A month or so ago my wife and I were crossing Division Street on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and came to a heavily marked crosswalk—day-glo signs and both parallel and perpendicular lines. We set off across the street, and of course no one stopped; it was just like jaywalking. I said something hostile about Chicago drivers, and she mentioned the contrast to Seattle, which she had just returned from, where everyone stops for pedestrians at the crosswalk. Practically speaking, the rule here seems to be that the crosswalk indicates that you can’t hit the person crossing the street.
It’s not really the fault of Chicagoans, though. Illinois law, up until recently, was confusing: “The former crosswalk law in Illinois required drivers to yield to pedestrians and stop only when necessary.” That’s the problem—"only when necessary,” widely interpreted as “almost never.” So the city and state started stepping up enforcement, but after a couple years it doesn’t seem to have changed much.
Which is why this is welcome:
They remind drivers with a visual cue of the state law that requires them to stop if pedestrians are in the crosswalk. This is a 2010 state law that was codified in Chicago’s municipal code last year under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It requires motorists to stop, versus just yield, to pedestrians in a crosswalk. So it is a relatively new law and therefore we think it’s doubly important to educate people of the law.
Now the law is actually, literally on a sign in the middle of the street. It’ll likely still take awhile for drivers to start stopping, because it’s a matter of habit, something people particularly rely on when driving. Chicago drivers are unlikely to be just categorically worse than Seattle drivers; people tend to be as good as the laws you give them, and the old law was not particularly good.
Who will it help? Statistically speaking, the older you are, the more likely you are to get hit at a crosswalk: