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New DOT plan includes more protection for Chicago's pedestrians

A city's pedestrians are its most vulnerable road users, often rendered defenseless in the path of negligent motorists. Decisions that affect transportation and safety are typically made with motorists in mind, sometimes leading to infrastructure and policy that shortchange pedestrians.

Chicago is looking to shed that motorist-centric mentality with a new plan aimed at improving walkability. The Department of Transportation hopes to put the city's sidewalk users front and center, shooting for a goal of no pedestrian deaths in the city.

"Everyone in the city is a pedestrian," pointed out the director of the Chicago Department of Transportation. The city has identified a number of improvements that will, officials hope, reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Their plan includes a strategy for identifying and making improvements to two dangerous corridors and four collision-prone intersections every year. It also provides for structural changes like:

  • traffic lights that give pedestrians a head start at intersections
  • re-striped crosswalks that are more visible to motorists
  • roundabouts
  • added speed bumps to control drivers' speeds
  • pedestrian islands in the middle of multiple-lane roads

The plan also involves aggressive enforcement of traffic laws and improved education for motorists. In addition, a variety of measures protect elderly pedestrians and children in school zones. Chicago's 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis showed that seniors and children between the ages of 15 and 18 are at increased risk of being struck by a vehicle while walking.

This initiative is not the city's first stride in pedestrian safety. 2009 motor vehicle accident statistics showed pedestrian deaths at their lowest in 16 years with a total of 34. Serious injuries caused by crashes fell 20 percent between 2006 and 2009, down to 503.

Even with ongoing safety improvements, pedestrians can be endangered by negligent motorists. If you or a loved one have been injured in such an accident, a qualified personal injury attorney may be able to help.

Source: Streetsblog, "Chicago Unveils Its Ambitious Pedestrian Safety Plan," Angie Schmitt, Sep. 6, 2012

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