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… that the City’s generally thoughtful Parking and Transportation Committee has come up what could become a commuter’s nightmare: They plan to install eight parking boxes along Poplar. Anyone who is acquainted with 1) the congestion at the box at Central and Hartrey for the parking lot there and 2) the miniscule leeway most commuters allow themselves will understand that it will take just one befuddled commuter or one misfire of the box to make scads of people miss their trains.
Although eventually folks may be able to pay by phone, this scheme seems to have been devised by non-commuters. How about single meters that take credit cards?

… that on Jan. 7 a late-night driver on Central Street hit a streets supervisor who to protect his crew, was blocking traffic with the support of two parking-enforcement officers. He completed his shift but complained of neck pains and so was taken to a hospital and found to be OK. The driver who hit the supervisor and damaged the vehicle was arrested.

… that on Jan. 3 a leak on the 6-inch- diameter water service line that serves the Chandler-Newberger Center, the American Legion buildings, all on Central Street, resulted in a complete shut-down of the water service there.

… that City crews did yeoman’s work in keeping the streets main arteries and residential streets clear during last week’s brief but intense winter weather. The cold was bracing for a second or two, then it became lung-searing and downright dangerous. When the snow returns, residents are asked to clear snow from around fire hydrants; park as close to the curb as possible, at a distance from alleys and intersections, to allow emergency vehicles access to the streets; to clear snow from sidewalks and salt them if ice remains; and to help frail or elderly neighbors with these tasks.

… that, speaking of cold, the Active Transportation Alliance invites the brave to celebrate winter bike commuting at Daley Plaza in Chicago on Jan. 21 “for the annual celebration of cyclists who don’t let low temperatures or snow stop them from pedaling to work.” There will be coffee and cheesecake between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and an after-work gathering at Monk’s Pub (5-7:30 p.m.). Winter Bike to Work Day “commemorates the coldest day in Chicago history, Jan. 20, 1985,when the official temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 27 degrees below zero,” according to the ATA.

… that word has come from SPACE that in February, DownBeat Magazine is expected to honor SPACE as one of its “top jazz venues in the world.”

From our readers: TG: I must take sharp issue with the Traffic Guy’s New Years’ Resolution #5. The “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs are not dangerous, as long as pedestrians are not foolish enough to avoid the “false sense of security” the TG mentions. But the continuing balance of power in favor of motorists over pedestrians ensures that no pedestrian who values his or her life would assume a stop by a car. Instead, they can gingerly take a step off the curb until they see the car stopping. From my experience cars usually do stop in that situation, and if not, you can glare at them and maybe they will next time. I’ve been in this situation both as pedestrian and motorist and found this to be so. I am certainly aware of those marked crosswalks that I drive though frequently, and respect the signs.
The signs are an effort to increase safe passage for pedestrians and to establish that crosswalks mean something more than “stop if you feel like it,” as they do in other cities. Abandoning them would mean surrendering in that worthwhile effort.
– Steve Cohen

From TG: Thanks for your letter, Mr. Cohen. The only such signs with which TG has regular pedestrian familiarity are those near the RT office, one at Dodge and Crain and the other at Main and in front of Washington School. Drivers near the school seem to be more alert than those on Dodge, where the sign is routinely ignored by drivers. TG applauds your optimism and hopes that drivers will share your care and caution.

TG: This might sound like a small nit-picking issue, but it becomes more important to us with every passing winter. Until people have a problem with accessibility, they might not realize how difficult they make it for their neighbors when they park in front of someone’s house, blocking a crosswalk leading up to the home. We have a particular problem since my husband uses a wheelchair and we have many visitors, friends and family, who are older or who might have special difficulties. Actually, during a big snowfall like we’ve just had, who among us doesn’t have special difficulty walking?

After clearing the walk all the way to the street, making sure that there is not a pile of snow left at the end of the walk – sometimes an unavoidable and sad side effect of street plowing – it’s disheartening at best, infuriating at most, when people park in front of our house, directly blocking access to our walk. It doesn’t even make sense, since a driver could let out passengers before parking, giving them easy access to the sidewalk. Then the driver could park, leaving the entrance to the sidewalk free and use it for him or herself to get up to the walk. No one would have to scale the snow cliffs at the curb.

This is a particularly serious problem in winter, but it’s also a problem all year round. My husband didn’t always use a wheelchair. He used to use a cane and before we had an attached garage, he had to park on the street. If someone parked in front of our house, it was fine. Not a problem. But when someone parked in front of our house blocking the crosswalk, even in non-snow seasons, it could mean a lengthy, dangerous walk in the street until an unblocked crosswalk could be found – since the cane sank into soft grass or slid in wet mud.

If people’s consciousnesses could be raised, it would be so helpful. It’s not just for the sake of those whose walking is compromised. Parents with small children, those carrying grocery bags – everyone – would have an easier, safer time of it if the sidewalk leading to the streets remained clear and unblocked in residential areas. Little things can make a great deal of difference among neighbors and in the community. Thanks so much.  – Sharon Fiffer

From TG: Thank you for your thoughtful letter, Ms. Fiffer. People take the time to shovel a path to the street for a reason: access to their vehicles. That access should not end at the curb or the edge of the parkway but go all the way into the street. As you point out, people who use a cane or a wheelchair, people who are carrying small children or large grocery bags – and lots of others – could use a break. And when they have shoveled out a path so they will have a break, it is inconsiderate of others to block the access. TG has often seen these paths blocked by drivers who are, presumably, thoughtless rather than mean. We all could use a little more thoughtfulness in parking.

But, read on:

TG: Here is a picture of a school bus that was stuck in the snow last week. The bus became stuck trying to make a turn at Sherman and Main but could not make it because of an illegally parked BMW. I was one of the neighbors who spent an hour helping to shovel out the bus. We also called the police to ask them to ticket the car, but no one showed up. When the owner of the BMW came out, she cheerfully said she had no idea she had parked illegally, and, since the bus was unstuck, there was nothing she could do.  – Main/Sherman, neighbor

From TG: Clueless and inconsiderate in Evanston.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that the polar vortex that brought home the sting of winter to the Midwest also brought something fairly unusual silence. TG is not the only one who noticed how quiet things can be in the stillness of a -30 degree or colder morning. During the day, the wind sometimes swept the snow but the trees seemed hardly to move. And at night, the cold seemed to absorb sound. Even out at the lakefront, where waves were crashing over newly whelped sand-and-ice dunes, sounds of water and wind seemed muffled.