If you talk to residents who live close to 17th Avenue/Maple Avenue in North Riverside, Brookfield or LaGrange Park they’ll tell you that stretch of roadway between 23rd Street and 31st Street can be a very dangerous one indeed.

It’s tough to get data about crashes because multiple agencies have jurisdiction there and perhaps the most dangerous stretch is the part of 17th Avenue that cuts through the forest preserves and includes a bridge over Salt Creek that pedestrians and bicyclists cross as they traverse the Salt Creek Trail on either side.

Last week, in the wake of the death of 29-year-old North Riverside resident Andrew Garcia, who was killed after his motorcycle collided with a car near 26th Street, the Landmark asked for crash data from the Cook County Sheriff’s Police. As of our print deadline on July 11, we hadn’t received it.

But over the years, the Landmark has heard from concerned residents, particularly as it relates to safety near the bridge where the roadway narrows to one lane in each direction, about crashes or close encounters they’ve witnessed.

In the case of close calls, those incidents typically wouldn’t even be reported to any agency, so it’s tough to quantify anything. But that stretch of roadway, even though it’s relatively lightly trafficked compared to LaGrange Road or First Avenue, has been demonstrably dangerous.

Vehicles, unimpeded by signals or stop signs between 30th Street and 23rd Street, can really build up some speed, which requires those crossing the street at the Salt Creek bridge to really have their wits about them because motorists do little to slow down as they approach the crossing.

We also recall that, prior to the July 4 tragedy, a man suspected of drunk driving drove off of Maple Avenue and into the side of a house in Brookfield in 2019. On top of that, the intersection of Maple Avenue and 31st Street seems to be a magnet for crashes.

At the very least, we’re wondering whether the three municipalities along that stretch of 17th Avenue/Maple Avenue and Cook County could convene a committee to look at combined data, identify the real problem points, and find ways to address them, either through more visible signage near the bridge, flashing speed-limit boards, or other types of traffic control.

There has to be a way to make that roadway safer for everyone, but it’s going to take a bit of collaborative thinking to get it accomplished.

This story has been changed to correct the distance between traffic signals on 17th Avenue/Maple Avenue.