Worst Streets for Cyclists? Diagonals, Downtown Most Dangerous, Report Says

By Kyla Gardner on July 12, 2013 9:32am | Updated on July 12, 2013 9:32am

CHICAGO — Diagonal streets may be the most dangerous for Chicago cyclists, according to new bicycle crash data from the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The Loop and diagonal streets that feed into it — Milwaukee Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street — were the most prominent areas for crashes between 2005 and 2010, the CDOT report released last week found.

The street with the highest crash rate per mile was a 0.7-mile stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between North Avenue and Division Street, which saw about 50 crashes between 2005 and 2010. A 1.6-mile stretch of Clark Street between Racine and Fullerton and a 0.7-mile stretch of Milwaukee between Fullerton and Armitage ranked second and third, with 78 and 34 crashes, respectively.

These streets are heavily traveled by cars and cyclists, so it's not surprising they see more crashes, said Melody Geraci, deputy director for nonprofit Active Transportation Alliance.

"I wouldn’t say those streets should be avoided in particular," Geraci said. But drivers and cyclists should "be aware that perhaps more care is needed [on these streets] ... particularly at intersections."

More than half of all serious crashes for bicyclists between 2005 and 2010 occurred at intersections, accounting for 18 deadly crashes out of 32 total, and nearly 5,000 injury crashes out of nearly 9,000 total in the five-year span, according to the report.

As diagonal streets meet other intersections — making four-way crossings into six-way ones — safety is further compromised, the report said. These "complex" intersections were the most hazardous.

Intersections with the most crashes were:

• Fullerton, Halsted and Lincoln in Lincoln Park

• Damen, Fullerton and Elston in Bucktown

• Damen, North and Milwaukee in Wicker Park

• Milwaukee and Fullerton in Logan Square

• Chicago, Halsted and Ogden in River West

• Chicago and Milwaukee in River West

• Montrose and the Lakefront Trail entrance in Uptown

Bicycle Crashes
Most crashes for bicyclists occurred at "complex" intersections, according to a Chicago Transportation Departm...
View Full Caption Chicago Department of Transportation
In an effort to increase safety for cyclists, CDOT has paired with the Chicago Police Department to educate cyclists and motorists as they see them committing traffic violations around the city.

A protected bike lane also debuted in mid-June on an 0.85-mile stretch of diagonal Milwaukee between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue. In the Loop, a two-way protected bike lane was opened in December on Dearborn Street between Polk Street and Wacker Drive.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he aims to build 100 miles of protected bike lanes, and the Dearborn project marked the 30th mile of protected lanes. Emanuel also increased fines for cyclists committing traffic violations and for motorists who open their doors in the path of cyclists.

Other findings from the report include:

• 1 in 12 crashes involved taxis

• About 40 percent of crashes involved a driver failing to yield the right of way

• About 17 percent of crashes invovled cyclists riding against the flow of traffic or crossing an intersection against the signal

• Of the 29 fatal crashes for which helmet-use information was available, only one cyclist was wearing a helmet

• About 25 percent of all bicycle crashes are hit-and-run

• Almost 15 percent of cyclists who died in fatal crashes were above the legal limit for blood-alcohol content


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I guess I never really understood why so many left turns are allowed, especially at these intersections. Seems so chaotic. 

By this logic, the bottom of the ocean is one of the safest places to ride. No crashes there! 

Also, what is the "legal limit for blood-alcohol content"? My (non-lawyer) understanding is that Illinois DUI law applies to only drivers of motorized vehicles, not to cyclists. 

That 1 in 12 taxis stat is meaningless. Look at how many taxis are on the road in a given day, of course, there going to be involved in more bike accidents.

They would always use the average (non-CDL) driver's limit.  Whether or not your state allows bicycle DUI.
David Altenburg said:

By this logic, the bottom of the ocean is one of the safest places to ride. No crashes there! 

Also, what is the "legal limit for blood-alcohol content"? My (non-lawyer) understanding is that Illinois DUI law applies to only drivers of motorized vehicles, not to cyclists. 

Maybe Chicago should adopt NYC's solution.  From a six way intersection, close the diagonal street to cars for one block.  Allow delivery vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Interesting statistics.  One should guide one's behavior from statistics which are ordinarily more reliable than our own intuitions, at least if the statistics were well researched and are valid.  However, I see no mention of Ashland, Irving Park Road or Western.  It has been my rule of thumb to avoid those, but I see many bikers braving those roads which seems suicidal to me.  But maybe they don't appear in the statistics because they ARE dangerous and few people actually brave them, hence lowering the "n" of people who use them.  What do you think of Western, Ashland and Irving Park Road?  They have few or no stop signs and cars whoosh down them like mad - one can't bravely take up the rght third of the right lane on those without really pissing off drivers whose "unconscious anger" is more likely to be manifest in the usual passive-aggressive behaviors....

One final thought.  I hope we may conclude from these statistics, as from those I added to this forum a few months ago, that we are pretty safe on our bikes IF:

- we don't drink and drive

- we don't ride against traffic (salmon)

- we don't just rush through Stop Signs and Lights, but slow down and only go through if 100% sure nothing is coming

- we wear our helmets

- we pay special attention to complex road intersections and hold back in those if lights are about to change so we are not in the back of the pack

- we watch out for cars about to make a right around us (if only turning our heads so they know we see them)

- we bike enough feet to the left of cars that we can't be doored (I still cringe when I see bikers bike too close; and often can't resist warning them)

- we drive conservatively rather than aggressively as We Are Small And They Are Big

We remember that these safety precautions will drastically reduce our chances of joining the statistics, especially when the # of accidents should be considered in terms of the thousands on the road - cars have it far worse when it comes to accidents, including fatal ones.

Good advice, SlowCoach.

Agreed that it is unsafe to bike on Ashland and Western. I've biked a very small amount on Irving (somewhere around Paulina maybe?) and thought it was okay, but it was just a few blocks and there wasn't much traffic. (In similar circumstances, I'm sure Ashland and Western are similarly fine. Occasionally I have biked on Ashland from Division to Blackhawk, but only at very low-traffic times.)

I think Broadway around Argyle people drive insane and is dangerous when I use to bike it.


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