Road Diet Curbs Lawrence Avenue’s Dangerous Mile

IMG_2657
Refuge islands allow pedestrians to cross the street one lane at a time. Bump-outs, in the background, shorten the distance across the street and reduce the chance that motorists will park in the crosswalk. Photo: John Greenfield

The one mile of Lawrence Avenue between Ashland and Western avenues, through the Ravenswood neighborhood, went on a road diet this year. The diet slimmed Lawrence from four to two travel lanes, and used the extra space to create room for bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and extensive landscaping. The streetscape project right-sized this stretch of Lawrence, bringing it in line with the two-lane segments both west of Western and east of Ashland.

Crashes at Damen and Lawrence
11 people were injured in pedestrian crashes at Lawrence and Damen avenues, near McPherson elementary school and the Levy senior center. Source: IDOT, via ChicagoCrashes.org

“Road diets” are a widely accepted method to make streets safer, and (as on Lawrence) are often combined with other safety-enhancing streetscape improvements like bump-outs and median pedestrian refuges. Just the road diet, though, can be enough to reduce speeding by drivers and cut the number of crashes and injuries, while also opening up space for uses like bike lanes, street trees, and sidewalk cafés.

The road diet on Lawrence will improve the safety of a notoriously dangerous street. Traffic crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation tells us that from 2005 to 2012, 72 people were injured in pedestrian-car crashes within the nine blocks (just over one mile) of Lawrence between Clark and Western avenues.

That means that there have been many more pedestrian-car crashes along this stretch of Lawrence than on comparable streets: This stretch of Lawrence has 11 times more injuries from crashes than the average mile of street in Chicago.

Lawrence even has many more injuries than comparable busy arterial streets. 60 percent more injuries from pedestrian crashes occurred on this previously four-lane stretch of Lawrence than on the one-mile stretch to its west through Albany Park. There were even 54 percent more injuries from pedestrian crashes on the dangerous mile of Lawrence than on a comparable one-mile stretch of Halsted, between Grand and Van Buren through Greektown. That part of Halsted carries a similar number of cars on its two lanes, but probably sees more pedestrians due to its thriving shops and nightlife.

Besides Lawrence, the Chicago Department of Transportation has recently put other streets on road diets, like Harrison Street through the South Loop and Vincennes Avenue through Auburn Gresham and Washington Heights. Some Jefferson Park residents have protested CDOT’s proposed road diet for Milwaukee Avenue on the far northwest side. There, the opponents want to keep the five-lane speedway, which would mix dangerously fast cars with brighter crosswalks and buffered bike lanes.

Here’s a breakdown of where pedestrian crashes occurred on Lawrence:

Lawrence intersection People injured in pedestrian crashes
Clark 6
Ashland 8
Paulina 3
Ravenswood 5
Wolcott 8
Winchester 1
Damen 10
Seeley 2
Hamilton 4
Leavitt 1
Oakley 6
Lincoln/Western 18

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Eyes on the Street: New Pedestrian Islands on Lawrence Avenue

|
Three years after the Chicago Department of Transportation presented renderings and details about a proposal to narrow Lawrence Avenue between Clark Street and Western Avenue in Lincoln Square, construction began in June despite late opposition from business owners. The project will put Lawrence on a road diet from four travel lanes to two, with a center […]

Lincoln Square Merchants Who Fear Road Diet Already Benefit From One

|
Business owners in Lincoln Square are whining that the upcoming Lawrence Avenue streetscape, which involves removing travel lanes, will cause traffic jams and hurt sales. The irony is, they’re currently reaping the benefits of a longstanding road diet on Lincoln Avenue. The new project will transform Lawrence between Clark Street and Western Avenue from it’s […]

The 2014 Chicago Streetsies

|
[Most of these entries also appeared in Newcity magazine’s Best of Chicago issue.] Best local universities to visit for that pedestrian-friendly, old-world feel Loyola University and The University of Chicago Nearly all Medieval-era cities in Europe, and countless other old cities around the world, are known for their pedestrian streets – markets and residential areas […]