Wilberto Rivera, 76, died 2 weeks after being struck on North Ave. in Humboldt Park

Looking east towards the intersection of North and Albany avenues. Image: Google Maps
Looking east towards the intersection of North and Albany avenues. Image: Google Maps

On Sunday, a distracted driver killed longtime 47th Ward volunteer Peter Paquette, 75, as he attempted to cross five-lane Irving Park Road (4000 N.) in North Center. This week Streetsblog learned about the passing of Wilberto River, 76, that Saturday, two weeks after a motorist struck him on a five-lane stretch North Avenue in Humboldt Park.

According to Police News Affairs, on Friday, May 27 at about 7:00 p.m., Rivera was walking north across North Avenue (1600 N.) at Albany Avenue (3100 W.) The five lanes on this segment of North Avenue, which borders the Humboldt Park green space, encourage speeding. The recent addition of non-protected bike lanes on the street seems to have, at best, only a modest effect on calming traffic. Stere are no stoplights or pedestrian islands at this intersection.

A 40-year-old man was driving a 2016 Honda accord sedan east on North Avenue and struck Rivera, police said. The victim, who lived just east of the crash site, was transported to Mt Sinai hospital, and pronounced dead on Saturday, May 11 at 5:33 p.m.

The driver was driving an uninsured vehicle and was cited for failure to exercise due care for a pedestrian in the road, according to police.

Diagram of the crash from the police report. Image: Google Maps
Diagram of the crash from the police report. Image: Google Maps

The traffic crash report  provide more information about what reportedly happened. It states that after the crash Rivera was listed in stable condition with a collapsed right lung, dislocated right shoulder, and several abrasions, and was unable to answer questions due to being treated for his injuries.

When responding officers talked with the driver, he told them he struck Rivera as the victim approached the southernmost lane of North Avenue. The driver stated Rivera, “appeared to be intoxicated and carrying a beer while crossing.” Again, the victim was unable to tell his side of the story.

Furthermore, section 9-40-160 of the Chicago municipal code states that, “Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian… and shall exercise proper precautions upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person [emphasis added] upon a roadway.” So even if Rivera was intoxicated at the time (and there’s no law against walking while drunk in Illinois), it was the driver’s responsibility to avoid striking him, which is why the citation for failure to exercise due care was warranted.

Recent pedestrian fatality sites on North Avenue in Humboldt Park. Image: google Maps
Recent pedestrian fatality sites on North Avenue in Humboldt Park. Image: Google Maps

High-speed five-lane roads through dense urban areas are basically deathtraps. Here are some other fatality cases from recent years on North Avenue.

North, designated as Illinois Route 64, is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has historically prioritized maintaining traffic flow over creating safe conditions for all road users.

However, there is a fairly straightforward way to reduce traffic violence on North Avenue, and all five-lane streets in Chicago. The layout of the street should be converted to one mixed-traffic lane in each direction, plus a turn lane. The extra road width should be converted to dedicated lanes for express buses and/or physically protected or raised bike lanes, which would help mitigate any congestion impacts for drivers.

Fatality Tracker: 2022 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 16
Bicyclist: 4

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.

2022 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases (including one scooter-on-sidewalk case)

2022 Chicago bike fatality cases

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