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Some residents at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday weren’t ready to give the green light to a new traffic signal at Church Street and Sheridan Road on Evanston’s lakefront.

They said it would be unnecessary, ugly and ineffective at maximizing pedestrian safety.

Paul Schneider, the city’s director of transportation and engineering, said the signal is intended to help lakefront visitors cross Sheridan safely.

“A number of people have seen Sheridan Road as a bit of a barrier to reach the lakefront,” Schneider added.

Several annual events, like the Ethnic Arts Festival, Starlight Concerts, and Fourth of July celebration occur in that area at the lakefront and draw large crowds of pedestrians each year, he said.

“We want to encourage people to cross at Dempster or cross at Church Street,” Schneider said.

As proposed, the traffic light would remain green for drivers on Sheridan Road until either a pedestrian pushes a button to cross or a driver from Church Street arrived.

But the proposal was pushing the buttons of some residents who came to the ward meeting.

Tom O’Brien, 51, of 210 Davis St. said that it is unrealistic to expect pedestrians to walk to Dempster Street or Church Street just to cross.

“People are going to cross at Lake, they’re going to cross at Greenwood, they’re going to cross at Davis, they’re going to cross where they are,” he said. “It seems to me that we’re putting in a solution that only works in the place where it’s put.”

But Betsy Levisay, 39, of 1733 Hinman Ave., said there needs to be a traffic light at the intersection.

“It is just treacherous,” she said. “There needs to be something.”

Some at the meeting suggested crosswalks with yield-to-pedestrian signs or stop-for-pedestrian signs would be sufficient.

But Schneider said, “From my understanding, on the East and West Coast they tend to respect” the yield signs “a lot more than here in the Midwest.”

Bruce Enenbach, 60, of 301 Clinton Place said that drivers more frequently stop for pedestrians at crosswalks in California because it’s better enforced.

“I would much rather spend money on enforcing pedestrian right of way than putting in more stoplights,” he said. “When a guy doesn’t stop, gets a $500 ticket.”

Frank Koppelman, 72, 1122 Hinman Ave. said the proposal would essentially put “a huge, unattractive facility on what’s supposed to be our parks.”

Tim Conley, 53, of 1632 Forest Place., said the city should instead place stop-for-pedestrian signs and a refuge island at the intersection.

“With those two solutions, we would have perfect safety,” he said.

Conley said he would submit a report to the city that he and other neighbors wrote detailing why the traffic light would not be the most effective solution.

The 14-page report says the intersection falls short of federal standards for traffic control devices, which call for an average of 100 pedestrians during each of any 4-hour periods or more than 190 pedestrians during any 1-hour period at an intersection.

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9 Comments

  1. a noble cause in need of a website
    “Some residents at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday weren’t ready to give the green light to a new traffic signal at Church Street and Sheridan Road on Evanston’s lakefront.

    What shall we call our new organization? How about “Evanston Coalition for Effective Traffic Safety”?

    Now how about setting up our website? It looks like ecets.org is not taken.

    Let’s get some lawnsigns. “Save Evanston – Stop the Traffic Light”

    How can we get a referendum on the ballot?

    Let’s show up at the next council meeting. If we make enough noise, we can get five. Judy should easy…just need four more.

  2. not in my back (front) yard
    Here’s a classic example of nimby-ism.

    Crossing Sheridan Road to access lakefront parks is a nightmare. Church Street is the best location for a pedestrian-friendly light, given the layout of the park and sight lines along Sheridan.

    Sorry, but motorists do not stop for crosswalks, they do stop for red lights. We do not need our police giving out tickets for moving violations. Our police have much more important things to do than patrol a corner where a traffic light will solve the problem effectively.

    The real issue here is homeowners don’t want cars stopping in front of their homes, and they don’t want pedestrians congregating at this corner. Too bad. The parks belong to all of us, not just those whose homes are on Sheridan Road.

  3. a chicken for every pot
    How ’bout we put a stop light or stop sign at every intersection in the city? Not enough of them.

    Solves the problem of future installations and allows Mr. Who Knows to move on to his next Crusade against the evils that plague our citizenry.

    1. Re: a chicken for every pot
      How about we put a stop light or a stop sign at the intersections that need them instead?

      Save Evanston, stop the traffic.

  4. Church St Traffic Light
    This is a very biased report and fails to note that only the people who don’t like something come out to complain. Those who like it don’t bother. It also fails to give adequate recognition to the city engineer and the study that was done by professional traffic engineers to propose a solution. No solution will satisfy everyone. I am responsible for suggesting the current crosswalk that was installed about 3 years ago and I walk to the park frequently. The crosswalk is useless since drivers ignore it. I am very much in favor of the traffic light.

    1. Re: Church St Traffic Light
      Thanks for your comments, and thank you for getting the current crosswalk installed. Even though the majority of drivers ignore it (along with the florescent yellow signs and PED XING painted on the roadway), it is still better than nothing.

      While I can understand some people not being wild about having a stoplight in front of their house, it seems like better access to the lakefront and improved pedestrian safety would outweigh the negatives.

    2. does Evanston really need another traffic light?
      Karl Berolzheimer says:
      “No solution will satisfy everyone. I am responsible for suggesting the current crosswalk that was installed about 3 years ago and I walk to the park frequently. The crosswalk is useless since drivers ignore it. I am very much in favor of the traffic light.”

      Perhaps this traffic light will make it safer for pedestrians to cross Sheridan, and maybe prevent a few accidents or deaths. But perhaps it will not. More study is needed.

      Furthermore, even if this traffic light will prevent a few accidents or deaths, do we want to sacrifice our unique Evanston way of life in the name of ‘public safety’?

      Making it easier for pedestrians to cross Sheridan will only attract more people to the intersection, including criminals. More crime, and more criminals crossing Sheridan Road, will result in even more traffic accidents – thus defeating the purpose of the traffic light.

      Any new traffic light must be part of a comprehensive Master Plan for Traffic Signals, approved by the Planning and Development Committee, the Parking and Traffic Committee, with input community organizations such as the Central Street Neighbors Association, Friends of the Civic Center, and Southeast Evanston Association. Then the Council must approve it after public comment by concerned citizens. Anything else would be spot traffic engineering, contrary to the principles of zoning and planning.

      Most of all, we must consider the impact on those who will be most affected by the stoplight – the neighbors whose houses will be near the light. The blinking light will disturb them at night, making it hard to sleep with the window open. These people most likely have no need of a stoplight, as they already live on the other side of Sheridan. Residents who commute from north of the proposed light (for example, Central St.) will be further burdened by the extra time spent at the traffic light.

      This is best solved democratically, by a referendum , not by an unelected so-called ‘engineer’ who does not respect our unique Evanston values and is not familiar with the traditions and history of our town.

      1. Please tell me your kidding
        I’m not saying a signal here is right or wrong. I haven’t studied the issue in detail. I could see other potential solutions.

        “Making it easier for pedestrians to cross Sheridan will only attract more people to the intersection, including criminals. More crime, and more criminals crossing Sheridan Road, will result in even more traffic accidents – thus defeating the purpose of the traffic light.”

        “This is best solved democratically, by a referendum , not by an unelected so-called ‘engineer’…”

        You’ve got be be kidding, right?

        I don’t follow comments on this blog consistently enough, so I hope I’m missing some sarcasm. If I’m not missing it, then I suggest you get over yourself.

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