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City aims to end pedestrian deaths over next decade

Updated: October 7, 2012 8:06AM

The city unveiled Thursday its first-ever pedestrian safety plan, which includes more than 250 recommendations Chicago’s transportation chief hopes will eliminate all pedestrian fatalities in 10 years.

If funded, the “Zero in Ten” program would annually identify two high crash corridors and four intersections and then implement safety improvements, like adding in
more red light or speed cameras.

Other safety improvements include adding leading pedestrian intervals at locations with high pedestrian volumes or at locations where pedestrians were injured by turning vehicles within the last three years.

It could also include changing left-turn lanes for cars to “lagging” lanes — meaning cars would have to wait until pedestrians walk though before they are able to turn.

The city says the change worked at Huron Street and Fairbanks Court in Streeterville, where vehicles were unable to turn left because pedestrians were crossing during the entire green phase. When the lagging left turn phase was installed, pedestrians crossed safely with their walk signal and the issues with the vehicles bunching up disappeared.

The improvements range from low-cost, like installing pedestrian countdown signals, to high-cost, like putting streets on “road diets” to reduce the amount of space for cars by either eliminating lanes or shrinking the width of lanes.

Gabe Klein, commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, says the goal of eliminating all pedestrian fatalities is feasible.

“We want to set an aggressive goal that forces us in every element of our job to look at pedestrian safety and make
it everything we do,”
Klein said. “If at the end of the day, two people are killed, heaven forbid, vs. zero, I will still feel like we made huge, huge progress.”

Other guidelines include improving safety for seniors by increasing the amount of crossing time at signalized intersections within 1/8-mile of a senior center or hospital, to implementing safety zones within 1/8-mile of a school or park.

How can these guidelines get funding? Some safety improvements are being added to existing resurfacing projects. The department also is looking at implementing new standards for developers as they begin major street projects and also will be working to develop an annual budget for the projects.

Klein calls the sweep-ing plan “a roadmap to make this city a more liveable city across the board.”

“At the end of the day, everybody is a pedestrian,” Klein said. “...Everybody should be invested in this plan.”

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