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Posts from the "Transportation" Category

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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.

Read more…

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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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Eyes on the Street: Crew Responds To Bike Lane Sewer Collapse

Fixing two Logan Square sewer collapses

Progress as of Monday early afternoon.

A Chicago Department of Water Management crew was on Logan Boulevard today fixing a sewer collapse in the bike lane. We alerted the Chicago Department of Transportation and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack last week about the hazard, just outside Xsport Fitness.

Streetsblog reader Patrick Lynch sent us some photos he took on Monday night. We forwarded them to CDOT staff on Tuesday morning, who acknowledged the issue a few hours later.

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The sewer collapse one week ago. Photo: Patrick Lynch

It turns out, though, that Alderman Waguespack submitted the issue himself via SeeClickFix 11 days ago.

The way the city initially addressed the situation (since Waguespack’s initial reporting) was problematic. Instead of placing barricades ahead of the road hazard, a barricade was placed within it.

It was a situation like this that led to the paralyzing crash of Brian Baker, while he was bicycling on Wabansia Avenue in 2009. The city settled the case this year for $1.2 million. When bike lanes are affected by full-width road hazards, bicyclists require more advance warning than motorists do, because they need more time to merge out of the bike lane and into faster moving traffic.

Waguespack also reported a sewer collapse around the corner on Elston Avenue, in front of Panera. The crews today were adding more barricades to prevent people from riding or driving into this hole.

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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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Eyes on the Street: Handy New Protected Bike Lanes on Harrison

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A green lane shepherds cyclists across the offset Harrison/State intersection. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation is almost finished building the city’s latest protected bike lanes, on Harrison between Desplaines and Wabash, and they’re useful ones. The new PBLs serve as a handy connection between protected lanes on Desplaines, Canal, and Dearborn, as well as conventional and buffered lanes on Clinton, Franklin, and Wabash, and they’re mitigating a couple of problem spots on Harrison.

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A worker heats green thermoplastic on Harrison. Photo: John Greenfield

It appears that the white lines for the lanes are finished, and a crew was out laying down green thermoplastic yesterday. In general, the lanes are curbside, but they will not be protected by parked cars. Presumably, CDOT will soon be installing flexible posts in the buffer on the left side of the lanes, to discourage motorists from driving in them.

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Typical lane configuration, looking west near the main post office. Photo: John Greenfield

At Desplaines, in front of the Greyhound station, the westbound bike lane is a buffered lane to the left of the taxi stand, which seemed to be working well when I dropped by this afternoon. However, the eastbound lane, set against the curb by a self-storage facility, was filled with parked cars. That wasn’t surprising, since pay-and-display parking signs are still up. CDOT plans to remove two free parking spaces and relocate eight metered spots from in front of the storage facility, which should solve this problem. There are also some major potholes in the eastbound curb lane, so it would be great if this stretch was repaved.

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The Secrets of Successful Transit Projects — Revealed!

Green Line Trax at Gallivan Plaza

The Trax light rail system in Salt Lake City has the hallmarks of high-ridership transit. Photo: CountyLemonade/Flickr

All across America, cities are investing in new transit lines. Which of these routes will make the biggest impact by attracting large numbers of new riders? A landmark report from a team of researchers with the University of California at Berkeley identifies the factors that set successful transit investments apart from the rest.

The secret sauce is fairly simple, when you get down to it: Place a transit line where it will connect a lot of people to a lot of jobs and give it as much grade-separated right-of-way as possible, and it will attract a lot of riders.

What makes the work of the Berkeley researchers, led by Daniel G. Chatman, remarkable is that it compiles decades of real-world data to predict how many people will ride a given transit route. Their conclusions should bolster efforts to maximize the effectiveness of new transit investments.

The report authors examined 140-plus factors to build these ridership models, based on data collected from 55 “fixed guideway” transit projects, including rail and bus rapid transit routes, built in 18 metropolitan areas between 1974 and 2008.

They found the success of a transit project is almost synonymous with whether it serves areas that are dense in both jobs and population and have expensive parking — in short, lively urban neighborhoods. In the report’s model, the combination of these factors explains fully 62 percent of the ridership difference between transit projects.

Surprisingly, the only design factor that seemed to have a significant effect on ridership was whether the route is grade-separated (in a tunnel or on a viaduct). In isolation, transit speed, frequency, or reliability did not have significant impacts, but the great advantage of grade-separated routes is that they can run quickly and reliably through high-density areas.

While it may seem like common sense to put transit routes where they will connect people to jobs, agencies don’t always choose the best routes — often opting for expedience over effectiveness. Salt Lake City’s FrontRunner commuter rail service, for instance, very closely parallels a newly widened I-15, and many stations are located in low-density industrial or residential areas. Ridership has fallen short of expectations.

Elsewhere in Salt Lake City, the authors identify the University/Medical Center Trax light rail route as a good example of a high-ridership transit project. It connects major high-wage job centers — notably the university, its hospital, and downtown — and also many leisure destinations like museums, sports stadiums, the state fair park, concert halls, and nearly half of the region’s hotel rooms. Locals have embraced light rail as an alternative to costly parking, as well: Parking demand on the growing University of Utah campus has fallen 30 percent since the route opened. The route carries 78 percent more riders than initially projected.

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Tell Us Your “Commuter Idyll” Story Today, Be a Tour de Fat VIP

Bike Pit

Try out a wacky bicycle in the rodeo. Photo: Josh Koonce

Today’s the last day of our Commuter Idyll contest. That means it’s your last chance to tell us how you switched from a stressful car commute to a relaxing transit ride or stress-relieving walk to work — and win one of several prizes!

Last year’s contest was run by Streetsblog USA, and the winner was Jake Williams from Chicago, who switched from a 26-mile drive to Lincolnshire to a 12-minute walking commute to a new job.

We’ve got cool prizes this year thanks to a generous sponsorship from New Belgium Brewing, the employee-owned company from Fort Collins, Colorado who’s bringing Tour de Fat back to Palmer Square Park this coming Saturday.

What’s your commuting story? Did you give up on the cost and headaches of constant car breakdowns, then switched to listening to Talking Headways on Metra? Were you so sick of stop-and-go traffic on the Kennedy or Eisenhower that you instead chose to park the car and hop aboard the Blue Line instead?

Even if you don’t yet have an Idyllic story yet, but want to give it a try, New Belgium is also looking for someone to give up their car at the fest and get a new bike in return. You’ll have to apply online beforehand.

The Tour brings “bikes, beer, and bemusement” to every stop, including numerous live bands and a wacky bicycle rodeo, and also raises funds for local bicycle nonprofits. For Chicago, 100 percent of beer proceeds will be donated to West Town Bikes, a bike kitchen in Humboldt Park which teaches high school students how to repair bikes and manage a store.

John will be holding down the fort at the Streetsblog Chicago table, while I’ll be pouring $5 drafts of Snapshot and Fat Tire for West Town Bikes until 2:30 p.m.

Last year’s fest drew 8,000 attendees and raised more than $40,000 for after school programs at West Town Bikes. The fest starts with a bicycle parade (and cargo bike roll call) around Logan Square. Costumes are encouraged, so look for 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón in his Zorro outfit. Read more…

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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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