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Why Is Wicker Park's 'Notorious' 6 Corners Still So Dangerous For Cyclists?

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 30, 2016 7:35PM

Photo: Vladimir Vago

A 15-year-old cyclist is in critical condition after being struck by a car Friday morning at Wicker Park’s bustling Six Corners. The intersection where the crash occurred—Damen, Milwaukee and North—is known to be among the most dangerous in the city for cyclists.

The teenager was hit at around 7:30 a.m. by a 2002 Nissan Sentra that was moving northbound on Damen Avenue, police spokeswoman Laura Amezaga told Chicagoist. The victim was taken to St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center and listed in stable condition. The driver, 24, had not been issued a citation as of early Friday afternoon.

Vladimir Vago, a stylist at I’ll Cut You, which overlooks the busy intersection from the Flat Iron Building, witnessed the aftermath of the collision. “I didn’t see it unfold, but what I saw was pretty intense,” Vago told Chicagoist. The victim looked to have lost consciousness for several minutes, he added.

The Wicker Park Six Corners intersection is “notorious” in terms of hazardousness, Jim Merrell, Advocacy Director of Active Transportation Alliance, told Chicagoist. “It has been a known issue for long time, one we continue to raise with city agencies and local aldermen.”

A 2013 study by CDOT called out the popular intersection as one of Chicago’s most dangerous for cycling, and recommended installation of bike boxes, colored pavement, and bike-specific signaling, among other improvements, for such crossroads.

But Merrell said the problem runs deeper, considering the heavy traffic of cars, pedestrians and cyclists plus logistical challenges. The layout and amount of space between buildings hinders potential engineering solutions, he said. He recalled looking at the area in 2013 with a group of engineers from Holland; the sheer number of cars and geometry of the intersection left them "scratching their heads," he said.

“We’ll need to make a long-term decision about priorities: is this an arterial thoroughfare or a vibrant cultural district where people are prioritized?”

ATA is one of the many agencies offering input to the city’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities, but Merrell could not confirm whether or how intersections such as Wicker Park’s Six Corners might be targeted under the plan. But the Wicker Park crossing should “be near the top of any list” of problematic stress spots, he added.

The crash happened the same day a memorial is planned for Anastasia Kondrasheva, the sixth cyclist to be fatally struck while biking in Chicago this year. Organizers of that event have criticized the city's slow response in addressing safety concerns.

Photo: Vladimir Vago