Western Springs woman fears Ogden crosswalk provides false security
Bobbi Omerza (left) of Western Springs talks with Gary Bieze of Western Springs at the pedestrian crosswalk. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:35AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Reese Stobart of La Grange road his bicycle through Bemis Woods one recent, hot afternoon and headed for the forest preserve’s Woodland Avenue exit. His intention was to cross Ogden Avenue and enter Western Springs but heavy traffic refused to stop for him.
About two weeks prior, on June 25, the village of Western Springs installed new flashing lights at the crosswalk to alert traffic of the legal requirement to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists. Despite the yellow signs and blinking yellow lights, vehicles zoomed past Stobart.
He waited for a break in the traffic and pedaled across anyway.
“I’m not sure it’s safe here,” he said, after successfully crossing the busy state route.
Bobbi Omerza agrees. She has lived on the corner of Ogden and Woodland avenues for about 30 years.
“There’s been about five accidents since the sign went up,” Omerza said. “I personally have seen two kids come within 18 inches of getting hit. And I’m talking 10-year-olds that were leaving (Bemis Woods) with their parents.”
She said she can not remember the last accident that happened before the pedestrian crosswalk was installed.
Gary Biesz of Western Springs said he saw a pedestrian nearly get hit by a car when a car failed to stop when the lights were blinking and a pedestrian was crossing
Since 2010, Illinois law has required vehicles make a complete stop to give pedestrians the right of way at crosswalks.
When residents noticed vehicles were ignoring this law at Ogden Avenue and Woodland, they approached the village.
“There were folks who had come to several of the board meetings,” said the village’s engineer, Jeff Ziegler. “Residents who were concerned about the crossing there because it’s been historically a difficult place to cross.”
In response, the village sought ways to improve the crossing. The village met with state officials — the state controls Ogden Avenue — and sought permission for enhancements.
“So ultimately the design is one that was approved by the Department of Transportation,” Ziegler said.
Now the intersection has blinking yellow lights that can be activated by pedestrians. It is too soon to say whether the change will make the intersection any safer.
“It does not give the pedestrian control,” Ziegler said. “What it does is it brings awareness to the crosswalk that somebody is in the crosswalk. So as you’re approaching it you either see the person in the crosswalk visually or somebody who is a motorist traveling down Ogden Avenue will be able to see the flashing lights and know that somebody is in the pedestrian crosswalk or that there is activity in the crosswalk.”
Omerza said the crosswalk gets a lot of use, by both pedestrians and bike riders from the nearby Salt Creek Trail.
Ziegler wants to get the word out to residents and drivers to be cautious at the crosswalk. He spoke at a recent Village Board meeting.
“I’ll caution all of the public, to be very vigilant, despite the fact that there are flashing lights out there bringing attention to the crossing itself. You still need to be very cautious, similar to (how) you would (be) if there wasn’t a signal out there,” Ziegler said.