Why Did The Chicagoan Not Cross The Road?

You're taking a walk in the City of Chicago, and you come to a crosswalk.  Cars are moving fast; traffic is fairly steady.  There is no stop sign or traffic signal.   You explore your options:  wait until the traffic clears (does the traffic ever really clear?) or cross your fingers and hope for the best as you attempt to cross.


This summer the Illinois legislature attempted to help improve your odds in safe crossing in crosswalks, not only in the city but throughout the state.  The law that had previously been in place required a driver, when entering an intersection with a crosswalk, to yield the right of way to a pedestrian by slowing down, and only stopping if necessary.  This meant that if you were walking across the intersection, a driver would be assessing the need to stop, while he was moving and coming closer to you.  This could be a bit too close for comfort.


A recent amendment to this Illinois law has helped give drivers more certainty in their actions at crosswalks, and will hopefully give pedestrians more piece of mind.  The change requires drivers to stop and yield the right of way, instead of just slowing down and possibly stopping.  Rather than a decision made on the move, the driver must stop and yield each and every time a pedestrian is in his lane, or closely approaching his lane.  The driver is still left with the analysis as to whether you are approaching his half of the road so closely he should stop, even though you are not in his lane.  But since he will have to actually stop if you are closely approaching, and not just slow down, the determination will hopefully be made sooner and safer, so he can come to a complete stop in enough time.


Part of the motivation for this law, I believe, is the little girl that was killed in a cross walk a couple of years ago in Lincoln Park.  As you probably know, even a senseless death of a child doesn't stop crazy drivers in Chicago.  At the intersection where she was struck there are signs, speed bumps and still people don't stop.  It is right by the zoo and unless there is a cop sitting there, it's still crazy.  In fact, it's probably a sign that cops don't have traffic quotas because if they wanted to they could write tickets there all day.


I think the biggest problem with this law will be lack of publicity because in the eyes of those in power there are bigger fish to fry.  But hopefully soon walkers will feel less risk in merely crossing a street in Chicago.  I won't hold my breath though.



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  • Hey cool! Thanks for clearing this up!

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