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Senior Killed at Location Where the City Chose Not to Mark a Crosswalk

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A senior crosses in an unmarked crosswalk at Surf and Broadway yesterday afternoon. That morning, a 69-year-old woman was killed in the same crosswalk.

Early yesterday morning, a 69-year-old woman was struck and killed by a driver in an unmarked crosswalk at Surf Street and Broadway in Lakeview. Less than two years ago, the city decided not to stripe a visible crosswalk at this location, which might have reminded the driver to watch for pedestrians. Why? Because the intersection was deemed too dangerous for a marked crosswalk.

Surf and Broadway actually meet at two different intersections. As you approach Broadway from the west on Surf, located about half a block north of Diversey, there’s a T intersection with crosswalks marked on all three legs. About 200 feet south, as you approach Broadway from the east on Surf, there’s a second T intersection, but there’s only a marked crosswalk on the east leg.

However, according to Streetsblog reader J. Patrick Lynch, who lives next door to the southern intersection, many residents, including plenty of seniors, regularly cross at this intersection in order to reach Walmart, T.J. Maxx, and other retail south of Surf Street. It is legal for them to use the unmarked crosswalks at the north and south legs of the T, even though the lack of striped crosswalks makes it less likely that motorists will be watching out for them.

Police News Affairs reported that Wednesday’s crash happened at Broadway and Diversey. However, an aerial photograph that accompanied a Tribune article about the case showed that police actually taped off the south leg of the southernmost Surf/Broadway intersection.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 4.22.10 PM
The crash took place in the southernmost intersection of Surf and Broadway, in the south leg of the intersection. Image: Google Maps

According to Officer Anna Pacheco from News Affairs, the driver was making a right turn onto southbound Broadway at 6:05 a.m. when he or she struck the woman. This indicates that the motorist exited a parking garage on the west side of the T before striking the senior in the unmarked crosswalk in the south leg of the intersection. Pacheco did not state whether victim was crossing eastbound or westbound.

The woman was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Her identity has not yet been released, pending notification of next of kin. No charges have been filed against the driver, who stayed at the crash site.

Back in January 2014, Lynch emailed 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney to alert him that, due to the increased foot traffic at the intersection at the intersection generated by the then-new Walmart, a marked crosswalk was needed. “I am concerned about the safety of pedestrians who routinely cross at Broadway and Surf,” Lynch wrote. He recommended striping the crosswalk on the north leg of the T because it wouldn’t conflict with the garage exit or require the removal of metered parking.

Lynch’s request was forward to Sougata Deb, Tunney’s infrastructure specialist. When Lynch followed up that March, Deb acknowledged that the unmarked crosswalks at Surf/Broadway got plenty of use. “I cross here at least three times a week, so I understand the benefit of having a crosswalk here,” he wrote.

However, that April, after Chicago Department of Transportation staff surveyed the intersection, Deb told Lynch the engineers had decided against striping a crosswalk. They reasoned that the crossing would conflict with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines because it would be too close to the garage exit and a light pole, which would block sight lines.

Lynch then asked Deb if the light pole could be relocated, or if a crosswalk on the south leg of the intersection might be feasible. Deb replied that the garage exit made it unfeasible to install crosswalks on either side of Surf. He also brought up a new argument against the crosswalks: since there’s a slight curve in Broadway between Diversey and Surf, drivers have limited visibility on this stretch.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 4.32.49 PM
Due to the presence of the garage exit and nearby light poles, striped crosswalks were deemed unfeasible at the intersection. Image: Google Maps

“There is an existing crosswalk approximately 200 feet north of Walmart… which is a good alternative,” Deb added. In effect, he was recommending that people crossing the street add an extra 400 feet to their trip, even though he’d already stated that he himself used the unmarked crosswalks on a regular basis instead of detouring north.

“We do not want to introduce a safety hazard, especially with the high volume of seniors in the area,” Deb concluded. It’s sadly ironic that the decision not to stripe the crosswalk was a contributing factor in yesterday’s fatal crash.

So what can be done to prevent future tragedies at this location? A crosswalk should be striped at the intersection immediately. To address the curve and sightline issue, a raised crosswalk and curb extensions could be built.

"We are saddened to hear about this pedestrian traffic fatality," stated CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey. "Our goal remains to eliminate all traffic fatalities in Chicago. It is the department’s practice to perform a field visit after all fatal pedestrian crashes to identify any potential enhancements that should be considered, and we will do in this case."

Deb is no longer working at the 44th Ward. His successor Dan Manoli didn’t return calls.

Hopefully, action will be taken soon to make the intersection safer. Unfortunately, it will be too late to make a difference for the crash victim.

Update Monday 2/8/16: The Cook County medical examiner's office has identified the victim as Maureen M. Wilson, of the 2900 block of North Pine Grove Avenue, one block east of the crash site.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 3 (none were hit-and-run crashes)

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