Chicago’s plan to make left turns safer, Lightfoot accused of betraying cops with COVID-19 and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a five-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Pedestrians cross the intersection of North Ashland Avenue and West Wilson Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood, where the City of Chicago installed left turn traffic calming infrastructure, which aims to increase protection for pedestrians.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 37 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low near 32. Expect heavy rain tomorrow and possibly some sleet with a high near 37.

Top story

Chicago wants to make left turns safer using ‘traffic calming’ speed bumps, bollards

Between 2017 and 2021, 40% of Chicago traffic accidents in which pedestrians were seriously injured or killed involved motorists making a left turn.

That’s why the city says it has been taking steps to make those turns safer.

It’s called “traffic calming,” and it involves adding larger speed bumps and bollards (plastic posts on a flexible base) along the center line near a crosswalk. The idea is to force slower, 90-degree-angle turns and prevent drivers from faster turns at a smaller angle that cut across oncoming traffic lanes. The ultimate goal is to better protect pedestrians in the crosswalk, who often end up in drivers’ blind spots on those left turns.

In Belmont Cragin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Ravenswood and other neighborhoods, drivers are greeted by rubber speed bumps with the bright yellow bollards on top, like those used to separate bike lanes.

Those are among 13 intersections the city modified last year. A total of 18 intersections now have been altered, including five during a pilot program begun in 2019.

Plans call for changing even more intersections this year, focusing on sites with high rates of accidents involving drivers turning left. Crashes at those five pilot sites in River North, along State Street between Hubbard and Ontario streets, have dropped 24% since 2019.

The traffic calming is just another component in the city’s Vision Zero safety campaign, begun in 2017 with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in the city by 2026.

Ilana Arougheti has more on the city’s recent traffic safety initiative here.

More news you need

A bright one

Longtime activist Mary L. Johnson celebrates 90th birthday

Mary L. Johnson walked into her 90th birthday party Saturday with family and friends greeting and hugging her as Stevie Wonder’s rendition of the Happy Birthday song provided a soundtrack for the magical moment.

They came to celebrate the woman who spent much of her life trying to free people falsely accused of crimes they did not commit brought about by false confessions through torture by the Chicago Police Department. Johnson was one of the first people to file a complaint against the disgraced and convicted former Cmdr. Jon Burge, who led a torture ring for more than 20 years.

Her organizing has led to men being released from prison — and two of them showed up over the weekend for the party on the West Side.

Mike Clements, 58, a survivor of police torture under the leadership of former police Cmdr. Jon Burge, gives flowers to Mary L. Johnson during her 90th birthday celebration at Deborah’s Place in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mike Clements, 58, a survivor of police torture under the leadership of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, gives flowers to Mary L. Johnson during her 90th birthday celebration Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mark Clements and Gregory Banks said they owed their freedom to Johnson.

“It took the efforts of Mary L. Johnson and other mothers likewise who would come together. First of all, we were not believed as being tortured by Burge and his underlings. It took their voices. Without their voices, we would all still be incarcerated,” said Clements, who served 28 years in prison after being convicted of arson and murder when he was 16 in 1981.

Banks served seven years in prison after being falsely accused of armed robbery and murder when he was 20 in 1983.

“Mary is a pioneer. She’s given a lot to this movement. We give her all the respect that she’s supposed to get,” Banks said. “We love her, and we appreciate all that she has done.”

WBEZ’s Michael Puente has more on Mary Johnson and Saturday’s celebration here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What Midwest city — hands down — has the best paczki? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What’s your favorite way to take advantage of unseasonably warm weather in the city?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Go on extra long walks with my puppy.” — Nicole Johnson

“A stroll on the much larger beach off Rogers Park, strewn with mussel shells.” — Thom Clark

“We grill dinner on these nice days.” — Donna Nye

“Airing out the house a bit. Airing out blankets. Enjoying the sun.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Taking an extra long walk.” — Claudia Moon Zikuda

“Stroll along the scenic lakefront and feel gratitude that Chicago keeps it viable for people to enjoy.” — Amy Jackson

“A walk around Uptown and a nice lunch on Argyle.” — John Green

“Go for a drive with the music blaring.” — Frank Mandros

“A walk on the Lakefront.” — Bernard Maddox

“Play hooky from work!” — Louis Taglia

“Personally, I like to read the Sun-Times.” — Paul L. Bucklaw

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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