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What? I Have to Stop at Crosswalks?

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I am going to be a little selfish and write this post 95% for me, and only 5% for you, and that is because a new bill has passed in Illinois, and I want to learn about its implications.  Did you know that last month the Illinois Senate passed a bill that requires motorists to come to a complete stop when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk, even if there are no stoplights or stop signs?  I thought this might have been the case, but I wanted to know for sure, so I dug a little deeper.

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With a 33-15 vote in late April, the Illinois Senate passed the legislation for House Bill 43, the "Stop for Pedestrians" bill, which is now on Governor Quinn's desk where he will likely sign the bill into law within the next 60 days.  (For more information, check out what the Active Transportation Alliance had to say, here - an organization that did great work helping this bill to pass.)  I spoke with members of the ATA team a few months ago about this potential bill, and I'll be honest, I didn't think it had any shot of ever passing.  Granted, I'm a cynic, but let's face it, if Chicago drivers are any representation of Illinois drivers as a whole, we're not the most understanding when it comes to respecting pedestrians.  I think this new law is a huge victory for a state where it's biggest city killed 172 pedestrians at crosswalks in 2007 alone.

As great of a law as I think this is, I have one major concern: the law requires a lot of trust. Because this is a new law, and not everyone will want to abide by it, I'm sure there will be some drivers who feel that it doesn't apply to them.  "There's only one pedestrian, and he's just entering the crosswalk, I can make it by without hitting him."  At the same time, the pedestrian might be thinking, "This guy won't hit me, it's against the law."  Making complete stops at stop signs is also the law, and who here has ever done the "California Roll?"  I have.

Not to discredit the valiant effort made by the ATA and the Illinois Legislature, because I think this is a great new law, but we need to get the word out there for this law to work.   We don't want it to turn into a situation other cities are familiar with, take Washington, DC for example. In the wake of the cyclist tragedies down state, and the sheer numbers of other pedestrians getting run over, it's about time a law like this has passed.  Let's hope Quinn signs it quickly, and then all agree to follow it.

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