Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chicago Tuesdays: Hey, Do You KNOW That I'm Walking Here?

Though the new pedestrian crossing law passed during the Summer here in Illinois, you wouldn't know it if you walked out in traffic. Or watched tv. Or were a driver...

The old law:
When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

The new law (as the Chicago Tribune describes it):
Drivers must stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks — even those that are unmarked or don't have a stop sign or a traffic signal. The penalty for failing to stop is a traffic citation of $50 to $500. Fines vary by county.

If the old law led to confusion among drivers about when to stop (and few had been obeying even that law), the new law merely exponentially compounds that confusion because of a fundamental lack of communication about the existence of this new law and the non-existence of its enforcement. There are no road signs. There are no cops on stake out. There are no print, radio, tv, internet ads warning about this change. And the fines are - although a pretty sum to pay if not expecting it - not the most prohibitive. There is no dialog on this because so few people know about it, so I'd be foolish to expect a culture change anytime soon or even within the distant future.

About the only place where one can find mention of the new pedestrian laws are just a few newspaper articles. That's all the news I could find on this subject. But those few mentions have emboldened fellow walkers like myself. And, of course, almost get us run over in the process. Certainly cussed at. But definitely less safe.

A few questions:
  • Seeing how this law is very lax in enforcement, doesn't this give police more power to justify random stops, further complicating their relationships with the communities they're charged to serve?
  • Seeing as how Illinois is not the only state to have this new supposedly walker-friendly law in place (if not effect), how have other states educated and enforced this?
  • More to the point, how do budget-crisis states deal with the need to clarify and enforce this law?

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