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Pedestrian Safety: Chicago Aims to Improve

In urban and suburban areas across the country, transportation officials are realizing that more needs to be done to prevent car accidents involving pedestrians. Chicago is no exception. Earlier this month, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced a plan with over 250 recommendations for improving pedestrian safety.

One element of the plan to prevent pedestrian accidents in Chicago has already been initiated. Over the summer, the city installed a number of ladder-like crosswalks, so pedestrians will have safer ways to get across busy streets.

The plan is more ambitious, however, than merely putting in a few quick fixes here and there. CDOT is also working on longer term efforts involving the creation of a transportation system that is more pedestrian friendly and not so focused on automobiles.

Changing the layout of crosswalks is particularly important. According to a study reported in the Chicago Tribune, about 80 percent of vehicle-pedestrians happen at intersections - despite the fact that crosswalks tend to make people feel safer.

Even if an intersection doesn't get a new, ladder-like crosswalk, it's important for CDOT to make sure that pavement markings aren't so faded that they lack visibility. There are far too many faded markings on Chicago streets.

Other recommendations put forward by CDOT include more pedestrian islands. These islands would be located out in the middle of multi-lane streets, to provide a refuge for pedestrians trying to get across. There would also be better signals and countdown timers that show pedestrians (and motorists) just how long it will be before a traffic light changes.

In short, Chicago plans to do many things to improve pedestrian safety. But there needs to be follow up to make sure those things happen.

Source: "Chicago unveils 1st pedestrian safety plan," Chicago Tribune, Bridget Doyle, 9-6-12

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