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Anatomy of a bike crash: Why did today’s collision at Addison/Drake happen?

Addison/Drake, looking east. The bike crash took place in the crosswalk to the left. Image: Google Maps

Many bike crashes Streetsblog Chicago reports have tragic outcomes. Fortunately this morning's collision at Addison Street (3600 N.) and Drake Avenue (3600 W.) in the Irving Park community had a relatively happy ending, in that no one was seriously injured. But why did it take place?

This T-shaped intersection is a block east of the Kennedy Expressway and the Addison Blue Line station. At the northwest corner is Athletic Field Park, at the northeast corner are single-family homes, and to the south is a vast big-box and chain store business district. This stretch of Addison has four lanes, which encourages speeding, and has heavy traffic due to its proximity to the highway. Access ramps for the ramps for the Kennedy are a hazard for pedestrians and bike riders alike.

Aerial view of the Addison/Drake area. Image: Google Maps
Aerial view of the Addison/Drake area. Image: Google Maps
Aerial view of the Addison/Drake area. Image: Google Maps

This was the first day of school for CPS students, and the person biking was a 17-year-old girl, so she may have been on her way to classes. According to Police News Affairs, the teen was biking east on Addison at 7:38 a.m. and was in the crosswalk at the time of the crash. That indicates the girl had been riding on the north sidewalk of Addison, since the only marked crosswalk is in at the north leg of the intersection, and was crossing Drake.

The driver, a 24-year-old man in a sedan, was also traveling east on Addison when he made a northbound left turn onto Drake, according t0 News Affairs. The police statement says the girl then "struck the driver's side" of the vehicle. She declined medical attention.

According to CPD, the driver wasn't cited. That's to be expected, since it's not obvious that the motorist did anything illegal here, although it's possible he was speeding or distracted.

And in fairness to the motorist, he probably wasn't expecting a teen on a bike to come rolling off the sidewalk. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in Chicago for people 12 and older.

On the other hand, it's totally understandable that the girl was biking on the sidewalk because she didn't feel safe cycling in the street. And why should she have? It's a high-speed four-lane "stroad," a highway-like road that doesn't belong in a dense urban area, with no bike accommodations. Biking there is dangerous.

So how do we prevent crashes like this? Ideally all four-lane streets urban streets like this should get a "four-to-three-conversion road diet," switching the layout to one travel lane in each direction, plus a turn lane. The extra right-of-way can then be used to build protected bike lanes and/or wider sidewalks.

The result would be safer conditions for walking and biking, so that people on bicycles would feel safer riding in the street (which would make things even safer for folks on foot.) Motorized traffic would be calmed as well, meaning fewer car crashes. Everyone wins.

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