Friday, July 8, 2011

Stockton Drive Pedestrians Need Help

Stockton Drive from LaSalle (1700 N) to Cannon/Diversey (2700 N) is a winding north/south street that goes through the heart of Lincoln Park. It runs alongside popular recreational destinations like the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and North Pond Cafe. Pedestrians from areas to the west heading to any of those destinations, as well as the soccer and softball fields, Lakefront Trail or beaches, all cross Stockton en route to their destination.

This long stretch of road has many pedestrian crosswalks but only infrequent stop signs or stop lights, and cars often move at speeds far in excess of the 25 MPH posted speed limit. They rarely stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, which are often poorly visible due to fading. Also, the current signage only tells motorists to "yield" and not stop for pedestrians.

Pedestrians crossing Stockton at a crosswalk. Notice the faded paint. (Photo:

Therefore, what usually happens is that a pedestrian enters the crosswalk and waits as car after car zooms past, until there are no cars approaching from either way, until finally crossing the street safely. It's not unusual for a pedestrian to start to cross, only to have a speeding car swerve around them in order to avoid stopping.

Stockton Drive pedestrians desperately need help. So what can be done to help the situation?

First, change the current signs that say "Yield to Pedestrians" to reflect the new law in effect since July 2010 that motorists must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. In addition, why not put a blinking solar-powered light on top to call attention to it?

This sign in Champaign, Illinois clearly tells motorists to STOP for pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Photo:

Next, at the minimum, repaint all the crosswalks so they are clearly delineated in white. Or, take it a step further and use colored pain to differentiate the marking visually and make the crosswalk more of an extension of the sidewalk.

Example of a painted crosswalk, in an unspecified location. (Photo:

Or maybe go all-out and put in a few raised crosswalks like the one below. They're not speed bumps, but they're visual speed bumps. Encountering even one of these will put a motorist on alert mentally that pedestrians are likely to be present, and they are to be given their due respect.

Example of a raised crosswalk, in an unspecified location. (Photo:

At times, Stockton is unnecessarily wide, and that creates a "highway" feel that makes drivers think it's OK to drive faster. Reduce those wide sections as often as possible. One stretch of Stockton at 1800 north by the Farm in the Zoo has no parking on one side allowed because the space is supposedly reserved for "charter buses", but there are never any buses there. The emptiness makes passing drivers hit the gas, and endangers pedestrians. Why not direct all buses to use the massive Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot, which has an area expressly reserved for them? Then, parking for the public can be added here (yes, added!), which would effectively narrow the street, make motorists slow down, and pedestrians would benefit.

Stockton Drive is unnecessarily wide at times. (Photo:

Finally, we could use better enforcement by police of the new law requiring cars to STOP for pedestrians in a crosswalk. Maybe if all the measures above are undertaken, motorists will respond favorably due to the visual clues they are given, and ticketing won't be necessary. 

Do you have any additional suggestions on how to make Stockton Drive or similar streets safer for pedestrians?

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