“Wheels only” and “feet only” sidewalk markings allow for pedestrians to walk side-by-side or have a wheeled vehicle such as a stroller, scooter or bicycle between them.RoundTable photo

Taking the lead from the wildly popular bike lanes, the City has voted to restructure Evanston’s sidewalks to better protect walkers from strollers and other wheeled modes of transportation.  Come April 1, lines will be drawn to designate “feet only” paths versus “wheels only” portions of sidewalks along major streets in Evanston.

“Our main streets have become increasingly narrow, slow and congested, making our sidewalks the quickest path to get to where you want to go in Evanston,” said Ima Wright, a City traffic engineer at a recent Council meeting. “But many residents report potential danger on these paths, so we need to take action to make sure Evanston remains a walkable city.” 

“Strollers are a major hazard,” said George Trippalotski.  “I am always careful to avoid cracks and debris, but fear for my life when I see strollers, skateboards or misinformed bicyclists taking up more than their fair share of space on sidewalks.”   

Several Aldermen have reported similar feedback from residents. 

“I thought bike lanes were our ticket to someday eliminating car traffic, but since we installed them, we’ve had many complaints,” said Alderman Smarts. 

“We didn’t consider the fact that winter happens every year and the bike lanes become a barrier to plowing, nor did we consider that trash, debris and frequent construction force bikers to detour from the designated lanes into either car or sidewalk traffic,” said Alderman Bikeordie.   

Avid bikers do not see the problem. 

“Nothing in the law states we have to use bike lanes,” said Trek Cannondale.  “I tell my kids to ride on the sidewalk because it’s safer.  When I’m training for a race with my team, we go at least 30 mph down the middle of Dodge, so we can’t possibly be a hazard.  I think walkers should move to the grass so they are out of everyone’s way.”

The City decreased the speed limit on Dodge to 25 mph this past year to slow traffic.  No bikers have yet received a ticket for exceeding this speed but Council is considering installing more cameras to monitor street traffic and issue speeding tickets.

“Dude, I’m not even sure where I’m suppose to be,” said an avid skateboarder who asked to remain anonymous.  “I’m not, like, a bike or a car so I’m totally tweakin’ if I go near the street, but walkers and strollers take up a lot of space, man.  It’s jank.”

After no debate, Aldermen voted unanimously on April 1 to move forward with the sidewalk safety initiative. Walking portions of sidewalks will be painted hot pink so they stand out.  The path color was selected by residents who attended the 1 a.m. meeting in the Civic Center parking lot.  Meeting announcements were posted in Skokie and Wilmette libraries.  In the meantime, residents can vote for one of two options under consideration 

“We hope that by divvying up the sidewalk, we’ll make Evanston’s pathways more equitable for all,” said the Mayor.