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.”
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.
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.