Sunday, October 25, 2009

How many more stop signs does Chicago need?

This letter was in response to this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune Oct. 18:,0,6304244.story
A four-year-old girl was killed while in a crosswalk at Lincoln Park Zoo by a motorist whose license had been revoked. He ran a stop sign and hit her. The editor cut my favorite part--the bullet points.

Dear Editor:

Motorists shouldn't run stop signs. ("After Maya," Page One, Oct. 18.) That is absolutely true.

Unfortunately the sharp increase in stop signs in Chicago over the last decade, especially at intersections that hardly warrant four-way stops, causes some drivers to ignore them or slide through them. Consider just a few examples from West Rogers Park, where I lived for several years:

* A sign stopping traffic at the alderman's condo tower, but not the other three identical towers.
* A sign protecting a baseball field used perhaps a dozen times a year.
* A sign stopping traffic on Touhy Avenue--the only one for about 10 miles--protecting a school a quarter-mile off Touhy. There is a crossing guard helping children across that intersection anyway.
* A sign on congested Devon Avenue for no apparent reason that backs up traffic for a block in either direction while the cross street has neither traffic nor pedestrians.
* A sign next to a park at a T-intersection at which the cross street runs one-way away from the intersection.

All over town, stop signs protect children near schools and parks a few hours a day, half the days of the year. Electric or temporary stop signs would ease congestion and save motorists time and fuel. I understand the Hirsch family's focus on enforcement. But reason and careful consideration with regard to stop-sign installation would also be helpful in drivers' observance of the law.


If you like, you can comment on my letter online: Someone already made a nasty comment and called my opinion "nonsense." He sarcastically suggested that I believe the few seconds it takes me to stop is worth more than a four-year-old girl's life. No. I don't believe that. I do believe that the very high number of stop signs in Chicago actually makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians. Furthermore, it's not just a few seconds for me. It's thousands of hours and thousands of dollars of wasted time, money and fuel as thousands of drivers per year must slow, stop and accelerate at each stop sign. These signs often exist for no reason at all other than the neighbors who wanted a stop sign installed there. I have seen several instances where stop signs facing major streets create congestion where there previously had been none. A number of streets that were once major thoroughfares across neighborhoods are now almost impassable with stop signs at every block.


If you have time: an op-ed piece about how the recession personally affects the writer and her family, by someone I know, who went to my high school, appeared in the Oct. 25 Chicago Tribune:,0,809561.story

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