Saturday, April 21, 2012

In-street pedestrian crosswalk signs? We’ll take a few dozen, please!

by Michelle Stenzel

It’s been Illinois law now for nearly two years that drivers of motorized vehicles must stop for pedestrians crossing the street in a marked crosswalk, even on crosswalks where there is no stop sign or stop light. That type of crosswalk is called an “uncontrolled crosswalk”, an apt name that reflects the often-chaotic feel fro the perspective of a person on foot trying to cross it! So under the law, when a person is on a crosswalk trying to cross the street, a driver must stop completely to allow them to cross, as if there were a red stoplight signal that had suddenly appeared.
Portable pedestrian crosswalk signs on Wells Street near
Walter Payton College Prep high school.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Of course, we know this rarely happens.

Perhaps it’s because drivers are unaware of the law. Perhaps they need a visual reminder of the law. Perhaps there needs to be a physical object present that registers in their mind and makes them suddenly recognize that there’s a crosswalk and other street users present who have the right of way.

There’s now a tool available that covers all three of those factors: The in-street stop for pedestrian signs. These are three-feet-high signs that are permanently mounted in the middle of the street at a crosswalk and that clearly proclaim “State law/Stop for (pedestrian symbol) within crosswalk”.

You may have seen the non-permanent version on Wells Street south of Division, which we featured in this prior post. We have learned in an interview with a staff member of the community center nearby that they purchased the signs after a woman picking up her grandchild from their daycare was hit and injured by a car driver. The staff rolls the signs out each morning and takes them in at night.

The permanent in-street pedestrian signs are one of the items available to aldermen citywide to be purchased using their annual menu funds. We have requested Alderman Michele Smith use a portion of her menu funds to install them in our ward, and she has expressed support for the initiative. Her staff is currently working to analyze the best spots to place these new pedestrian safety tools.

Map of suggestion locations for crosswalk signs, courtesy of John Krause.
 Below is the content of our letter to Alderman Smith. Are there any suggested locations that you think are in particularly dire need of these signs? Did we miss any good spots? You can comment below, or write to us at  You can write to Alderman Smith directly to express your support for the use of these signs at  

Dear Alderman Smith,
We're writing today to ask you to spend a small portion of this year's aldermanic funds on In-road "State Law Stop for Pedestrians" signs in order to improve pedestrian safety in the 43rd ward.

Illinois State Law 625 ILCS 5/11-1002 requires drivers to come to a complete stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians attempting to cross the street within a marked crosswalk where no traffic signal is present.
However, in spite of the law, drivers almost never stop for pedestrians attempting to cross the street at one of our many unsignalized marked crosswalks. This is a serious threat to pedestrian safety, and it undermines the foot traffic on which our local retail businesses depend. 

Install in-street pedestrian crossing signs (R1-6a) at unsignalized crosswalks where there are two lanes of traffic for cars.
This is less expensive and far more effective than the current approach of mounting signs on poles in each sidewalk or installing (and maintaining) special pavement markings.

Prevents pedestrians from being struck by cars, and prevents drivers from unknowingly violating the law or injuring a pedestrian.
Publicizes the new crosswalk law in a highly visible, unequivocal, fair, and cost-effective way.
Makes streets safer and more attractive to pedestrians, encouraging the foot traffic that drives local retail business.

Proposed locations:

We have proposed 30 locations.

On Stockton Drive at:
Chicago History Museum Parking Lot (Menomonee)
Nature Boardwalk/Green City Market (Lincoln)
Farm in the Zoo (Wisconsin)
Bus stop near Cafe Brauer (Armitage)
Conservatory (Belden)
Bus stop on Stockton just north of Fullerton around 2500 North
Bus stop near Roslyn 
Bus stop near Wrightwood

On Clark Street at:
St. James

On Wells Street at:
St. Paul

On Sedgwick at:

On Armitage at:

On Webster at:

On Lincoln at:

On Fullerton at:

On Wrightwood at:

On Diversey at:
If you’re reading this and live in another ward, we urge you to write to your own alderman to request them on streets in your neighborhood. Forward them a link to this post! We’d love to see these signs all over the city.


  1. I'm inspired! Working on a map of suggested locations for Lakeview:,-87.646265&spn=0.035625,0.076818

  2. Beautiful maps and great locations, Lee. I like the idea of marking the suggested locations within a block of schools and parks with another color, perhaps to indicate priority locations. - MS

  3. Also interesting to compare to designated Pedestrian Streets:$fn=altmain-nf.htm$3.0#JD_17-3-0500

  4. These open the door to litigation as obstructions in the roadway. Not a good idea. Not to mention the blight they add to too many signs already. People are not getting run over and killed.

    1. I disagree that "People are not getting run over and killed." According to the 2011 City of Chicago Pedestrian Crash Analysis report, in 2009, there were 3,277 vehicle-pedestrian crashes that resulted in injury or death (34 deaths). Of those crashes, a full 35.5% occurred while the pedestrian was in a crosswalk. -- Michelle Stenzel

    2. Dead people or not - the sad reality of the matter is that we have to go to this extent to remind people to actually obey the law.

  5. Quick update for anyone who reads this: Alderman Smith has included 19 of the locations on her 2012 menu funds requests to the city, so we're another step closer to making the placement of these signs a reality! The locations are basically on the Stockton, Clark, and Lincoln corridors on the map above, as well as two on Diversey. I'll post again with further news. -- Michelle Stenzel

    1. Thanks for the update, Michelle. I just checked with Alderman Harry Osterman's office in the 48th Ward. They've confirmed that "Stop for Pedestrians" signs in Andersonville at Clark & Olive and Clark & Summerdale are part of this year's menu projects.

    2. That's great news. Hopefully when the signs start going up in a few areas, more citizens will ask their alderman to install them in their own local trouble spots.

    3. I inquired about these signs with our local alderman's office and was told that they could not be installed by the city office on a state highway (irving park road). Not sure where to start with petitioning the state?

    4. I would start by calling up your Illinois state representative, whom you can identify by putting your address in at the link below.

      However, what is the intersection that you're considering for the sign? IPR is mostly a four-lane street, and these signs I believe work best in a two-lane environment. If the intersection badly needs help because it's too wide, perhaps you should consider advocating for a pedestrian refuge island instead. These can also be paid for from menu funds (although relatively $) and I know CDOT can definitely install them on state highways, because Michele Smith in our ward had one installed on North Avenue at Orchard, and North is also definitely a state road. (Hm, now that I think about it, I'm not sure why CDOT can put in an island but "can't" put up a little sign? Perhaps you can ask your alderman to double check on that.) Best of luck to you and report back any successes! -- Michelle Stenzel

  6. The word "only" should be added between the words "STOP" and "For". Overly politically correct drivers now stop whether there are pedestrians in or entering the crosswalk or not and do so suddenly

    1. I've also seen drivers stop when no one is crossing the crosswalk, but hopefully with time all drivers will understand how these signs work. -- MS