Requiem for a “Stop for Pedestrians” Sign: Documenting Driver-Damaged Placards

Photo: Michael Burton
Photo: Michael Burton

There was plenty of terrific cycle-centric and car-critiquing artwork at last weekend’s 21st Annual Bike Winter Art Show, ranging from photos of Indonesian pedicab operators by Julie Dworkin, to sculptures of cars made out of old license plates by Daniel Kopald. Here’s a fun video by Bryan Manongdo including some of the art, as well as footage of Friday’s Critical Mass ride to the opening, held at Lab on Lake in East Garfield Park.

Longtime Critical Mass riders Gin Kilgore and Michael Burton, who met at a CM banner making party in 1998 and later married, contributed a touching series of 21 family photos to this year’s art show. The installation showed the growth of their son Miguel, from an infant in a Burley trailer, to a toddler with a tricycle, to a young kid with training wheels, to a pre-teen biking independently, with cycling playing a key role in each stage of his development.

Photo: Michael Burton
Photo: Michael Burton

But I was particularly, uh, struck, by another photo series Burton prepared for the show entitled “State Law.” The installation showed several “Stop for Pedestrians Within Crosswalk” signs that the Chicago Department of Transportation had installed in the middle of streets. These placards remind motorists that they are required to come to a complete stop – not just yield – when they encounter pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk.

Photo: Michael Burton
Photo: Michael Burton

However, Burton’s series depicts the signs in various states of decrepitude after being hit by careless drivers, ranging from bent to completely obliterated. One image merely shows a few bolt holes left in the asphalt where a placard was ripped out of the pavement. (Perhaps a better approach for installing the signs would be to attach them to poles on the sidewalk, as is done in cities like Washington, D.C., out of harm’s way.)

A sidewalk-mounted "Stop for Pedestrians" sign in Washignton, D.C. Photo: Eric Fischer
A sidewalk-mounted “Stop for Pedestrians” sign in Washignton, D.C. Photo: Eric Fischer

Chicago’s mid-street “Stop for Pedestrians” signs seem to have raised awareness among drivers that they need to respect crosswalks. In my experience, motorists tend to be courteous to a fault when I cross at an intersection where one of the placards is still intact, essentially treating them like stop signs.

Photo: Michael Burton
Photo: Michael Burton

But as Burton’s photos illustrate, the fact that so many of the signs have been destroyed by reckless drivers is a depressing reminder that Chicago still has a long way to go when it comes to creating safe streets for pedestrians.

  • planetshwoop

    I have wished these splattered paint PETA-style when you hit it. Since they cost like $200 to replace the offender would at least have to pay for a carwash.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Ooh, or better yet, those exploding dye packs with tear gas that banks use to foil robbers.

  • Hugh Shepard

    DC also has the mid-street crosswalk signs.

  • Random_Jerk

    Unfortunately those signs without enforcement are pretty much useless and mostly ignored by the drivers. City should install cameras on those signs and ticket the drivers that fail to stop. I know couple locations that would definitely help to balance the city budget.

  • David Henri

    Even better yet, make them out of concrete.

  • Anne A

    I think these are most effective on a mid-street refuge island, which offers some protection for both the pedestrians and the sign.

  • JacobEPeters

    My favorite one that could help balance the budget is the one at California and Palmer. It is directly next to a Police Station, but the sign has been obliterated on countless occasions, & I have never seen a driver ticketed for ignoring state law at this location.

  • ohsweetnothing

    iirc, the State specifically prohibits automated enforcement by statute unless an exception is carved out (RLC, Speed Cameras). Given the political attitude against holding motorists any sort of accountable, I wouldn’t hold my breath of this happening anytime soon. I *think* this applies to BRT lanes too.

  • Random_Jerk

    State Street by Marina towers. I almost got rear ended twice there when I stopped for pedestrians. People speed there like crazy. Also upper Wabash & Hubbard.

  • JacobEPeters

    I just found it telling that the placards outside the station were destroyed, it showed that even on their doorstep there is no ability for this police department to enforce traffic safety.

  • Mcass777

    These posts and stumps left behind are dangerous. I have hit one under a Milwaukee av. Viaduct and nearly did and end over end into traffic.

  • Andrew Bedno

    Ooops, I’ve done some CCM videos, but the one above is by Bryan Manongdo
    He’s done one almost every month for almost a year now.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Sorry for the mix-up, edited.

  • Gersh Mayer

    Pedestrians should bear in mind that vehicles are supposed to stop when you’re IN the crosswalk, not when you’re 5 feet away and continuing into the crosswalk without breaking stride. Remember STOP LOOK and LISTEN?

  • Andrew Bedno

    I should’ve mentioned the first time, when I saw you like it on Facebook. I suspect Bryan’s inspired my a similar wave of feel good shorts that’s been coming out of Critical Mass Houston. That’s city’s mass is at a high point.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks. By coincidence I have a friend who recently moved to Houston and was complaining about a lack of good places to bike. I’ll share the link.


Eyes on the Street: The Chicago Bike Winter Art Show

Since 1997, Chicago’s Bike Winter Art Show (formerly known as the Critical Mass Art Show) has celebrated the city’s vibrant transportation cycling scene. This year’s show, curated by Steven Lane and Stuart Hall, was held at Ancien Cycles, a new shop at 688 North Milwaukee, by the Milwaukee protected bike lane. In the near future, […]