Eyes on the Street: Crosswalks Striped Last Fall in Logan Are Nearly Gone

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Looking southeast on Milwaukee at the northwest side of the circle. Photo John Greenfield.

The chaotic traffic circle around Logan Square’s eagle-topped Illinois Centennial Monument pillar is a major barrier for pedestrians, discouraging foot traffic from one side of the neighborhood to the other. As a result, the multilane roundabout lowers revenue for businesses along on Logan Boulevard, Milwaukee and Kedzie.

There have been several proposals to make the six-way intersection more pedestrian-friendly, but there doesn’t seem to be any movement from the city yet for a long-term solution. So I was glad to see a short-term improvement in late November, in the form of thick, bold white stripes forming high-visibility international crosswalks at all the designated crossings around the circle.

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Looking east on Logan at Kedzie. Photo: John Greenfield

However, it did seem rather late in the construction season to be striping thermoplastic, which only bonds well to asphalt at temperatures above 40 degrees. In the past when the Chicago Department of Transportation has rushed to complete bike lanes before winter sets in, the result has been crumbling markings, quickly scraped away by snowplows.

According to a November 21 blog post from Logan Square Circle Group, one of the organizations pushing for safety improvements, the crew was in fact racing against time when they striped the lines:

Thanks to a concerted neighborhood effort, Marking Specialists, a city of Chicago contractor, was sent out Wednesday and Thursday by CDOT to repaint the the lanes and crosswalks at the circle. Rann Garcia and his crew did a great job. Realizing they had a small window, they went out of their way to solicit neighborhood feedback, which they followed, to prioritize where to paint before the bad weather set in.

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Looking east from the north side of the circle. Photo: John Greenfield

Unsurprisingly, many of the crosswalks are already badly deteriorated. When I asked CDOT spokesman Pete Scales if there are plans to re-stripe them, he wrote, “If they are under warranty will get them redone. If not, we can redo them.”

I asked Joe Robinson from Bike Walk Logan Square, which has also been advocating for fixing the circle, for his take on the situation. “Navigating the Logan Square circle by foot is treacherous,” he said. “Well-marked crosswalks are sorely needed. The paint that went down last fall has deteriorated rapidly. We hope CDOT is able to get new paint in place soon, we also hope it’s done in the right weather conditions, so that the paint sticks like it’s made to do.”

  • tooter turtle

    Luckily the presence or absence of markings does not affect the near universal failure of drivers to stop for pedestrians. And the few such as me who do stop often encounter pedestrians who want to wave us through. The law regarding right of way at crosswalks is little understood and is respected even less.

  • Jim Mitchell

    This very thing happened to me just this evening. Driving south/east from Wrightwood toward Kedzie, not only did I stop to yield the right of way and let two groups of pedestrians (one on either side of Kedzie) pass, but by my example I actually got the car in the lane to my left to stop, too. But *none* of the pedestrians (which included a woman with a baby stroller) was willing to walk across; I guess they just *could not believe* that a driver was actually obeying the law (or else, as tooter turtle suggests, they did not know the law themselves). Similar things happen regularly when I stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians in (or obviously trying to get in) marked crosswalks throughout Logan Square. The traffic circle around the monument is just the most intense example of this. I think a seriously enforced 20 mph speed limit around the circle would make good sense, as would better education and maybe some large, legible, and lighted “Yield to Pedestrians in Cross Walk” signs at strategic points around the circle.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    My Architecture Studio project this semester is on Logan Square, so part of the project is to redesign the square. Our midterm is supposedly before one of the Aldermen. It’s an interesting puzzle.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Here’s my suggestion as someone who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years: Shut down private vehicle traffic on Milwaukee Avenue through the circle and make them go all the way around. Add more pedestrian bumpouts, and consider making the crosswalks crossing Milwaukee and Kedzie raised a bit, like speed bumps, so drivers will take them seriously and pedestrians will feel entitled to take their right of way.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Actually, I’d amend that to say the signs ought to say “Watch for Pedestrians/Yield to Pedestrians” plain and simple. The idea that a driver should only yield to pedestrians *already in the crosswalk* makes the rule worthless; no sane pedestrian will enter the crosswalks (at least around Logan Square) until they see drivers are slowing to yield to them. That said, cultural education might help. For example, in Rome, where vehicular traffic insanity puts to shame *anything* you’ll see in Chicago, I have discovered that the secret for pedestrians is to (1) step up to the curb and (2) lift up your leg in an exaggerated “silly walk” style that says, unambiguously, “I am about to step off this curb.” The drivers and scooterists of Rome – who actually are paying attention – will stop for you. It works 100% of the time.

  • BlueFairlane

    It seems either Steven or John was promoting a similar idea last year or so. The plan they were touting kept Milwaukee running down the center of the square for buses and bikes, which defeats the purpose in my mind. I could get behind this if they made the square an actual square, eliminating Milwaukee completely.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Seeing the words “drivers” and “paying attention” in the same sentence made something in my head explode. I have to go lie down now.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    I concur, I’ve been to Istanbul and it’s a similar scene there. High speed driving everywhere when there’s not too much traffic, but great attentiveness and a decent level of respect for non-drivers.

  • Pat

    Speaking of contractors (or utilities) working on public roads, I have a related question that someone might be able to answer:

    What are the responsibilities/rules for contractors or utilities to return the roads that they dig on to the previous condition?

    Specifically, on Halsted, between Clybourn and Evergreen, the fairly new paved road (last spring) was cut up to run what looks like utilities to the new site on the large development on the East side of Halsted. However, the smooth asphalt was replaced with fairly rough, uneven concrete patches that run in the bike lane.

    I also noticed the once fairly smooth bike line on Illinois between Franklin and Clark was also patched with rough concrete. Do these projects have a duty to restore the streets as-is?

  • Matt F

    add Milwaukee, between Chicago and Grand, to your list. The water main that broke destroyed that entire street

  • Matt F

    Well the crosswalk laws could use more clarification too.

    People don’t understand that ALL white striped crosswalks are technically ‘state law’ crosswalks, but only some are marked with the ‘state law’ signs. However, if a vehicle does hit you in a crosswalk, the driver is not automatically at fault. See *** below.

    The right of way at crosswalks, extracted from the Illinois Vehicle Code, Rules of the Road, 625 ILCS 5/11-1002
    Sec. 11-1002.
    Pedestrians’ right-of-way at crosswalks.
    (a) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
    ***(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
    (c) Paragraph (a) shall not apply under the condition stated in Section 11-1003 (b).
    (d) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
    (e) Whenever stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections, drivers shall yield right-of-way to pedestrians as set forth in Section 11-904 of this Chapter.

    – See more at: http://www.mybikeadvocate.com/2014/02/illinois-law-says-drivers-should-stop.html#sthash.pIbEhB7R.dpuf

  • If the alderman and CDOT don’t see your recommendations, it’s a futile exercise to redesign the Logan Square traffic circle. Do whatever it takes to get them in your audience.

  • The Municipal Code of Chicago does pedestrians one better.

    “9-24-030 Crosswalks – Pedestrians to have right- of-way.

    Where stop signs are in place at any crosswalk at an intersection or between intersections, pedestrians within or entering [emphasis added] the crosswalk at either edge of the roadway shall have the right-of-way over vehicles stopped in obedience to such signs. Drivers of vehicles having so yielded the right-of-way to pedestrians entering or within the nearest crosswalk at an intersection shall also yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within any other crosswalk at the intersection.”

    The key phrase is “or entering the crosswalk”.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Wish it said “entering or preparing to enter,” but I think common sense interpretation works here; drivers should slow down or stop/yield if it’s apparent from body language/positioning that a pedestrian *wants* to enter the crosswalk or is about to do so. Any traffic lawyers here know whether/how the Chicago ordinance and/or Illinois statute have been interpreted in court? By the police?

  • There’s a standard for repaving set out in the “Rules and Regulations for Work in the Public Way.” It describes how soon the road must be restored to better than original condition, the dimensions of the restoration (if you cut a third of the road, you have to repave to half the road, or something like that).

    These regs were discussed in this post:
    http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/11/01/proposed-rules-for-road-construction-could-be-better-for-walking-and-biking/

    The same document also describes detour design for sidewalk and bike lane closures, and facilitating walking and biking traffic.

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