Wednesday Journal reported that Oak Park has been ranked as one of Cook County’s most dangerous suburbs for walkers and cyclists. [Is Oak Park perilous for pedestrians? News, April 1] The article references street design, enforcement and education as playing a role in the “walkability” of a community. True enough. But there are two structural changes that could be made to ameliorate the problem.
First, the mid-block crosswalks should be eliminated. They are inherently dangerous because most drivers are not familiar with what they are and that automobiles are supposed to stop when a pedestrian wants to cross the street. And the mid-block crosswalks induce pedestrians to step out into the street impetuously, catching a driver by surprise and after it is too late for the driver to safely stop. The burden on pedestrians of having to cross a street at a stoplight outweighs the danger of the mid-block crosswalks.
Second, the stoplights in Oak Park should be calibrated so that the “walk” lights turn on at the appropriate time without the pedestrian having to push the walk button. In most communities, the walk light automatically comes on when the traffic light turns green. People who are not familiar with Oak Park’s system are likely to wait through several light changes for the walk light to come on, conclude that it is malfunctioning and then just take their chances to cross on the next green light, not being aware that there are left-turners who have the green arrow and may mow them down.