Is anybody actually using Chicago’s new pedestrian safety flags?


Flags at Francisco and Devon – all photos courtesy of CDOT, taken the day the flags were installed

[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

This fall the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) used a shock-and-awe strategy to raise awareness of pedestrian safety issues. As part of its $495,000 “It’s Up To You” safety campaign, funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CDOT placed scary ads on trash receptacles and buses, illustrating the devastating effects of reckless driving. The department also installed 32 dead-white mannequins along Wacker Drive representing Chicagoans killed by cars last year.

CDOT’s latest ped safety initiative is also in-your-face, but in a kinder, gentler way. On December 8 the department zip-tied canisters of blaze-orange safety flags to poles at ten uncontrolled (no stoplight or stop sign) intersections near senior centers, schools and hospitals all over town. Since state law requires cars to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, you’re supposed to grab a flag, wave it to signal drivers to stop, cross the street and leave the pennant in the container on the other side.

On the Monday three days after the flags were installed, I visited locations around the city to find out whether people were actually using the flags, or just stealing them.

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