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The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.

People walking need safer streets

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Last week, the Chicago Tribune published an article about how more people walking are getting killed by drivers in Chicagoland. 

While we were glad to see the coverage of this terrible development, we thought the article failed to make important distinctions.

In particular, readers need to know that the greatest danger in a crash lies with drivers. And likewise, the fault typically is the driver's. 

In response to the article, I submitted the following letter to editor to the Chicago Tribune. Unfortunately, the letter has not been published. So we're providing it here. 

In addressing the recent increase in pedestrian fatalities in the Chicago region (“As pedestrian deaths rise, IDOT reiterates importance of paying attention,” 5/30/16), we should be clear that in most instances when a driver strikes a pedestrian, blame falls on motorist negligence and error, not mistakes made by people walking. 

To be sure, pedestrians need to be careful and cautious. Not paying attention while walking through a crosswalk is a bad idea. But distracted driving is so much more dangerous because people driving have the potential to do the most damage due to the size, weight and speed of automobiles. 

The reality is we have a culture of speeding and reckless driving in the Chicago region. Traffic laws are rarely enforced and people have grown accustomed to driving 10 miles per hour or more above the speed limit. Compliance with the state’s Must Stop for Pedestrians law at crosswalks is abysmally low. 

The city and surrounding municipalities are taking steps to make our streets safer. Four years ago, Chicago committed to a Vision Zero goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2022. Every season we are seeing new street designs that protect the most vulnerable people using the roads.

But with vehicle use growing again, we’re unlikely to see real progress towards Vision Zero until we step up our efforts to calm traffic and improve compliance with existing traffic laws – no matter how many people look up from their phones while walking.

 

Ron Burke, Executive Director
Active Transportation Alliance

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