By Ted Cox on July 1, 2014 4:07pm
GOLD COAST — Chicago Police and the Department of Transportation are launching a crosswalk crackdown to get drivers — and cyclists — to give pedestrians a break.
The city on average sees about 3,000 accidents a year in which cars strike pedestrians, resulting in 30 deaths, according to Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. She called that “unacceptable” and set goals to reduce crashes by 50 percent over the next five years, and ideally eliminate pedestrian deaths in 10 years.
“Our goal is to increase safety, reduce pedestrian and vehicle crashes and overall make Chicago a safer city,” Scheinfeld said at the first of 60 planned “enforcement events” at Clark Street and Germania Place Tuesday.
Her comments were occasionally interrupted by the “whoop-whoop-whoop” and brief siren bursts of police pulling over cars that did not stop to let pedestrians cross the street at a designated crosswalk.
“People on foot are the most vulnerable of all,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, who supports the city campaign. He cited how a third of all incidents categorized as traffic deaths are pedestrians.
CDOT is launching a campaign of public-service messages under the theme “Chicagoans Stop for Pedestrians,” with signs going up on buses, trains, stations, stops and on the street. It’s part of the department’s Complete Streets program.
Yet enforcement is also instrumental, with police and CDOT targeting problem intersections near schools, parks, senior housing and retail centers. Violators face a fine of $120, with police issuing 1,200 citations last year.
Both Burke and Scheinfeld emphasized that cyclists are subject to the fines as well for “bikes on sidewalks and other situations that endanger pedestrians,” Scheinfeld added.
“It’s not just about motorists,” she said. “It’s about bicyclists using good judgment and following the traffic rules, as well as pedestrians using good judgment and using crosswalks and not jaywalking.“
The state made it a law that traffic must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk in 2010, and the city followed suit two years later. Burke said that applies to all crosswalks, not just the ones with extra signs to emphasize the point, adding, “The signs are more of a reminder that’s the law, as opposed to the law only applying when there’s a sign in the street.”