Linda Washington, 50, killed while walking at 79th/Lafayette, a deadly intersection

An aerial view of the 79th/Lafayette intersection, next to the Dan Ryan and a Red Line station. Image: Google Maps
An aerial view of the 79th/Lafayette intersection, next to the Dan Ryan and a Red Line station. Image: Google Maps

On Thursday, January 7, a driver cut off another motorists at 79th Street and Lafayette Avenue in Chatham, causing the death of pedestrian Linda Washington, 50. Washington was the second person killed on foot in Chicago this year, and at least the fourth pedestrian killed by a driver in recent years at this complex, dangerous location.

On Thursday at about 6:45 p.m. Washington was on the sidewalk near 79th and Lafayette, police said. A driver attempting to turn onto Lafayette cut off another motorist, who was traveling westbound.

The westbound driver, a 32-year-old man, then lost control of his vehicle, which flipped on its side and struck Washington, police said. She was taken to the University of Chicago Hospitals and later pronounced dead.

According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, Washington died of spinal injuries, and her death was ruled an accident. She lived on the 7900 block of South Ingleside Avenue in East Chatham, 1.3 miles east of the crash site.

No other injuries were reported, police said. As of early Friday afternoon, Police News Affairs had no information about any citations or charges. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

There have been at least three other pedestrian deaths at 79th and Lafayette in recent years:

There are several factors that may explain why there have been so many pedestrian deaths at this location. It’s the complex junction where 79th, the Dan Ryan, and the Red Line station share space. Lafayette, located on the west side of the expressway, is a combination frontage road and off-ramp. Although 79th is a three-lane street east and west of the Ryan, on the bridge over the Ryan it balloons to seven lanes, with multiple turn lanes, which encourages speeding. And the large amount of foot and bus traffic generated by the ‘L’ station, and you’ve got a potentially deadly mix.

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One of the recently-installed traffic islands at 79th and the Dan Ryan. Image: Google Maps

In recent years, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed pedestrian islands in the media of 79th on either side of the expressway. But, as Washington’s tragic death demonstrates, more needs to be done to improve safety for pedestrians. A road diet to take away excess lanes of the bloated seven-lane bridge would be a good start.

Fatality Tracker: 2021 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 2
Bicyclist: 0

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation.