DOWNTOWN — An organization best known as a bicycle-advocacy group is turning its attention to pedestrian safety by naming the 10 most dangerous intersections in Chicago for people crossing the street.
The Active Transportation Alliance launched its Safe Crossings campaign Tuesday by pointing out that 78 percent of all crashes involving a pedestrian in Chicago take place within 125 feet of an intersection. Some 29 city pedestrians died in accidents last year, and 21 have already died thus far this year.
"Our streets are valuable public spaces and crossing them shouldn't require putting your life at risk," said Ron Burke, executive director of the group. "With more dedicated funding to improve street design and increase enforcement at major intersections, we can make our streets safer for everyone and our communities more walkable and livable."
Working from "crash data, staff feedback and more than 800 suggestions from the general public," the alliance named the following 10 intersections most dangerous for pedestrians:
- North Milwaukee Avenue/West North Avenue/North Damen Avenue in Wicker Park
- North Cicero Avenue and West Chicago Avenue in Austin
- North Halsted Street/North Lincoln Avenue/West Fullerton Avenue in Lincoln Park
- South Cottage Grove Avenue and East 79th Street in Grand Crossing/Chatham
- North Dearborn Street and West Ontario Street Downtown
- South Ashland Avenue and West 63rd Street in West Englewood
- North Cicero Avenue and West Madison Street in Austin
- North Ashland Avenue and West Cortland Street in Lincoln Park
- South Martin Luther King Drive and East 63rd Street in Woodlawn
- North Elston Avenue/North Western Avenue/West Diversey Avenue in Logan Square
According to alliance figures, one-third of Chicago traffic fatalities involved pedestrians in 2012, compared with 14 percent statewide, and 40 percent of city pedestrian deaths involved hit-and-run drivers, compared with 20 percent nationwide.
None of that is lost on the Chicago Department of Transportation. Spokesman Peter Scales said the department's top priority is "to improve the safety in all modes of transportation, reduce conflicts with pedestrians and vehicles and make Chicago a safer city."
Department estimates are that about 3,000 pedestrians are hit by vehicles each year in the city, resulting in an average of 30 deaths a year.
"Our goal is to reduce serious pedestrian injuries by 50 percent every five years and eliminate pedestrian fatalities within 10 years," Scales said. "One life lost is too many, and we are taking action to promote pedestrian safety in multiple ways — through education, engineering and enforcement."
The alliance has previously joined the department in backing crosswalk crackdowns.
Pedestrian safety is of special concern to older city residents.
"Older persons account for one in every five pedestrian fatalities and have the greatest fatality rate of any population group," said Bob Gallo, state director of the AARP. "Continuing to invest resources in making our streets safe for all users is key to ending these preventable deaths. We must continue to develop new and innovative strategies for ensuring that Chicago roadways are accessible and safe for pedestrians of all ages."
Yet, according to alliance data, 15- to 18-year-old pedestrians were most likely to get struck by a car. From 3 to 6 p.m. was, on average, the most dangerous time for pedestrian accidents, followed by 6 to 9 p.m. Older pedestrians were more likely to be struck in an actual crosswalk.
Two years ago, the city established a "Chicago Forward" campaign with the goal of eliminating all traffic deaths within 10 years. The alliance suggested the Department of Transportation improve safety through devices like pedestrian islands in intersection crosswalks, and specifically cited a stretch of 130th Street in Altgeld Gardens on the far South Side as a danger zone, with no sidewalks, a problem shared on Wentworth Avenue between 18th and 19th streets in Chinatown.
The alliance also cited the intersection of 79th Street, Stony Island Avenue and Chicago Avenue in South Shore as being so dangerous "pedestrians rarely even attempt to cross."
Scales said department efforts to improve problem crossings were ongoing and "we are making these kind of improvements all across the city to provide for safer intersections, corridors and neighborhood streets."
Yet the alliance insisted the city devote more resources to the cause, and not simply as part of usual resurfacing or repaving projects.
"Until we establish a sustainable funding source for pedestrians, we are unlikely to make substantial progress on improving intersection safety and making our streets more livable and walkable," Burke said. "Everyone is a pedestrian and we can't afford to ignore these problems and fail to invest in readily available, proven solutions any longer."
The alliance made the statement as Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to deliver his 2015 budget proposal to the City Council Wednesday.
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