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Chicago's 'highway-like' streets are a threat to us all

Bike Crash Attorneys ChicagoWalking or riding a bicycle in Chicago should be a healthy and safe activity, but on highway-like streets in River North, pedestrians and cyclists are facing a real threat. Over the span of just two days in September, two people on foot were hit by cars within a few blocks of each other, according to StreetsBlog Chicago. They both died shortly after getting run down.

The report raises questions. Should Chicago consider adding more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly features in River North? Should drivers slow down and be more mindful of others sharing the road?

Section 5/11-1002(e) of the Illinois Vehicle Code makes it clear that motor vehicles, as a matter of law, must stop when pedestrians are using crosswalks:

“Whenever stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections, drivers shall yield right-of-way to pedestrians as set forth in Section 11-904 of this Chapter.”

Although laws are in place to protect pedestrians from the dangers of cars, pedestrians and bicyclists are still frequently involved in accidents.

Three dead within two days

As personal injury attorneys who have represented injury victims, we know the answer to both questions is “yes.” The first crash involving the pedestrians happened on a stretch of Ohio Street connecting the Kennedy Expressway to the Magnificent Mile shopping district. Ohio Street is a wide, four-lane design that essentially invites drivers to go too fast. The driver who struck the pedestrian never stopped to render aid.

In the second crash, a pregnant woman was struck at the busy intersection of Grand Avenue and LaSalle Street. Both she and her child died as a result of being run over and trapped underneath the vehicle. Authorities are investigating the incident and considering citations against the driver, including failure to yield, according to WLS.

LaSalle is another dangerous road for pedestrians, a six-lane road where it’s not unusual for cars to exceed the speed limit.

Recent fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes

Here are some alarming statistics cited by StreetsBlog:

  • Recent pedestrian deaths on LaSalle Street include a man struck by a drunk hit-and-run driver, a woman hit by a taxi, a woman run down by a truck and a man struck by a hit-and-run SUV driver.
  • Between January and September 2019, 33 pedestrians and one bicyclist were killed on Chicago streets.

What can be done to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe?

Safety begins with the drivers. They need to slow down, stay sober and alert, and be aware that others may be sharing the road with them.

Section 5/11-1002(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code addresses pedestrians’ right-of-way at crosswalks:

“When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

The language of this section has been revised to put more emphasis on pedestrian safety. Prior to recent changes, the statute read “the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk”. The revised statute reads “the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk”. This change in language clearly demonstrates the legal intent of the statute of protecting pedestrians and places greater responsibility on drivers to fully stop when approaching crosswalks.

Section 5/11-903 of the Illinois Vehicle Code further expands on a drivers’ duty to completely stop at crosswalks:

“Where stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or flashing red signals are in place at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections, drivers of vehicles shall stop before entering the nearest crosswalk and pedestrians within or entering the crosswalk at either edge of the roadway shall have the right-of-way over vehicles so stopped.”

Unfortunately, these laws are still frequently broken. Injuries and damages seen in crosswalk accidents can be massive.

City transportation officials and law enforcement certainly are aware of the problem of these highway-like streets in Chicago. Some residents have suggested improving signal phases to protect pedestrians who cross the street from being hit by a turning car. Officials will need to take a serious look at any and all proposals to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

Crashes happen without warning. Pedestrians and cyclists who are injured can face barriers in their attempt to get justice and fairly compensated. Families who lose loved ones may get a lowball offer from insurance companies for at-fault drivers or be told the crash was the victim’s fault.

That’s not fair, and that’s why we fight aggressively for our clients. If you were injured in a pedestrian or bicycle crash in Chicago or lost a loved one, contact Keating Law Offices, P.C., for a free consultation. You can focus on your recovery. We will focus on your claim.

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