Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pedestrian signs are taking a beating but are still working well

by Michelle Stenzel

The Stop For Pedestrians crosswalk signs went up in Lincoln Park about seven months ago, in July 2012. You may have noticed that they've already taken a beating. Many are scratched and bent, and I  presume that it's from people driving into or over them.
This "Stop for Pedestrians" sign has already suffered damage during its seven months of service on Stockton Drive.

My first thought upon noticing this is that it's unfortunate that there will be yet another piece of worn-out looking infrastructure our streets. So many of our street signs are bent, hanging askew or upside down, faded, obsolete or otherwise in a pathetic state, and this will just add to the decrepitude. 

However, we're not going to advocate swapping them out very soon; fiscal responsibility of our ward money dictates otherwise. Even with the scratches, the signs are still plenty bright and seem to be doing their job of making drivers stop when needed. 
The sign on Clark Street is beat up but still helps make drivers stop at crosswalks, albeit reluctantly at times.
Maybe the sight of the battered signs will lead other people to my next reaction, which was thinking along the lines of: Thank goodness they're there. Better that a driver run into a three-foot tall sign than into a three-foot tall child. 

Although I don't think there are any legitimate excuses, are there any understandable reasons why a driver might hit one of these signs? These are placed on the center line of busy two-way urban streets. Perhaps a driver trying to pass a double-parked vehicle or a bus didn't anticipate an obstacle and was  accelerating too much to stop before contact. But that leads me back to being grateful the sign is there, because instead it could have been senior citizen, or a student, or a bicyclist. 
Stop for Pedestrian sign on Clark Street next to the Francis Parker School.
Drivers have the responsibility of paying attention to what's in front of them, driving at a speed that allows them to stop in time for anything that appears in their windshield. Hopefully these signs are helping on all fronts.

If you're reading this and live in another neighborhood and want to see these signs near you, contact your alderman! These signs are a low-cost tool that's included in Chicago's new Pedestrian Plan, which you can download from their website. Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein has reached out to all the city council members to encourage them to use tools like this to make the streets of their ward safer for everyone (you can download his PDF letter and information at this link), and it's a matter of your alderman requesting locations to install them. We wish you much success, as we'd love to see these signs in all corners of the city.


  1. I would love to see pedestrian refuges built under these signs. It would protect the signs and the people.

    In my neighborhood, Roscoe Village, virtually all motorists ignore the cross walks on busy streets. Although one driver did stop for me once when crossing Belmont at one of these signs.

    1. It's funny and sad that you remember clearly the one time a driver actually stopped for you! I think on most of the streets I've seen these signs on like Belmont and Addison, there isn't room for a pedestrian island in the middle of the street. However, bumpouts from the corners into the street would help a lot, both because they decrease the amount of "unprotected" space that the person has to walk across, and because it narrows the space visually, naturally causing drivers to slow down, which in turn increases the chances that they'll stop for people trying to cross. Bumpouts are quite a bit more expensive to implement than the signs. -- MS

  2. i have definitely noticed drivers stopping in my neighborhood on Division between Ashland and Western. Not everyone, but definitely a critical mass. On Chicago Ave as well.

    1. Good to know, thanks. I agree that not everyone stops, but a heck of a lot more than they did without the signs, and that makes them worth it! -- MS

  3. What's more appalling is that these crosswalk signs cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars and they were made of paper mache.