Eyes on the street: No pedestrian access at intersections


At the southeast corner of Madison and Green Streets. Fortunately, only 1 corner was impassable. The same isn’t true for some of the other intersections under construction. 

Does your neighborhood look like this?

Across the northwest side, including Logan Square, Avondale and West Loop, many intersections and alleys are having their curb cuts rebuilt to be compliant with transportation standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At all of the construction sites I’ve passed by, none have alternate access or signage for pedestrians, forcing people’s paths to divert into the street and into traffic.


At the southeast corner of Diversey and Kedzie Avenues. This corner was completely non-barricaded at the time of the photo. 

The issue with all of the locations pictured here is that none were signed as having closed sidewalks at any location where it would be useful to have such information (i.e. where one could make a legal crossing, in the crosswalk without walking through people’s yards or between cars), and none were barricaded for the blind, that is, a bar 6 inches above the ground for those who use detection canes.


At the intersection of Fletcher Street and Francisco Avenue. All four corners are under construction and the final concrete is being laid today, 10 days after the below-standard barricading of the intersection. 

The Chicago Pedestrian Plan, released in September 2012, lists the “short term action” to “Require a 4′ travel path at all locations” (primary locations in the “Central Business District, Pedestrian Streets, and other locations with high pedestrian volumes” “require a minimum 6′ travel path be maintained for any full or partial closure of a sidewalk”).

None of this should be new information to construction workers and the engineers designing the construction work to be carried out. All of the rationale and requirements have been laid out for years, in various guidelines and documents, including the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), 2009 edition. Here are some excerpts:

  • “Standard: Advance notification of sidewalk closures shall be provided by the maintaining agency.” None was provided. From section 6D.01.
  • It must be recognized that pedestrians are reluctant to retrace their steps to a prior intersection for a crossing or to add distance or out-of-the-way travel to a destination. Section 6D.01.
  • Standard: Where pedestrians with visual disabilities normally use the closed sidewalk, a barrier that is detectable by a person with a visual disability traveling with the aid of a long cane shall be placed across the full width of the closed sidewalk. Section 6D.02.
  • Pedestrians should not be led into conflicts with vehicles moving through or around the worksite. Section 6D.01.
  • Pedestrians should be provided with a convenient and accessible path that replicates as nearly as practical the most desirable characteristics of the existing sidewalk(s) or footpath(s). Section 6D.01.
  • “Unless an acceptable route that does not involve crossing the roadway can be provided, pedestrians should be appropriately directed with advance signing that encourages them to cross to the opposite side of the roadway.” None of the intersections above had this. Section 6D.01.
  • Individual channelizing devices, tape or rope used to connect individual devices, other discontinuous barriers and devices, and pavement markings are not detectable by persons with visual disabilities and are incapable of providing detectable path guidance on temporary or realigned sidewalks or other pedestrian facilities. Section 6F.74. [emphasis added]

16 thoughts on “Eyes on the street: No pedestrian access at intersections”

  1. CDOT and CPD could really care less about pedestrian safety. Start talking about how pedestrians and cyclists can obtain supplementary insurance.

      1. Good. Obviously, pedestrians and cyclists need it, as well as some miracle by which CPD would actually care enough to give more than lip service to traffic violators.

  2. The standard used in Illinois for Sidewalk Closure as provided by IDOT: http://www.dot.il.gov/desenv/hwystds/Rev213/Revision%20213%20pdfs/213-701801-05_SidewalCornerOrCrosswalkClosure.pdf

    This is the most common traffic control standard to be ignored during construction, yet is probably the easiest to implement. Unfortunately, in order to be implemented properly, the contractor would likely only be able to do one side of the street at a time (unlike your example at Fletcher Street and Francisco Avenue). It feels like the rational is to get the work does as fast as possible to minimize impact, rather than establish the proper traffic control. Note that this only appears to be the case for locations outside of the CBD. Locations in loop with ramp replacement always have a proper diversion route setup.

    It should also be noted that there are possibly OSHA standard violations depending on how tall the vertical drop-off is (such as the first photos). I am not up to date on the current regulations, but at a certain distance an actual fence is required to protect the public.

    1. It was only in the last 2-4 years that sidewalk/curb ramp construction in the Chicago CBD was done correctly, with barricaded diversions and ramps. Before that conditions were just as bad.
      It’s only today, day 10 of construction, that Fletcher Street and Francisco Avenue is receiving its (likely) last concrete delivery.

  3. I’ve noticed that all of the sudden a ton of construction has started in the last month, where there was little over the summer. Did appeals finally complete on the Wirtz lawsuit that was hanging up infrastructure money? That was my guess.

  4. In the last few years, it seems that more and more street and sidewalk reconstruction has happened from late August to early November. Nearly all the repaving projects done in my neighborhood this year have happened in the last 6 weeks.

    Last winter, with the relatively mild, dry weather, I saw a surprising number of ADA curb cut installations done in the middle of winter in my neighborhood. We’re talking January. Does anyone know if doing concrete and asphalt installation in temps around 25-30 has any effect on the longevity of those surfaces?

    1. Buildings using concrete are constructed year round. Set recipies based on temperatures ensure proper curing.

  5. From the terms of the $50 million City of Chicago ADA-sidewalk settlement:

    “If anyone fails to get a satisfactory result or if the City doesn’t do it correctly, send an email to ted@wamlaw.com or cdr@disabilityrights.org

    Maybe another $50 million payout will get their attention? Or the City could make doing the right thing a priority and these problems wouldn’t happen. Poor or non-existent ADA compliance comes from apathy or negligence in city leadership, not rogue construction companies or apathetic workers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *