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Did You Know?

Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

Pedestrian injuries and deaths are not 'the cost of doing business'

According to a Chicago Tribune report, 85-year-old Bessie Manning was struck and killed by a car near the intersection of Waller Avenue and Division Street on Sunday morning. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene of the crime./

Today another driver struck a mother and her 5-year-old son in the 2400 block of North Clark Street. The mother and child were taken to the hospital in serious-to-critical condition. According to a Tribune report, the driver stayed at the scene of the crime and was issued two citations by police. The crosswalk the mother and child were using featured a sign clearly indicating that state law required drivers to stop for pedestrians.

One death and two serious injuries in a 36-hour period.

I’d like to say that this is a spike, an aberration, an anomaly, but unfortunately I can’t. The sad fact of the matter is that people walking Chicago's streets are injured practically every day. According to the City of Chicago 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis (PDF), there were 17,487 reported pedestrian crashes from 2005 to 2009; that's an average of almost 9.5 each day. During that same time, there were 251 reported pedestrian fatalities, or about one per week. Over 33% of these crashes and 40% of the fatalities were hit-and-run incidents like the one that killed Ms. Manning. (These numbers are almost twice the national average). It turns out that a driver leaving the scene after striking a pedestrian is a shockingly regular event: Almost 2 pedestrians are killed or injured every day in hit-and-run crashes in Chicago./

Delving further into the analysis yields some grimly hopeful statistics. The total number of fatalities in 2009 (34) was down almost 50% from the 2005 total (65). Chicago also has one of the lowest pedestrian fatality rates of peer cities. But the fact remains that 34 preventable deaths over the course of a year isn’t something that anyone can or should feel good about.

It’s easy to begin looking at the research, as I’ve done in preparing this post, and get sucked down the rabbit hole of statistics, percentages and trends. These are numbers that have value and meaning, and tracking these metrics is a necessary component of improving pedestrian safety, something that the City of Chicago is taking seriously. We can’t know if what we’re doing is working if we don’t measure the outcomes. But in attempting to quantify the problem, it's easy to forget that Bessie Manning was probably someone’s wife, mother, or sister. The mother and child hit on Clark Street are someone’s daughter and grandchild. They don’t just represent the most vulnerable amongst us, they are the most vulnerable amongst us.

To the friends and family of the victims, who are distraught beyond words right now, we recognize and acknowledge that these people who met with tragedy on our streets are more than statistics. And we join with the City of Chicago in insisting that even one pedestrian death is too many.