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Editorial: Making crosswalks safer for pedestrians a good goal

Pedestrians use crosswalk Kinzie Wells 2009.  |  Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

Pedestrians use the crosswalk at Kinzie and Wells in 2009. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:24AM

Can a city that Carl Sandburg called “a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities” really be expected to start tiptoeing around pedestrians?

Can we actually take space away from our cars to make it safer and more comfortable to walk?

It sounds so much like . . . Portland. Are wheat germ kiosks next?

But a report unveiled Thursday by Chicago’s transportation chief, Gabe Klein, lays out a persuasive case for a more pedestrian-friendly city. The Chicago Pedestrian Plan includes a “Zero in Ten” goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities in 10 years and reducing serious pedestrian injuries by 50 percent every five years.

We hope the city can find the funding to make this plan a reality.

In making life easy for automobiles in the past, the city created various nightmares for those on foot. Crossing six-way intersections or expressway entrances and exits can be a tall order for even the most intrepid pedestrians.

The Chicago Pedestrian Plan has more than 250 recommendations, including “pedestrian refuge islands” to make it easier to cross busy streets and traffic lights that stop traffic in both directions while pedestrians leg it to safety. Work already is under way to mark crosswalks more clearly.

What we have now isn’t working. According to the 2011 Chicago Pedestrian Crash Analysis, about half of pedestrians struck at intersections with traffic signals were legally crossing with the signal.

And about 78 percent of crashes in Chicago involving pedestrians between 2005 and 2009 took place in or near a crosswalk.

We should encourage walking. It fights obesity. It’s environmentally friendly. And it’s a good way to get to know our city.

Right now, almost a quarter of the land in Chicago is in the public right-of-way, such as streets and alleys. With all that space, we should be able to find a little more room for pedestrians.

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