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

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)

  • “or require the removal of metered parking”

    That part of the comment rings especially ironic in light of a death there now. But, yet how sad that concerns for safety find themselves confronted by concerns about finance. Infrastructure does cost money. But where safety is concerned, losses of revenue, should not be an issue. And nor should the inconvenience of finding even non-revenue generating parking be an issue.

    These are the mind-sets that vision zero struggles to overcome.

    I wish there was as powerful a reminder of pedestrian deaths for such a site as the white-painted ghost bikes have become for cycling deaths.

  • Oof, I cross at this same spot at least 3-5 times a week and I’m almost never alone when I do. The light at Diversey/Clark always seems to take forever, so crossing here can easily shave 5 minutes off your trip. In the winter, there’s a pretty strong incentive to crossing here. We have a lot of senior citizens in the area, and you see them crossing here all the time, for the obvious reason of how much time/effort it saves.

    The crosswalk a bit north at the other leg of Surf is quite faded and drivers never stop there either. As an added bonus there’s always a ton of ice there in the winter because water pools up in the wheelchair ramps. It’s a mess over there, ironically right out in front of MedSpring Urgent Care of all places. Can’t blame them too much though, a small lake forms on the southwest corner of that intersection.

    I’d love to see a proper crosswalk, but I’ve walked around here long enough to know that the cars won’t stop. Crossing Broadway or Diversey in Lakeview without a light is just a bad game of Frogger. Heck, even with a light your chances of getting right hooked are still pretty damn high.

  • “We can’t make it safer because it’s too unsafe.”

  • The callousness of our society (it’s not just the officials), which accepts (and refuses to combat) the “collateral damage” of the car-culture, remains stunning. There are several options that would force drivers to be far more careful in that vicinity: Seriously reduced speed limits, as low as 10MPH in presently “unsafe” crosswalk areas; In addition to the already mentioned raised crosswalks (a double purpose speed bump) & ensuring that sight lines are never obstructed, provide law with the ability to strip a driver’s license (for a period of time, or even life) of someone injuring/killing a pedestrian while driving. Sadly, none of this will happen as long as driver’s convenience comes first.

  • Jeff Gio

    I was considering what such a project would look like. A human silhouette could be a ghostly reminder of the loss of life. Imagine if a white silhouette included the victim’s demographic information. It would be chilling to be reminded daily that a 69 (!!!) year old woman lost her life.

  • How about painting body outlines on the street?

  • That stretch of Broadway north of Diversey is so vibrant in many ways, with bakeries, restaurants and retail drawing masses of people on foot; yet, the bike- and pedestrian infrastructure is abysmal. Every time I’m at the corner at Broadway and Wellington just two blocks north of the Surf area, I notice that there are NO pedestrian signals provided at all. Not just “no pedestrian countdown timer” or “no lead interval for pedestrians”. Nope, NO signals for pedestrians: only green/yellow/red for the drivers, and people on foot are expected to walk with their green. But that’s not all! Wellington is a one-way street headed east for cars and there’s no need to put signals for non-existent westbound drivers, therefore, there is NO signal of ANY kind at all available to follow for people on foot who are crossing Broadway westbound. No pedestrian signal, no green/yellow/red light. Pedestrians just wait for the cars on Broadway to stop, and proceed on instinct. Ridiculous.

  • Pat

    I believe that light is getting upgraded as part of the new Mariano’s development. But you’re right, its a poor intersection. There is not even a lag time between signals. One direction turns red, the other turns green instantaneously.

  • kastigar

    Best reply!

  • Jeremy

    Hopefully, J. Patrick Lynch can supply those emails to the woman’s family. Maybe they can sue the city for negligence.

  • Bernard Finucane

    It’s actually quite nice here. There needs to be a neckdown at the intersection, and some of the street furniture needs moving. There is a bike rack right where the crosswalk should be. Not clever at all.

  • Street distractions tend to slow drivers down, so it’d probably turn out quite well.

  • Peopleareidiits

    10mph- yeah right. What an idiotic suggestion. How about people learn to look both ways before crossing? Instead of blindly stepping out into the street. This accident is tragic, but people also need to be careful. If you’re dumb enough to blindly step out into traffic, then you, unfortunately may suffer the consequences. You can’t legislate your way to solve every problem.

  • I’ll be gladly called an idiot if 10mph —the average speed of a bicycle, usually faster than any car here in rush hour— would have saved this lady’s life. Yes, in this case you can legislate. BTW, your response is a prime example of my opening sentence.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Folks, please keep the conversation polite. Personal attacks will be deleted. Thanks.

  • John—with all due respect; I do not think either party is impolite here, but we clearly differ in opinion. I do not take offense at being called out in a rather mild manner on what I’m sure many people think is an unthinkable (to use a different word) solution at this point—speed reduction in dense urban settings. There is nothing impolite about generally calling our society callous when it comes to its acceptance of traffic-related injury and death. Let’s keep this focused on the debate.

  • neroden

    I’m glad Deb is gone. That’s not how the ADA works. It’s not a “let them walk 400 feet” law.

  • VS

    I frequently have to come to a sudden stop risking getting rear ended at this intersection because people have forgotten what was taught to them since kindergarten…look both ways BEFORE crossing. If they did, they would notice that there are streetlights and I have the right of way…but no, there is always some fool that walks in (slowly) and the masses blindly follow the fool. It’s either me stopping suddenly or watching someone else almost hit a pedestrian. Been like that for over a year now. City needs to put crosswalk signals because people are idiots…end of discussion, no need for traffic study.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “There are streetlights and I have the right of way.” In this case, there are no stoplights at this intersection, and Illinois law dictates that drivers must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, whether they’re marked or unmarked crosswalks.

  • Pedestrians in a crosswalk always have the right of way, even if they’re crossing against the light — and there is no light at this intersection.

    It’s state law. It’s not difficult. Stop for pedestrians, every time, or be breaking the law.


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