Skokie and Hibbard Intersection Design

A meeting was held this evening in Wilmette where the plans for the redevelopment of the Hibbard and Skokie intersection were shared with the public.  The design emphasized retaining the existing traffic patterns, while adding a new dedicated right turn lane on the southern portion of the intersection.  In order to take into account how pedestrians will use the intersection, a second pedestrian island will be constructed within the dedicated right turn lane.  Other improvements include new pedestrian crosswalks and traffic signals to help pedestrians navigate the intersection.  A final improvement will be the installation of a sidewalk on the north side of Skokie Blvd, helping to complete the sidewalk network in the area where a gap presently resides.

During the discussion, the village of Wilmette mentioned taking into account Complete Street policies when thinking through the design; however, per complete street policy a complete street must take into account all modes of transportation.

A Complete Streets policy must begin with an understanding that people who travel by foot or on bicycle are legitimate users of the transportation system and equally deserving of safe facilities to accommodate their travel. No policy is a Complete Streets policy without a clear statement affirming this fact, and it is therefore a requirement to include both modes – walking and bicycling.  (Quote taken from Page 20 of the Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook)

The plan does not take into account cyclists, even though it is on a route to Marie Murphy middle school and community destinations such as Keay Nature park and the Edens shopping center.  The plan also does not narrow the width of traffic lanes to 11 feet, which is widely being adopted by other village projects in the area, such as the Willow expansion project in Northfield.  (You may read more about lane width here, The Influence of Lane Widths on Safety or the Federal Highway Administration Policy.)

All plans can be improved upon and it is strongly recommended that local residents share both positive and constructive feedback on the proposed design.  Feedback may be directed towards, Brigitte Berger (847.853.7627) Director of Engineering for the village of WIlmette.  In addition, residents can submit written comments to the village’s engineering department, 1200 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091, but they must be received on or before Dec. 22 to be part of the project record.

Village leadership meets with Wilmette Residents on improvements to the Hibbard and Skokie intersection.

Village leadership meets with Wilmette Residents on improvements to the Hibbard and Skokie intersection.

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3rd Grader Hit by SUV While Riding Bike to Glenview School | Glenview, IL Patch

There is often an argument made in areas surrounding schools in the North Shore of Chicago, that no accidents ever happen involving automobiles and students.  This is especially the case is areas that lack proper access for students to get to school, forcing them to walk in street or jump over yard rocks.  Residents will often recite the same mantra, “Nothing has ever happened around here”.  Today, October 23, 2014 around 7:50 AM an accident did occur in Glenview, IL when a 3rd grade student riding their bike to Pleasant Ridge school was struck by an SUV as the vehicle made a right-hand turn.  How the driver did not see the student in an unanswered question.  The male driver was witnessed out of his SUV trying to console the child.  No one doubts that the driver felt horrible for his failure to control his vehicle.   Any of us could imagine the guilt we would feel if we ever stuck a child.

We can never stop accidents from happening.  What we can do is take proper precautions by providing pedestrian safe routes to community destinations, such as schools.  When we are driving in school areas, we should all take an extra moment to scan the surroundings to assure there are no students around.  Especially during the morning rush hour, when heavily volumes of traffic and students co-exists.

3rd Grader Hit by Car While Riding Bike to Glenview School | Glenview, IL Patch.

Schools west of the Eden’s Expressway not included

Villages are funny places.  When we think of our Chicago villages we often view vibrant downtowns surrounded by stores, a central green, and people strolling brick paved streets.  Village planners, working with architectural firms, often create mockups of how a community will use a village center.  What is funny is an overwhelming majority of the physical space that comprises a village is not in its downtown.  Most of a village’s physical space will be taken up by residential housing, following by streets, parks, schools, etc.  There are perimeter areas on the outskirts of a village’s boundaries that often do not immediately come to mind when creating a mental model of a village.

A great example is the school walking routes as defined by the Village of Wilmette (View map as provided by village).  At first glance there is an abundant amount of pedestrian intersections and school crossing guards available to get students to school.  When looking a bit further to the west, we begin seeing less crossing guards with none assigned to the middle school, Marie Murphy.  Even worse is that west of the Eden’s highway we see no planning taken into consideration whatsoever.  Loyola Academy does not even show up at all on the map, well it does show up but only the word “ACADEMY”.  Avoca West Elementary which is listed on Wilmette’s own site under education does not have a plan at all, even though as posted on the site, “The greatest number of our students live in Wilmette”.  On final inspection it turns out that at the bottom of the map the village has included the following disclaimer, “Schools west of the Eden’s Expressway not included”.  To which one can conclude that the village is aware of the western boundary but decided not to include it in plans for safe walking routes.

As we stated in our opening, villages are funny places.

Orlando Florida, is this Glenview’s future?

Orlando Florida is considered one of the worst cities in the United States for pedestrian safety when it comes to roadways. Roads in Orlando were enlarged in the 70s and 80s, when Disney World prompted the rapid expansion of the roadways with pedestrians treated as an afterthought.

Our own area has also gone through a rapid expansion over the past three decades. I am often shocked to discover that most residents do not know that Lake Ave in Glenview, IL was once a two lane road. When time came to expand it, no thought was given to how pedestrians were using Lake Ave to go to parks, walk to school, or grab a ice cream at the local Dairy Queen. Pedestrian crosswalks were placed at extremes, up to a 1/2 mile away between Laramie and Harms, which separated adjacent subdivisions.  A pedestrian crosswalk and traffic signal on a path to the local elementary was inexcusably not incorporated into the traffic plan. Traffic speeds now regularity exceed 40 mph on Lake Ave at all hours of the day; a speed at which a pedestrian struck by car would only have a 15% chance of living.

Back in July, National Public Radio (NPR) did a report bringing to the light the problems with Orlando’s traffic and there are many parallels to the present growth with Glenview.  You may listen to the full report here, Orlando Steps Up To Make Its Streets More Pedestrian-Friendly.

The theory of walkability

You will not hear much about walkability at your local village planning meeting. Conversations of street facing parking, road expansion, and assurances that strip malls blend into the 1920s architecture 1/2 a mile away tend to dominate the discussion. Even though walkability is not often discussed, it is precisely walkability that gives a village character. Seeing those human beings walking around and enjoying the village provides the very fabric of community.

Jeff Speck gave a wonderful Ted talk back in May where he shared his theory of walkability. Jeff’s theory breaks down walkability into four principles that he argues makes a village a destination rather than a high-speed pass through zone. The four principles are:

  1. a reason to walk
  2. a safe walk
  3. a comfortable walk
  4. an interesting walk

Think of these principles when driving around our villages, taking note of places where additional care needs to be provided to fix the haphazard planning of the 1950s.

Back to School 2014, Finally Fresh Crosswalk Lines

Months ago we posted about the crosswalk lines being in horrible condition along Lake Avenue in Wilmette, IL (See How Responsive is your community? – June 2014).  A letter had been written to the village of Wilmette in November 2013 bringing attention to the horrible condition of the crosswalks lines on a route to the local elementary school Avoca West.  It took 9 months and today we are happy to report that the Village of Wilmette repainted the lines 5 days before the start of the 2014 academic year.  Please be sure to contact your local village when you notice areas in need of repair as it does make a different – even if it takes awhile to get completed.Lake Avenue New Lines

D.C. Is #1 for walkability?

What is the most walkable city in the US? Immediately some famous ones enter our mind: New York, San Francisco, our very own Chicago. Would you be surprised to learn that Washington D.C. was recently ranked most walkable?

Yes, Washington D.C. is the most walkable metropolitan area in the U.S., according to a report by George Washington University and Smart Growth America. (http://mobilitylab.org/2014/08/14/suburbs-the-secret-to-d-c-s-soaring-walkability/#sthash.04) Most striking was that it was the redevelopment and planning of D.C.s suburbs that placed it over the edge.

Look around your neighborhood, have you witnessed behavior being taken to make your areas more walkable and safer for pedestrians? Or have you seen the expansion of road widths, the deterioration of sidewalks, and the inflation of speed limits in communities where families, schools, parks, and small business reside?