For bikers and pedestrians, the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Madison Street is one of “most dangerous in the suburbs,” according to a new study released Oct. 14 by Active Transportation Alliance.
Using data obtained from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation and local police departments, the biking-and-walking advocacy group said the intersection had among the highest number of pedestrian and bike accidents in the Chicago suburbs. They received 800 suggestions from supporters nominating the worst intersections.
“Active Trans,” as they are known, also released a list of the 10 most dangerous Chicago intersections.
“Safe Crossings” is a campaign to advocate for more pedestrian roadway improvements in the Chicago area.
Ten reported crashes at Harlem and Madison over a six-year period (2006-2012) involved a car and pedestrians or bikes, said Safe Crossings Campaign Director Kyle Whitehead of Active Trans.
“We are asking how we can promote better and safer walking, biking and transit,” said Executive Director Ron Burke. “We know there are ways to design intersections that are safer to walk and bike across. Cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable users, so when you design safer intersections for them, you make them safer for cars too.”
Madison and First Avenue in Maywood (site of Proviso East High School) also makes the list, as does another Harlem intersection at 79th Street in Burbank.
“We know how to design intersections to be safer, and we’re encouraging cities and IDOT to redesign intersections with safety features in mind,” Burke said.
“In the Chicago region an average of 14 pedestrians or bikers a day are hit by cars and injured or killed,” Burke said.
In January 2012, for instance, a No. 318 eastbound Pace bus, turning north onto Harlem from Madison, struck and killed 64-year-old Edward Taube, of Forest Park, in the intersection around noon. Neighbors thought he might have been on his way to the Oak Park Walgreens, to which he often walked.
Seventy-five percent of all pedestrian crashes occur within 125 feet of an intersection. Sixty-nine percent of pedestrian fatalities in Illinois occurred in metro Chicago, a press release said. One-in-five pedestrian accidents injure or kill an older pedestrian.
At Harlem and Madison, Burke said, Active Trans recommended changes that could help make the intersection safer. He said pedestrian countdown times on street lights would help as well as special protected pedestrian intervals before the green arrow signal. Also for that intersection, a possible pedestrian island, or changing the turn radius in the intersection, could calm traffic.
The problem for Oak Park and Forest Park, neighbors on the Harlem Avenue border: Neither village owns the road. Harlem (also known as Route 43) is an IDOT-controlled thoroughfare.
“IDOT is clearly the decision-maker when it comes to this intersection,” Burke said. “Oak Park and Forest Park can only do so much without IDOT cooperation.
“We’ve seen encouraging changes at IDOT,” he added. “They’re starting to embrace complete streets more.”
Forest Park and Oak Park have worked with Active Trans to improve walkability in both villages. In 2011, Forest Park received a $145,000 grant from the Cook County Health Department to work with Active Trans to create a bicycle plan and to install “complete street” upgrades at certain intersections.
Complete streets are improvements that promote handicap accessibility, biking and walking. Improvements can include curb cuts, striping, brick or vivid intersections and bike route signage.
“Your network of streets should work for everybody and be safe for everybody, walking, biking, wheelchairs, that’s the complete street philosophy,” Burke said.
Read more about the study in the Oct. 22 Forest Park Review