Truck Driver Kills 24-Year-Old Woman Crossing Kennedy Exit

Fatal pedestrian crash location
The intersection of Randolph Street and a Kennedy Expressway off-ramp, where Cong Ye was run over by a truck driver yesterday morning. The two mourners went to school with Cong Ye.

The driver of a vegetable oil tanker ran over and killed Catherine Cong Ye, 24, as she crossed a Kennedy Expressway off-ramp along Randolph Street while walking toward the Loop yesterday morning at around 8:30 a.m, reports ABC7. The driver was turning right onto westbound Randolph Street when the ladder on the right side of the tanker struck Cong Ye and she was then run over. She died on the scene about 15 minutes later. The driver was cited for “failure to exercise for due care for a pedestrian in a roadway,” but it appears that no criminal charges were filed.

Tazeen Hamidi, who crosses the intersection frequently, told ABC7 that she and her friends will drive to the West Loop to avoid walking across the intersection. “Every time we walk we think of how dangerous this is when the cars are either exiting or entering the highway,” she said. “They’re so fast, so it’s really hard to cross the street.”

Off-ramps are dangerous because drivers are still adapting from the high-speed highway environment to local streets. According to Tom Vanderbilt in his book Traffic, “studies have shown that drivers who drove for at least a few minutes at 70 miles per hour drove up to 15 miles per hour faster when they hit a 30-miles-per-hour zone than drivers who had not been previously traveling at the higher speed.”

But the Chicago Police Department does not seem interested in exploring the factors that contributed to this preventable death, telling ABC7 simply that “this was incredibly bad timing and… a freak accident.” For pedestrians in Chicago, is there ever a good timing to be walking? Most pedestrian traffic injuries in Chicago’s central business district occur when the pedestrian is within a crosswalk [PDF].

The ABC7 segment demonstrates one of the major issues with walking around the Kennedy Expressway entrances downtown. People drive right over the crosswalk and ignore stop signs and stop bars:

Details of this crash are uncertain, but since oncoming traffic comes from the left, and Cong Ye was walking from the right, it’s quite possible the driver never looked in her direction. Additionally, at this location, the placement of the stop bar doesn’t help drivers see what’s around them. After stopping at the stop bar, a driver cannot see clearly before entering the street, but must move forward, stop again, and look for an opening in traffic. It’s more efficient, and now expected, for drivers to stop where they can best see cross traffic, which happens to be after the crosswalk. Adjusting the placement of the crosswalk and the way the off-ramp intersects Randolph Street could address this problem.

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s new Complete Streets Design Guidelines discuss the problems posed by expressway on- and off-ramps. The guidelines say that drivers must be slowed down “from highway to street speeds before they arrive to the intersection.”

Fatality Tracker: 2013 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 7 (6 were from hit-and-run crashes, 2 in truck crashes)
Bicyclist: 0

Crash location: 700 W Randolph Street

  • The other day I walked that way to get to work and found myself thanking a driver for letting me cross at that crosswalk and then I thought how strange it was to feel like I was inconveniencing a driver who is required to stop for me.

  • Erik Swedlund

    I’ve walked across that crosswalk many times, and had several close calls. Same at the east end of the bridge with the on-ramp

  • Melissa

    It sucks because it bisects the vibrant restaurant row. My impression is that the problem will only get worse- pre-dinner drinks at Maude’s, get run over by a truck on the way to dinner at Sepia.

  • Guest

    Is it rude not to do that? I never do that. I don’t feel like I have to thank someone every time they stop for me when they have to.

  • I am saddened, but less than shocked. That block is one of the worst in the city for pedestrians, I always feel like I’m gambling when I walk across that bridge. Somebody who lives in the 42nd ward should file a complaint with Reilly’s office, that’s probably the only way anything will get done about it.

  • Actually that’s currently the 27th Ward (old map, which most alderman plan to go by until the next election), Walter Burnett.

  • You’ll hate this sign seen on the crossing beacon under the Nichols Bridgeway at the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, where it says, “Thank the driver”.

  • Randolph is weird and there are design shortcomings in the crosswalks and crossings (for bicyclists) at the non-expressway ramp intersections.

  • I checked the crashes for all of the Kennedy bridges – surprisingly most ramps had 0 reported pedestrian crashes.

    Here’re all the pedestrian and bicycle crashes at this location on (1 pedestrian, 2 bicyclist, none at this ramp).

    However, this doesn’t include other key indicators of pedestrian safety:

    1. Close calls. I’m trying to set something up for this based on Aaron Fraint’s project in New York City:

    2. The number of people who are not walking here, by either taking a circuitous route to a different street (Van Buren is the closest without a ramp, and far, so this theory seems unlikely) or taking a different mode of transportation (probably a taxi – they’re in high supply around here).

  • That’s insane. Is that sign new? I’ve never noticed it. I dislike those “apply here for permission to cross” buttons anyway, and this instruction adds insult to injury. Thank you for reluctantly adhering to the law, Driver!

  • I don’t think it’s rude. I was saying that it was strange that I thanked the driver. Perhaps my husband is influencing me. In his previous life as a messenger, he may or may not have used his NY chain to remove side mirrors…but now gives a thumbs up to drivers who use turn signals, or who use their mirrors and wait for him to pass. We’ve both concluded that a little more positive reinforcement can’t hurt anything!

  • Yes, we ex-messengers tend to mellow with age.

  • I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s largely out of avoidance (and a bit of luck). The last few times I’ve been over there, I was the only person walking for several blocks. Lake is slightly better, the elevated tracks block sightlines for drivers coming off the freeway, forcing them to at least slow down somewhat.

  • Melissa

    I sometimes take the Green/Pink line from Morgan/Lake to Clinton to eat at the restaurants in that area for lunch. I would rather walk, but it’s not that safe.

  • Anonymous

    I worked on the Monroe side of this ramp. You have to look like 10 times, both way before even considering crossing this street.

  • Michelle Z

    This intersection needs to be changed. Its design makes it a death trap. Why is the City of Chicago closing its eyes to this dangerous intersection????

  • Van Buren is the only street without ramps.

    Madison has the most crashes of all the Loop connectors across the Kennedy.

  • It’s been there since 2010. Here’s architecture critic Blair Kamin’s review of the crosswalk.

    Nearby, at Lake Shore Drive, there’s a crosswalk beg button that you have to step into mud to access.

  • Anonymous

    Frankly, I don’t really think that particular cross-walk is dangerous. The off ramp is a lot safer because there is a stop and you can easily make eye contact with the drivers, so you can tell if they’re paying attention. Just look at the intersection: a pedestrian only has to worry about cars coming from the off ramp, getting in an accident with a vehicle there is about the most unfortunate thing that could happen to anybody! And indeed, it is the most unfortunate thing that did happen! The on ramps just down the street are A LOT more dangerous as there are no stops and all the cars are coming from behind you.

    This case was truly a freak situation, the truck was turning right in front of her after a full stop and she somehow ended up getting struck by a ladder then dragged underneath the back tires of the truck. I literally work right next to where it happened and I’m with the cops on this one: it’s the most inexplicable and unfortunate accident. RIP, truly sad to lose such a young life.

  • Michelle Z

    Was the truck really stopped before this happened? I was under the impression that the driver didn’t stop and cut the corner too close. The victim, Catherine, was my son’s girlfriend. We are all so devastated. I am just trying to make sense of what happened. It is so hard to understand.

  • A memorial fund has been established in honor of Ms. Ye:

  • Anonymous

    I’m truly sorry for your loss. I didn’t witness the accident but I was under the impression that the truck had made the full stop (it’s difficult to miss that stop there, especially with the nature of the intersection). However, I wouldn’t want to speculate as to the exact details, so your best bet for clear information would be from the police reports. I saw the police take statements from several witnesses and if the police has determined that the driver didn’t stop then I’d go with their official findings.


Another Example of IDOT Blocking Efforts for Safer Chicago Streets

[This piece also runs in Checkerboard City, John’s column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.] The Illinois Department of Transportation isn’t all bad, but it sure seems that way sometimes. Earlier this year Steven Vance broke the story that IDOT has been blocking the Chicago Department of Transportation from installing protected […]