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Pedestrians get green light to criss-cross one of city’s busiest intersections

PDF: New traffic crossing configuration

PDF: New traffic crossing configuration

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Updated: July 2, 2013 7:49AM

In a scene out of Japan, or even L.A., Chicago will debut its all-way pedestrian crossing after the morning rush on Friday.

For 35 seconds at a time, pedestrians at Jackson and State — one of the city’s busiest intersections — will be free to cross in all directions, including diagonally.

In some cities, it’s called the pedestrian scramble, or the “Barnes Dance,” named after famed traffic engineer Henry Barnes.

All drivers and bicyclists will get a red light at the same time to allow pedestrians on both Jackson and State to cross at the same time, in all directions.

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein called the busy intersection, which sees more than 41,600 pedestrians and 20,500 vehicles crossing a day — the “perfect location for us to test this here in Chicago.”

“We are trying to prioritize the safety of pedestrians because unlike the people in the cars, they don’t have 3,500 pounds of steel around them,” Klein said. “…We’re looking at this as an opportunity to clean up the operations of the intersection, and we think traffic will flow better.”

The city will monitor the crossing for six months, in person and via camera. Traffic aides will help direct traffic beginning Friday.

Klein said the crossing worked to help make a Washington D.C. intersection safer.

Seventh and H was one of D.C.’s worst pedestrian crash locations, and crashes were “virtually eliminated” after the intersection became an all-way pedestrian crossing, he said.

As part of the new plan, crosswalks will be striped on all four corners, and diagonally. There will be eight seconds of “Walk” time, 24 seconds of “Don’t Walk” time, and three seconds of all-red time to clear the intersection, the department said.

Here’s how things will change for drivers: Cars won’t be able to make turns, which the city says will eliminate conflict between pedestrians and cars.

Ethan Spotts, spokesman for the Active Transportation Alliance says he hopes the plan will spread to other intersections.

“Putting in crosswalks like this will help keep people safer and also allows vehicles to move more freely,” Spotts said. Still, he added, “There’s always a chance that people will be confused, but drivers will know what to do. They’ll have a red light, in all directions and they’ll stop, and that will allow people to cross.”

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