen and was driving home from a New Year’s Eve party in Riverside after drinking a pint of rum. She was required to pay more than $1,000 in fines and undergo a year of supervision, but kept her license.

In early 2013, Garcia was offered a sentence of 12 years in prison, with the requirement that she serve at least 8.5 years of the sentence, Johnson said. After the defendant rejected that offer, the case continued for several more months. Last December, Garcia entered a blind plea of guilty to the charges in the Bradley case. On May 21, Judge Stanley Sacks sentenced her to 16 years of prison, with a minimum of 12 years of “real time.”

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Commuter Idyll Winner Matt Gjertson Shares His Stirring Tale of Redemption

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Sam Schwartz Engineering staffers Vig Krishnamurthy and Morgan Whitcomb created this awesome illustration of Matt and his commute options. Morgan’s boyfriend Jake Williams won last years Streetsblog USA Commuter Idyll contest.

Thanks to everybody who participated in Streetsblog Chicago’s Commuter Idyll contest, sharing your inspiring stories of switching from a nerve-racking car commute to a pleasant walking, biking and/or transit trip. Big thanks also to contest sponsor New Belgium Brewing, which hosts the fun-tastic Tour de Fat bikes-and-beers fest this Saturday in Palmer Square – see details about this can’t-miss event below. Be sure to drop by the Streetsblog table at the tour, where we’ll have free schwag, including our famous “I [Heart] Bus Rapid Transit” buttons.

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Matt Gjertson outside of his workplace.

A number of readers told us about how they ditched long, aggravating drives to work by switching to walking, biking, bike-share, CTA, Metra, carpooling, or some combination of the above. Some discussed how they moved closer to work – or got a job closer to home. Everyone reported that switching modes improved their health and happiness by helping them get more fresh air, exercise, or time to read or nap, allowing them to arrive at their job alert and ready to handle the day’s challenges.

Some of our favorite entries came from contest runners-up Courtney Cobbs, Brett Miller, and Elizabeth Edwards, who win VIP passes to the tour. You can read their inspirational tales, along with submissions from other readers here and here.

Our grand prize winner is Matt Gjertson, who talked about how his stress level soared after he switched jobs and had to give up a long-but-fun Metra commute. However, Matt’s tale is ultimately one of redemption, as he was able to regain his sense of wellbeing by fine-tuning his travel strategy. Here’s his story…

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Milwaukee Bottleneck Addressed but Illegal Parkers Endanger Cyclists

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Illegally parked cars force a cyclist to ride dangerously close to traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

On Thursday, Steven Vance and I got the news that the city was forcing a developer to fix a dangerous bottleneck on Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago’s busiest bike street, in Wicker Park. However, when I dropped by around 4:30 p.m. yesterday to check out the new street configuration, I found that the situation was as dysfunctional as ever.

In late June, Convexity Properties, a developer that’s turning the neighborhood’s iconic Northwest Tower into a hotel, built a pedestrian walkway in the street to protect people on foot while façade work takes place. The walkway’s exterior concrete wall narrowed the southbound lane of much of the 1600 block of North Milwaukee. As a result, southbound cyclists who tried to ride to the right of motorized traffic ran the risk of being squeezed into the wall.

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The street configuration last week, before the centerlines were striped. Photo: John Greenfield

Streetsblog Chicago writer Steven Vance brought the problem to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s attention. Last Thursday, a CDOT source told Steven that Convexity was not complying with the terms of its construction permit, which requires that both lanes of traffic be safely maintained.

CDOT would force the developer to pay for restriping the road’s center line to provide more room for southbound bike riders, Steven was told. Relocating the northbound lane east would require temporarily removing metered parking on the east side of the block, and Convexity would be responsible for compensating the city’s parking concessionaire for lost revenue.

Readers told us the work was carried out later that day. When I dropped by yesterday, the new yellow centerlines looked sharp. However, all of the paper “No Parking” signs, affixed to poles on the east side of the street, had been torn out of their wood frames and plastic lamination, presumably by disgruntled merchants or motorist. That side was still lined with parked cars.

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Hulk no like “No Parking” sign! Photo: John Greenfield

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CMAP Tells IDOT: “To Each Municipality, According to Their Needs”

Urbanity fails again.

Uneven pavement abounds in Chicagoland. Photo: Josh Koonce

The Illinois Department of Transportation, whose secretary resigned last week after accusations about patronage hiring, distributed $545 million in gas tax revenue to fix streets in almost 3,000 jurisdictions last year. While this sounds like a lot of money, poor road and bridge conditions across the state can attest to the fact that these funds might not be going to the places that need them most. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the region’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization, has recently written about different methods that IDOT could use to more fairly distribute these revenues across the state’s cities and counties.

CMAP’s regional comprehensive plan, GO TO 2040, implemented for the first time a system of performance measures to make sure that transportation funding generally goes to where it’s needed, instead of just where it’s wanted. In that spirit, CMAP suggests a few alternatives to the state’s existing distribution mechanism, which state law currently divvies up based mostly on population as well as the number of licensed vehicles and street mileage. The current system steers 71 percent of statewide gas tax revenue to the seven-county CMAP region.

This “formula funding” mechanism, CMAP says, ignores the transportation system’s changing needs. Plus, since the percentages are set in law, that means that fund distributions “cannot respond to changing needs over time.” For example, 16.74 percent of the $545 million in annual gas tax revenue goes to the one Illinois county with over one million residents — Cook County. Meanwhile, DuPage County has grown to 932,000 residents, and could reach one million residents before 2040. When that happens, DuPage would become eligible for that 16.74 percent slice, and Cook could see its own revenue cut in half overnight, even though its streets would remain heavily used by suburbanites driving into the region’s core for work or play. 

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Right-Turning Cement Truck Driver Kills Young Woman on Bike


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The crash site at Cicero and Belmont.

28-year-old Portage Park resident Barbara “Barbie” Eno was killed on her bicycle last Thursday by a right-turning cement truck driver.

That morning, Eno had cycled to the Secretary of State’s office to replace a stolen ID and was returning to her home on the 4800 block of West Addison, DNAinfo reported. At about 10:35 am, she was biking north on the 3100 block of North Cicero, according to Office José Estrada from Police News Affairs. The 51-year-old male driver of the truck, a Kenworth W900, was also traveling northbound, Estrada said.

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Barbie Eno. Photo: DNAinfo

After the driver turned right onto Belmont, “he heard a thump and heard several people screaming at him to stop,” Estrada said. The trucker then pulled over and attempted to render aid to Eno until the ambulance arrived, according to Estrada. Eno was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 11:31, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Eno, who was remembered by family and friends as a “sweetheart” who loved animals, was struck within a short distance of the apartment where she grew up as a child, DNA reported. Her older sister, Chrissy Eno told DNA that Barbie started bicycle commuting four years earlier. “She loved riding her bike all the time,” Chrissy said. “I always used to tell her to be careful.

The truck driver was not arrested or cited, Estrada said. Police are talking to witnesses and looking for surveillance video, DNA reported. Bike lawyer Brendan Kevenides (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) noted in a blog post that there are traffic cameras at Cicero and Belmont, so it’s likely that the police will be able to determine what caused the crash.

Kevenides wrote that this type of “right hook” crash is all too common:

Because cyclists are required by law to travel along the right side of the roadway, they may find themselves cut off by a careless driver traveling in the same direction who attempt to turn right without looking for bicycle traffic. All drivers own a duty of reasonable care to all roadway users, including people on bicycles.  For the right turning driver this duty requires: (1) Using a turn signal; (2) Turning right from the right lane; and (3) Looking right for bikes before starting to turn.

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Garrido Grandstands Against Milwaukee Road Diet at Public Meeting

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John Garrido and Dave Wians, holding stack of petitions. Photo: John Greenfield

Last night, announced aldermanic candidate John Garrido hijacked a crowded community meeting about the city’s proposal for a safety overhaul of Milwaukee from Lawrence to Elston. He interrupted the event to present Chicago Department of Transportation engineers with what he said were 4,000 signatures in opposition to any reconfiguration of the street that would involve fewer travel lanes.

Most of this stretch of Milwaukee is a five-lane speedway, and 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.

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.

This stretch of Milwaukee is slated to be resurfaced next year, and CDOT plans to use the opportunity to reconfigure the street to improve safety for pedestrians, bike riders, transit users and drivers. The project would use $1.5 million in funding, eighty percent of which would come from federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grants.

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Current conditions on Milwaukee north of the Kennedy. Photo: John Greenfield

At the open house at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park, CDOT presented various scenarios for the street makeover [PDF of presentation]. Currently, Milwaukee between Lawrence and the Kennedy, including the area around the Jefferson Park Transit Center, is a two-lane street with rush-hour parking controls. CDOT has proposed eliminating the RHPCs on this stretch to make room for buffered bike lanes.

The department presented three possible configurations for the stretch of Milwaukee between the Kennedy and Elston, which has five lanes. Option A would retain all travel lanes and add a buffer on one side of the existing conventional lanes. Option B would convert one travel lane in each direction to wide bike lanes with buffers on both sides. Option C would convert travel lanes to parking-protected bike lanes, which would provide the greatest benefit in safety for all road users, since the bike lanes would also shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and discourage speeding by motorists.

All three scenarios would also add high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian islands, and better traffic signal coordination. Studies have shown that street configurations with a total of two travel lanes plus a turn lane in each direction can easily handle up to 20,000 vehicles per day, so CDOT predicts that options B and C would have little negative impact on traffic flow and would actually improve northbound traffic flow during the morning rush.

Option C would require removing roughly 20 percent of on-street parking spaces to maintain sight lines. However, parking counts show that, in general, spaces on this stretch 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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Wicker Park Counts Up Better Ways to Use Its 11,650 Parking Spaces

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A CMAP infographic about transportation around Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Every Saturday night at dusk, the main streets in Wicker Park and Bucktown seize up. The stalled lines of cars don’t just infuriate drivers — they also stall buses, block crosswalks, and push cyclists into the dangerous door zone. These crowds don’t descend out of nowhere to watch the sunset, or to pile into shows at the Double Door. No, this dangerous mess stems in large part from poorly managed public parking.

To better understand the parking situation in WPB and how to improve it, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning recently completed an Innovation in Parking Management Plan, with help from the WPB Special Service Area and the Metropolitan Planning Council. They found that WPB actually has an ample supply of parking. And that existing supply can be better managed, even under current policies like the parking meter contract.

Lindsay Bayley, who managed the project for CMAP, said that the parking plan grew out of the neighborhood’s earlier planning efforts. WPB’s 2009 master plan had “a lot of recommendations regarding parking. After the parking meter deal, they needed to get a handle for what was going on the ground and what they could do.”

CMAP has worked on parking in suburban downtowns like Berwyn and Hinsdale, but had not yet had a chance to examine how parking management strategies might apply to city neighborhoods. Chicago has a particularly interesting situation, since the city controls much less about parking than a suburban village does — the city operates neither garages nor meters in the neighborhoods.

WPB’s long “overall support of active transportation” made it a particularly good community to study, said Bayley. “Their transportation committee is really well versed in how transportation affects the business district and how parking specifically affects it,” she said. “Within the SSA, they understand that they really need a balance between walking, biking, transit, and driving” to get everyone to and through the neighborhood.

The parking plan began with an exhaustive inventory of parking supply and demand in the neighborhood, as well as public outreach through interviews, public meetings, and an online survey, that cumulatively asked roughly 500 people about transportation in the neighborhood. The resulting Parking Management Plan, recently adopted by the SSA commission, will help decision-makers better understand the neighborhood’s parking and transportation situation.

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