Our Chicago: Making city streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists after crashes leave children dead

ByKay Cesinger via WLS logo
Sunday, July 3, 2022
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Kyle Lucas, co-founder of transit advocacy organization Better Streets Chicago, spoke about a plan to build concrete-protected bike lanes.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- During the month of June, four children in Chicago were hit by cars and killed while on bikes or scooters.

Those deaths along with deadly crashes involving pedestrians have raised the profile of those calling on the city to make streets safer for people who are biking or walking.

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently announced plans to add 25 miles of concrete-protected bike lanes by the end of the year. Kyle Lucas, co-founder of transit advocacy organization Better Streets Chicago said this is a step in the right direction.

SEE ALSO | Chicago bike accident that killed 3-year-old girl in Uptown was preventable, safety advocates say

"These concrete curbs are easy to find, easy to install and will make a big improvement in comfortability and safety for people. But you're only protected in lanes CDOT actually builds. And out of the 25 miles that they're talking about only ten are actually expanding the network," Lucas said.

As for what more can be done, Lucas said "There are a lot of tools that have just been left on the table. There's a lot of things like doing traffic diverters in neighborhoods that prevent through traffic so that neighborhoods aren't being used as shortcuts."

Lucas cited the example of Barcelona, Spain which is doing what are called "superblocks."

"They're saying maybe not every neighborhood street needs to have cars. And maybe we can repurpose some of that space to actually create public spaces within our neighborhoods where it's safe for kids to play and for communities to gather," Lucas said.

Our Chicago: Part 2

47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin's office recently organized a memorial for one of the children killed last month and he's taken up the issue of improved safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

"We've had since I got into office, so many folks in our community, especially younger individuals with kids who consistently mention whether they're walking in particular areas or biking in particular areas they don't feel safe. A number of crashes, near crashes, and most recently we've had a number of tragic deaths in and around our community including 2-year-old Rafi Cardenas, who was on his scooter at a residential intersection as well as 75-year-old Peter Paquette who was crossing in a marked crosswalk at Irving Park Road and was struck and killed in the middle of the street," Martin said.

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He has been urging people to be mindful of distracted driving and to put down their devices.

And at the city level, he said "It just can't be the case if you're in one ward the bike and pedestrian infrastructure is great and in an adjacent ward it's not as good because at the end of the day as folks are traveling through our communities they're not thinking, 'Oh, what ward am I going to be in? I'm going to choose my course accordingly.' That's not what they're thinking about, that's not what they should be thinking about. So we need to move away from a patchwork and really say in a comprehensive fashion what pedestrian and bike safety improvements are going to look like all across the city."

As for those concreted protected bike lanes, work is starting on Kinzie between Milwaukee and Wells. And by the end of next year, all protected lanes with those flexible posts, also called delineators, will be upgraded to concrete.