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Thursday’s pedestrian accident on Ridge Avenue that left a father and his 5-year-old son seriously injured has renewed safety concerns about Evanston’s most heavily travelled north-south roadway.

Evanston Public Works Director Suzette Robinson says the intersection at Grove Avenue, where the pedestrians were struck by a southbound minivan as they walked to Dewey School, is not marked as a pedestrian crosswalk.

It’s also just a block in either direction from signalized intersections. And the safe walk to school maps developed by the city and School District 65 encourage the use of Lake Street, one block south, as the route to Dewey, because crossing guards are posted at its major intersections .

“My heart goes out to the child and the parent” injured in the accident, Robinson says, “but we don’t have any easy answers” about what to do with Ridge Avenue.

Top: A map showing safe walk routes to Dewey School in orange, intersections with crossing guards (shown with school crossing signs) and intersections with traffic signals (with red circles). Above: The minivan that a father became trapped under Thursday as he walked his son to school. 

She noted that she’s had informal discussions recently with an alderman and some residents along Ridge about changing the street from its current four-lane configuration to one that would have two traffic lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes at the edge of the pavement.

But traffic studies done a few years ago concluded that the road carries too much traffic to work in that configuration — without shifting more traffic onto other north-south routes like Asbury Avenue, Chicago Avenue or Sheridan Road.

Any changes to Ridge also have to contend with many competing interests — including preservationists who several years ago blocked installation of mast-arm traffic signals to replace traditional post-top stop lights and who would resist any effort to change the traditional Tallmadge street lights or to widen the unusually narrow traffic lanes on Ridge.

A report presented to City Council last summer showed that pedestrian accidents in Evanston have declined by half in the past two decades, but more than 50 people were still struck by cars in the city last year.

From 2009 throuhg 2011 there were three pedestrian accidents along the stretch of Ridge from Church to Dempster streets — one each at Church, Davis and Lake, the public works director says.

Robinson said she’s familiar with Wilmette’s decision to reduce Green Bay Road and Sheridan Road to two traffic lanes — and that she travels down Green Bay herself every day.

The lane reduction has slowed commuting times on Green Bay, Robinson said. “I get through easily, but not quickly. I just have to make sure I’m not in a hurry,” she added.

But, at least in the view of many pedestrians who have to cross the street, hurrying is just what the current roadway configuration on Ridge seems to enourage drivers to do.

Related story

Pedestrian pinned under car on Ridge

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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30 Comments

  1. There’s no excuse for this.

    There's no excuse for this. Saying that an intersection isn't marked as a pedestrian crosswalk does not excuse the driver, or absolve the city of any obligation to make Ridge safer. The street is narrow, traffic is fast, and the pedestrians were crossing at an intersection. If this is a dangerous area, which commenters on a previous post have confirmed, then something should be done about it.

    Widening the street isn't going to make Ridge safer. It's going to increase traffic speeds and make drivers even less likely to look for or slow down for pedestrians. Instead, Evanston should borrow a more European model and look at traffic calming measures like lowering the speed limit, installing more lights and stop signs, adding in protected bike lanes, and putting in pedestrian crosswalks that require drivers to yield. These measures would, in all likelihood, involve Ridge becoming a two lane street; this would not be the end of the world. In fact, it would have a positive impact on the surrounding community.

    It may make some drivers' commutes longer, but it will save lives and money, increase housing values, and encourage walking, cycling, and public transit over driving. Evanston should not ignore these considerable benefits in favor of cutting a few minutes off of a drive.

    1. Ridiculous excuses

      I completely agree with the above post. Saying that it isn't a designated cross walk somehow puts the blame on the poor family who had to live through this traumatic accident. Maybe they could have walked a block up to a traffic light… But why then do cars have to stop for pedestrians on Chicago Ave. in front of Jewel near the Shell station and Whole Foods?

      Couldn't those pedestrians walk half a block south to the intersection at Greenleaf where there is a traffic light? The scariest part of commuting along Ridge is that there is no southbound shoulder room. I have been almost broadsided into the retaining wall many times and all you can do is slow down and brace yourself.

      I would definitely prefer to commute on bike but there are no safe north-south streets to ride on during rush hour, and I am sure there are many others who would like to ride their bikes or walk a distance but safety is not on our side if our commutes are anywhere around Ridge.

      If commercialized Chicago Ave. can manage to be two lanes then I think Ridge could effectively be the same with an additional center lane for left turns. 

      1. False Equivalence

        There is no crosswalk across Ridge at Grove. There is a cross walk at Hamilton across Chicago.

         No crosswalk versus marked crosswalk. That is the difference. (The law might actually make no differetation between the two, but no one has made a convincing case to support that.)

        As an aside, just because the west side of Chicago between Greenleaf and Dempster is uninterrupted, calling Greenleaf a "half-block" down from Hamilton Street defies reality. But, yes, if you want to be responsible and safe helping your child cross a busy street, perhaps you should be crossing at well-marked crosswalks, regardless of whether or not they have traffic lights. Remind me again, was the driver cited in this accident?

         

        1. Crosswalks

          I've long argued that all crosswalks at all intersections in this city should be marked (painted). That means wherever the sidewalks have curb cut-outs to allow strollers and wheelchairs to access the crossing. And they should be repainted regularly. This would be a constant visual alert to drivers that people walk in this city. This isn't giving pedestrians a pass, just some help.

      2. I’m all for protected bike

        I'm all for protected bike lanes, but there is a path on the east and west borders of Evanston (Lakefront and canal). Dodge also has painted lanes. Chicago Ave is for commerce, it is supposed to have heavy foot traffic. Ridge is an artery and completely necassary as such. If you take the cars off Ridge, where do you think they'll go? All the currently safe north/south streets I enjoy safely riding on. In fact, Ridge might be the only north/south street in Evanston you can't safely ride, and it should stay that way.

    2. Making Ridge a two-lane

      Making Ridge a two-lane street with stop signs would have a severely negative impact on the surrounding community. As it stands, Ridge is the only central artery through Evanston, with Sheridan (2 lanes) and McCormick. Where do you think the cars will go? Our sidestreets, obviously. As far as the accident being a driver's or the cities fault is just reactionary. The man could have safely crossed one block north or south, but did not. I don't mean to be callous, but visibility (for drivers) was terrible yesterday. I wouldn't have taken a chance there, especially with a baby or child. If any changes are made to Ridge, perhaps it should be to ristrict it to cars/compact cars only, the road wasn't 'too narrow' 20 years ago, the SUVs have gotten bigger. Wish both victims a full and speedy recovery. 

    3. Actually, grove & ridge feels safer than the stoplights…

      Crossing at the Church or Davis stoplights is scary, especially during 4:30 – 7 PM when everyone gets back from work.  People turning disregard the walk signal entirely and just put their feet on the accelerator without bothering to check for pedestrians. 

      I actually prefer to cross at Grove & Ridge provided that I can see no threat of oncoming traffic — which means that I do often wait a while to get across.  It's still better than playing "chicken" with those drivers who think that any light change means that they can go ahead.  The only "good" crosswalk on Ridge near to me is Lake, and that's rather far away from both Dewey and Roycemore. 

      To all those saying "why didn't they just go to a light?" — I don't know that it's generally any safer.  Accidents have happened at those intersections as well.  And crossing with a slower young child past all those impatient drivers can be nerve wrecking!

  2. What are the traffic counts on Ridge?

    Bill, Any way to get the prcise traffic counts on Ridge?

    The Federal DoT has published studies indicating that lane reduction results in lower number of accidents and higher numbers of bikers and walkers. 

    If we had traffic counts on Ridge we could see how they compare to other cities that have used lane reduction successfully.

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/11septoct/05.cfm

  3. Ridge Avenue accidents

    Living on Ridge, am well aware of the potential for accidents and have witnessed many over 30 years. As a pedestrian, have had many close calls. Have no answers but it is very difficult for a vehicle or pedestrian to enter Ridge from a side street or driveway.Cars often have to turn right before they can make a left turn. Could part of it be the timing of the lights?

  4. Another shoulder shrug from officials

    And I'm all for preservation of things (tallmadge lights, or…keeping the lanes narrower?), but I'm also really into people not dying.

    It might not be that the road is carrying too much traffic to be altered to two lanes, but that the four lanes we have now are just going too fast? I've been in Evanston for a while, and pulled over a few times on other roads for speed related issues, and I've never seen any traffic law enforcement of any type along Ridge. How about some research into speeding tickets and location of patrol or enforcement?

    And also how about some more raw data around accidents, not just number of pedestrian accidents in the last two years, how about all vehicle accidents throughout Evanston, both car collisions and those involving pedestrians. And then layer in the severity of each accident. I'd very much like to see how many are along Ridge and where the most severe are. They reference having figures from the last two decades to quote an overall decline. Map that out and show where the declines happened over these two decades and analyze what measures where taken in that time period that seem to have worked, and any others that didn't. Were any measures taken at all? Did it happen spontaneously?

    I had the same issue with the South Branch arguments. There never seemed to be any actual details beyond how many books were there, and some light references to usage. 'Five books were checked out'. Five books by one person, or one book for five people? All the same title in sequence or five on the same day? What genre? How old were the books? Were they at any other Evanston location?

    Any actual useful data at all?

    1. Down with bikes

      I totally agree. Please, no bike lanes on Ridge. Bikers are unpredictable and follow no rules of the roads laws which makes it very hard for us drivers. 

      1. We need dedicated bike lanes throughout Evanston

        In response to the post "Down With Bikes", I believe that the reason bikers seem "unpredictable" is because we have not come to grips with the fact that bicycling has soared in popularity.

        And rightfully so- it's cheap, it’s great exercise and parking is easy.  We live in an ideal place (flat) for bicycling to become a great way to get around the Chicago area.  The critical problem is we don't have dedicated bike lanes – by dedicated I mean separate, defined and protected bike routes.

        This business of "share the road" with bikes is simply absurd.  I support giving up parking on one side of the major streets all over town and supplementing dedicated and most importantly, protected bike lanes.  In place of the lane of parked cars, you would have a bike lane in each direction.  The latest efforts in Evanston are an improvement, but it is only half-baked.  Without protected lanes (with a physical “jersey barrier” or similar), you will still not have enough of a feeling of safety to make it attractive for everyone.

        There is no "ignoring" the fact that bicycling is here to stay and the sooner we all accept it and plan for it, the better  and mostly safer, the transition will be for everyone.  As the transition continues, more and more folks will use their bikes for short travels and reduce the dependency on cars.  There is no denying it.  Bicycling is going to continue to grow in popularity as gas prices increase and we must make it safer for bicyclists and drivers.

        1. Hallowed bike lanes

          This bike lane business is so overblown.  I travel daily, actually several times a day, up and down Church all the way through the city past McCormick right into downtown.  You hardly ever see bikes using that protected lane, ever.  Not even when school is opening or closing.  Now that the cold has arrived and until spring gets here I will be lucky to see even one cyclist a day.  This morning, yesterday, it's been days since I've seen even one single cyclist using that lane. 

          Now that the hallowed bike lane is here, lets do a study.  How many cars travel Church every day, I imagine a good ten thousand a day, how many bikes every day, including now into April?  Ten, twenty, fifty, a thousand? 

          This "transition" isn't going to happen in any meaningful way, it's a pipe dream fantasy that will never reach significant usage no matter the infrastructure built to accomodate them.     

  5. Sidewalks on Golf

    Ridge is busy and tight.  

    Golf is busy too.

    I'd like to see Golf at least have sidewalks up to Crawford.    

    Sidwalks, lighting, enforcing laws – all can help reduce accidents – and encourage people to walk.

     

     

    1. Hear, hear! Golf Road should

      Hear, hear! Golf Road should have sidewalks all the way to Old Orchard.

      If it wasn't for the lack of sidewalks, it is not a bad walk — downtown Evanston to Old Orchard is a one hour walk. I have done it a number of times to get some exercise and some shopping. The lack of sidewalks is problematic, especially if it has rained or snowed, as the yards get very muddy.

  6. Ridge crossing

    An unmarked crosswalk is still a crosswalk.  There are pedestrian cut-outs at the curbs at that intersection, for strollers and wheelchairs, therefore it is an unmarked crosswalk.  This doesn't mean that the driver is necessarily at fault, for pedestrians still have responsibility to cross when it's safe.  I'm sure this driver is distraught.  But I can't think of any reason why a 5 year old should have to walk two blocks out of his way on a cold, dark, rainy morning (or any morning) to get to school (Grove to Lake, and back again to Grove).  There should be a crossing guard at Grove and Ridge.  Dewey is on Grove.  So is Roycemore.  There should also be a stoplight.  There should also be marked crosswalks.  For god's sake.  I'm a parent, a pedestrian, and a driver, and I live in the neighborhood.  I see all sides of this issue.  And there's absolutely no reason to not give pedestrians the advantage here.  Everywhere.

    1. I agree with you. Ridge is a

      I agree with you. Ridge is a dangerous route in any event. Even where there is a light (Davis, for example). Plus, when you start to cross Ridge at Grove, things can change quickly with motorists who could be talking on the phone or just not paying any attention.

      Let's add a light where there is a park and school. It would help manage traffic better on Ridge regardless.

  7. Dangerous Ridge

    Ridge needs to be redone. To allow cars to rule this city is a disgrace. When a 5 year old and his dad get hit walking to school this city should be ashamed. To say "Sorry, but there is not a cross walk at that intersection" is outrageous! So what if traffic is distributed to other streets, that might help slow Ridge down. Adding a bike lanes and a middle turn lane are needed. Too bad that it will take people a little longer to get to where they are going. If bike lanes were added maybe people would decide to ride their bike rather than drive (since it would be quicker and healthier). I am so tired of it always being the pedestrian or bikers fault. We all pay taxes for the roads so the roads should be shared for all uses- not just vehicles. Yes, I drive a car, but I try to bike as many places as I can, but it is really scary to bike in this town – especially with your kids towing behind you.

    If someone in the city is reading this please try to make Ridge more bike and pedestrian friendly! It is for the benefit of the whole community!  Ridge vehicle lanes should be reduced and bikes should be added.  I hate to admit it but Wilmette is actually ahead of us. If they could add bike lanes to their major N-S roads why can't we? The fact that Wilmette has done this should shame the city into re-configuring Ridge.

    1. Not an outrage

      Responsible adults teach their children to be responsible pedestrians.  I live in the neighborhood and cross Ridge only at Lake or Davis where there are traffic lights (although at some peril).   NEVER at Grove.   Even on Sunday mornings.

       

  8. Please NO bike lanes on Ridge

    "Any changes to Ridge also have to contend with many competing interests — including preservationists who several years ago blocked installation of mast-arm traffic signals to replace traditional post-top stop lights and who would resist any effort to change the traditional Tallmadge street lights or to widen the unusually narrow traffic lanes on Ridge."

    I'm sorry, but widening the lanes would help drastically. I've seen countless cars hit the curb while driving down Ridge. Busses frequently go into the other lanes creating chaos in the morning. Wider lanes would have an immediate impact.

    If people want to hear more stories about people getting hit on Ridge install bike lanes. This would be a very bad idea….VERY BAD.

    This is a no-brainer. Wider lanes. NO bikes..ever. And more police presence during rush hour. Done. End of story.

     

    1. Ridge was a County road

      I agree with you, common. The repair to Ridge was originally a county project. They had planned to replace the Tallmadge street lights and widen it by 6 feet, 1 1/2 feet per lane. I was told that some powerful people, some that lived on Ridge did not want the change.

      The city decided to officially takeover the maintenance responsibility from the county. Thus Evanston became the owner of Ridge. I forget how many millions of dollars it cost Evanston taxpayers. I wished I had kept more information on this.

      Also, I hope that the boy and his father fully recover from the accident with as little pain and suffering as possible but I am surprised how many people have blamed the driver of the car. As far as I know, no blame has been made against the driver or the father and son.

      A friend told me about a stat that he found a couple of years ago. He read that over 80 percent of automobile accidents in urban areas that involve a person on foot, involve jaywalking or opening the driver side door into moving traffic. I don't remember if speeding, drinking, and drugs were also involved.

       

    2. Hmm. Where does the space

      Hmm. Where does the space come to widen the lanes? The sidewalk? People's front yards? The reason cars are hitting the curb is because they are speeding. Else, their driving skills are lacking.

      I agree the lanes are narrow, but there is no physical space to widen them. Removing two lanes and creating a center turn lane (making the two remaining lanes wider) would work best.

      Better lights always help, but the accident being discussed happened with daylight. A knucklehead driver was going fast enough to hit two people and drag an adult "30 to 40 feet" before coming to a stop. The police did not charge, but if not speeding, how do they account for the distance it took the driver to stop?

  9. I hope you can find sense

    I hope you can find sense somewhere in the city governmental structure to refuse to add bicycles to Ridge and maybe to eliminate city tendencies to blame victims.  We already know that some bike riders consider themselves exempt from signals, stop signs, crossing markings, and other restraints for vehicles with motors.  Also, bikers ride without licenses, possibly without identification (when I was mowed down by one), without insurance, and without annual checkups to teach them rules and safe behaviors.  Bikes on Ridge won't improve public safety.

  10. Bikes good. Cars bad.

    Ridge does need to be reconfigured/changed, but I don't think you're taking it far enough in the proper direction. How about this:

    •     One lane of automobile traffic in each direction
    •     NO center turn lane
    •     A fully-protected (with a solid wall between motor and non-motor traffic) bike lane on either side

    If it were up to me, there would be no non-commercial motor vehicles allowed anywhere in Evanston. The police would be allowed to use motor vehicles in emergencies only and would be on foot or riding a bike in every other instance. The police would actually see what's happening in the neighborhoods rather than simply fly through them. The quality of our policing would improve without a doubt. Force people to get off their ever-widening asses and either walk or ride a bike. It would also be a boost to the local economy when people were forced to visit one of our amazing in-town bike shops (Ponyshop RULES!!) to buy a new bike that can carry lots of groceries/cargo. And plus, Obamacare is about to drop, and we will all soon be required to submit quarterly BMI reports to the Federal Government to avoid being taxed at a greater rate (you will pay more if you become too fat, or if you smoke, or if you do anything not approved by our Federal Overlords). Obesity (or even being 'slightly plump') will very soon be considered a pre-existing condition which you will pay for.

    I ride between 6 and 7 thousand miles each year on my Road or Cyclocross bike, rain, shine or snow, and I would welcome a change like this…..but then again, I also have a cargo bike that I use for about 90% of my shopping needs. I suppose not everyone is as forward-thinking as I am.

    Simon

  11. How about a light at Grove/Ridge?

    I live in this area and have had many adventurous trips across Ridge to the park or to Dewey School. Putting in a light at Ridge/Grove makes the most sense to me. Why not? What could it hurt?

  12. Bike lanes on Ridge would be

    Bike lanes on Ridge would be ridiculous. So would reducing it to one lane in each direction. Streets were made to move traffic…car traffic, that is. Ridge is not a superhighway but its not a place for a slow, country drive either. Pedestrians, whether adults or children, have to be careful. Period. Widening the lanes by widening the street a bit would have been helpful, and if the opportunity for the county to do that was lost by Evanston's Nothing Must Ever Change Crowd, then its another loss to the Preserve the Bygone Era At All Costs Cabal. 

    1. I guess you need to be

      I guess you need to be reminded the the first roads in this country were built for bicycle, not cars. Over the long run, walking and bike riding is more sustainable than car driving. Data from the National Household Travel Survey (last wave was in 2009) pins the average distance travelled by car at 9.75 miles. That is a short distance. Imagine you could take out of the road all the cars that are travelling less than 3 miles… there would be a lot less traffic.

      Drivers  go over the speed limit in Ridge all the time — that is illegal. It is also dangerous. Police enforcement of speed limits should be a regular feature, not an occasional event that is announced with great fanfare.

      Regarding the widening of the street, those who are harping for that,  where does the space for it come from? Take out the sidewalks? Expropriate the surrounding property owners, really? It's not like the county can come in with additional land and shift everything east or west to make space for wider lanes for self-entitled, speeding drivers.

    2. Ridge Could be Three Lanes

      Wilmette successfully change Sheridan to a three lane system a couple of years ago and it is much more pleasant for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.  Ridge should not facilitate the natural expressway it tends to be as a "thru" street.  Interesting picture in the Tribune files recently – a 1932 photo of crossing gates on Ridge for kids going to school!  Some things never change is for sure.

      http://media.act.org/documents/CatchingUpToCCR.pdf

  13. Ridge Avenue traffic

    I frequently drive the entire kength of Ridge and the two most scary things I find there are

    1) the folks who drive over the center line, often 12" to 18" into the oncoming traffic lane, often because the SUV or other vehicle they are driving is too large for them to manage  (The first day I drove Ridge in my new car about five years ago, a northbound Robinson School Bus extended mirror scraped a horizontal line of paint off the side post between my front and back doors while I was entirely well within the southbound lane, scared a few years off my life) and

    2) the folks who will not use headlights in the rain, at dusk, or even in the darkest night. — and some of them drive over the center line, too.

    Perhaps a traffic enforcement officer could ride with me up and down Ridge a few days!

    But never, ever would I want Ridge turned into single lanes.  My gosh, Green Bay in Wilmette has become a huge parking lot at all hours of the day and night, with left turns into parking lots and side streets simply impossible many hours of the day and evening with bumper-to-bumper cars parked at the many stop lights!

    Rush hour drivers know where they are going and do it in knowledgeable fashion; there is a very slow order on Wilmette's Green Bay during rush hours — but the rest of the time it's just chaos there!

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