Crosswalks around the Logan Square circle

29 May

There are three signal-less crosswalks that drivers must heed when entering or exiting the Logan Square circle (and another one within the circle). Comparing their characteristics offers an interesting lesson in street design as it pertains to pedestrian safety.

First, we have this crosswalk on Logan Boulevard:

Crosswalk - Logan east of the circle

Crosswalk on Logan Boulevard East of the Circle

The photograph faces southwest. Almost nobody stops for pedestrians here. Notice the diagonal angle of the crosswalk, requiring pedestrians to cover more distance than would be necessary if it were perpendicular to the curb. Also problematic is its placement immediately after the intersection at Albany Avenue.

Ahead to the west (right on the photo above), there is a stop sign at the circle, a crosswalk at western edge of Troy Street, and a stoplight where Milwaukee Avenue cuts through the circle. Eastbound drivers wait for the signal to change at Logan Boulevard and Milwaukee Avenue, then accelerate across Milwaukee Avenue, merging with southbound Kedzie Boulevard traffic before continuing around the circle.

Now look at this crosswalk on Kedzie Boulevard south of Logan Boulevard:

Crosswalk on Kedzie Boulevard South of the Circle

Crosswalk on Kedzie Boulevard South of the Circle

Many drivers heading south out of the circle navigate confusing lane changes before heading through this crosswalk and onto southbound Kedzie Boulevard.

Traffic moves pretty quickly through this narrow two-lane stretch, so pedestrians usually wait for a gap as drivers rarely yield to pedestrians here. The large median (partially visible to the right on the photo above) allows pedestrians some respite in crossing the southbound and northbound lanes of Kedzie Boulevard separately.

Lastly, here is the crosswalk at Wrightwood Avenue, on the west side of the circle:

Crosswalk on Wrightwood Avenue West of the Circle

Crosswalk on Wrightwood Avenue West of the Circle

The photograph faces southeast. Drivers consistently yield to pedestrians at this crosswalk, and pedestrians confidently cross with little hesitation. Notice the curb extensions that shorten the distance across the street for pedestrians and also shrink the space vehicles can travel through.

Drivers leaving the circle turn west on to Wrightwood Avenue (from left to right in the photo above) while eastbound vehicles have a stop sign before entering the circle.

Why do so many drivers yield at Wrightwood Avenue, but so few at Kedzie and Logan Boulevards? What is the most important characteristic of the Wrightwood Avenue intersection?

Perhaps it is the curb extensions. Curb extensions have been shown to have a calming effect on traffic.

Perhaps it is the larger number of pedestrians who use this crosswalk, many of whom are coming from the nearby train station.

Or maybe the stop sign for eastbound traffic leads people to believe the right-of-way belongs to pedestrians.  In fact, state law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks.

Or it could be Wrightwood Avenue’s two lanes and two-way traffic compared to four lanes of sometimes separated traffic on Kedzie and Logan Boulevards.

Most likely, a combination of these characteristics and others accounts for a more friendly pedestrian intersection at Wrightwood Avenue.

Neighbors have proposed changes to traffic around the Logan Square circle for years. More recent detailed plans have been proposed for a major overhaul to the circle (although they conflict somewhat with the Logan Square Open Space Plan). We are excited and optimistic that the ultimate design will include significant considerations for pedestrian safety.


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