More than 250 pedestrian accidents reported in Champaign and Urbana in past six years

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The crosswalk at the intersection of Logan and Walnut streets in downtown Champaign where Patricia Marxmiller was struck by an MTD bus. Screenshot from Google Street View.

For Patricia Marxmiller, a simple trip became the defining moment of the rest of her life.

In February 2015, Marxmiller returned from her lunch break to the Christie Clinic in downtown Champaign, where she worked for 27 years. After checking for oncoming traffic at the intersection of Logan and Walnut streets, Marxmiller proceeded to cross the marked crosswalk.

As she crossed, a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) bus turned through the intersection, striking her. As a result, Marxmiller was severely injured and lost both of her legs.

Marxmiller was just one of over 250 pedestrian accidents reported in the area during recent years. 

In the past six years, 257 pedestrian accidents were reported in Champaign and Urbana, police data shows. Champaign’s data was obtained in a Freedom of Information Act filed by CU-CitizenAccess and Urbana’s data is available on the city’s open data portal.

A pedestrian accident is a collision between someone on foot, who is the pedestrian, and someone in a vehicle. The definition of vehicle includes cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

In Champaign, 187 pedestrian accidents were reported from Jan. 1, 2018 through December 2023. But the number of reported pedestrian accidents has declined since a recent peak in 2019. The largest decrease was in 2023, when accidents fell from 33 in 2022 to 21.

On average, Champaign experiences 31 pedestrian accidents each year in this period, or approximately two to three accidents a month.

In Urbana, there have been at least 70 accidents from Jan. 1, 2018 through January 2023, as the city’s public data is missing 11 months of 2023. Accidents per year have decreased since a recent peak in 2019, but have steadily risen through 2022.

Urbana averages about 13 accidents a year in this period, or about one a month.

Marxmiller later sued the MTD, alleging that she had the right-of-way and the MTD was responsible as the bus driver was negligent under the “respondeat superior” doctrine. Respondeat superior is when an employer can be liable for their employee’s actions in particular cases, like injury.

Winning her suit in 2017, Marxmiller received almost $10 million in damages.

Streets with the most pedestrian accidents

In Champaign, the streets with the most frequent pedestrian accidents are Neil Street and Bradley Avenue, which are long and busy streets, both with 18 accidents from Jan. 1, 2018 through 2023 — averaging three accidents yearly for the past six full years.

Champaign Police Department Patrol Lieutenant Aaron Lack attributes the higher frequency of accidents on Neil and Bradley to the roads being used for high-speed movements while being close to residential areas.

“This will lead to an increase in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and the mixture of the two can have serious consequences if someone, driver or pedestrian, fails to follow the rules of the road,” Lack said in an email.

Although Lack acknowledged the risk of accidents, he said pedestrian safety improvement or change depends on the city’s Public Works Department.

In Urbana, most accidents occur on Lincoln Avenue, with 15 accidents between Jan. 1, 2018 and the start of 2023. University Avenue had eight accidents and Vine Street had seven in the same period.

Although the Champaign and Urbana police data shows a decline in the number of accidents, data from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) shows a steady increase in pedestrian accidents from 2020 to 2022 in both cities. The number of accidents per year is approaching pre-COVID numbers, which peaked in 2019 with 35 accidents each, per IDOT data. The data for 2023 was not available at the time of publication.

The department did not respond to requests for information on why its data differs from the cities’ data. According to Illinois law, cities must submit crash reports to the department within 10 days after an investigation.

Lack declined to comment on the difference, stating that the department could not comment on the state department’s data. 

The Illinois Department of Transportation handles the planning, building, operating and maintaining of transportation networks. Transportation networks include roads, bridges, airports, public transit and more. The department uses data for its “critical services including, crash data analyses, safety program design, and roadway engineering design with the ultimate goal of preventing fatalities or injuries on Illinois roadways.”

Improvements being made

Champaign Public Works Director Dave Clark said the city has multiple ongoing or recently approved projects regarding crosswalks, signaling and stop sign additions to improve pedestrian safety and city traffic.

This past fall, public works added all-way stops to the intersections of Green Street and McKinley Avenue, Green Street and Russel Street, and John Street and McKinley Avenue. The stop sign additions addressed pedestrian concerns about safety due to drivers not stopping, Clark said. 

Recently, the city has approved an all-way stop installation at the intersection of John Street and New Street, adjacent to Southside Elementary, to make crossing safer for children.

The additional stop signs will be added after the school’s summer break begins.

Clark said most projects regarding pedestrian safety or improvements are reactionary rather than proactive, as the Public Works Department makes changes based on public feedback they receive.

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  1. Myrna L Anglin

    People are ignoring crosswalks and signals. Jaywalking is rampant.