TagChicago Pedestrian Plan

Let’s get rid of beg buttons

As much as you may believe, because you encounter them so rarely, Chicago indeed has several types of “beg buttons”. This is a mechanism wherein a person walking along a street must apply to cross another street. You are begging for permission. They are not popular, many are not even hooked up anymore, and they don’t call the pedestrian signal any sooner (their purpose is to make the green traffic signal long enough for a person to cross).

Jan Gehl et. al. succinctly demonstrate in Cities for People the opposing methods of telling a person when they can cross the street (meaning cross traffic has been halted).

The 2013 Chicago Complete Streets Design Guidelines and 2012 Pedestrian Plan reorients the city to prefer facilitating and encouraging transportation by foot over all other modes of travel.

The Pedestrian Plan says that beg buttons should have an LED light that indicates to the pusher that the button has been pushed. (The Pedestrian Plan also calls “traffic signals” a high cost pedestrian safety tool, alongside the high cost of “pedestrian hybrid beacons” and the medium cost of “rectangular rapid flash beacons”. Slow traffic, on the other hand, doesn’t have an operating cost, but it definitely has a “we’re getting there cost”.)

The Plan also says to get rid of them “except for locations where they are necessary to bring up a WALK phases for pedestrians” and without saying what makes it necessary to bring up a WALK phase (versus always having a WALK phase for that direction of traffic) and if that “necessary” is aligned with the Complete Streets Design Guidelines’ paradigm shift. Systematically removing inoperable ones is a separate, medium term milestone (alongside developing a location database).

The CSDG thankfully considers many other realities in Chicago that go against the new transportation paradigm that puts the pedestrian first. For example, it calls for the systematic removal of all slip lanes – none of which I’ve heard or seen removed in the year since CDOT created the guidelines.

Untitled

I want the city to systematically remove all beg buttons. If the green signal is too short for a person to cross the street, then it’s probably too short for a bicyclist to cross in the green signal (yes, this exists in Chicago). It also means the street is too wide to foster it being a place over being a pipe for cars. And if it’s not a place, what is it and why are people walking there? What personal needs – like a job, food, and socializing – are not being fulfilled where they live that people have to cross this road to meet those needs?

Updated March 10 at 12:56 to clarify what the Pedestrian Plan says about beg buttons.

Links between pedestrian safety and crime

Chicago Pedestrian Plan

Safety item 20: Analyze the relationship between pedestrian safety and crime (download the plan)

The 2011 Chicago Pedestrian Crash Analysis identified a strong correlation between community areas with high numbers of pedestrian crashes and community areas with high crime rates. Correlation does not indicate causation and further study is necessary to understand this relationship and the potential broader benefits of pedestrian safety improvements. [From page 62 in the 2012 Chicago Pedestrian Plan.]

ACTIONS

Short Term

  • Identify and obtain funding for this study.
  • Identify a location for safety improvements and obtain data for the “before” conditions.

Mid Term

  • Design and implement pedestrian safety improvements.
  • Develop a pedestrian safety enforcement plan for the area for the duration of the project.
  • Analyze the effects on pedestrian safety and crime.

MILESTONES

  1. Initiate this study by 2013 and complete by 2015.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS). 2011. [I don’t fully see the connection, but this reference was linked to a page on NYC Department of Transportation’s website.]

Pedestrian Crash Analysis

The summary report didn’t contain the word “crime”. The technical report contained 2 mentions, with an additional chart. They are quoted in the ordered list below. Download the summary report.

  1. In an examination of various factors including crime, income, race, language spoken, and Walk Score®, the strongest correlation found was between pedestrian crashes and crime
  2. Finally, crime statistics were compared to pedestrian crashes to determine if a correlation could be identified, using data from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) annual reports for 2005 through 2009. The annual reports include incidences of crime by Chicago Community Area (CCA). The statistics for the years 2005 through 2009 were averaged and compared to the aver- age number of fatal and serious injury pedestrian crashes over the same time period in each CCA. Of these factors, crime was the only variable that correlated to pedestrian crashes. Figure 1 shows the correlation between crime and pedestrian crashes was very high. However, there may be many variables responsible for this correlation.
  3. Figure 1: Crime vs. Fatal and Serious Injury Pedestrian Crashes by Chicago Community Area

Figure 1.

I have a few criticisms of this analysis: it lacks raw data; the data tables included in the technical report are of limited length, listing only the “top” items of any metric; the summary report lists many silly factoids; the maps are low resolution and of a limited scale – their design could be modified to improve their usefulness in communicating the crash frequencies of the marked locations. The analysis is reliable.

The technical report includes the state’s guide on how police officers are trained to fill out a crash report form. It also includes relevant crash reporting laws in Illinois. Download the technical report.

Special post for S.M.

© 2019 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑