Crossing a busy street is an everyday activity for most local residents, but too often it’s also one of the most dangerous things they’ll do all day.
That’s why we’re excited to be launching Safe Crossings, a pedestrian-focused campaign designed to raise awareness about intersection safety and work with community partners to push for more dedicated funding for pedestrian improvements throughout Chicagoland.
The campaign is built around our lists of 10 of the most dangerous intersections in Chicago and 10 of the most dangerous in suburban Cook County. The lists are based upon analysis of crash data, staff input and more than 800 suggestions from community members.
These lists represent just a small portion of the many dangerous street crossing locations in Chicagoland. These crossings are particularly perilous for our most vulnerable users such as children, people with disabilities and seniors.
The intersections will serve as focus areas for our outreach team as they mobilize supporters to advocate for pedestrian improvements and increased enforcement of existing traffic laws region-wide.
Enhancing infrastructure design and stepping up enforcement at some of the worst intersections in the region alone will not eliminate the risk of crashes. Chicago and its surrounding suburbs need to dedicate more annual funding to maintaining pedestrian facilities and consider other policy solutions – such as reducing neighborhood speed limits – if we’re going to get serious about reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
We want to see the city of Chicago succeed with its Zero in Ten goal to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2022.
Sign our petition to local leaders and transportation officials to demonstrate your commitment to making it safer and easier to walk along and cross streets throughout the region.
photos courtesy of Dan Burden and pedbikeimages.org.
This past Wednesday, schools across the country participated in International Walk to School Day. To commemorate the day, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx celebrated with students in Charlotte, NC, calling on everyone to encourage students to walk to school.
Here are just a few highlights from some schools we heard from around the Chicagoland area:
Evergreen Academy Middle School in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago participated by using a meet and walk strategy.
Over 50 students, staff and parents met at McKinley Park and walked the 1.5 miles to school. After arriving, students celebrated with a healthy breakfast before heading to class with active minds ready to learn.
Similar events were held at Prieto Math and Science Academy (above) and Dore Elementary, both in Chicago. At these schools, students received incentives made available through their recent participation in the Healthy CPS program.
Apollo School in Des Plaines regularly offers a walking group in which students and adults meet approximately three-quarters of a mile from the school and walk together.
Along with staff and family members, the school's Walk to School Day group included more than 150 students walking and 20 more on bikes! Apollo also has a “Golden Shoe Award” -- a traveling award given each week to the classrooms with the highest student participation in its walking program (pictured left is one Apollo classroom that was a recent recipeint of the award).
At Belding Elementary -- serving the Mayfair, Old Irving Park and West Walker neighborhoods of Chicago -- students celebrated multiple forms of active transportation.
In the morning, students who brought a bike took part in a bike safety course led by phys. ed. teacher Yara Santillan and supported by parent volunteers.
A small team also pumped air in tires and made minor tune-ups when possible. Over 100 students participated. In the afternoon, students, staff, and family members participated in a walk-a-thon (pictured right) that also served as a healthy fundraiser, creating a day full of health and safety activities.
Did your school participate? Are you interested in learning how to create events like this at your school in the future? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building on previous surveys, the Polish Triangle Coalition is aligning community input with upcoming Blue Line renovations and public space improvements coming to the Ashland-Division-Milwaukee area over the next two years. Results of this poll will be posted on the Polish Triangle Coalition website in early November.
As criticism of the ill-conceived Illiana Tollway project mounts, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) board and policy committee will hold two critical votes this week to determine whether the 50-mile, four-lane Will County highway should remain in the GO TO 2040 regional plan.
The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion. The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs.
An analysis by CMAP’s own staff completed last year, however, found that the highway’s traffic and toll projects would fall short, leaving taxpayers responsible for filling a gap ranging from $440 million to $1.1 billion.
Active Trans is part of a diverse group of advocacy groups -- including Openlands, Sierra Club, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Environmental Law and Policy Center -- in opposing the project.
Experience shows that building new highways in the Chicago region, particularly in the exurbs where the Illiana would be located, will over time lead to prioritizing investments in infrastructure that promote more driving, more congestion and development patterns that are not conducive to walking, biking and riding public transit.
Active Trans will be testifying against the project at Wednesday’s CMAP board meeting and Thursday’s CMAP policy committee meeting. Both bodies can vote to remove the project from the regional plan but that responsibility ultimately lies with the policy committee under federal law.
Over a 50-day public comment period this summer, more than 1,400 public comments were submitted via letters, emails and in-person public meetings. The Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Crain’s Chicago Business and Rockford Star have all editorialized against the project, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle both oppose the project.
Last month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) put the project on its “boondoggles” list of 11 examples of wasteful spending projects. Let’s hope CMAP votes to remove this black eye from our regional plan this week.
Graphic courtesy of MPC.
Sean Ortiz has big plans for Davis Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Sean Ortiz, the superintendent at Davis Square Park, plans to apply the tricks of the groundskeeper trade he learned at Wrigley Field to his park in in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Now that he’s been blessed by the Chicago Cubs with new equipage and some fresh ideas on how to use it, the park superintendent figures they’ll double the number of boys and girls playing organized baseball and softball there.
“This is a major big deal for our neighborhood,” said Ortiz, looking a bit wide-eyed as he stood on the lush turf near home plate at historic Wrigley Field.
Ortiz was among some 50 recreational managers and community leaders invited to the ballpark Sept. 25, the day after the Cubs final home game of 2014, to get professional advice on turf and clay grooming at a field maintenance clinic.
The biggest deal, he explained, is that Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council is among eight community organizations that are sharing $331,000 in grants awarded by Cubs Charities Diamond Project. LISC Chicago helped the Cubs develop a framework for the program, market the opportunity and select the eight applicants that best fit the project’s goals.
The winners are a mix of organizations that LISC knows well through long-standing work together and groups that are establishing a new partnership with LISC. They were recognized at a pre-game ceremony prior to the Cubs-Dodgers game Sept. 18. Some 18 kids and coaches got the thrill of walking on to a major league infield and acknowledging fan applause.
“Our mission with the Diamond Project,” explained Laura Ricketts, chair of Cubs Charities, “is to address the shortage of clean, safe and accessible baseball fields in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods… so all Chicago youth have an opportunity to pursue their love of baseball.”
Roger Baird, left, Wrigley Field's head groundskeeper, and assistant Justin Spillman, discussed the finer points of turf maintenance with Diamond Project grantees.
Indoors & outdoors
Some of the groups are using their grants to purchase indoor equipment such as pitching machines, sliding mats and motorized, drop-down net batting cages. Last winter’s arctic grip, which didn’t let go until May, convinced many youth baseball leaders they need safe indoor practice areas.
Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), for instance, is investing indoor training amenities in five of its high schools and 23 elementary schools spanning 16 Chicago neighborhoods.
Others will use their grant for the fields outside. General field and stadium support for Chatham’s South Side Little League program includes benches, dugouts, resurfacing the infields and extending one field.
The twin diamonds at Davis Park in Back of the Yards are about to get real clay pitchers’ mounds, two sets of bases, four sets of ADA accessible bleachers, a set of field grooming tools and, most exciting of all for the kids, electric scoreboards.
Tom Krier, right, of Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club in the North Center neighborhood, examines clay mix recommended by Brandon Van Landuyt.
Typical of most everything LISC does, the hardware comes with hands-on technical assistance. The end-of-season clinic at Wrigley Field, sponsored by Cubs Charities and Major League Baseball’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, was offered for the first time and open to Diamond Project applicants and other long-time partners of Cubs Charities.
Jennifer Dedes Nowak, manager of Cubs Charities, guided the clinic’s “students” to their box seats on the home side of the Cubs dugout; whereupon Connie Falcone, director of community affairs for the Cubs, introduced Head Groundskeeper Roger Baird and assistant Justin Spillman.
Their presentation ranged from how – and how often – to fertilize and aerate the turf to how best fill in the potholes that inevitably develop in the batters’ box and pitchers’ mound. Students then toured the infield, where equipment vendors demonstrated products ranging from puddle-drying clay mixtures to gleaming Toro and John Deere rider mowers.
The latter might not fit in a park or school budget, Baird acknowledged, but “for $3 worth of nails and plywood you can make a spike-board like ours” to drag the infield clay.
JRW an inspiration
As they examined the gear, several coaches and park supervisors mentioned the boost that youth baseball in Chicago recently got from the success of the U.S. champion Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers.
“Shows you what can be accomplished with the right adult mentoring and support,” said Tom Krier, executive director of the Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, whose teams play at Revere Park in the North Center neighborhood.
Their Diamond Project grant will equip an indoor baseball training center in the club’s gym, complete with a drop-down batting net, pitching machines, tees and a small library of instructional books and videos.
Krier said NBGC has 700 kids involved in their “building better men and women” programs, a majority in the kindergarten to fifth-grade age group, many of whom will be drawn to that batting cage because “if you build it, they will come.”
Diamond Project grantees learn about the field maintenance products that give the Friendly Confines such a refined and dignified appearance.
All of which fits squarely into LISC Chicago’s overall strategy to point kids toward positive, healthful, self-affirming activities – and away from the negative sort of things that can attract idle hands and minds.
“These baseball fields and facilities are more than just places to practice,” said Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director. “They’re bringing positive change for youth, for neighborhoods and for the city of Chicago as a whole.”
But first there must be careful planning and attention to the administrative details. While coaches and facility managers inspected rider mowers and clay mixtures, Keri Blackwell, LISC deputy director, was also quietly working the infield, going over purchase and installation information with park and school officials.
“This is the first year for the Cubs Charities Diamond Project,” Blackwell said, “but if we execute, if we make it a model public-private partnership, I don’t think it will be the last.”
Will a young Division Street pub crawl behave like a grownup?
Chicago Christmas Crawl, slated for Dec. 13, gets an early test Monday: a membership vote at the East Village Association 7pm meeting.
Candidates for alderman also will address EVA. Andrew Hamilton (1st Ward) and Steve Niketopoulos (2nd Ward) will speak Monday, with others to follow before the Feb. 24 city election. EVA also is organizing a candidates' debate with neighboring groups.
There'll also be an update on Polish Triangle developments for Division Street, including the CTA's Blue Line renovation plans.
The Christmas Crawl's modeled after Wrigleyville's large and rowdy Twelve Bars of Christmas, known for mass consumption of alcohol and breakfast cereal, sometimes at once.
Crawl organizer Jess Loren, a former TBOC promoter, will field questions before the vote at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave. Loren tells RedEye it's aimed at an older, over-25 crowd.
The Division Street event promises its own quirks: A $35 ticket gets patrons bar admission starting at 10am, a Santa hat and a turkey baster.
It would need Ald. Proco Joe Moreno's signoff on a special-events permit. Wicker Park Committee gave an advisory OK last week, but the alderman seeks EVA and Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association votes as well.
The sponsoring bars listed on its website are Anthem, Boundary, Division Ale House, Folklore and Takito Kitchen, along with two "charity partners," I Am 4 Kids and Chicagoland Dog Rescue.
Also on Monday's EVA agenda are recaps of last week's Literary Charades library fundraiser and Special Service Area hearing, as well as apartment rezoning for the vacant lot south of Commercial Park at 1822-50 W. Chicago Ave.