CDOT’s Two-Year Strategic Update Lacks Street Safety Data

Traffic injuries declined in 2011 after plateauing for a few years, then didn’t change much in 2012. This data is not included in CDOT’s update to its Chicago Forward Action Agenda.

The recently released update to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s first-ever two-year plan, the Chicago Forward Action Agenda, fails to give a status report on critical street safety metrics. The two-year update to Chicago Forward [PDF] does say a lot about what CDOT is doing to improve safety, but it doesn’t provide information on traffic crashes and injuries.

The Chicago Forward plan laid out several performance goals, including to “reduce total roadway crashes and injuries from all roadway crashes each by 10% every year.” It was an ambitious target, and one that the city is taking steps to address by redesigning streets and adding speed enforcement cameras. The update, however, includes no data on crashes and injuries. While it’s too early to fully assess trends since 2010 and whether the city is doing enough to reduce traffic violence, the report should still include this safety information so Chicagoans can see the state of their city’s streets.

CDOT did not respond to a query about the status of these performance measures and why they weren’t listed. However, crash data is available from the Illinois Department of Transportation, and based on IDOT’s numbers, total traffic injuries in Chicago declined between 2010 and 2012, but not as much as 10 percent per year. Total crashes also declined but at less than the target rate.

With only two full years of safety data, it’s possible that one year might be an outlier, and 2012 does seem to be exceptional in some respects. Traffic fatalities shot up almost 18 percent last year, including a 20 percent increase in pedestrian deaths, but seem on track to drop substantially this year. (The Chicago Forward plan calls for a reduction of traffic fatalities to zero by 2021, but monitoring crashes and injuries gives a more robust picture and is less subject to random variation.)

The information we have since 2010 is still useful. Here’s what IDOT data revealed about recent changes in pedestrian and cyclist injuries in Chicago:

  • From 2009 to 2012 there was a marked decrease in injury crashes involving pedestrians of 16 percent, but an increase in injury crashes involving cyclists of nearly six percent. (Note that these are the number of all people injured in crashes with pedestrians and cyclists, including possible injuries to the driver and passengers.)
  • From 2009 to 2012 there was a decrease in reported pedestrian crashes of 12.75 percent, but an increase in reported bicycle crashes of 7.41 percent.

Overall, the picture is improving for pedestrians while cyclist injuries are increasing. Still, it’s likely that the safety of biking has increased, since more people are riding, but we need better information to track the level of cycling in the city as well. According to the Census, the number of bike commuters increased 7.43 percent from 2011 to 2012. Commute trips are a relatively small fraction of overall trips, though, so we need more information about the number of non-work trips to better understand our streets’ safety performance. CDOT’s bike counts, which estimate biking levels by tabulating actual cyclists at specific locations for a few hours per month, are inconveniently published in 30 separate PDFs. Chicago can do better.

CDOT’s goal of a 10 percent crash and injury reduction each year set a very high bar. And it’s too early to judge how tactics like speed cameras, installed in October, are affecting traffic injuries (the effects on driver speed are certainly promising). But the crash data from IDOT does suggest that it will take a lot more effort to achieve the city’s street safety goals. The city needs to show people what’s happening on the streets, especially if it means that we need to work harder to reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

  • Brian

    Where is all of the data that’s used to support the NEED For speed cameras? Oh right, that was made up. But hey, If Rahm says the sky is red, then the sky is red. No data needed to back up the claim.

  • Numbers guy

    Did you notice the big graph at the top of the post with the stats about 20,000 people getting injured in Chicago traffic crashes every year?

  • Did you know that speeding-type crashes lead to more injuries and deaths than the #1 cause of crashes?

  • Brian

    Maybe you could help Scott Kubly on his way out the door, before he falsifies more statistics to justify speed cameras. I wonder how much in kick backs and bribes he has received. Any wonder why he is leaving?

  • Brian

    I think as Scott Kubly prepares to leave, it’s important to remember the botch job he did with the speed camera statistics:

    Its a wonder how someone like him sleeps at night, knowing that he is doing nothing but creating lies and cheating citizens out of their money.

  • JacobEPeters

    Do you mean the citizens who were cheating the system by ignoring traffic signals? Break the law, pay the consequences. Not sure how, or why you are opposed to enforcing our laws.

  • Brian

    Cheating the system?
    I’m all for enforcing laws, but only when due process is followed. Cameras don’t allow for due process, as evidenced when they accused a parked car of speeding.
    But Scott K has an answer for that too. Another botch job.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Whatever, crank. From your article: “Instead of the 60 percent reduction the mayor touted, the Tribune’s analysis of accidents for the same locations revealed a nearly 26 percent reduction — one that mirrored a broader accident trend in the city and across the nation. The difference? The city said fatalities dropped from 53 to 21 in the targeted zones, but the federal statistics showed the before-and-after numbers were 47 and 35.

    Presented with that conclusion, the Emanuel administration this week reversed course and said its initial statistical summary was error-ridden and shouldn’t have been provided in the first place.”

    So it’s a 26% reduction instead of 60, and they owned their mistake. Yeah, definitely a scandal. And this is of course if you take it for granted that the Trib’s study isn’t flawed, which is entirely possible.

    And get of the Kubly hatewagon dude. He’s a CDOT spokesman, you really think he’s going to go out in front of reporters and throw the Mayor, his boss under the bus? And you really think he alone is responsible for the study?

    And speed cameras have driven down incidences of speeding by 60%, and there’s been no sustained challenges to that data.

    Take off the tin foil hat guy.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    “he is doing nothing but creating lies and cheating citizens out of their money.”?!?!

    That’s right, I’m sure he stays up late at night scheming about ways to gouge regular joe’s. “No no Mildred, I can’t come to bed, there are waifs and wage men out there with pennies in their pockets. I can’t sleep until I’ve found a way to turn them upside down and shake them by their ankles until all the change spills out. Haaahahah! Money! Glorious money!”

    Probably while twirling his greasy handlebar mustache and laughing maniacally.

    Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Actually the speed cameras do allow for due process, the offender is provided with written notice, the right grieve and the right to appeal.

    The parked car situation actually evidences this perfectly as the alleged offender was notified, had the opportunity to view the video of her supposed infraction, appeal it and have it overturned. And in all likelihood the mistake was a human error. There will always be mistakes made, but how they are addressed is what matters, and in this case it seems the system worked out just fine. Not to mention the fact that this was all in relation to a warning, not an actual ticket, as the program was issuing warnings for the first 30 days and then still giving out freebies on the first ticket.

    If you were interested in the whole story you would acknowledge that.:

    “Emanuel transportation officials and the city’s speed camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions, both said Kasten’s unwarranted warning was a one-off mistake and not indicative of a broader problem with the new system. The camera system operated properly, but employees reviewing the video assigned blame for the speeding to the wrong vehicle, said Deputy Transportation Commissioner Scott Kubly and American Traffic Solutions spokesman Charles Territo.

    “It’s unacceptable to us that something like that would happen,” said Kubly, who oversees the speed camera program for the city. “So what we’ve done is we’ve directed our contractors to redouble their training efforts so we can minimize the chances of this happening again.

    “This was just a warning, but if the person would have appealed this, it’s very clear it would have been overturned.”

    American Traffic Solutions employs about 40 people in Chicago to review speed camera video and identify violators, Territo said. In Kasten’s case, one of those employees improperly assigned the license plate of her parked car for the speeding violation of the car driving by in the opposite lane, he said.

    “The warning should not have been issued,” Territo said, “and it’s a tool we’ll use with our processors to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Kubly said he was not aware of any other case in which the wrong vehicle was mistakenly chosen for a warning or ticket, calling what happened to Kasten an “isolated occurrence.””

    So chill out and stop trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Brian

    There is NO EXCUSE for an error like that. A police officer certainly wouldn’t make that type of an error.
    I certainly hope those SCAMERAS are being calibrated WEEKLY, as required by LAW.
    It would be a shame for Kubly to have to answer to why that isn’t being completed.

  • Brian

    He LIED by providing false statistics in an attempt to pass piece of trash legislation. If he will LIE about that, he will LIE about anything.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    “A police officer certainly wouldn’t make that type of an error.” Seriously? So now you’re saying that police officers are infallible? And once again, the mistake was quickly and easily addressed and no one was harmed. So what’s your beef again? Oh, right, you just want to speed.

    I also seriously doubt your assertion that the cameras are required to be calibrated weekly. You care to provide a link to a legal document backing that up?

  • BlueFairlane

    A police officer certainly wouldn’t make that type of an error.

    You ever met a police officer in this city?

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Whatever guy. They provided an interpretation of the data that probably inflated the safety effects of red light cameras and didn’t take into account a long enough period of time to be statistically valid. The city said 60% reduction in deaths, the Trib says 26%, they’re both interpretations, and neither one is the capital T truth. But an out and out LIE, no I don’t think so.

    And the city acknowledged the mistakes in their study. But your depictions of Scot Kubley as some sort of nefarious mastermind orchestrating a web of lies to fleece the tax payer is dramatic and entertaining and all, but almost certainly a monumental delusion on your part.

    CDOT wants to improve safety and reduce injuries and fatalities, especially those associated with pedestrian and bikre related crashes. Road users who are not benefiting from things like better roll cages and airbags and other passenger safety improvements which are the drivers of reduced fatality and injury numbers over all.

    In the real world of policy, and politics and newspapers hungry for titillating stories, PR and spin enter into things and city agencies with a safety agenda may be forced into the position of over-hyping things from time to time. A strictly straight arrow policy, no probably not, but a political reality nonetheless.

    But your comic depictions of these people as cartoonish villains is just melodramatic.

    CDOT is hardly in the business of generating revenue and truth be told their red light and speed camera programs are implemented with the goal of generating zero revenues by eliminating speeding and red light running altogether. Of course a revenue generation aspect of it is highlighted when selling it to cash strapped city officials because safety is not sexy and if there was no “carrot” in it for decision makers, they wouldn’t go for it strictly on the safety benefits.

    But of course that is just impossible for you to believe because there’s always got to be someone out to get you right?

  • Brian

    The red light camera program was built on a bribe – yeah, it’s all about safety

    Do you really think those city officials had citizens best interests in mind?

    You can sit and believe what the government tells you, or you can fight for the truth.

  • duppie

    Of course, according to you, the truth is that driving 60 mph is a safe thing to do. If pedestrians get hurt, well, it’s their damn fault for trying to exercise their right.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Well, to be fair, I have not met any police officer that I suspected would issue a moving violation to a parked, driverless car. But I hope that’s not where the bar is being set by Brian.

  • Brian

    Pedestrians have a right to cross the street in front of moving traffic, versus at a designated crosswalk?

  • Brian

    Here is the original legislation

    Read page 18

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    As far as I can tell from that article these are the facts:

    -Two former city official took kickbacks and bribes from the company selected to manage the contract in order to grease the wheels and help them win the contract.

    – The improprieties were uncovered, the company lost the contract and went into serious financial trouble as a result.

    -A third unnamed city official implicated in the scandal was let go as a result.

    -Chicago has since gone with another provider for both the red light cameras and speed cameras.

    None of that speaks to the safety effects of the cameras one way or the other. The city was going to implement the programs, and some insiders schemed to win the contract and make a buck on the side in the process. Illegal? Sure. But once again, that says nothing about the reasons for implementing the program.

    Redflex wasn’t bribing people to get the city to implement the program, it was bribing people to be selected as the vendor for the contract. The city was going to implement the program no matter what.

    The city doesn’t have the program in order to make some “bad guys” rich. It has the programs to reduce speeding and red light running and save lives, and as a secondary incentive to produce revenue.

    If you found out a road construction company bribed a city official to be awarded the contract to fill the city’s potholes, you wouldn’t take that as evidence that the “need to fill potholes” was actually just a scam to fleece taxpayers and make insiders rich. The potholes are still a reality that has to be dealt with.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Who’s trying to make that argument? No one that I can see. Although all road users are required to exercise due care and avoid a collision if it is possible to do so safely, regardless of whether the pedestrian is in a crosswalk or not.

    But that hardly matters since according to the 2011 Pedestrian crash analysis the most common place for a pedestrian to be when a crash occurs is walking in the crosswalk with the signal.

    So your victim blaming scenarios involving pedestrians “jumping out” in front of the poor unsuspecting drivers of speeding cars really rings false.

    Additionally increased speeds reduce reaction times and increase stopping distances, while also increasing the likelihood of a fatality if impacting a pedestrian. Thats exactly what they mean by “speed kills” (Why someone has to explain this to you is beyond me.)

  • Fred

    The NEED for speed cameras is the NEED for new revenues. The city found a way to decrease its deficit without raising taxes while having a side effect of making the streets safer? Sounds like WINNING all around!

  • WestLooper

    Let’s assume the effect of speed cameras on safety is negligible. (That assumption seems obviously wrong given the common-sense effect of speed on accidents which everyone who has ever said “slow down” understands.) It’s a revenue source for the city from scofflaws and I would support it on that basis alone.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Score a point for you, now you know how to get out of a ticket on a technicality.

    A quick look of requirements for calibrations from other states and overseas however shows that most places only require an annual calibration. Don’t know why they’d agree to such a seemingly unfeasible and frankly probably unnecessary calibration schedule.

  • WestLooper

    And if common sense isn’t enough, F=mv^2 ought to be.

  • Fred

    “This. So much this.” -Elliot Mason

  • duppie

    A recent study in New York found that jaywalking may be safer than crossing at a signal, because when jaywalking, pedestrians do no expect cars to see them. When crossing at a signal, pedestrians mistakenly believe that drivers give a hoot about pedestrians.
    You link seems to corroborate that study.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Fib, I think you answered the question in your second paragraph with the observation in your first paragraph. Weekly calibration must seriously undercut the ability to contest red-light tickets.

    Moreover, in 2012, each red-light camera in Chicago issued an average of over 30 tickets per week. That’s $3,000 per camera if all of them were paid, which probably is more than enough to justify weekly calibration costs.

  • BlueFairlane

    I award you extra points for this.

  • Brian

    The only way to get the legislation passed was to agree to those types of conditions.
    Now, hold on, while I call the Tribune to have them start investigating.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Brian, that may be trivially true, but the legislative record indicates the weekly calibration had an objective basis, not just political expediency. Here is what Senate President Cullerton (sponsor of the bill) had to say during the 3rd reading of the Senate bill, which incorporated the weekly calibration requirement as part of the second amendment to the bill:

    “… at the suggestion of a Senator in committee, we — we changed the law with regard to the calibration requirement for the radar or lidar from sixty days to every week, based on the State Police policy.” (, skip down to page 60).

    Now, I don’t know who that Senator in committee was, nor do I have access to the IL State Police’s policy on radar/lidar calibration (and I am done researching this). But I’m also not going to conclude Senator Cullerton was bullshitting the Senate.

  • Brian

    I think the weekly calibration requirement is great, anything to make the program more of an adminstrative burden is wonderful.
    I did, also, note, that Cullerton quoted the fabricated statistics about number of pedestrian deaths, once again pointing out that this piece of trash legislation was built on lies.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Whatever guy. Keep ranting and raving about your conspiracies. You and Donald Trump can shack up. The world is gonna keep moving forward without you. Have fun hurling yourself against the forward march of progress. Go on pretending that you’re waging the good fight against “corruption” in the name of “liberty or freedom” or whatever other jingoistic clap trap you want to drape yourself in.

    But we both know this is just about you not wanting to give up some “freedom” you feel entitled to, i.e. the “freedom” to speed, (and put other people’s lives at risk in the process) regardless of the costs that society have to bear as a result of it. We live in a society guy, get used to it or move to cave, we won’t miss you.

  • Gentlemen, please refrain from personal attacks. Check out Streetsblog’s comment moderation policy if you need a refresher: Future personal attacks will be deleted.

  • Even if the cost to calibrate and operate the system broke even, the job would have been accomplished.

  • honest joe

    September and October (post speed camera launch) were the first two consecutive months in over a decade with no pedestrian fatalities in Chicago. So Brian, you may not have won the speed camera contract, but Chicagoans are safer, and that’s all that matters.


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