Chicago’s “culture of speeding and reckless driving”

From an article in the Trib today:

About 80 percent of vehicle-pedestrian crashes in Chicago occur at intersections and commonly involve people crossing the street with the walk signal, according to a new city study.

As a frequent pedestrian in Chicago, these statistics are not surprising. What’s noteworthy is that the city commissioned a special study on pedestrian safety and plans to do something about it.

The exceptionally high rate of pedestrians being struck, predominantly by turning vehicles, while they are inside the presumed safe haven of crosswalks was an unexpected finding that will prompt increased police enforcement of the No. 1 cause of pedestrian accidents — drivers failing to yield, officials said. More traffic safety technology is coming too, they said.

The hit-and-run rate in Chicago is double the national average, with 33% of drivers leaving the scene of a pedestrian crash (44% for crashes that result in death).

“It’s unbelievable, and it’s a real crime,” Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said. “I think we have this culture of speeding and reckless driving.”

I agree that there is a culture of speeding and reckless driving. I rarely see drivers slow down or stop for pedestrians even in school zones.

Improving the safety of pedestrians by working to change the culture of speeding and recklessness will naturally improve the safety of bicyclists. Bicyclists also must make sure to yield to pedestrians (which does not mean simply swerving around them in the crosswalk).

Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune.

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16 thoughts on “Chicago’s “culture of speeding and reckless driving”

  1. Stephen Hodges says:

    I’ve driven in and have been driven in Chicago. It can be terrifying. The streets are designed for big ol’ Detroit iron, and the City of Big Shoulders or whatever is not kind to the young, weak, or poor. It’s a huge, often brutal place.

    But cultures can be changed. I think it takes leading by example, and an atmosphere of intolerance for abuse. I don’t read the local papers there, but when one rich guy, celebrity, or politician gets away with being a pig behind the wheel, that is often poisonous to the culture. Power must somehow police its own. And the City needs to enforce its laws big-time too. And the insurance industry needs to get serious. If you get a ticket for parking in a bike lane or stopping in the middle of a sidewalk or worse, you ought to take a hit financially. European auto insurance is very expensive, fuel is expensive, and driving infractions are very serious, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.

    As pie in the sky as some of these things are, they can be done. Cultures can change, but it takes citizens speaking out and power responding in kind. But first you have to admit there’s a problem…;-)

  2. Audeamus says:

    I’ve driven in and have been driven in Chicago. It can be terrifying. The streets are designed for big ol’ Detroit iron, and the City of Big Shoulders or whatever is not kind to the young, weak, or poor. It’s a huge, often brutal place.

    But cultures can be changed. I think it takes leading by example, and an atmosphere of intolerance for abuse. I don’t read the local papers there, but when one rich guy, celebrity, or politician gets away with being a pig behind the wheel, that is often poisonous to the culture. Power must somehow police its own. And the City needs to enforce its laws big-time too. And the insurance industry needs to get serious. If you get a ticket for parking in a bike lane or stopping in the middle of a sidewalk or worse, you ought to take a hit financially. European auto insurance is very expensive, fuel is expensive, and driving infractions are very serious, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.

    As pie in the sky as some of these things are, they can be done. Cultures can change, but it takes citizens speaking out and power responding in kind. But first you have to admit there’s a problem…;-)

  3. NancyB says:

    Further to your comment about school zones, nothing chaps my hide more than people (including cyclists, I’ve seen it!) who pass a stopped school bus. For the love of Pete, you can’t sit for a minute while a kindergartner boards bus? It seems like everyone around drives and rides like they’re hell bent for election. I guess everyone just has super awesome jobs they want to get to. Bottom line, it’s dangerous for everyone when everyone goes so fast.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is doubly bad on a bike. Simply get off and pedestrianize until you are past the bus. Safe and legal.

    • steve_a_dfw says:

      It is doubly bad on a bike. Simply get off and pedestrianize until you are past the bus. Safe and legal.

  4. RobW says:

    Ironically, if “sixth sense” hadnt kicked in, I’d have been flattened recently by a police K9 SUV , as it flew around the corner. Just as the crosswalk gave me the clear, I started to take a step, walking my bike across as a pedestrian …. but something said, “look left” If Id just trusted the signal, I’d have been mangled by one sworn to protect me. One segment alone cant change, everyone needs to, or we all lose. Was this in Chicago? Nope, Suburban-Metro Ga. Its everywhere.

    • Amy says:

      I too nearly got creamed by a cop just last week. He came flying around a tight curve and had to over correct hard to miss me. Had to be going double the speed limit (15mph zone on a very tight curve up a steep hill. You can’t go but so fast on that stretch or you’ll roll, even in a police cruiser.)

  5. RobW says:

    Ironically, if “sixth sense” hadnt kicked in, I’d have been flattened recently by a police K9 SUV , as it flew around the corner. Just as the crosswalk gave me the clear, I started to take a step, walking my bike across as a pedestrian …. but something said, “look left” If Id just trusted the signal, I’d have been mangled by one sworn to protect me. One segment alone cant change, everyone needs to, or we all lose. Was this in Chicago? Nope, Suburban-Metro Ga. Its everywhere.

  6. Melinda says:

    In my part of the country we disbanded bicycle safety classes in most public schools decades ago. Folks who learn to ride a bike have to seek out information and pointers from experienced cyclists. Many of our children learn to ride a bike with the help of other adults but they never really necessarily receive the safety training needed. Then, they get out there on the public roads and pathways. You couple that situation with drivers who seem to have forgotten what they learned in driver’s education class. I always wait a few seconds whether I am on my Dutch bike or in my car to cross an intersection. I see one flagrant red light running at least once per week. People seem to be distracted even if they are not texting or using a cell phone which is against the law here.

  7. Melinda says:

    In my part of the country we disbanded bicycle safety classes in most public schools decades ago. Folks who learn to ride a bike have to seek out information and pointers from experienced cyclists. Many of our children learn to ride a bike with the help of other adults but they never really necessarily receive the safety training needed. Then, they get out there on the public roads and pathways. You couple that situation with drivers who seem to have forgotten what they learned in driver’s education class. I always wait a few seconds whether I am on my Dutch bike or in my car to cross an intersection. I see one flagrant red light running at least once per week. People seem to be distracted even if they are not texting or using a cell phone which is against the law here.

  8. Doug Lovejoy says:

    I’d just like to add something I’ve noticed in reading articles about traffic collisions. As a society we have deflected responsibility for vehicle operation safety by accepting a narrative that described collisions as an act of the vehicle, not the person driving it. For example, the Tribune article describes “[t]he exceptionally high rate of pedestrians being struck, predominantly by turning vehicles…” Vehicles aren’t striking pedestrians, drivers are striking pedestrians with their vehicles. You never read a story about a gun shooting someone, but you always read stories of cars involved in “accidents.” I think it’s about time we as a society start taking more responsibility for our actions.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve seen info that pedestrians are safer when they avoid “their” crossings. Considering the number of turning collisions, it does make crossing mid block seem downright sane.

  10. Cyclin' Missy says:

    That’s how I got hit by a car – riding across the street in a cross walk when a driver failed to yield. Scary. Glad to hear this is getting some attention!

  11. Mike Greenwood says:

    This wouldn’t work in a big city (unless there was a major priority shift), but I was in Damariscotta, ME (pop. 2041) a few years ago and all the crosswalks had a “stop for pedestrians” sign painted on them near the side of the road. I almost felt guilty considering the moderate amount of traffic, but as soon as one foot went over the curb, traffic in both directions would stop. It was the strangest thing for me.

  12. rebekah says:

    I wish I was, but I’m not at all surprised by this. Last February I was hit by a car making a left turn while I was walking – I had the walk sign and was in the crosswalk. Not to mention all my near misses from turning cars while on my bike.
    I’m happy to hear that something is being done, and interested to see what the “traffic safety technology” entails.

  13. jztpdgpnj says:

    wwlav…

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