Crash victim on mission for safer Michigan Avenue

by Mat Cohen

On Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., Phyllis Mitzen walked with a cane along E. Delaware Place and across Michigan Avenue along with her husband, Michael. 

She’s on a mission to make cross- walks safer. 

Six months ago at this crossing, Mitzen was knocked to the ground by a van which rolled on her leg. She spent 15 hours in surgery, 10 days in the hospital and three months in rehabilitation.

On Dec. 16 she walked with a cane to the corner of Michigan and Delaware, meeting with 20 people and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)  official Samadi Malihe, to initiate a discussion about making the area safer. 

One of the women supporting the conversation was Janice Lewis. Her son was involved in an accident 10 years ago in Montgomery, Mich. When Lewis went to the hospital she didn’t recognize him.  He died Jan. 4, 2010.

“It changes lives,” she said. “So anything we can do, let’s do it.”

Since 2012 there has been an average of approximately 75 pedestrian deaths each year in Chicago, according to CDOT. The crossings along the Magnificent Mile between Oak Street and Chicago Avenue make the strip the third highest area for fatalities.

One of the main changes Mitzen is asking for is extended traffic lights to give slower walkers a chance to cross.

The group highlighted that slower people, mainly young kids and the elderly, have to start walking as soon as the light changes to have enough time to cross. But with busier intersections, cars try to get through the lights as late as they can, delaying pedestrians from crossing.

Mitzen serves as the president of Skyline Village Chicago and is a member of the Mayor’s Commission for Age Friendly Chicago. She’s also planning, along with State Representatives, a town hall meeting  in February at Ogden Elementary School to focus on pedestrian safety.

“I think they certainly heard what we  had to say,” she said. “And having (Alderman Brian Hopkins) come certainly  helped. We’re following up with a town hall meeting at the Ogden School and two state Reps. will come. We’ll ask for updates there.” 

She will also be asking for updates on the plan for Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities.

“It’s a worldwide initiative for an age friendly city,” Mitzen said. “Chicago is signed on and it’s not clear where they are with the plan.”

For more information on Vision Zero, visit chicago.gov  

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