Highlights from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan


A Metra train crosses Canal Street, while a person waits to cross the tracks. Photo taken by ryanbytes. 

Our article on Monday discussed some highlights and shortcomings in the Pedestrian Plan, released last week. This post spotlights more of the smart objectives and features in the plan. It additionally features ideas that have been on the books for a while, with little progress made. It helps to have the Chicago Pedestrian Plan open while you read this post; the plan isn’t available as a website.

The previous post listed improving expressway entrances (mainly near train stations, p.73-75), six-way intersections (p.69-71), and developing standards for the pedestrian experience within parking lots (p.76). Each tool or strategy below summarizes the aim of each in “What it says” but isn’t a complete representation of the milestones or action items for that tool or strategy.

Mobility education, 53

What it says: “Develop and distribute a mobility education curriculum that teaches students how to ride a bike, be a pedestrian, and take transit, in addition to learning to drive [by 2015].”

What’s not explained is who will be adopting the mobility education curriculum that will be developed. Is it the Secretary of State, or private driving schools in the city? Mobility education wouldn’t be absolutely necessary for all state residents applying for a driver’s license, but could be designated only for those in urban areas, like Chicagoland. Another action item is to work with the Secretary of State’s office “to increase the amount of pedestrian topics covered in driver education, licensing exams, and traffic school curriculum”.

Open Streets, 96

What it says: Hold at least three Open Streets events in 2013, six in 2014, and nine in 2015.

We support this. It says “identify public and private funding sources” – some public sources would have been useful in 2008, 2009, and 2011, as well as the gap year of 2010.

Incorporate health impact assessment, 101

What it says: “Health impact assessments (HIA) are a method that many cities use to measure a project’s effect on health.”

Some of the HIA work should have been done before the release of the plan to express the potential impact of each of the pedestrian safety tools.

Tool: Marked crosswalks

What it says: “Marked crosswalks should be installed at all legs of signalized and stop-controlled intersections. To ensure high visibility among all roadway users, the default style for marked crosswalks will be the continental style…”

Lots of crosswalks have been installed this year with two parallel stripes instead of the new standard “international” style of parallel stripes in a series (also called continental, zebra, or ladder). We are still waiting for a response from the Chicago Department of Transportation on when exactly international style crosswalks were made a standard.

Additionally, the graphic shows the international crosswalk design as having 2 feet wide stripes with a 2 feet wide gap between them. This is presumed to be part of the standard design, which isn’t evident in some of the international-style crosswalks that have been installed recently in Chicago.

Improve at-grade railroad crossings, 67

What it says: Identify ownership at all pedestrian crossings at railroads; make specific upgrades to pedestrian railroad crossings; monitor future technology.

Once the owner of the railroad at each crossing has been identified, a permanent sign should be erected at each crossing viewable to the public. This creates a publicly accessible database, so no one agency has to be relied upon to know the owner of each railroad crossing, which would be particular benefit to people who are injured at these crossings (there was a railroad crossing pedestrian fatality this year). It would also give the public the opportunity to contact the railroad to report issues at the crossing.

Tool: Skinny streets, 29

Read Strategies in the Pedestrian Plan: Skinny streets for more discussion on this concept.

16 thoughts on “Highlights from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan”

    1. I guess I’m confused, too. I would bet that people at CDOT know about that web tool to search for grade crossings, but maybe it’s not the most accessible way to get the information.

      What do you think about my suggestion to publicly identify the owner? I do see this at many grade crossings; there’s often a sign with a phone number for the relevant railroad police agency.

  1. On the topic of Marked Crosswalks: The most recent City of Chicago Typical Pavement Markings Detail (TC-24, revised 02/28/2012) shows that the “current standard” is 2′ lines, 2′ apart (either 6′ or 8′ wide) and the “old crosswalk standard” was a either 1′ line 2′ apart or 6″ lines. My guess is that it might take some concerted effort to make sure that all contractors (and engineers overseeing their work) are aware of the new standard and stop just “doing what we have always done”.

    1. Where does this information come from?

      That revision date was essentially what I asked CDOT spokesperson Pete Scales about and he hasn’t responded. There have been many crosswalks installed since that time (February 28, 2012) that don’t meet that standard.

      1. I work as Transportation Engineer and have access to the IDOT District One Details, which include City of Chicago Typical Pavement Markings Detail. I agree there are several crosswalks near me (on Sheridan south of Belmont) that were installed very recently that do not adhere to the new standard (some where even installed with the dual 6″ lines). Again, I think the problem is that the information has not be properly disseminated to the contractors, who continue to work on auto-pilot unaware there was a change to the standard.

        1. If it’s their responsibility to be aware of the change, then it should be their responsibility to remove the old-style striping and replacing it. Their job should be done according to the standards of the day.

          1. The difference in visibility between the old standard and new standard are minimal (at best), so there is not a safety risk to leave the old markings in place. Both the new and old standards fall within MUTCD guidance (Section 3B.18, Paragraph 15: If used, the diagonal or longitudinal lines should be 12 to 24 inches wide and separated by gaps of 12 to 60 inches. The design of the lines and gaps should avoid the wheel paths if possible, and the gap between the lines should not exceed 2.5 times the width of the diagonal or longitudinal lines). The contractor is usually given the option to repair the markings per the appropriate standard or refund the municipality the cost, and with pavement markings the contractor is more likely to refund the cost (unless they can prove they were not appropriately informed of the standard, i.e. it was not included in the contract documents).

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