Grid Shots: Pedestrian access edition

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The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) began construction Thursday, November 10, 2011, to restore a lighted signal and crosswalk at 500 S Lake Shore Drive. 

I went on a four-hour bike ride today to gather photos of interesting things, including people walking and cycling in the 65°F warm and windy weather. I came across several places where pedestrian access had become an issue. These issues were manufactured by construction projects, clashing with the City of Chicago’s Complete Streets policy.

But I’ll start off with good news: After six years of being closed, the crosswalk across Lake Shore Drive connecting Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park to Queen’s Landing on the lakeshore will open November 25, 2011:

The crosswalk was originally installed in 1988 after a 13-year-old girl was run over and killed, only to have then-Mayor Richard M. Daley order it removed in 2005 to speed traffic flow. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Our fingers are crossed that transportation commissioner Gabe Klein will restore the missing crosswalk at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. On to the bad news.

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At the recently opened intermodal transfer center at 130 W Congress Parkway there’re two open pits with pipes sticking out of the middle. The photographed one lacks any kind of fence, barrier, or other notification. The second one has a construction sign covering the pipes but not the pit. 

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What used to be a well-constructed and designed detour for people moving west on the sidewalk at 150 W Adams Street (in front of the McDonald’s on the corner with Wells) is now a dead end with conflicting signage. I witnessed six people encounter the dead end and then cross to the south side of Adams Street, or just run in the street. The information is not provided until halfway down the block so sidewalk users cannot modify their trip before encountering the blockade. As people are like water and seek the lowest resistance path, they cross the street at the dead end and not in a marked or signalized crosswalk. 

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A fence blocks the sidewalk and disconnects two crosswalks for people moving south on the sidewalk at 1400 S Racine Avenue. The fence is part of construction for the new 12th District police station. The map below shows what’s going on. The situation is completely unknown to someone who is blind. 

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This map shows the walking conditions at 1400 S Racine. The green zone represents still-operational crosswalks. The red zone represents the part of the sidewalk connecting the two crosswalks that’s been made impassible because of the sense. The yellow zone represents the area where people who want to cross Blue Island Avenue and 14th Street will have to move. 

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This is completely unacceptable. If you cannot see the photo, here’s what’s happening: Several hundred feet west of Belmont and Broadway is a construction project to rebuild a curb, parkway, and driveways. To rebuild the driveways, two distinct segments of sidewalk were removed leaving behind a dirt pit. There is one, slightly hidden “sidewalk closed” sign at the eastern approach. There is no notification at the western approach. There are no barriers, tape, barricades, or anything of the sort to prevent people from walking or rolling into the pits. No detour for sidewalk users was provided. Several people were observed walking through the pits.

It should go without saying that none of these situations are friendly to pedestrians, especially those who are blind or have vision impairments. See the rest of my photos in this set. Submit your photos of pedestrian problem areas to our group on Flickr.

Chicago’s Complete Streets policy

“The safety and convenience of all users of the transportation system including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, freight, and motor vehicle drivers shall be accommodated and balanced in all types of transportation and development projects and through all phases of a project so that even the most vulnerable – children, elderly, and persons with disabilities – can travel safely within the public right of way” – from the City of Chicago website.

15 thoughts on “Grid Shots: Pedestrian access edition”

  1. Wells Street, just north of Lake also has construction that blocks pedestrian access. Every morning, people exiting the northwestern exist of the Clark and Lake stop jaywalk because the sidewalk is closed on one side to avoid backtracking in order to reach a crosswalk. 

    In the past, I’ve seen more egregious examples – such as roads where the sidewalk is closed due to construction, while a spot for cars to park on the side of the street remains open. Certainly as a city, we can do better. Thanks for documenting places we’re failing. 

    1. I’ve seen that no-sidewalk-but-still-parking situation before, too. On my way home from the trip I ran into a very shocking example on Belmont Avenue in Lakeview. I will post about it later today. I don’t even think I will include words (actually I will so blind readers can understand). 

      If it was less windy yesterday, I would have been able to spend less time pedaling against the wind and more time visiting places like Wells and Lake. 

    2. I’ve seen that no-sidewalk-but-still-parking situation before, too. On my way home from the trip I ran into a very shocking example on Belmont Avenue in Lakeview. I will post about it later today. I don’t even think I will include words (actually I will so blind readers can understand). 

      If it was less windy yesterday, I would have been able to spend less time pedaling against the wind and more time visiting places like Wells and Lake. 

  2. Nice work, John. I think it’s often easier for people to see and understand obstructions to safe urban passage when the issue is explained in terms of pedestrian access. The issues are similar for cyclists, but photos like those you’ve posted clearly show the negative impact on non-motorized access poor planning of construction projects can have.

  3. Well done.  I’ve been frustrated with that section of Congress for months now.  Since I use LaSalle St. station a lot to reach many different destinations, I was thrilled to see the new multimodal connection opened, only to find that one connection I’d like to use (taking the sidewalk to the nearest blue line entrance) was still under construction and unusable all summer.  I’m glad that the sidewalk is FINALLY open, but leaving those unfinished hazards unprotected is inexcusable.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had to run ridiculously fast in rainy or icy conditions, dodging cabs on LaSalle, to connect from the blue line to the Rock Island, barely making the train or just missing it.  I’m glad that the new connection will be available this winter.

    If only they’d restore that missing crosswalk at Randolph and Michigan…

    1. Speaking of missing crosswalks, I realized in my trip around downtown yesterday that there are other locations with missing crosswalks (although not necessarily the case where one was removed). At Indiana and Roosevelt, you can only cross Roosevelt on the west side of the intersection. There’s an extended landscaped median on the east side with a sign that says, “No pedestrian crossing”.

      As for that sidewalk on Congress Parkway between the LaSalle Blue Line and LaSalle Metra, did you notice the height of the barrier above the curb? I think it’s too low for the speed of traffic there. The roadway has been narrowed slightly, so the sidewalk could be widened. I don’t know what effect this will have on traffic speeds, or the likelihood that a driver “exits the roadway“.

      1. Drivers coming off the Ike move as such high speeds coming into this area.  The possibility of a car coming onto the sidewalk there is a scary one, since the speed would probably be high enough to guarantee a pedestrian fatality, or life-changing injuries.  I’m not sure if that barrier height is enough to protect people on the sidewalk.

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