20 February 2013

IL crosswalk law: good intentions and probably more deaths

some years ago, when commuting to Park Ridge for work, i noticed a curious plastic sign in the middle of a crosswalk. it had a pedestrian symbol, a stop sign symbol, and the text "State law: Traffic must stop for pedestrians in crosswalk."

And for the most part, traffic did stop. It was all very civil.

But i had not heard of this law, and saw no other mention of it. Until recently.

Recently, Chicago has been placing these plastic signs at seemingly random intersections in the city. I've noticed they're not quite as successful as that first one in Park Ridge, but about half the drivers seem to get it.

But Chicago is doing a couple curious things. First, they're not putting them everywhere, and where they don't appear, drivers don't stop. Second, they'll move them about, as if they only have a handful to spread around. So any given intersection may lose its sign, and as before, drivers no longer stop.

This is causing havoc. I'm worried as hell that, as a pedestrian, any given driver may know the law or not. And even if one does slow down or stop to let me cross, who knows if the guy coming the other way -- or the one behind who thinks the first guy is an idiot and whips around to pass -- is going to yield to me?

in fact, as a driver, on Damen last week a couple walked out onto the street right in front of me (which turns out is against the law) without warning. had i been paying just a tad bit less attention, it's quite possible i could have hit them. yes, they were in a crosswalk, but no, this one did not have the temporary plastic sign. imho, the pedestrians were a bit too optimistic about driver behavior.

given the general ignorance of the law, and infrequent signage, nobody knows what to expect anymore at any given intersection whose rules are not already indicated by a stop sign or traffic light.

to make matters even more confusing, the city has been painting new crosswalks here and there, but with different patterns. on the corner near my house (pictured), they've got two different styles going. is it supposed to mean something? as both a pedestrian and a driver, i have no idea what they mean and how my behavior is supposed to change. at least until the plastic sign makes its temporary appearance.

i like the zebra crossings in London. i think it's smart that they're not as prevalent as Every Single Intersection, and doubly smart that they're frequently not at road intersections, so drivers can react to the pedestrians only, and not worry about turning or other vehicles crossing their paths. i think there are far too many crosswalks in Chicago to make this practical, if pedestrians expect to be able to step in front of a speeding car and survive every time.


pyker said...

Wow, that's terrible. Who thought this was a good idea?

zim said...

while driving to work today, about a block in front of me, someone crossed the street.

given the poor state of signage and crosswalk paint here, i couldn't tell if they were in a crosswalk or not (they weren't).

so on top of all else, it's often very hard to tell if someone is even in a crosswalk.

again, i think of the london zebra crossings, which are very well indicated. i think if IL wants drivers to respond well to crosswalks, they better improve their visibility.