Daily Herald journalists conducted 49 tests of crosswalks not connected with stop signs or traffic lights in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties in November and December. Among the findings in the informal study:
• In 20 percent of tests, drivers whizzed through crosswalks despite a reporter either standing or walking within the striped area.
• Walkers were temporarily stranded in the middle of crosswalks 12 percent of the time as traffic continued without allowing them to reach the other side.
• One reporter on a busy stretch of Central Road in Mount Prospect waited more than 10 minutes while at least 99 vehicles surged through the crosswalk at Emerson Street until a vehicle stopped. It took more than 99 vehicles until it was safe for the reporter to proceed.
• Ninety percent of the time, traffic continued through crosswalks without heeding people on the curb.
Illinois’ nuanced law saying cars can continue through crosswalks until a pedestrian has both feet in the crosswalk is pure “Catch-22,” widower Eric Jakubowski of Mount Prospect thinks.
There are various levels that could be blamed for these issues:
- Local government. Why not put more stop signs or traffic lights in that would give pedestrians more help? (Easy answer: drivers do not want the flow of traffic impeded.) My own anecdotal evidence also suggests these traffic devices are also not guarantees for the safety of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.
- Local law enforcement. Why is this law not enforced more? It reminds me of the cell phone laws in Illinois that are rarely enforced (and some communities have basically said as much).
- Pedestrians. Are they aggressive enough in stepping out into the street? Of course, one could hardly blame them as you often have to step out into traffic and catch the eye of drivers.
- State officials. Why not clarify the law so that pedestrians come first and also impose steeper penalties for lack of compliance?
- American society. Why must we privilege driving so much? And the suburbs are particularly designed around cars where people often have to go several miles to reach basic needs. Pedestrians slow down traffic and suburbanites dislike traffic. Different approaches to community life and urban design could help address these issues.
All of this is the case when many would suggest Americans should walk more for their own health as well as for building community.