Civility was a significant factor in my family choosing to live in Oak Park [No thanks for Woodbine-Division stop sign, Viewpoints, June 30]. It was nice to live with people who were courteous, gave big hellos, and went out of their way to conform to the Oak Park culture of civility. You find civility in the village every day as long as you avoid crossing main north and south avenues (Harlem, Oak Park, Ridgeland and Austin.) There is little civility on the avenues. Horn honking, blaring radios, speeding, tailgating and unruly driving have become the norm, as has blocking east-west traffic at intersections.

Citing the deterioration in civility on the village’s avenues is not an attack on Oak Park residents. Oak Park drivers remained civil. It is just hard to pick them out of the huge increase in non-Oak Park drivers. Nonresidents account for all of the traffic increase, and I suspect most of the incivility.

Every day new drivers of cars and trucks choose our north-south path to avoid Chicago metropolitan traffic congestion. They bring with them the habits learned on urban roads and highways. That is, pedestrians are secondary to cars, and everything possible to keep them from crossing the road is acceptable. A day does not go by that I do not see several pedestrians (walkers, mothers with carriages, and the elderly with walkers, the handicapped, and the bicyclists) stranded on a street corner hoping for a break in the rush-hour traffic.

A building block of Oak Park’s civility was the residents’ desire and ability to walk rather than drive. The high number of walkers in the village is an asset. It says, “This is our home, and we are comfortable walking in our neighborhoods.” As traffic makes walking less desirable, we damage a fundamental asset of the village – civility. Once lost, it will be impossible to recover.

I wish that the Oak Park board members who voted against the Woodbine-Division stop sign had explained their votes. There was no explanation in the minutes. I would like to hear the arguments for avoiding more stop signs. I would also like to hear that rationale for not having more crossing zones on avenues. I would like to hear the rationale for not having regular traffic policing, with tickets to alert the nonresident drivers that our avenues are not their playgrounds. Finally, I would like to see the village examine all of its traffic policies with a focus on ensuring the safety of its residents and the continuance of its high standard of civility.

John Murtagh is an Oak Park resident and former chairman of the village’s Community Relations Commission. This opinion was submitted as an article comment at

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