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Chicago's Crosswalks: Planning for Pedestrians in the Wi...

Chicago's Crosswalks: Planning for Pedestrians in the Windy City

While crosswalk paint may not be the most glamorous part of an urban planner’s job, it represents an integral part of their vision. The City of Chicago released its first-ever Pedestrian Plan last fall as part of a long-term effort to improve safety. The city has double the national average for hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities, and

While crosswalk paint may not be the most glamorous part of an urban planner’s job, it represents an integral part of their vision. The City of Chicago released its first-ever Pedestrian Plan last fall as part of a long-term effort to improve safety. The city has double the national average for hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities, and hopes to improve walkability and livability from a public health perspective. The plan includes over 250 short- and long-term recommendations, which were derived from a series of public meetings, and distilled by the Chicago Department of Transportation. Perhaps the most ambitious facet of the plan has been called the “Zero in Ten” goal, which involves reducing pedestrian fatalities to zero in ten years.

CDOT Commissioner Klein tries crosswalk with refuge island

The recommendations include special accommodations for children and seniors, especially near amenities like schools and parks. Given their deterioration over time, many road markings have faded away and are currently being repainted with newer, highly reflective materials. This measure is long overdue as, perhaps surprisingly, from 2005 to 2009 a whopping 78% of crashes involving pedestrians in Chicago took place on or near a crosswalk. If a crosswalk is where a pedestrian is supposed to be safest, increasing legibility of road markings for all users of the street should indeed make it a safer place.

Worker installs pedestrian placard, Chicago

The city also hopes to employ a wide variety of other urban design tools to calm traffic and make streets safer for pedestrians, including road diets, leading pedestrian signals, countdown timers, roundabouts, chicanes, and speed bumps. By designating certain zones as of particular concern, the city hopes to pinpoint and eliminate pedestrian deaths, leading to a safer and healthier Chicago.

What other types of interventions have cities employed on behalf of pedestrians?

Credits: Images by Andrew Kinaci. Data linked to sources.

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After graduating from Princeton University with an A.B. in Architecture and a Certificate in Urban Studies, Andrew Kinaci set out to the Midwest to break out of the insular world of academia, and into the direct service of non-profit work. After a...

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