Skip to Content
Streetsblog Chicago home
Streetsblog Chicago home
Log In
Design

Why Isn’t There a Crosswalk Here? A Pedestrian Desire Line in Wicker Park

Located just north of a Blue Line station, the North/Damen/Milwaukee junction is the epicenter of the Wicker Park and Bucktown shopping district and one of the busiest locations in town for foot and bicycle traffic. But it's also one of the city's most dysfunctional intersections in terms of traffic management.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 5.20.25 PM
Pedestrians heading north on Damen from the Starbucks to the Walgreens are currently required to cross to the Coyote Tower first, but few do so. Image: Google Maps

Case in point is the phenomenon illustrated in these videos, shot this evening between 4:45 and 5 p.m. from in front of the Walgreens at the northern corner of the six-way, looking south. Commuters heading north on from the train station who want to continue north on Damen are supposed to detour west and make two different crossings in crosswalks.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.05.18 AM
An aerial view of the complex intersection. Image: Google Maps

Instead, most people choose to take the most direct route by making a beeline from the Starbucks to the Walgreens. It's the most logical path but, because the intersection is set up to prioritize car traffic, this is an illegal, and risky, maneuver.

In the mid-2000s, the city erected the railings in front of the Starbucks in an effort to discourage pedestrians from making this crossing. But, as these videos show, that strategy didn't work.

Instead of pretending that people aren't making this crossing, the city should accommodate this obvious pedestrian desire line by making it legal and safe to take the direct route. The simplest way to accommodate this move, as well as other direct crossings at this intersection that are currently banned, would be to implement a pedestrian scramble signal phase, in which all motorized traffic pauses while people on foot are permitted to cross in all directions. This was done a few years ago downtown at Jackson and State.

Yes, this means drivers would have to wait a bit longer at this already-congested intersection. But, since it would make the location much safer and better organized, and there would be fewer pedestrian crossings during other phases, the change would benefit all road users.

donate button
Did you appreciate this post? Streetsblog Chicago is currently funded until April 2016. Consider making a donation through our PublicGood site to help ensure we can continue to publish next year.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Chicago

South Branch riverfront proposal aims to connect parks, expand green space, and improve transportation, recreation

The McKinley Park Development Council gave an overview of its new riverfront redesign plan last week at a public meeting.

June 15, 2024

CDOT is installing a lot more bikeways in 2024. Here’s an interactive map of the locations.

The Ward Wise civic tech group at Chi Hack Night put together the map, and graciously allowed Streetsblog to publish it.

June 14, 2024

New walk/bike/transit nonprofit GoodForUs.org is working on Ravenswood Bike Lending Library, other projects

The group would like to see bike libraries expand citywide, and has other ideas to get more people to use active transportation more often and drive less.

June 13, 2024
See all posts