State rep and mayoral hopeful Kam Buckner calls on IDOT to make DuSable LSD safer

The ghost bike installation ceremony for Gerardo Marciales, 41, last April at Balbo/DLSD. Photo: John Greenfield
The ghost bike installation ceremony for Gerardo Marciales, 41, last April at Balbo/DLSD. Photo: John Greenfield

Current Illinois state rep (IL-26) and Chicago mayoral candidate Kam Buckner recently penned a letter to the Illinois Department of Transportation urging the agency to improve safety for pedestrians and bike riders along DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Buckner’s district includes parts of the South Loop, Gold Coast, Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, and South Shore which include portions of the massive shoreline highway. In the memo, Buckner also  implores IDOT work with local transportation departments, city planners, engineers, and elected officials across the state to protect vulnerable road users.

Regarding DLSD, Buckner highlighted “many dangerous intersections where those in automobiles are in close proximity to those participating in active transportation, and the propensity for these interactions to end tragically need to be mitigated.” He specifically specifically highlighted the portion of the drive between Monroe Drive (100 S.) and Queen’s Landing (300 to 700 S.)

(The latter location, the concrete pier across the drive from Buckingham Fountain, is called that because when Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away today at age 96, visited Chicago in 1959 via the newly-opened Saint Lawrence Seaway, her ship docked there.)

Buckner said he himself has experienced the dangers of these intersections, and he mentioned the death of 41-year-old Gerardo Marciales last February 28 at DLSD and Balbo Drive (700 S). Marciales was riding a Divvy bike across the highway with a walk signal, when he was killed by a driver who blew a red light while he had a left-turn signal, an extremely common violation at this location. Marciales was supposed to marry his fiancée Jaime Bolognone last weekend.

Buckner acknowledged the paint-and-plastic post modifications the Chicago Department of Transportation made to the Balbo/DLSD intersection in the wake of Marciales’ death. But he correctly stated that these changes are temporary in nature, and that a more comprehensive approach is needed to protect “the most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Buckner called on IDOT to “immediately meet with CDOT and develop a suite of treatments to protect pedestrians and maintain easy, safe, and comfortable access to the lakefront for pedestrians and cyclists. These treatments should include consideration of stronger deterrents to motorists using these lanes as thru lanes, changes to signal timing and locations, and recommendations from pedestrian and bicycle safety organizations.”

Buckner, center, with Ald. Matt Martin (47th) and U.S. representative Mike Quigley (5th) at last June's Safe Streets for All rally. Photo via Buckner
Buckner, center, with Ald. Matt Martin (47th) and U.S. representative Mike Quigley (5th) at last June’s Safe Streets for All rally. Photo via Buckner

The state rep also asked IDOT and CDOT to re-examine the relationship between the two departments when it comes to the maintenance, funding, and operation of the drive. He called for a new relationship that prioritizes “safety and access.”

Finally, Buckner highlighted the lack of a vision that prioritizes the movement of people, rather than cars, and the integrity of the lakefront itself, in the North DuSable Lake Shore Drive Reconstruction planning process. “The persistent and unacceptable level of crashes, serious injuries, and tragic loss of life on DLSD should inspire a new direction for the entire corridor, a new boulevard that puts people and safety first and embodies Chicago’s motto of being a city in a garden.”

My hope is that more elected officials will join Buckner in calling on IDOT to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist safety on their roads. I am concerned about the department’s history of blocking pedestrian and bike safety improvements and resistance to transit upgrades along roads under its jurisdiction. It wouldn’t be unusual for IDOT to say that it has “considered” safety treatments but ultimately decided the changes were “infeasible.” Hopefully as more people demand a different approach, IDOT will finally begin to prioritize safety and convenience for all road users, not just drivers.

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