Western Springs crossing still raises concern
Gary Bieze of Western Springs crosses Ogden Avenue at Woodland Avenue in Western Springs using the pedestrian crosswalk. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Education and enforcement
Police have issued 11 warnings and citations to motorists since January for not stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
The village added lit signs commonly used to warn of construction projects to draw attention to the new crosswalk.
Police passed out flyers to motorists stopped at Ogden Avenue and Wolf Road, and will again Aug. 14.
Plans are being finalized for a safety video on the crosswalk with expertise donated by a Hinsdale filmmaker. The video will be linked to the village’s website, posted on Youtube and used for training in schools.
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:48PM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Bobbi Omerza has feared an accident would happen since new flashing lights were installed at a crosswalk on Ogden Avenue, connecting Woodland Avenue in Western Springs to the Salt Creek bike trails in Bemis Woods.
Sunday it happened, though fortunately nobody was seriously injured. Omerza didn’t see the accident but heard the brakes and the impact around 6:13 p.m. She called police, and an ambulance arrived.
A 53-year-old bicyclist from Western Springs suffered cuts, bumps and bruises on his legs, but wasn’t transported to a hospital.
The driver, Caroline Frymark, 26, of 144 J Bertram Drive, Yorkville, was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to stop for a bicyclist in a crosswalk.
Sunday’s collision was the second accident directly involving the crosswalk since enhanced signs were installed in May warning motorists to stop rather than yield to pedestrians and bike riders, said Deputy Police Chief Brian Budds.
In late May, a pedestrian was using the crosswalk, and one vehicle stopped but was rear-ended by a second vehicle, Budds said.
“Our challenge is getting the word out to nonresidents who may only travel through the area once a month,” he said.
The crosswalk has been in place for years, but drivers were not stopping for pedestrians, as required by a new law in 2011, prompting the addition of flashing amber lights June 25, activated by pedestrians or cyclists.
But Omerza, who lives at Woodland and Ogden avenues, said the yellow signs and blinking lights are not slowing traffic, but instead are giving pedestrians a false sense of security.
Budds said pedestrians shouldn’t assume motorists will stop until eye contact is made, and extreme caution and common sense must be exercised.
The flashing yellow light is used to gain motorists’ attention, warning them to slow down and be prepared to stop, he said.
Motorists stopping for pedestrians also can be at risk of being rear-ended by other drivers unfamiliar with the crosswalk or not paying attention. Budds said he was nearly rear-ended a few years ago as he stopped for a pedestrian, and the driver behind swerved to avoid his car.
Omerza has seen several near misses, and some foolish behavior. Last week while mowing her lawn she saw a couple with a dog come up to the crossing and push the button.
“The two eastbound lanes stopped, there was nobody in the third lane and in the fourth lane, the guy was not going to stop but the pedestrian ran right at him and he stopped,” she said.
The man put his hand up to warn the driver but increased his speed to clear the lane.
“All this pedestrian had to do was trip and he probably would have fallen right into the car or under it,” she said. “These are stupid things that people are doing.”
Omerza often has seen traffic in one direction stop and pedestrians begin to cross, only to find themselves in the middle of the street with opposite traffic continuing to drive through.
“It’s nerve-racking for me because I’m outside a lot,” she said. “The people who wanted this dumb thing, they don’t have to look at it every day. They don’t have to hear it every day.”
Budds said police routinely get calls from residents or motorists reporting incidents, and that crosswalk has generated the most feedback he’s seen in 16 years of any traffic improvement.
“If we see anything that needs to be reevaluated, we’ll make note of it,” he said. “Making it as safe as possible is our goal, and it will take patience and effort and perseverance.”