Walkability in the western suburbs


The intersection of Schaumburg and Barrington Roads in Schaumburg, Illinois, does not have painted crosswalks or crosswalk signals. The crossing distance is 100 feet, without a median. There are intersections that do, but perhaps not the ones that are the most difficult to cross. 

Recent pedestrian fatalities have illustrated how dangerous the western suburbs can be for pedestrians.

On October 17, a 30-year old man was struck and killed by a driver traveling southbound on Roselle Road, near Kingsport Drive, in Schaumburg (mapDaily Herald, Chicago Tribune). The nearest signalized crossings for pedestrians are 1/4 mile to the north, and 1/4 to the south, of this location.

Two weeks later, a 69-year old man was struck and killed by a driver traveling southbound on Glen Ellyn Road, near Winthrop Road, in Carol Stream (mapDaily Herald, Carol Stream Press).

Both accidents took place after sunset, during the evening. No citations were issued to the drivers in either incident. The similarities in both incidents reflect how the built environment of the suburbs leads to dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

Both Glen Ellyn Road and Schaumburg Road have four lanes (two in each direction); the former carries just over 20,000 vehicles daily, while the latter just over 30,000 vehicles. However, only Schaumburg Road has even a median for pedestrians to wait before completing their crossing. Glen Ellyn Road lacks both a median and street lighting, while Schaumburg Road has street lighting on the west side of the street. The speed limit on both streets is 40 MPH, a speed likely reached in both incidents due to their distances from the nearest traffic signal.

Walking in the suburbs, and particularly the western suburbs, is difficult, because many amenities are well over a 30 minute walk away. Both of these cases show that walking across the street can be deadly for those that are trying to get to the corner store or restaurant across the street.

There are multiple difficulties involved when trying to improve conditions for pedestrians in suburban areas. Suburban areas can be large in area, but have a relatively small tax base compared to a similar sized area in the city. As a result, suburban governments often lack funding for making changes in infrastructure that benefit pedestrians. Multiple agencies are often responsible for poor conditions at the edges of suburban communities, and there is a lack of political will and coordination to make these fixes.

There is also a large cultural barrier to promoting non-vehicular modes of transportation. 92% of the population in Schaumburg commutes to work via a car, while 96% of the working age population in Glendale Heights commutes to work in a car (American Community Survey).

6 thoughts on “Walkability in the western suburbs”

  1. It’s very much a problem in the Southwest suburbs as well. I like Mokena because they seem to love road diets anywhere near downtown, but look at a road like LaGrange. I won’t go near it walking or by bike.

    Near the Oak Forest Metra I’ve seen people walking down the median on one of those four lane monstrosities because of the lack of sidewalks.

    Cicero, even in city limits has sidewalks that come and go.

      1. The satellite image is showing sidewalks where I thought I saw it. I’ll look for it again when I ride the Metra monday.

    1. I took the Rock Island Metra line to Oak Forest recently with my golf clubs, and walked 1-1/4 miles to the Geo Dunne golf course.  I found 159th St to have very decent sidewalk access directly from the Metra platform.   I walked sidewalks west to Ridgeland Av and picked up the bike path that goes south directly to the golf course entrance.  Just for fun, on the way back I walked east on 163rd St to the end, jumped a 2′ creek, and scrambled up to the Metra tracks which I walked NE to the platform.  On the way I saw several other pedestrians utilizing the railroad right-of-way, which is usually shorter since it cuts diagonally across the grid. But most major streets in that area seem to have sidewalks, so I don’t know why people would have been on the median.

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