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Eyes on the Street: A New Raised Crosswalk on the Dearborn Protected Lane

The new raised crosswalk by the Dearborn bridge. Photo: John Greenfield

A year or two ago the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a short raised crosswalk by the Goodman Theater entrance, 170 North Dearborn which doubles as a speed bump for the Dearborn two-way protected bike lane, one of the city's busiest bikeways. This was done to facilitate pickups and drop-offs of theatergoers, as well as to make it easier for people to walk from their car parking spots to the playhouse.

Now CDOT is trying a similar strategy on Dearborn just north of the Chicago River bridge, but this time the project is a little more ambitious than the small bump of asphalt by the Goodman. The sidewalk extensions and a raised crosswalk are constructed of concrete, and the pedestrian distance is significantly shortened.

Rush-hour bike traffic crosses the speed bump. Photo: John Greenfield
Rush-hour bike traffic crosses the speed bump. Photo: John Greenfield
Rush-hour bike traffic crosses the speed bump. Photo: John Greenfield

It's a good project in general, since it makes crossing to attractions like the corncob-shaped Marina City towers and the House of Blues safer and easier, but it also reflects our city's car-centric priorities. I certainly don't mind slowing down at the raised crosswalk on my bike to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. But the raised section doesn't extend to the two travel lanes. No person on a bike has ever fatally struck a pedestrian in Chicago, whereas drivers kill dozens of people on foot in our city each year. Why aren't motorists given a speed bump here as well?

And while we're on the subject of dangers to vulnerable road users, will CDOT ever fix the dozens of manhole covers that are sunk an inch or two below the asphalt further south in the protected lanes? They're a significant hazard and hassle for cyclists as well.

Update 6/29/18, 2:45 PM: 

According to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey, there's no cost estimate for the raised crosswalk project yet, since the department is trying to determine whether it can be rolled into the federally funded repaving of Dearborn that took place last year. Claffey stated:

The intent of the project was to bring the crossing into ADA compliance. The new design greatly improves pedestrian safety by increasing visibility, shortening the crossing distance, and calming traffic. We have not installed raised crosswalks on multi-lane arterials, however we have several planned for upcoming neighborhood greenways.

He also provided the following additional information, quoted below:

• The mid-block crosswalk north of the river was installed in early 2000s (approximately) to provide a pedestrian crossing between Wacker and Kinzie. The crossing provides access to Marina Towers, House of Blues, etc.
• [Wheelchair] ramps were not installed in early 2000s
• Dearborn (River to Chicago Ave) was resurfaced in 2018 through the Arterial Resurfacing Program
• Resurfacing provided the opportunity to utilize federal funding to install [Americans With Disabilities Act]-compliant ramps
• Upon field investigation, standard ADA ramps were not feasible.
• Curb extensions allowed for the installation of ADA compliant ramps and provide several safety benefits for people crossing the street:
     -Significantly shortens the pedestrian crossing distance. Pedestrians were previously at street level for the entire width of Dearborn (56 feet). Now, pedestrians are raised through the two-way bike lane and curb extensions reducing the distance at street level to 20 feet.
     -Pedestrian visibility is greatly increased by the curb extensions. Pedestrians are no longer standing behind the bridge gates and structure. Pedestrian crossing signs to be installed on the new curb extensions.
     -Travel lanes are the minimum standard width of 10 feet. Narrow lanes, curb extensions, and refreshed crosswalks act as traffic calming.
• Speed humps/raised crosswalks have not been installed on multi-lane arterial streets
  -But as noted, CDOT has several raised crosswalks planned for upcoming neighborhood greenway projects

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