Eyes on the Street: “Stop For Pedestrians” Signs Take a Beating

Stop for Pedestrian sign
A tilting sign at Montrose/Hamilton.

Chicagoans by now have noticed dozens, if not hundreds, of signs in the middle of two-lane streets telling people driving and bicycling about the state law requiring them to stop for people in crosswalks. The statewide law went into effect in 2010, and Chicago passed an identical law in 2011. Transportation departments, residents, and the Active Transportation Alliance have been working hard ever since to educate people about the law, and these signs represent the best effort so far because of their immediate effect.

You’ve probably also noticed that nearly every single one has been hit by a car, some so badly that they were removed, including some in the 47th Ward. Montrose Avenue from Rockwell to Clark has over 20 signs in varying degrees of uprightness. When does a damaged sign, which costs $400 to install, get replaced?

Stop for Pedestrian sign
A heavily-scuffed sign at Montrose/Hamilton.
Stop for Pedestrian sign
Higgins said the sign at Lincoln/Leland kept getting damaged and was replaced 2-3 times. The ward is looking into installing a pedestrian island.

Bill Higgins, a transportation planner in Alderman Ameya Pawar’s office, said, “Initially, CDOT replaced some after being badly damaged. This year they’ll completely remove them if they’re becoming a hazard and we can replace them” next year. The replacement delay is because aldermen’s menu funds are typically allocated by June, and “the money is spoken for even if those projects aren’t under way.”

Higgins said he’s trying to work with CDOT to test adding a “stop for pedestrians” sign to the same poles with yellow diamond signs next to the roadway at crosswalks. “I’m wondering if that would help spread the knowledge about the law, especially on larger roads where we can’t put them,” he said. Higgins listed Western Avenue and Irving Park Road as places where constituents are requesting the signs.

Higgins said he’d like to see a Chicago “where these signs aren’t necessary,” adding that, in states where this law’s been on the books for a long time, “there are cities where you can step off the curb with confidence and have cars stop for you.”

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