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New child safety zones open near schools

New signs W. 63rd St. S. Claremont Ave. Chicago Ill. Thursday September 27 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

New signs at W. 63rd St. and S. Claremont Ave. in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, September 27, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:59AM

As children chased each other in an elementary school playground during recess Thursday, nearby speeding drivers stopped at a newly installed stop for pedestrians sign as a woman and her child crossed a dangerous intersection.

The kids at Claremont Academy on the border of West Englewood and Chicago Lawn have the ominous full view of the street that recorded 32 crashes involving minors between 2008 and 2010, with 16 of those involving pedestrians and bicyclists that were hit by motor vehicles.

On Thursday, city transportation chief Gabe Klein and Ald. Toni Foulkes showed off the intersection as the first of 1,500 children’s safety zones installed within 1/8 mile of a school or park. The zones are targeting areas with histories of a high number of crashes involving pedestrians and children.

It now has “traffic calming” devices, like a pedestrian refuge island where pedestrians crossing the street can stop, just in case cars do not stop for them. Pedestrian crashes have decreased by 56 percent in multilane roads with refuge islands, the Federal Highway Administration said.

Also on 63rd Street, the city installed two “speed feedback” signs — the signs that register your speed limit. It didn’t stop some drivers on Thursday. A minivan sped by the 20 mph sign at 30 mph.

Ald. Foulkes said she was nearly hit on 63rd Street near the school several years ago when a driver misdirected his turn and almost swerved into her.

She says traffic safety requests are common for 15th Ward residents, whose top requests are speed bumps to calm speeds on one-way streets.

“That was the biggest thing,” Foulkes said. “ ‘We want speed bumps.’ ”

Foulkes says it is the cheapest option on the aldermanic menu to increase pedestrian safety: “The front speed bumps, the alley speed bumps, those are $1,000,” Foulkes said. “Everyone who asks for them, I give it to them.”

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