Faulty Signage Created Dangerous Situation for Peds by Lincoln Park Zoo

Because “No Parking” signs by the zoo weren’t relocated after a curb ramp was moved, drivers parked in the crosswalk. Photo: Andrew Herman

Here’s a great example of the Streetsblog community making a difference by helping to get an infrastructure problem fixed.

On December 15, Andrew Herman from the group Bike Walk Lincoln Park contacted us about a crosswalk problem by the neighborhood’s zoo. Earlier in the year, as part of a project to repave Stockton Drive through Lincoln Park, the Chicago Department of Transportation relocated a curb cut for pedestrians on the west side of the street, across from The Farm-in-the-Zoo. CDOT built a new curb ramp several feet north, so that it would line up with the pedestrian ramp on the east side of the street, creating a shorter, safer crossing route, which they striped with a high-visibility, “continental” crosswalk.

The old curb ramp was located just south of the new one. Photo: Andrew Herman

However, after CDOT built the new curb ramp, they failed to relocate the “No Parking” signs by the old ramp. As a result, motorists were parking north of the old No Parking zone, right in the middle of the new crosswalk. Drivers only seemed to pay attention to the signs, but were apparently oblivious to the presence of the curb ramps and zebra striping.

On July 2, Herman contacted 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith’s office about the problem, including tweeting Smith. Her office told me they immediately submitted a service request asking CDOT to fix move the signs.

Herman said he followed up several times over the summer, and the ward office resubmitted the request on multiple occasions, but the work was never done. “It’s not my job to defend CDOT,” Smith told me, but she added that the department has had its hands full with repaving work in 2014, in the wake of the brutal “Chiberia” winter.

Herman contacted Streetsblog after he saw a family almost get run over while crossing outside of the crosswalk to get to the ZooLights festival, because a car was parked in the crosswalk. “It’s ridiculous that no one seems to even want to make small, easy changes in such a high-pedestrian and kid-friendly area,” he wrote.

It is notable that this hazard existed for so many months without being fixed. In 2006, three blocks north, four-year-old Maya Hirsh was crossing with her mother and brother near the zoo at Belden and Lincoln Park West when she was fatally struck by a driver who failed to stop for a stop sign.

For months prior to the crash, residents had complained about drivers running the stop sign and had asked the city to restripe faded crosswalks and relocate the signs for better visibility. Two days after the crash, CDOT striped new crosswalks and installed oversized stop signs in more visible locations. One year later, the intersection was reconfigured with curb bump-outs that shortened the pedestrian crossing distance by several feet. The city eventually paid the Hirsch family a $3.25 million settlement.

After Herman wrote me on December 18th, I immediately contacted CDOT about the issue. A few days later, spokesman Pete Scales told me the problem was fixed on the afternoon of the 18th. “Thanks for pointing that out to us,” he wrote. BWLP’s Michelle Stenzel tweeted her delight at the new signs:


  • Pat

    Pretty typical CDOT. Repave the road and then wait over month to stripe it. Or just stripe for cars, but not for any pedestrian features.

    A simple checklist before moving on to new work could solve many of these issues. If it’s not done 100%, then it’s not done at all.

  • ohsweetnothing

    So great work SB community and what a weird, silly oversight by CDOT. But is anyone else wondering to themselves why cars need a sign specifically telling them that parking directly over a sidewalk/curbcut/streetcrossing is frowned upon?? Is that even legal, with or without a “No Parking” sign?

    I keep re-reading the story to see if I overlooked something…

  • C Monroe

    Okay I am an outsider but how is it legal to park in front of sidewalk ramps, driveways, etc. no matter if there is stripping or not and what ever the sign says?

  • C Monroe

    I thought maybe it is some weird Chicago thing. I know many places have different amount of distance from parking near curbcuts etc. One city it might be 3 feet others 10 feet.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Yeah, I feel like there has to be something written in a State/City code somewhere about this…

  • Parking in crosswalks is always illegal (like fire hydrants), but around there the parking ‘market’ (it’s free) is INSANELY stressful and frenetic, with people trying to shove a car anywhere they can in hopes of using the free parking spaces to access all the local attractions.

    They should have been aggressively ticketed, but I don’t know who does the parking enforcement there.

  • jeff wegerson

    Elliot Mason is right about the stresses of parking. Yeah there should have been aggressive ticketing too.

    But you know what I blame the alderman here. A citizens vigilance group should have been formed and gone and moved the sign themselves without waiting. With someone from the alderman’s office with them they could have deflected any heat.

  • I bet if it were deep in the street grid the alderman would have gone with a more aggressive stance, but because it’s in park-ville it might have felt more like it wasn’t “her” turf.

  • David Altenburg

    (I voluntarily deleted what I wrote because this topic makes me too pissed off to write anything I won’t later regret)

  • Entera

    The problem is one of organization and coordination. The sign shop is a totally separate division than folks managing arterial resurfacing projects and apparently they can’t coordinate until the Commissioner chews them out.

  • That would be the Chicago Police. These are unmetered spots, so no Chicago Parking Meters LLC enforcement personnel would have any reason to patrol there. There were two new crosswalks with incorrect signage, and in the five+ months in which this was not fixed, I never saw any tickets issued on the parked cars, and I live right there and would have noticed.

  • I’ll admit I did test the sign poles to see if they were sucker poles, but no such luck.

  • jeff wegerson

    Likely any citizen moving of the signs would have created “sucker poles”. Not being a biker I don’t think of those things. Some little stickers could have been printed up and stuck to the poles warning bikers I suppose.

    I figured the original poles would have needed cutting off at the base and replanted over say an iron pipe pounded into the ground and holes drilled for a cottter pin to prevent spinning. Not simple but doable.

  • ohsweetnothing

    I saw it via email. Still upvoting. haha

  • HJ

    Bigger question here:

    What is the point of Stockton Drive’s existence? Lakeview Ave, Lincoln Park West, and Clark Street all run parallel within 300ft. Parking for the Zoo is supposedly handled by the Cannon Drive lot, so why exactly does this road exist? Just to ruin a perfectly good section of the park?

  • Annie F. Adams

    Agreed. I tried biking up it the other day as a workaround to the Oak Street Curve being shutdown. It was rather stressful and scary from car doors potentially opening on my right, but more scary were cars zooming up behind me. Would be a great “bike priority” street and/or working well as a Bike Highway with nice walking blvd. to downtown.

  • Annie F. Adams

    BIG THANK YOU!! to Streetsblog and BikeWalkLincolnPark! Your vigilance is much appreciated. Disappointing CDOT was unable to address this situation ASAP. Kinda frightening.

  • Rob Rion

    The real problem is that Stockton’s only purpose is a parking lot and a free one at that. It provides a place for people to park and keeps them out of Lakeview Ave, Lincoln Park West, and Clark Street. The real problem is there is not a good way to get there via transit. Yes, there are buses but not very good ones. I live in the burbs and I would like to visit that area but I don’t because I choose to take transit to the city and there is no way to get there in a reasonable time.

  • Lakeview resident

    This is one of my hobby horses–that road needs to be closed to private auto traffic/cabs. I think it’s fine to keep the buses running through there, but not the private cars. Folks with mobility issues trying to get to the zoo can use the parking lot to the East.

  • cjlane

    “Lakeview Ave, Lincoln Park West, and Clark Street all run parallel within 300ft.”

    Only one of them at a time. There is a single street parallel(ish) to Stockton on the west.

    And it exists mostly for the bus routes. And the free parking.

  • cjlane

    Yeah, too true. And no one should take that as an excuse, just an explanation.

  • scott

    Michele Smith was practically dancing on the grave of that little girl that got killed when she was running for alderman. Now, it’s not her job. Ridiculous.

  • what_eva

    Why is there a need for a bike priority street through the park that has plenty of paths? It’s pretty easy to avoid the heavy traffic of the Lakefront trail in that area by going through the paths in the park.

  • what_eva

    CPD does very little ticketing. Department of Revenue enforcement staff would cover it, but who knows how often they bother going down Stockton. They’re more likely to patrol the meters, though I do see them on side streets plenty as well checking stickers, etc.

  • what_eva

    Indeed, 9-64-110 (c):

    9-64-110 Parking prohibited – Roadways, sidewalks, bridges and similar locations.
    It shall be unlawful to stand or park any vehicle in any of the following places:
    (a) On the roadway side of any vehicle stopped or parked at the edge or curb of a street;
    (b) Within an intersection, except on the continuous side of a “T” intersection;
    (c) On a crosswalk;
    (d) On a sidewalk;
    (e) On a parkway, except in case of an emergency, and except in the following locations:
    a. the
    parkway curb and carriage walk located on West Juneway Terrace (north
    side) from 1416 to 1546 and (south side) from 1415 to 1547, marked with
    signs indicating “parking permitted on curb and carriage walk”;
    (f) Upon any bridge, except those located on North Stockton Drive between North Avenue and Diversey Parkway;
    (g) In a viaduct or underpass;
    (h) On any railroad tracks or within a distance of ten feet from the outer rails thereof.

  • Corp. Drone

    I’m struck by the flurry of activity over this. Can you imagine the same being done over a misplaced parking sign in a South Side community? The stark contrast kind of grosses me out. You all get so EXCITED about a misplaced sign in your utopia. You should really mellow out.

  • While I agree that the reliability of buses in Chicago needs improvement, this is one of the most transit rich parts of the city with frequent busses going south to Michigan, LaSalle St, Union Station, Sedgwick Brown Line, Clark & Division Red Line, west on Armitage to the Brown Line and Clybourn Metra, and north on Clark, Broadway, or Sheridan, all within a 300ft or less walk (except for the Sedgwick bus). There are definitely good ways of getting there via transit.

  • The paths meander, have cycling barriers at intersections and thus are much slower.

  • Fred

    stressful and scary and faster > safer and slower

  • Sure thing, glad to help.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Corp. Drone: I respectfully disagree. I do not live in this area. But I do pass through it every day. If the little things are not addressed. When big things happen there is no network in place to address it. & what is big? Should folks have “freaked out” when someone died? Would that be an “ok flurry of activity”? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory

  • Annie F. Adams

    Great question what_eva: when I walk to the grocery store (or run other errands) I do not walk next to cars on the street—because there are safe “pedestrian priority sidewalks.” Same concept here. When I commute to my office DT from the N side I do not want to meander. Nor do I want to bug folks who are meandering. I want to get to work, shop, art museum or what-not safely and efficiently. This is why people are calling for separate bike & ped paths on the lakefront trail, as well as, a BikeHYW/LightRail/Ped Boulevard on Inner N LSD/Sheridan/Cannon Dr. starting @ the top of NLSD at Bryn Mawr. Thus cyclists from 8 to 80 would have a safe utilitarian space—just like “pedestrian priority sidewalks” —to run errands, go to school, get to work and what-not.

  • Annie F. Adams

    what_eva: check this out: “Eliminating traffic jams requires fewer people driving and more people cycling,” …“There are enormous gains to be had if we can get people to cycle in and out of the city.” “One in three people living in Greater Copenhagen say they would cycle more if it were easier to do so,” “The bike-bahn is the best thing we can do to make cycling a real alternative to driving for even more commuters. The more people we can encourage to cycle, the more we can reduce congestion and pollution…” http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/cycle-super-highway/

  • what_eva

    where are there cycling barriers?

  • what_eva

    there are paths that parallel Stockton already, sometimes on both sides.

  • Anytime a cyclist has to navigate a crosswalk, the combination of nearby poles, the curb cut, tight corners, approaching cross-traffic, and pedestrians can be quite hazardous. Sight lines are much better from the road and the path is straight through the intersection.


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