The Latest Word From the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council

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Walking at State and Congress. Photo: John Greenfield

The Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council met last Wednesday, the day after an SUV driver struck and killed an 83-year-old man in Rogers Park, then fled the scene. At the meeting, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, co-chair of MPAC, along with Peter Skosey, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, described the crash as “gruesome.” However, citywide the situation may be improving: There have been 16 pedestrian fatalities in Chicago through July of this year, down from 20 during the same time last year, Klein said.

Overall last year, there were 47 Chicago pedestrian fatalities, according to information released by the Illinois Department of Transportation on August 21. As Randy Neufield of the SRAM Cycling Fund and the National Complete Streets Coalition later commented, locations where multiple crashes happened should be given special consideration. “A lot of people don’t realize how real that is,” he said.

One of the most important new street safety tools available to the city are speed enforcement cameras, the first of which started issuing warnings today. (By the end of the year, 50 will be installed.) CDOT’s David Pulsipher explained how the city decided where to site the cameras, which must be placed in “safety zones” near a school or park. After dividing the city into six regions, he said, CDOT mapped crashes and developed a point system to identify areas where speed enforcement should be a high priority, allotting double points for crashes involving victims under 18 and for speed-related crashes. They also identified “crash clusters” and measured vehicle speeds along high-crash corridors. To distribute the safety zones evenly, the agency won’t place more than 20 percent or less than ten percent of the cameras in any one region.

CDOT staff also gave updates on a number of street redesigns and engineering . Klein spoke about the pedestrian scramble at State Street and Jackson Boulevard by DePaul University’s Loop campus, where pedestrian crossing is permitted in all directions during the “scramble” phase. To reduce conflicts as much as possible, Klein said, turns by motor vehicles are prohibited, Klein said, adding that the project is a testing ground for this configuration, which may be duplicated in other parts of the city. CDOT will collect data through September, when DePaul will be in session.

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The pedestrian scramble at State and Jackson. Photo: John Greenfield

People seem to be confused about when the pedestrian phase begins (currently, the two full cycles of regular traffic signals happen before the “scramble” starts). Marcia Trawinski from Metro Seniors in Action called for a change to the audible announcements at the intersection so that it announces all crossing possibilities, an improvement that would increase access for visually impaired individuals. CDOT Pedestrian Program Manager Suzanne Carlson reacted positively to this suggestion and encouraged attendees to email any further suggestions or feedback about the intersection.

Construction has started on the long-awaited Berteau neighborhood greenway in the 46th Ward. The facility, known in other cities as a bike boulevard, contains a “whole toolbox [of features] to slow speeds down,” Carlson noted. “The speed limit is 20, but [the greenway] is designed for 20, which is even more important.”

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Final CDOT design for Berteau between Ashland and Greenview. Click to enlarge.

CDOT took a similar approach by improving conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists on a 1.5-mile stretch of Madison Street between Pulaski Road and Central Avenue, a corridor with a high crash rate, as well as a high incidence of crime. After resurfacing the street, the agency installed buffered bike lanes, which calm traffic and make the street easier for pedestrians to walk across. “It’s actually great for pedestrians as well [as bicyclists] because the next thing near a pedestrian is a bicycle rather than a driving car,” Carlson said.

The next MPAC meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 6. Like the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meetings, these are open to the public.

  • omallybldg

    Regarding the Pedestrian Scramble at Jackson and State:

    -Even though there is signage, cars still turn around every corner (there is a Divvy van waiting to turn south onto State now)
    -It seems that the ‘All-Walk’ is given once every 3-4 cycles, making it useless
    -The markings already look like garbage.

    My desk looks at this intersection all day, I doubt this helped any pedestrians at all, and I was all for it.

  • omally bldg

    Regarding the Pedestrian Scramble at Jackson and State:

    -Even though there is signage, cars still turn around every corner (a Divvy van is now)

    -It seems that the ‘All-Walk’ is given once every 3-4 cycles, making it useless

    -The markings already look like garbage.

    My desk looks at this intersection all day, I doubt this helped any pedestrians at all, and I was all for it.

  • Have you ever tried making a diagonal crossing during the scramble phase? If not, don’t knock it ’til you try it.

  • I also notice that cars are always turning, those tiny little signs do nothing at all. The cars waiting to turn illegally also hold up the bus traffic.

    I think bikes should be able to turn right, though, from Jackson to State, to get to the Divvy station at least, because otherwise there isn’t another one to get to from Jackson near the red line station. The dearth of bike facilities in the loop is one of the biggest bike problems in Chicago…

  • Paint isn’t permanent. This is a stategy.

  • omallybldg

    I work right at that corner, yes I have tried it. I’m not knocking it, I’m giving you my observations because I look at it all day and I’m guessing you’re not.

  • Fred

    He’s not bashing the act itself, he’s bashing the fact that you could have to wait 3-4 light cycles to do so. In that time I could cross the two legs and be a block away. If I need to cross across that intersection I’m going to go whatever way has the walk signal when I arrive. The only way I would ever use the scramble is if it happens to have the walk when I arrive. I’m sure 99% of people are the same way.

    I challenge you to sit at that intersection during rush hour one day and count the number of people who wait specifically for the scramble signal to cross.

  • The idea is not to wait until you get the scramble signal, since you can also cross in the direction of the green lights for cars. The point is, pedestrians have a higher chance of getting a crossing opportunity this way, as well as the convenience of doing diagonal crossings during the scramble. Ideally, the scramble cycle would pop up more frequently, but it’s far from useless as it is.

  • I have observed and used this intersection numerous times at lunch hour during the work week, and what Fred says is true. The scramble phase only appears after 4 phases of the regular old phases. Thus, the only time it’s logical to take the scramble is if it is currently “on” when you arrive (20% of the time). Otherwise, it is always quicker to make a two-legged crossing. This is why only a very small percent of people who cross through the intersection use the scramble. Also, drivers make left and right turns in spite of the signage regularly, which means the same old conflict points between vehicles and pedestrians crossing on the walk signal are there.

  • Brian

    I love the testing phase of the speed cameras – I drove through them several times last night, I think I got up to at least 60 a few times!!!!!

  • Brian, I suggest you start posting on this site under the Logan Square Driver-esque pseudonym Richard Maneuver.

  • Brian

    I would love to actually see the data analysis the monkeys at CDOT use to determine where to put speed cameras – let’s see, where can we make the MOST money! It’s not about safety. Oh, and if it was all about children, why are the majority of the cameras by parks? So they can operate them 7 days a week. And it’s not about money….This was Gabe’s backdoor way of raping the people of chicago out of their hard earned money. Let’s hope he is gone soon!

  • Anonymous

    Brian, if you don’t speed you won’t get a ticket. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • Fred

    The city needs more revenue. it is about a quarter billion dollars short at the moment! If that money can come from punishing people breaking the law instead of increased taxes for the law abiding, I’m all for it. If it happens to save a life or two along the way that’s just an added bonus.

    How would you recommend the city get additional funds? (Forcing people into entitlement programs by increasing unemployment through layoffs is not an acceptable answer.)

    Would you feel better if Rahm just came out and stated that he found a way to close the revenue gap through speed cameras? How would that change anything?

  • Brian

    Yes, it would, because then people would revolt, and the laws would have never been passed

  • Brian

    The issue I have is that you have for-profit companies with an interest in making money off of people breaking the law, and doing things that will increase THEIR revenue. A great example of this is red light cameras- studies show that increasing the yellow phase by 1 second GREATLY reduces the number of VIOLATIONS. But Chicago won’t do this, since they would lose money. Most violations happen a split second after the light turns red. That is not dangerous behavior, but the city likes to think it is, and wants to make money off of it.
    If the city was serious about safety, they would install speed feedback signs by every speed camera, but instead, they want people to speed, so they can make money.

  • Anonymous

    There is a standard for the length of a yellow light set by the speed limit. At 30 MPH the city meets this standard.

    Everybody who gets a ticket tries to use this as a validation for their breaking the law.

    You can enter the intersection while the light is yellow but if it turns red before you enter you’ll get a ticket. Drive at or below the speed limit and you won’t get a ticket.

  • If they don’t want a ticket, they could just obey the speed limit.

    And what are you talking about anyway? There are children all over the city and especially near parks.

  • Fred

    Like they did over the parking meter deal?

  • Brian

    at 11pm at night? Or 6 in the morning? I don’t think so.

  • Brian

    Standards don’t matter- when DATA shows that INCREASING has a safety impact and the city REFUSES to do it because they want the MONEY.

  • Anonymous

    Increasing the safety impact is done by reducing speed. It isn’t necessary to change the yellow light timing since it meets the standards.. What isn’t meeting the standards is the speed at which drivers in Chicago drive.

    I’d rather have speeders help pay for city services than having those of us who follow the law have to pay more in taxes.

  • Anne A

    Eliminating turns (while there was actual enforcement) eliminated a LOT of conflict and kept traffic moving better, because all those turning cars and people stuck behind them weren’t waiting on crossing peds. I’d love to see some enforcement at this intersection.

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