Where crime occurs and where pedestrians get hit by a vehicle overlap in Chicago

Where crime occurs and where pedestrians get hit by a vehicle overlap in Chicago

Chicago neighborhoods beset by crime are also the places where pedestrians are most likely to be seriously injured or even killed by a vehicle.

That's one of the findings in the "2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis," a document that examines crashes in the city between 2005 and 2009 from wide-range of angles.

The analysis, released by the Chicago Department of Transportation on August 15, finds that crime "was the only variable that correlated to pedestrian crashes," and that the correlation was, in fact, "very high." But it also qualifies that connection somewhat, stating, "[T]here may be many variables responsible for this correlation."

Asked for the names of the 10 community areas dealing simultaneously with the most crime and the most crashes a department spokesman wrote in an email that, "We did not map the crime data or list it independently."

In an interview conducted before the crash study was released, Kiersten Grove, the city's pedestrian safety coordinator,  told me that the intersection of crime and pedestrian safety was "one of our big challenges."

"I think it's something people increasingly across the country are beginning to realize that these things work together--how safe people feel walking in terms of traffic safety and how safe people feel in terms of issues of violence and crime are really interrelated," she said.

Citywide, the number of pedestrians killed by a vehicle or seriously injured by one have trended lower in recent years. According to the study, 2002 was a recent peak for both pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, at 74 and 1,204 respectively. Those numbers came in at 34 and 503 by 2009.

The 10 community areas that saw the most vehicle-pedestrian crashes between '05 and '09 were, in order, the Near North Side, the Loop, Austin, the Near West Side, West Town, Lake View, Logan Square, Belmont Cragin, Chicago Lawn, Auburn Gresham, Humboldt Park and Englewood.

A composite ranking that accounted for several variables to identify neighborhood "pedestrian exposure" identified a slightly different set of neighborhoods where pedestrians were likely to get hit by a vehicle. In this accounting, the East Side community area, near the Indiana border, is the place where walkers are most likely to get hit. Areas like West Pullman, East and West Garfield Park and North Lawndale also rise in this list:

More minute crash geographies demonstrate additional challenges on South and West sides. Researchers created a "crash index" to identify corridors that saw the most pedestrian-vehicle wrecks.

Excluding the Loop, five out of the 12 corridors measured this way were located on the South Side; four more were located on the West Side:

Data about victims' race and ethnicity are incomplete in the study. In more than 25 percent of all pedestrian deaths between 2005 and 2009, the victim's race is unknown, driven by the fact that, in 2008, 52 out of 56 pedestrian deaths were not coded for race.

The transportation department is currently drafting a pedestrian master plan meant to identify ways to improve the environment for walking in the city.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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