Jan 20, 2023 - News

Navigating new traffic turns

Photo of a graphic that shows new turn lanes on road.
New left turn traffic calming infrastructure. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Department of Transportation

After losing 170 people to traffic deaths in 2021, officials are exploring new safety elements— including one configuration that's recently been installed in 18 locations and is already triggering confusion and online sniping.

What's happening: Called "Left turn traffic calming," yellow reflective rubber posts and speed bumps are used to make drivers slow down and properly execute left-hand turns in intersections prone to accidents.

Why it matters: Left turns were involved in 40% of crashes that led to serious injury or death from 2017 to 2021, according to city data.

  • Data from a downtown pilot of the program in 2019 showed that motorists began yielding to pedestrians more often after installation.
  • David Smith, the complete streets director at the Chicago Department of Transportation, tells Axios that the new installations could easily prevent dozens of crashes this year.

What they're saying: "At the intersections where we installed these in a downtown pilot, we saw basically a 25% reduction in crashes," Smith says.

Screen shot of site
Screen shot from Next Door.

The other side: Locals on neighborhood site Next Door have complained about installations on Ashland being confusing, getting damaged and slowing traffic.

  • Others have testily responded that slowing down left turns is the whole point.

Between the lines: Smith says drivers should use the configuration to guide them into slower, more thoughtful left turns that look more like 90-degree angles than arcs.

  • If you hit a speed bump or the rubber posts, you've driven in the wrong place.

What's next: CDOT says they'll continue to collect data on the program to guide expansion.

Still confused?: Here's a video of Monica using the infrastructure.


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