From downtown out to the suburban neighborhoods, the design of the Chicago Metropolitan zones makes it conducive to pedestrian activity throughout the area. Walking to destinations tends to strengthen the local economy, provides accessibility to the workplace, and makes neighborhoods safer. However, Chicago’s recent pedestrian crash analysis report indicates that accidents involving pedestrians continues to be a significant problem in northeast Illinois.
Fortunately, pedestrian-related crashes involving serious injury have decreased in recent years. However, this number still totals in the hundreds of serious injuries every year. Nearly half of all injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians have happened on arterial streets in the community, mostly on four-lane roadways.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD), Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the City of Chicago are using the gathered information in the report to make significant changes to improve pedestrian safety. Steps taken in the past seem to be beneficial to the area from the neighborhood communities to the downtown business district.
Age and Gender of Injured Pedestrians
More Chicago area children tend to be involved in pedestrian related accidents as compared to adults. The highest proportion of pedestrian crashes happen to children ranging in age from 15 to 18, followed by 5 to 14-year-olds. Additionally, a significant proportion of pedestrian crashes involving serious injuries and fatalities happen among senior citizens in the area because of their increased physical fragility.
The gender of the pedestrian injured or dying from a crash is nearly equally split between males and females. Male pedestrians throughout the Chicago area account for 52 percent of pedestrian accident involvement, even though they represent slightly less than 50 percent of the population. However, females ranging in age from 15 to 18 years, 19 to 29 years, an older than 65 represent a higher proportion of pedestrian-crashes compared to other female age groups.
City Locations of Most Concern
A high proportion of pedestrian crashes occur in the Central Business District. This is likely the result of a higher concentration of residents, business travelers, tourists and commuters than in outlying areas. The district has a higher number of light-controlled (signaling) intersections than its neighboring communities.
Intersections with a signaling crosswalk area throughout the district tend to have a high proportion of commuter and resident pedestrian injuries and deaths. The study indicates that more than 50 percent of all pedestrians involved in an accident in the Central Business District were injured while crossing or standing in the crosswalk. This is in direct opposition to other areas, where more than two thirds of all hit pedestrians were injured while not in a crosswalk.
Additionally, the crash report indicated specific Chicago neighborhoods with the highest number of pedestrian crashes including the Near North Side, Austin, Loop, Near West Side, Belmont Cragin, West Town, Auburn Gresham and Humboldt Park.
The disproportionate amount of pedestrian-related crashes occurring at intersections (78 percent) in the Chicago area is significantly higher when compared to national statistics (46 percent). The report indicates that the city’s short block lengths and dense street grid may be leading to the increase of intersection crashes.
The group with the highest percentage of pedestrian related accidents at intersections were older individuals, 60 years and up. Even though this age group had the lowest crash rate of all, they suffered more fatalities and injuries that are far more serious than other groups.
Leading Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Driver inattention and disregard to signals also appear to be the leading cause of pedestrian-related injuries and fatalities throughout the metropolitan area. This is because statistics indicate that nearly half (49 percent) of all pedestrians struck at intersections with signals were crossing with the light. Based on the information gathered in the report, only approximately 16 percent were crossing against the light.
Protecting the safety of Chicago residents and visitors remains paramount to keep the streets safe and comfortable. While city planners can take steps to improve traffic flow, it will take a shared commitment of all to make positive changes to greatly minimize pedestrian accidents. These steps will include changing the way we drive, improvements in street design, enforcement of current traffic laws and education in how we move about the city as pedestrians.
While the city has gone to great lengths to improve pedestrian safety throughout the metropolitan area over the last 10 years, more needs to be done to minimize pedestrian fatalities and injuries. As a result, numerous agencies are involved in creating a Pedestrian Plan to identify strategies and implement changes to improve the health, livability, connect-ability and safety of all residents, commuters and visitors in Chicago.