2nd person in 2 months is killed on stretch of Milwaukee where road diet was blocked

The 4900 block of North Milwaukee, where Friday's victim was struck. Image: Google Maps
The 4900 block of North Milwaukee, where Friday's victim was struck. Image: Google Maps

On Friday night a hit-and-run driver fatally struck a 65-year-old woman on the 4900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue near the Jefferson Park Transit Center. Along with a cyclist killed a few blocks northwest on Milwaukee in late July, the senior was the second vulnerable road user killed on this segment of the avenue. Back in the early 2010s, opponents blocked a road diet on this stretch that might have helped prevent these deaths – more on that below.

According to Police News Affairs, on Friday, September 24, at about 10:45 p.m., the woman was walking west across Milwaukee near Higgins Avenue, just south of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, and was not in a marked crosswalk.

A CTA spokesperson said the agency does not know if the victim was walking from the Blue Line or a bus at the transit center. If that was the case, the most direct route across Milwaukee from the center would be the unmarked crosswalk at Veterans Place and Milwaukee. According to Illinois law, drivers are required to stop for pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks as well as marked ones.

Aerial view of the intersections of Milwaukee with Higgins Avenue and Veteran's Place. Image: Google Maps
Aerial view of the intersections of Milwaukee with Higgins Avenue and Veteran’s Place. Image: Google Maps

Striping a crosswalk at Veterans Place and Milwaukee would improve pedestrian safety. In addition, the slip lane at the northwest corner of Higgins/Milwaukee should be eliminated by connecting the pedestrian island to the sidewalk to prevent drivers from whipping around the intersection and endangering people walking, something the Chicago Department of Transportation has done at many other locations in town. This idea, plus other improvement to the intersection, as part of a recent Jefferson Park master plan.

The driver of a tan Jeep heading northwest on Milwaukee struck the woman, inflicting head trauma, and fled northwest. The victim was taken to Lutheran General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has not yet released her identification.

Two months earlier on July 24, Thomas Travers, 59, was fatally struck by a minivan driver a few blocks northwest on the 5300 block of Milwaukee Avenue. The motorist was not cited.

In the early 2010s, the Chicago Department of Transportation proposed implementing a road diet on Milwaukee north of the transit center to Elston Avenue by converting two of the travel lanes to protected bike lanes, which would have calmed traffic. At a community meeting on the plan in January 2014, CDOT staffers noted that in the previous five years there had been 970 crashes on this stretch, including one fatality and 17 serious injuries. They projected that the safety overhaul could could reduce crashes by 30 percent.

A redesign of Milwaukee Avenue with protected bike lanes, north of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, proposed by CDOT. Image: CDOT
A redesign of Milwaukee Avenue with protected bike lanes, north of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, proposed by CDOT. Image: CDOT

However, due to a backlash to the proposal from local drivers, led by 45th Ward aldermanic candidate John Garrido, the road diet idea was scrapped, and the department simply converted the existing conventional bike lanes to buffered lanes.

It’s not certain if the road diet would have made a difference in the two fatalities. But if speed was a factor in these crashes, having fewer travel lanes would have encouraged the drivers to obey the speed limit, and perhaps these tragedies could have been averted. (The transit center would have been the southern terminus of the road diet, but the lane reductions still might have impacted the northwest-bound Jeep driver’s speed prior to Friday’s crash, as well their getaway speed as they fled northwest on Milwaukee.)

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

Pedestrian: 15
Bicyclist: 7

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.

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