First mannequins, now flags to boost pedestrian safety

Tribune reporter

First came mannequins representing pedestrians killed in vehicle crashes in Chicago, and on Thursday crossing-the-street flags flapped in the breeze as the next installment in a new safety campaign aimed at drivers called “It’s Up to You.’’

The small street-crossing flags were placed in plastic holders Thursday at crosswalks at 10 Chicago intersections near schools, senior citizen centers and hospitals. The locations were selected because none has traffic signals or stop signs, said officials at the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The idea is that pedestrians who want to make themselves more visible to vehicle drivers will take a flag from the bucket, wave it to catch drivers’ attention and then cross the street and place the flag in another holder on the other side. CDOT officials were on hand Thursday to instruct pedestrians how to use the flags.

In late October near crosswalks downtown, the city placed 32 mannequins wearing T-shirts reading, “One of 32 pedestrians killed last year in Chicago.’’ The mannequins were later moved to other locations to bring attention to the problem of more than 3,000 vehicle-pedestrian crashes in Chicago each year, officials said. Most of the mannequins are now in nine CTA rail stations and four are on the State Street median between Lake Street and Wacker Drive.

The mannequins, crossing flags, placards inside taxicabs urging passengers to report reckless cabdrivers and public safety messages placed on trash bins are part of the effort to change behaviors that lead to pedestrian crashes, said Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

State law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. About 80 percent of vehicle-pedestrian accidents in the city occur at intersections and frequently involve people crossing the street with a walk signal, according to a city study released this summer. The No. 1 cause of the crashes was drivers failing to yield, the study said.

The crossing flags are at the following intersections: 71st and Spaulding, near Tarkington Elementary School; Central and Walton, near Brunson Elementary School; Belmont and Kilpatrick, near a senior housing building; 93rd and Oglesby, near Trinity Hospital; 63rd and Talman, near a senior center; 50th and Cottage Grove, near Hales Franciscan High School; Devon and Francisco, near the Croatian Cultural Center; 64th and Western, near Claremont Academy; 79th and Throop, near a senior housing building; and Elston, Grace and Bernard, near Murphy Elementary School.

Twitter: @jhilkevitch

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