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In every corner of Oak Park, residents tell me that they are afraid to walk and bike in our community. I have heard too many parents tell me stories of their child getting hit or nearly hit by a car. These fears do not exaggerate the problem: pre-pandemic, Oak Park averaged 100 people per year hit by cars while walking or biking in our community. The nationwide data suggests that the 2022 numbers will be worse. Many of these crashes–and the dangers that cause them–exist near our schools.
Our response has been to spend the last 15 years making plans while doing little to actually take action. In 2008, Oak Park adopted a Bicycle Plan. It was never implemented. In 2015, Oak Park adopted the Neighborhood Greenways Plan. Eight years later, we have failed to take action. The Village Board, has consistently rated implementation of the Neighborhood Greenways Plan has a D-level budget priority and has historically failed to fund it.
OAK PARK NOW
Now, Oak Park is launching into a Vision Zero planning process. This time, we need a different result. We need to act to make our streets safer for biking, walking, and alternative modes of transportation.
Last November, when there was a crash at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Scoville/Fair Oaks which resulted in a car embedded in a family’s front porch, I brought the issue to the Transportation Commission. I sought data from staff and input from members of the community. After hearing from the community and considering the data, staff was persuaded to act and has already designed and presented a new intersection that will be implemented this year.
Fortunately, there are clear steps that Oak Park can begin taking immediately to improve transportation safety:
Eliminate “beg buttons” so that the walk-signal appears at every light-cycle instead of only when a pedestrian has pressed the button.
Implement Leading Pedestrian Intervals (“LPIs”) at signals to reduce the risk of crashes involving pedestrians. The evidence shows that LPIs can reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions as much as 60% in intersections where they're implemented.
Build the Neighborhood Greenways Plan to provide safe transportation corridors for people biking and walking in Oak Park.
At the same time, Oak Park must engage in the Vision Zero planning process to determine what additional infrastructure changes are necessary to improve outcomes for pedestrians and cyclists. Oak Park’s Vision Zero plan should be developed with the input of community stakeholders including the Disability Access Commission, the Aging-in-Place Commission, the Oak Park Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, the Oak Park Sustainability Coordinator, and Bike Walk Oak Park.
The Vision Zero plan we receive must be actionable, not just aspirational. And the Village Trustees have to keep the pressure on to implement the Vision Zero plan recommendations as early as possible, rather than yet again allowing years to pass in which we congratulate ourselves for a plan that will never be implemented.
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