Help for pedestrians or a false sense of security?

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… that the Sherman Avenue garage is getting a “light-lift” – an upgrade of the overhead lighting. The project to replace the 900 metal halide lighting fixtures that currently use 210 watts each with induction canopy lights that use 40 watts per fixture began last week. The City says these new lights will save about 1 million kWh of electricity and $91,568  in electricity costs annually, with a total  savings of $549,408 over the 11-year life of the project. The estimated project cost is $451,665, and the City might be able to recover the entire amount  through a rebate from the State of Illinois’ Department of Community and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). 

… that, weather permitting, the lanes closed earlier this week on Ridge at Church for removal of the construction crane will reopen tomorrow. The northbound lanes were closed for a couple of days, as of Jan. 15, with northbound traffic rerouted to one of the southbound lanes.

… that GasBuddy reported that average retail gasoline prices in Chicago fell 2.9 cents per gallon at the beginning of the year, according to its daily survey of 1,437 gas outlets in Chicago. Most of the rest of the company saw stagnant prices. “Including the change in gas prices in Chicago, prices in the first week of January were 24.4 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 19.4 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 9.3 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 6.8 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago. GasBuddy operates and 250 similar websites that track gasoline prices at over 140,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada.

… that the Police Department nabbed a few scofflaws during “Drive to Survive,” its year-end traffic safety push: 48 seat belt citations, 15 speeding citations, 5 arrests for suspended or no valid drivers license, 9 no insurance citations, 13 cellphone citations, 1 D.U.I. arrest, and 28 other vehicle code citations. The crackdown paid special attention to the 9 p.m. – 6 a.m. time slot, when, according to police, “statistics show the highest number of motorists that drink and drive along with the fewest motorists buckling up for compliance with the law. 

… that the City plans to install a heating system on another of its water intakes. The one installed about four years ago, according to the water department folks, “has been successful in mitigating impacts during frazil ice [pointed ice shards in slushy-seeming water] events,” so a second frazil-mitigator would help with keeping the water supply clean and flowing, providing “additional reliability and redundancy.” It will also upgrade lines to some of the intakes to help control the unwanted ingress of zebra mussels. The City will seek a low-interest loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for the $150,000-ish cost.

… that the Fire and Life Safety Division will purchase seven cardiac monitor/defibrillator/pacer units from Physio-Control Inc.  of Redmond, Wash., to replace seven that are nearing the end of their useful life. The fire department has 11 cardiac monitor/defibrillator/pacer units in operation daily, a standard part of the equipment of which is the monitor.

… that the brew pub coming to 1615 Oak Ave., the former IDES building which was the former Oak Avenue Market, will eliminate seven on-site parking spaces to make room for outdoor dining there. If Council approves, the Smylie brothers (who own and will operate the brew pub) will not have to provide the 22 off-street parking spaces required by the zoning code.

… that the ban on texting and using a hand-held cellphone now extends statewide to drivers of commercial vehicles.

 From our readers: TG: In response to some of the postings regarding the “YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS” signs at Sheridan Road and Lee Street and other streets,  I believe that this law as you mention sets up pedestrians to be hit by giving them a false sense of assurance at a pedestrian crossing.  Previous generations relied on common sense and paid attention when crossing the streets rather than deferring the responsibility to the drivers.

 I wonder how we were able to survive before this law.

I drive this road daily, Sheridan at Lee, all the way up to Northwestern, at different times of the day, and, yes, I see drivers not stopping. 

But let’s be reasonable here. When crossing at this specfic location, pedestrians need to be ready to cross. Just because you are approaching the end of the sidewalk does not render you, the pedestrian, the right to continue walking, expecting the driver to stop.

The idea is that the pedestrian waits and is seen, then the car stops and then the pedestrian crosses. Many times I stop, and people are chatting or too busy with their handheld devices to cross. In the mornings, chatting with others while having their coffee is very common and very confusing as well.

Also, runners just bolt through the intersection with reckless abandon.  I have seen people bolting with strollers, without hesitating to stop.

One of my favorites is when pedestrians are walking their dogs and the dogs are sniffing around the crossing area, I ask myself, “Are they crossing? Should I stop? When I stop, how long should I wait before they realize traffic is waiting?”  Then they just walk away and my efforts are just useless.

Then there are the pedestrians who get all bent out of shape when drivers do not stop, when they have already started crossing. This feels more like the pedestrian is challenging the car. Guess who hits the hardest?

Not to mention night time. I rarely wear my night-vision goggles while driving and some pedestrians wear all black. Add a poorly lit street and some false sense of security and you are set up for a date with a judge.

Bottom line: The crossing flags do not work; they are useless. Pedestrians should be attentive and aware of their surroundings. Perhaps an electric STOP sign needs to be installed – not a traffic light, but a sign that lights up when the pedestrian presses a button to cross that at other times is just muted or off.  That would be ideal. The technology is out there.

– Javier Lopez

From TG: Thanks, Mr. Lopez, for your very thoughtful letter. You seem to have thought about this from several angles, and TG agrees with your point that those signs can give pedestrians a false sense of security.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

…  that “Gun Appreciation Day,” organized to protest the possibility of the government’s limiting access to certain weapons in certain circumstances, is a particularly distasteful way to express support for the U.S. Constitution.  The founders of G.A. Day are hoping that people will “turn out en masse at gun stores, ranges and shows from coast to coast.”

… that discussion of the traffic congestion on Emerson east of Green Bay has become a topic of conversation, now that the mega-project between Oak and Maple on Emerson is poised for Council approval. Residents there say it is already almost impossible to turn west onto Emerson from northbound Oak. Pedestrians are said to have similar difficulties.

The City’s traffic guys propose eliminating the metered parking spaces on the south side of Emerson between Maple and Oak and incorporating that new space into a widened four-lane Emerson. Whether there could be a stop light at Oak and Emerson is questionable. According to the City, the State of Illinois has a pretty high bar for allowing traffic signal – in other words, we need to prove lots of traffic and traffic woes. TG hopes (and guesses others would similarly hope) that they do not simply paint some stripes and install one of those “Yield to Pedestrian” signs.