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Chicago Aims for Zero Traffic Deaths by 2022

9:51 AM PDT on May 14, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his DOT head Gabe Klein have introduced a bold, 100-page plan to to make the Windy's City's transportation system more safe and sustainable.

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The city's "Chicago Forward Action Agenda" [PDF] places strong, even revolutionary, emphasis on safety, in addition to some admirable cycling and transit ridership targets. Highlights include:

    • A target of zero traffic fatalities annually in 10 years. (The city has been averaging about 50 a year)
    • 20 miles per hour zones in all the city's residential areas
    • A five percent bike mode shift on trips less than five miles (currently 1.3 percent of Chicagoans travel by bike, but in the central city the figure is as high as two percent)
    • An emphasis on street maintenance, or "fix it first"

In his introduction, Emanuel makes it clear that it's a new day at Chicago DOT.

"Where we once built expressways that divided our communities, we are now reconnecting neighborhoods with new bus lanes and extensive and expanding bicycle facilities that offer safe, green, and fit ways to travel for all ages," he says.

In the plan, the city makes a commitment to address problem intersections. The plan calls for the city to "analyze all fatal crashes involving pedestrian and cyclists" and as improve the city's top 10 traffic collision locations annually.

City leadership also promises to invest in new infrastructure to smooth the ride for cycling and transit. The plan calls for a pilot project with 10 bicycle signals, 500 new bike racks per year and 100 transit-priority traffic signals.

The "Action Agenda" appears to be modeled after New York's sustainable streets plan. It lays out a roadmap for Chicago DOT over the "next 24 months." This is the city's first ever comprehensive plan for transportation, according to Steven Vance at Grid Chicago.

Vance is generally pleased with the plan, though he says some areas are more ambitious than others.

"Much of the plan’s actions are new and impressive, and it puts onto paper tasks and activities that CDOT was already doing (or announced it will do, like build new CTA stations)," Vance said in a blog post last week. "It gives the public more information than it’s ever had about how it can hold CDOT accountable for maintaining streets, improving traffic safety, and managing a transportation system."

Vance interviewed Klein about the plan last week. On the traffic fatalities goal -- the highlight of the report -- the commissioner said the city was aiming high, and hoping to come close.

"We have to push ourselves," he said. "Some things are aspirational."

The city will be reporting regularly on its progress toward the stated goals, said Klein.

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