Over the past several years, Chicago has made considerable improvements to its streets and sidewalks as part of its plan to improve Chicagoan’s safety, connectivity, livability and health and ultimately make the Windy City the safest city in the country for pedestrians.
The city’s first Chicago Pedestrian Plan, introduced in 2012 by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), was created to address and improve all aspects of the street environment by prioritizing pedestrian needs when designing streets, identifying sites for buildings, communicating its programs, and enforcing traffic laws. In the new model, the pedestrian comes first. The plan identified the goals, actions, and milestones that were necessary for success.
Experts reasoned that that everyone is a pedestrian at some point every day. Even if you’re a transit user, bicyclist or motorist, you are also a pedestrian. Investments made in pedestrian safety and accessibility will ultimately result in improvements in Chicago’s economic and physical health.
Design and Construction
From a design and construction standpoint, here’s how it’s playing out. Road crews heading out to resurface a street can also use the opportunity for striping new bike lanes. Electrical engineers optimizing streetlights for car traffic also think about crosswalk times. Construction teams rebuilding an entire boulevard consider pedestrian islands in the roadway or bike parking on the sidewalk. The most basic feature of urban walkability is access to complete, continuous, and safe walkway networks that provide clear protection from motor vehicles and are accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.
Other elements of the plan include shade trees and shelters to protect pedestrians from heat, rain, and other elements. Shorter blocks reduce trip distances, making walking more convenient and desirable.
Crosswalk Enforcement Initiatives
As part of its plan to improve pedestrian safety, CDOT and the Chicago Police Department are continuing its crosswalk enforcement initiatives begun in 2014.
One initiative involves an off-duty, undercover police officer posing as a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk. If oncoming drivers don’t stop for the pedestrian – as required by law – the vehicle will be pulled over by a police spotter further down the street.
Motorists can face fines ranging from $50 to $500 for failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. In one year alone, the CPD issued more than 1,000 citations for failure to stop for pedestrians.
Crosswalk awareness initiatives are usually placed at locations close to schools, senior housing facilities and retail areas. Most are near a recent pedestrian crash location.
The Pedway, which lies in the heart of Chicago’s downtown, is another great asset to the city and supports its efforts to create a safe environment for pedestrians. A system of underground tunnels and overhead bridges, the pedway links more than 40 blocks in the Central Business District and connects public and private buildings, CTA stations, commuter trains and more than 50 buildings.
The future looks bright, not just for Chicago but urban areas throughout the world. With the urban share of the world’s population expected to increase to 70 percent by 2050, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has introduced a new tool to help governments, city planners, NGOs, and developers make cities more equitable, healthy, safe, and vibrant. The solution? Walkability.
Lawyers at Smith LaCien LLP believe that when a pedestrian is injured or killed as a result of careless driving or faulty equipment, the responsible parties should be held accountable for damages. If you believe you may have a case, contact us today at [email protected].com or call 312-509-8900.