Did You Know?

While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Hit and run horror on State St.

I never get used to it: that pit-in-the-stomach feeling when I hear about a hit-and-run involving a pedestrian or cyclist.

On Tuesday evening, Maureen Doyle and Jean Frederick were out for an evening at the Chicago Symphony. As they crossed State St. at Monroe Ave. (with the light, and in the crosswalk), a silver Mitsubishi Montero (Illinois license X765013) blew the red light, struck both women and kept on going. Though listed in critical condition that evening, both women have been upgraded to fair condition today. Thank the universe.

And thanks to a nearby surveillance camera, the police were able to confirm the offending vehicle's description and license plate number. Who wants to have that red light camera argument *now*?

After the pit in my stomach starts to dissolve (but before I can get the image of these defenseless people being mown down by a 4,000-pound machine), it's usually followed by a combination of outrage, confusion and profound sadness. Regardless the whys and wherefores of this particular crash (was the driver under the influence? texting? somehow lost control? or just too impatient to bother stopping?), I start to wonder how we've gotten here, and why—to a place where it's more important to save 30-seconds than to save a life.

This most recent incident is a dramatic and scary example of reckless driving. But on the road these days (and sometimes even in the bike lane or on the sidewalk) it seems like even the little courtesies have evaporated, replaced by constant tension and anger. Everyone is racing to get where they need to go, and picking a fight with the person who gets in your way is the default disposition.

One of the most common complaints I get when talking with school principals about school traffic is that parents who drive their kids to school are rude and disrespectful to school staff and crossing guards, often refusing to follow the rules. 

I don't have a poignant conclusion to this post, or a point of advocacy beyond stressing how important it is to keep doing what we're all doing: advocating for safer street designs, better enforcement of traffic laws and a culture of respect for all road users.

I'm just sad.