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Chicago’s Pedestrian Plan: A Glance at the Future of the City’s Streets

Road diets, leading pedestrian intervals, the relationship between crime and crashes, cyclist education, and more: the city’s first “pedestrian plan” details the many plans for Chicago’s streets and sidewalks.

The city just released its first “pedestrian plan,” and it not only touches on areas of interest to transit nerds like myself, it explains some oddities you might have noticed driving or biking around.

* For instance: when I bike to work, I cross the wide expanse of LaSalle Street, and started to notice something unusual: the east-west walk signal comes on before the light changes from red to green. It was disconcerting at first, because I get the feeling that impatient drivers/cyclists like myself pay as much attention to the walk signal as the light. It’s a “leading pedestrian interval,” meant to be prioritized at “intersections with more than three pedestrian crashes in three years that involve turning vehicles” and “intersections with high numbers of conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles turning right.” It forces drivers to cool their heels for three seconds while pedestrians get well into the intersection.

* I also noticed this before-and-after, cycling through Humboldt Park:

chicago traffic calming

That’s the “Humboldt Drive Road Diet": “The results of the study showed that traffic on Humboldt Drive dropped by 26 percent, the 85th percentile travel speed declined by 7 percent, and there was a 58 percent reduction in drivers traveling over 35 mph. Additionally, 59 percent of people surveyed found it easier to cross Humboldt Drive when the pilot was in place.”

* One thing I’ve brought up several times is the lack of cyclist education, both in terms of cycling and driving. That’s addressed: “Develop and distribute a mobility education curriculum that teaches students how to ride a bike, be a pedestrian, and take transit, in addition to learning to drive.”

* Another thing I’ve written about is the link between crime and car crashes. It’s a phenomenon that’s been noted in other places, but no one really understands it. One of the short-term plans is to initiate a study here in Chicago by 2013 and complete it by 2015.

* My former colleagues at the Reader should be aware of one aspect of pedestrian-route planning: “require newspaper boxes and private kiosks to display a permit or license number.”

* CDOT took all the comments they received and turned them into a wordcloud. Bike-car interactions might get all the sexy high-profile complaining, but the wisdom of the crowds points to something else:

It’d work a bit better if they’d combined “crosswalk” and “crosswalks” into one term, but you get the idea. And the crowd’s pretty smart: 78 percent of pedestrian crashes from 2005-2009 happened at or near a crosswalk. A handful of streets appear: Milwaukee and Michigan totally make sense, but Addison surprised me—Cubs games, perhaps.

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