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Worst Streets for Cyclists? Diagonals, Downtown Most Dangerous, Report Says

By Kyla Gardner | July 12, 2013 9:32am
 A new Chicago Transportation Department report shows "complex" intersections have the most cyclist crashes.
Bicycle Crash Report
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CHICAGO — Diagonal streets may be the most dangerous for Chicago cyclists, according to new bicycle crash data from the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The Loop and diagonal streets that feed into it — Milwaukee Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street — were the most prominent areas for crashes between 2005 and 2010, the CDOT report released last week found.

The street with the highest crash rate per mile was a 0.7-mile stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between North Avenue and Division Street, which saw about 50 crashes between 2005 and 2010. A 1.6-mile stretch of Clark Street between Racine and Fullerton and a 0.7-mile stretch of Milwaukee between Fullerton and Armitage ranked second and third, with 78 and 34 crashes, respectively.

 Most crashes for bicyclists occurred at "complex" intersections, according to a Chicago Transportation Department study conducted between 2005 and 2010.
Most crashes for bicyclists occurred at "complex" intersections, according to a Chicago Transportation Department study conducted between 2005 and 2010.
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Chicago Department of Transportation

These streets are heavily traveled by cars and cyclists, so it's not surprising they see more crashes, said Melody Geraci, deputy director for nonprofit Active Transportation Alliance.

"I wouldn’t say those streets should be avoided in particular," Geraci said. But drivers and cyclists should "be aware that perhaps more care is needed [on these streets] ... particularly at intersections."

More than half of all serious crashes for bicyclists between 2005 and 2010 occurred at intersections, accounting for 18 deadly crashes out of 32 total, and nearly 5,000 injury crashes out of nearly 9,000 total in the five-year span, according to the report.

As diagonal streets meet other intersections — making four-way crossings into six-way ones — safety is further compromised, the report said. These "complex" intersections were the most hazardous.

Intersections with the most crashes were:

• Fullerton, Halsted and Lincoln in Lincoln Park

• Damen, Fullerton and Elston in Bucktown

• Damen, North and Milwaukee in Wicker Park

• Milwaukee and Fullerton in Logan Square

• Chicago, Halsted and Ogden in River West

• Chicago and Milwaukee in River West

• Montrose and the Lakefront Trail entrance in Uptown

In an effort to increase safety for cyclists, CDOT has paired with the Chicago Police Department to educate cyclists and motorists as they see them committing traffic violations around the city.

A protected bike lane also debuted in mid-June on an 0.85-mile stretch of diagonal Milwaukee between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue. In the Loop, a two-way protected bike lane was opened in December on Dearborn Street between Polk Street and Wacker Drive.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he aims to build 100 miles of protected bike lanes, and the Dearborn project marked the 30th mile of protected lanes. Emanuel also increased fines for cyclists committing traffic violations and for motorists who open their doors in the path of cyclists.

Other findings from the report include:

• 1 in 12 crashes involved taxis

• About 40 percent of crashes involved a driver failing to yield the right of way

• About 17 percent of crashes invovled cyclists riding against the flow of traffic or crossing an intersection against the signal

• Of the 29 fatal crashes for which helmet-use information was available, only one cyclist was wearing a helmet

• About 25 percent of all bicycle crashes are hit-and-run

• Almost 15 percent of cyclists who died in fatal crashes were above the legal limit for blood-alcohol content