Northwestern senior creates petition for lower speed limit on Sheridan Road following student death


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) speaks at an event. Miller responded to the petition urging city officials to lower the speed limit on Sheridan Road by saying it could inadvertently create more traffic and fail to increase safety.

Erica Snow, Assistant City Editor

An online petition created by a Northwestern senior to reduce the speed limit on Sheridan Road gained nearly 500 signatures this weekend.

Communication senior Emily Blim made the petition on in response to a bicycle accident Thursday that killed first-year student Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu. The petition calls for the city’s Administration and Public Works committee to lower the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit to about 20 miles per hour, Blim said.

Qiu was killed Thursday in a bicycling accident after she was struck by a cement truck near the intersection of Garrett Place and Sheridan Road. Qiu collided with the last curbside wheel of the truck, with the impact causing her to roll under the truck. No traffic violations have been issued to the driver.

Although a preliminary investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing on the driver’s part, Blim said a lower speed limit would make Sheridan Road safer for cyclists.

“Of the two people on the road — a driver and a cyclist — the person in the car is not any way as likely to be injured if there is a collision,” Blim said. “The person on the bike is infinitely more likely to be injured or killed. And therefore the people in the huge piece of metal going however many miles per hour should be more cautious.”

But Ald. Brian Miller (9th) isn’t sure a lower speed limit would make Sheridan Road safer, saying it could inadvertently create more traffic.

Miller is a member of the Administrative and Public Works Committee and is listed as someone the petition will be forwarded to. Blim said she hopes to enact local change by involving committee members.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), chair of the Administrative and Public Works Committee, could not be reached for comment.

Miller, who announced his candidacy for Evanston mayor earlier this month, said a traffic analysis would be most beneficial to determine if a lower speed limit or the installation of bike lanes would be best for Evanston bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

“It’s tragic when something happens like this,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, we’ve got to figure out a way that can balance between the needs to have safe biking and the normal traffic needs. It’s  not a question of it being overly unsafe … it’s a question of how do we best address the needs of the users in a community.”

In 2014, City Council voted to delay the installation of bike lanes on Sheridan Road to 2017. Blim said she started the petition to bring a different issue with Sheridan Road to light.
Blim, who said she is a member of the NU triathlon team and an Evanston cycling team, said she’d also like updated speed limit signs and radar speed enforcers posted along Sheridan Road to optimize safety.

Medill and Bienen sophomore Jane Recker signed the petition and said she has noticed how unsafe Sheridan Road is as a biker and as a driver. She said bike lanes, a lower speed limit and a greater number of crosswalks would alleviate the traffic and near-accidents she said she has witnessed.

“While (the speed limit) may not have been directly a link to this accident, I think that this tragedy has definitely sparked everyone’s awareness to how unsafe Sheridan Road is and how much work does need to be done,” Recker said.

Blim agreed a lower speed limit could be a generic solution to make Sheridan Road safer for pedestrians and cyclists. She added that even though she’s a senior and might not see a lower speed limit implemented during her time on campus, she wants to look out for her younger brother, a sophomore, and other students.

“I was trying to think about how what I can do as a member of the Evanston community, as a member of the cycling community, as a member of the NU community, what I can do to make this safer,” Blim said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the speed limit on Sheridan Road. The speed limit is 30 miles per hour. The Daily regrets the error.

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