Chicago Streets Dangerous for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

April 26, 2019

Chicago has been touted one of the most “walkable” cities in the United States by a slew of sources, including List25. The conveniently-located amenities and accessible walkways has helped to make the city pedestrian-friendly.

Many residents and visitors who get around by foot put their lives on the line when approaching dangerous intersections and crosswalks, however. In many cases, drivers are in such a hurry to shave off a few seconds from their commute, they knowingly blow through traffic signals and crosswalks – even as pedestrians are crossing the street.

As overall traffic fatalities decrease, pedestrian deaths increase

In 2017, 46 pedestrians lost their lives in Chicago, a significant increase from the 27 deaths that occurred in 2013. Most of these deaths occurred in the South and West sides of the city – both of which are low-income communities.

This problem isn’t just confined to Chicago — it is a part of a much greater dilemma. Cities, in general, are dangerous for pedestrians and the esteemed term “pedestrian-friendly” may be the culprit. According to Fast Company, urban residents are encouraged to get around by foot or bicycle more than ever.

The problem is that many urban areas have failed to keep up. In recent years, traffic fatalities have declined due to safer vehicles, improved roadways, and efforts to deter dangerous driving, but this only applies to motor vehicle drivers; pedestrians and bicyclists are left out of the loop.

Sure, pedestrian and bicyclists have their paved pathways and historic streets closed off to vehicular traffic and designed for leisure. Most city streets and roads are designed exclusively for fast-moving cars rather than pedestrians and bicyclists who need to get from point A to point B, however.

Chicago currently has an average urban speed limit of 30 mph. Not only do some neighborhoods lack speed limit signs, many drivers habitually exceed the speed limit. When traveling between 36-45 mph, drivers are four times more likely to inflict fatal injuries on pedestrians than they are between 26-30 mph.

Crosswalks and intersections regulated by signals don’t even provide safety for pedestrians. Even when they have the right-of-way, pedestrians and bicyclists are hurt or killed by drivers turning at intersections or blowing through red lights.

What needs to be done?

  • Address speed: Last year, we discussed the dangers of speeding on city streets and how lowering the speed limit can save lives. Reducing and enforcing the speed limit is one step Chicago can take to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Educate drivers on sharing the road: Pedestrians and bicyclists have just as much a right to travel Chicago streets as motorists do. Drivers are required by law to yield when a pedestrian or bicyclist has the right-of-way.
  • Deter distracted driving: As we previously discussed, distracted driving is everywhere, and it doesn’t only involve the use of smartphones. For many drivers, multitasking behind the wheel is habitual.
  • Improve infrastructure: Crosswalks simply aren’t enough to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. Adding more signs and reconstructing some intersections (especially in low-income communities) can help create safer conditions.

Should you or a loved one be injured in a pedestrian accident in Chicago, the attorneys at Coplan + Crane can help. We are experienced litigators, dedicated to holding negligent drivers accountable and helping crash victims seek justice. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.