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Evanston Considers Speed Cameras Among New Pedestrian Safety Measures

Car accidents involving pedestrians in Evanston are declining, according to city staff, but more improvements are planned. Ald. Melissa Wynne suggested that the city investigate the cost of speed cameras.

While the number of car crashes involving pedestrians has decreased steadily in the past several years, the city believes there’s more work to be done.

Aldermen discussed several measures designed to increase pedestrian safety, particularly in school zones, at Monday night’s city council meeting.  Radar speed displays, a citywide speed limit of 25 miles per hour and sidewalk bump-outs are all on the list of possible improvements. Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward) also suggested that city staff should investigate the cost of speed cameras. 

“I’m not necessarily an advocate of it. I think that there are other ways we can slow traffic down,” Wynne said. “But if we have chronic speeding, then maybe that’s what we have to look at.” 

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The city of Chicago recently approved a controversial ordinance to allow speed cameras within one-eighth of a mile of parks and schools. Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit filed the same day argues that Chicago’s speed camera program would be illegal.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward), said she was familiar with the use of speed cameras in Switzerland. 

“For even mild-mannered Switzerland, people get incredibly angry,” Fiske said. “I’ve seen them shot out.”

But, she, too, said she would like to explore maintenance costs of speed cameras in Evanston.

Excluding car accidents that happened on private property and in alleys, there were 52 accidents involving pedestrians in 2011, down from 55 in 2010 and 67 in 2009, according to Public Works Director Suzette Robinson, who presented a report on pedestrian safety to the city council at the meeting. In 2011, some of the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians were Green Bay Road and Central Street, Davis Street and Ridge Avenue, and several intersections along Chicago Avenue.

The city is planning improvements at some of those intersections, including work to improve pedestrian visibility at Davis and Ridge, where 7 pedestrian accidents occurred last year. Public works crews have also installed countdown walk signals in several locations.

In addition to improvements at signalized intersections, Evanston will also be targeting uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, or crossings where there are no streetlights and walk signs.

“The two vulnerable groups in our community are the children and the seniors,” Robinson said. Evanston has 17 designated school crossings, 3 senior crossings and 11 park crossings, all of which already have pedestrian crossing signs and reflective markings on the sidewalk, among other safety measures.

But Robinson recommended that the city form a committee to evaluate further steps Evanston can take to improve pedestrian safety at uncontrolled crossings. That committee would consist of a traffic consultant and members of the public works department, the police department and Northwestern University’s traffic safety institute.

Robinson suggested several areas for the committee to study, including a review of the city’s safe walk routes to schools, an evaluation of crossing guard placements, permanent radar speed displays, sidewalk bump-outs and a reduction of speed limit to 25 miles per hour on all major streets.

To improve safety at school crossings in particular, engineers hired by the city will begin a study of school walk routes this fall, and Robinson said the city hopes to implement the recommendations by 2013. The city is working with District 65 schools and PTAs to develop the best routes for students who walk, and to make that information public.

“It’s not enough to educate the kids, we also have to educate the parents,” Robinson noted.

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th ward), requested that the city look into adding a school crossing at Oakton Street and Barton Avenue, where as she crossed the street near in late May. The district has said the school crossings should be at Ridge Avenue and at Asbury Avenue, but Burrus said she believed many students weren’t walking that far.

“Many of the kids are crossing at Barton, and we need to find a way to make it safer,” she said. “Looking at the safe routes to schools, I don’t think it addresses the real migration.”

In addition to improvements at school crosswalks, the city also piloting a flag crossing system, at a park crossing near and at a couple of crosswalks on Sheridan Road. Pedestrians pick up a flag, hanging from a pole on one side of the crosswalk, and wave it to get traffic to stop.

“The kids love it,” Robinson noted.

Once the evaluation committee is formed, the city will hold a community meeting in mid to late July to discuss the preliminary findings. Robinson said the committee would tentatively present a final report to the council at a special meeting on Aug. 6, with the goal of completing as many of the recommendations as possible before the beginning of the school year.

Jim June 19, 2012 at 07:06 PM
The facts suggest speed cameras do not improve safety. They do improve revenue. And if they work as well as the cross walk stop signs, they will cause more not fewer accidents. Another example of emotional decision making. There is no end to the stupidity.
Lightsleeper June 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
The purpose of speed cameras should be to remove habitual speeders from behind the wheel. Swift, certain consequences are what modify behavior. Evanston, don't train motorists to look for signs, flags, or paint on the street. They must look for PEDESTRIANS. Already few enough motorists understand that pedestrians have the right of way at every intersection.
Dan June 19, 2012 at 10:41 PM
@Jim Add speed cameras and raise the speeding fee in school zones 4x the typical rate. Make the corrective stick large enough and people will slow down. As an added bonus use the revenue to go 100% to fund school programs. Win - Win.
Richard Schulte June 20, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Thumbs down. This is just about increasing revenue without raising taxes. We already have speed limit laws-why not just enforce these laws.
Jim June 20, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Cameras, metal detectors, speed bumps, drones, every call recorded, GPS tracking, implanted chips, ankle bracelets, the city protecting us from tilted kilts and beer, awards for whistle blowers, referendums without accurate information. It is so good to live in a free society!
Chris Ernst June 20, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Legislation has a point of diminishing returns that some say we have passed long ago. The fact is that you cannot legislate common sense. No matter how many laws you create, there are always going to be distracted motorists, clueless pedestrians with earphones, and bicyclists who think they are above the traffic laws. I'm willing to bet that lowering the speed limit will actually increase level of frustration and accidents rather than increasing public safety. Spend a little money on the most dangerous intersections and stop throwing laws and money randomly in the name of protecting public safety. If there is a troublesome intersection, fix it. But don't for a minute think that you are going to legislate common sense into all drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
Joshua Bernstein June 20, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Jim, that's a wonderful litany of what's wrong with society. Perhaps you'd care to explain that all to the parents of the little girl who was run down by a motorist while crossing in the marked crosswalk on Oakton during the last week of school.
Jim Osburn June 20, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Jim is right, Josh, you are just pandering. Of course a child being killed or injured is deplorable, but let's find out the reason, not just jump to conclusions. The overpowering need to control everything and everyone is alive and well in Evanston! We need to stop electing politicians with OCD.
Lightsleeper June 20, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Levying fines against people for antisocial behavior has several bad effects: (1) It incentivizes government to institute lucrative penalties, (2) it creates a transactional mindset among citizens: "I've paid my ticket, so now I'm absolved of blame." (3) It is a toothless deterrent for the wealthy. What's necessary is to revoke driving privileges for repeat speeding offenders, and to create a reasonable citywide speed limit so there is no ambiguity. The idea that we should slow down in a school zone is silly political pandering: if that's the safe speed limit for pedestrian/vehicle interactions, it should be in effect everywhere and all the time.
Earl Weiss June 20, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Dan, I guess you didn't know, Evanston already did this . The School zone speeding fine is $500.00. http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=7300783 This is insulting to the public when revenue measures are misnamed or pushed on the pretense of safety. It's like adding a "Sewer Fee" to water bills based on water usage without accounting for things like landscape usage. Than again, if there isn't a lot of public outcry about these insults perhaps the politicians have accurately pegged the intelligence level of the public.
Jim June 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Josh, My point is that if the government tries to protect everyone all of the time from every risk and stupidity, freedom disappears. Maybe it would be better if we try to reduce the amount of stupidity, self importance and carelessness. Anyway, it is all self limiting. Read Malthus.
Richard Schulte June 20, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Chris Ernst: "The fact is that you cannot legislate common sense." You can't say it any better than that.
millie June 20, 2012 at 07:42 PM
While they discuss the installing of Speed Cameras They also need to figureout how to stop people from ignoring the way traffic is flowing,teach what the signs that say walk and DoNotWalk mean. Not run into traffic.
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Stephen July 04, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Speed scameras are NOT about safety. Heck even the City of Chicago 60% "safety" claims on scameras were found to be highly dubious. See: http://theexpiredmeter.com/2012/03/tribune-hammers-citys-pedestrian-fatality-claims/ or http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-14/news/ct-met-speed-cameras-statistics-20120314_1_red-light-cameras-emanuel-administration-traffic-deaths http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-emanuel-speed-camera-records-20120212,0,1891436.story www.banthecams.org www.motorists.org camerafraud on Facebook

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