Crosswalk provides access to explore, enjoy Bemis Woods
Hinsdale 11/20/07 Western Springs Columnist: Vicki Gonia Doings photo by Steve Johnston
Updated: July 13, 2012 3:56PM
I’m sure many readers have, at some point, attempted to cross Ogden Avenue from somewhere around Grand or Woodland Avenue to get to Bemis Woods. Either on foot, with some canine friends, or on a bike, it’s a perilous journey.
It’s not much better to try to cross at the light at Wolf Road and Ogden Avenue either, since you must then walk or ride along the road to get to the entrance of the forest preserve on Ogden or the bike path entrances off of Wolf. There’s not a lot of room on the side of the road there, and traffic zips along. Add in the curve in the road, a little bit of a hill, and there’s just no safe way to do it.
Of course, this really doesn’t stop anyone from crossing. And frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. I’ve driven that stretch of road a gazillion times in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of close calls.
You’ve probably noticed (hopefully you’ve noticed!) a new pedestrian crosswalk across Ogden at the Bemis Woods entrance. When I first heard about the crosswalk going in, I thought “Thank goodness!” Anything to make it easier and safer for residents to take advantage of the forest preserve and the bike path is a great thing.
During the installation of the light and the painting of the crosswalk, however, I thought “That still looks really perilous.” Because now, pedestrians and bike riders can activate a flashing yellow light that will alert cars to stop, and they’re going to go ahead and do that, but then they have to trust that drivers are actually going to stop.
Ah, the curse of paranoid thinking. But one day, late in the afternoon when traffic on Ogden Avenue is heavy, I was headed west and coming up to the crosswalk when I noticed someone (a friend, it so happens) crossing Ogden Avenue with his dogs. There was a moment when I thought “Those cars in front of me are not going to stop.”
But they did (one car had to stop rather suddenly), my friend ambled across and everything was fine. Phew.
There’s a handy link on the village of Western Springs (www.wsprings.com) website to a .pdf of a pamphlet put together by the Police Department about pedestrian safety, and it includes the following two paragraphs:
“No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or place of safety and walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. It’s the law!”
“Drivers must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. It’s the law!”
Those two “laws” seemingly contradict each other. Just who’s responsible here?
We all are, of course. Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike are supposed to be watching out for each other. This new light doesn’t mean that pedestrians can hit a button and just wander out on to the road, but it does help to make drivers aware that someone wants to cross, or is crossing, and gives pedestrians a little more time to do it.
I’m ashamed to admit that I found much of the information in the pedestrian safety pamphlet .pdf to be illuminating. It’s all stuff I know. But reading it, I realized that I’ve broken a few of the guidelines and laws presented, both as a driver and as a pedestrian (especially when driving in the city, where it often feels like I’m in the midst of some kind of insane, obstacle-filled video game where no one pays attention to the rules). It was a good reminder of some basic rules, and I’ll be printing it out and giving it to my kids to read.
And I do hope that the crossing helps more Western Springs residents take advantage of Bemis Woods. We’re really lucky to have it so close. Just within the section bordered by Ogden Avenue, Wolf Road, 31st Street and Interstate 294, there are paved and unpaved trails for walkers and bikers and huge fields that can be used for picnics, barbecues and parties. Walking along Salt Creek on a summer day, surrounded by nature, is a lovely thing. All the trees buffer the sounds of traffic, and it makes for a nice escape.
When I was little, my father used to load my and my brothers’ bikes onto the bike rack, drive us over to Bemis and we’d hit the trail. My grandfather lived in Westchester, just off the trail near 22nd Street, and we’d ride to his house and wheedle him out of a couple bucks for ice cream.
Sometimes, we’d ride all the way to Brookfield Zoo and back. It’s nice that one of my favorite childhood memories can be relived just blocks away from my house, and now I can get there more safely.
Readers can contact Viki Gonia by leaving a message at (708) 824-8027 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.