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Ogden Avenue Crosswalk Signals Are Live: What to Know

The improved system for crossing Ogden Avenue to Bemis Woods is finally complete and open to public use; here’s what pedestrians, bikers and motorists should be aware of.

After years of public plea and various efforts, the crosswalk from the Village of Western Springs near Woodland Avenue across Ogden Avenue to Bemis Woods has been updated with additional signage and activated flashing lights to stop vehicles so that pedestrians and bikers can safely cross the four lanes of traffic.

The keystone of the new system is a set of “rectangular rapid-flashing beacons,” or RRFBs, small slit-like high-intensity LEDs that flash back and forth to get attention. A cyclist or pedestrian intending to cross Ogden in either direction presses a button to activate the lights, for which motorists are required by law to stop.

Users of the crosswalk are emphatically warned to wait until all traffic has stopped in front of the lights before crossing—and even then, to never assume that a driver isn’t irresponsible or distracted.

“I would caution all of the public to continue to be very vigilant despite the fact that there are flashing lights out there bringing more attention to the crossing itself,” said Village Engineer Jeffrey Ziegler. “You still need to be very cautious, similar to what you would be if there wasn’t the signal out there.”

One of the difficulties with the new system is that this type of signal is currently fairly uncommon, so motorists may be unfamiliar with it. Another is that drivers are often inclined to come off of I-294 at a dangerously high speed, enough that Ogden—especially east of Wolf Road—is somewhat infamous as a speed trap.

“This is going to require some behavioral changes on behalf of the motoring public,” said Village President Bill Rodeghier. “But I think if we all pay attention to what’s going on, we’ll all be better served… We hope that this is going to be a significant improvement for safety at that crossing.”

Motorists are required by Illinois law to come to a full stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, not merely to yield. Signage about 100 yards east and west of the crosswalk warns approaching drivers to be prepared to stop if necessary.

When pressed, the signal button makes a small beep as confirmation. The duration of the flashing lights is set at 20 seconds, in compliance with state law. A solar panel set atop each of the towers provides power, and a transparent box contains printed pamphlets of safety precautions.

No restrictions have been put in place with regards to turning onto Woodland Avenue at this time. Residents of Woodland that the RRFB lights would lead to increased traffic on their narrow (but being widened) street.

“Traffic counts were conducted earlier this year before the construction after residents raised concern about increased traffic,” wrote Village Director of Municipal Services Matt Supert in an e-mail. “After the crossing goes live, we will monitor traffic counts for a period to determine if there is any additional traffic turning onto Woodland.”

On Monday evening, Western Springs residents Larry and Judy Clark, along with son Connor, used the walk to return home from a bike trip in Bemis Woods and gave a mixed review of the new system.

“Before the lights, we’d stand here 30 minutes trying to get across,” Judy said—but added that the small thin lights seemed insufficient to grab a driver’s attention. “I’m happy to have the lights; I just think it’s a very poorly designed light. They need to go back and fix it.”

Larry added that he’d already seen cars screech tires and nearly crash into each other in their haste to stop in front of the crosswalk. “There’s always almost an accident,” he said. “We get across more quickly, but it’s a little too exciting sometimes.”

Traffic stopped without incident this time, however, and they crossed safety.

Ziegler and Rodeghier both also pledged that the WSPD at some point soon would be focusing enforcement efforts on the crosswalk to ensure motorist compliance and pedestrian and cyclist safety.

biffer June 27, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I was actually driving the other day when the lights went off....with some cars stopping and some just slowing down, the pedestrian looked like something out of "Seinfeldt" when George tried to cross the street ala "Frogger".
Oscar Madison June 27, 2012 at 07:27 PM
To most people, a yellow light means caution, slow down--not stop. I'm surprised that anyone stopped for the yellow lights. I think another commenter was right--pedestrians and bicyclists should cross at the stoplight, just three blocks to the east. I'm afraid someone will get hurt because of this crosswalk, and end up like George's Frogger machine.
Ben June 28, 2012 at 05:28 PM
let's be clear: if someone gets hurt, it's not "because of the crosswalk," it's because of a motorist driving recklessly and breaking the law: it's vehicular homicide. Just because you're driving a massive hunk of metal doesn't mean that you get the automatic right of way at a crosswalk. In fact, it's exactly the opposite.
R Frank July 03, 2012 at 11:37 PM
What brilliant engineering marvel came up with this nightmare? I travel thru this area frequently and 8 out of ten times whether the light is activated or not, motorists come to a complete halt causing many near rear-end incidents; there have probably already been a few. So is the county going to foot the bill for the vehicular accidents? And the false sense of security that will be established on the part of pedestrians and bicyclists will result in serious injury/fatalities. When that happens, then the county will remove this flawed setup as part of multi-million lawsuit.
Katherine July 04, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Put a real crosswalk, where there are flashing lights overhead of ALL lanes OR put in a stop light. Let's solve the problem, not make it worse.

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