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Pedestrian Deaths Are Down 40%, but a March Bike Fatality Went Unreported

The ghost bike for Jezniah Smith, who was fatally struck at Division and Humboldt in 2017. A cyclist who was killed in March of this year on 87th near the Dan Ryan has not yet been identified. Photo: Chicago Ride of Silence

Update 6/13/19: The Chicago Police Department has reclassified the bike fatality as a pedestrian death. The victim was identified as Louis Jerry Ward, 74. He was fatally struck on March 29 at 15 West 87th Street in Chatham. 

There was some good news and some bad news at last Thursday's quarterly Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meeting. Overall traffic fatalities and pedestrian deaths are down this year. But in March there was a bike fatality in Chatham that went unreported in the media.

According to Chicago Department of Transportation assistant commissioner Sean Wiedel, the total number of traffic fatalities on city streets so far this year, based on preliminary Chicago Police Department data, is trending downward compared to last year, and compared to Chicago's rolling five-year average. (The rolling total is for 2012-2016, based on official Illinois Department of Transportation data.)

There were 34 total Chicago on-street traffic deaths as of May 31 of 2019 compared to 49 this time last year, a reduction of about 30 percent. That's also down 26 percent compared to the rolling five-year average.

21 of the 34 traffic fatalities this year were people in motor vehicles.

There were 12 pedestrian fatalities this year as of the end of May, down 40 percent compared to the total by that date in 2018.

However, Wiedel announced that a driver fatally struck a person a bike in March 2019, a death that apparently received no prior news coverage. According to CDOT, the crash occurred on 87th Street near the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Chicago Police Department and the Cook County medical examiner's office told Streetsblog they were unable to immediately access information on the case. One bike fatality is typical for this time of year, but Chicago bike deaths tend to spike during the warmer months when more people are cycling.

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 4.52.21 PM
Chicago bike fatalities increase during the warmer months. Chart: CDOT
Chicago bike fatalities increase during the warmer months. Chart: CDOT

At the meeting, Wiedel noted that the overall drop in fatalities for the year so far is a positive trend, but there's a still a need for more investment in the policies, programs, and infrastructure outlined in the the city's Vision Zero Action Plan if we are going to approach the target of eliminating serious and fatal crashes. "One person killed on our streets is one too many."

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