Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

No traffic fatalities in 10 years? Chicago's new transportation goals

May 11, 2012 - 11:33 AM
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(Photo: flickr/orijinal)

Just as I praise Mayor Vince Gray for his ambitious transportation rhetoric in D.C., Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his transportation lieutenants, including former District Department of Transportation voices such as Gabe Klein (our former director and now Emanuel's) and Scott Kubly, have done one better and unveiled their own set of ambitious goals worth noting.

Key among them — "Eliminate all pedestrian, bicycle, and overall traffic crash fatalities within 10 years."

Well, that's a nice idea now, isn't it? According to the city's transportation department action agenda, Chicago wants to cut bicyclist and pedestrian injuries by 50% each within a half decade and the total of all roadway crashes and injuries by 10% a year.

Several proposals in the document outline how the Windy City will move toward those goals. The government hopes to educate adults and children more on traffic safety issues to the tune of 5% more a year. Actions include identifying the top-10 crash sites around the city and improving them, up the the amount of traffic studies, carefully placing the city's red light and speed cameras, dropping residential speed limits to 20 miles/hour (D.C.'s standard is 25, Chicago's is 30), rolling out better traffic safety signage, installing 300 countdown pedestrian signals at intersections this year and maybe 100 more next year, and developing a model for bicycle signals.

And how realistic are these plans? D.C., after all, proposed lowering residential speed limits last year without any follow-through and has ignited skepticism with its automated traffic enforcement cameras. Klein assures the Chicago Sun-Times that all the goals have been deemed feasible. D.C. and Chicago both still struggle with the perils of traffic safety. Chicago averages 3,000 crashes between cars and pedestrians, according to the city plan, and 50 pedestrian deaths a year. Last year the D.C. region was home to 76 pedestrian deaths, six bicyclist deaths, and 202 vehicular deaths, according to Street Smart, and AAA Mid-Atlantic recently spotlighted nine bicyclists killed in the last 12 months. In Klein's first year in Chicago, he also tried to raise awareness of the city's pedestrian deaths through a set of 32 mannequins, representing people killed, arranged throughout the urban streets. Overall traffic fatality statistics have improved over the years but death is still very much a part of our transportation systems. But can they ever really be eliminated given the thousands upon thousands of trips happening out there? The efforts are worth attempting.

"Every life lost is one too many," Chicago's officials declare.

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