Chicago is designated as a Gold-level community due to its excellent design guidelines, pedestrian safety law enforcement, and walking related events. Highlights of Chicago’s application include:
- The Chicago Pedestrian Plan and Vision Zero Initiative set ambitious goals for reducing deaths and injuries among all road users. In particular, the City aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2026 while increasing the percent of adults who walk, bike, and use transit. The 2016 Healthy Chicago 2.0 strategy to improve health citywide includes specific action items surrounding active transporation, equity, and land use.
- Chicago’s dedicated pedestrian staff shows the City’s strong commitment to pedestrians and a good walking environment. The City has a full time pedestrian coordinator, a Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and an independent pedestrian advocacy group, the Active Transportation Alliance.
- The City’s Complete Streets Design Guidelines provide a clearly-defined approach to implementing the Complete Streets Policy, ensuring that all road users are accommodated in transportation projects. The Guidelines go one step further with the adoption of a pedestrian-first modal hierarchy that ensures priority for pedestrians in all stages of project planning and development.
- To respond to the challenge of winter weather and snow/ice accumulation on sidewalks, the City formed an interagency task force to close the gaps in existing policies and practices for addressing this problem. This culminated in 2015 with the adoption of a new Sidewalk Snow Removal ordinance, coupled with citywide outreach and education about new requirements.
- Chicago has excellent education and encouragement campaigns promoting walking in a number of ways. Several examples of the efforts in Chicago are:
- Safe Routes Ambassadors are a pedestrian and bicycles safety outreach team that teach thousands of kids about the benefits of walking and biking through classroom and outdoor exercises and help implement Safe Routes to School activities. Additionally, Safe Routes Ambassadors began a teen safe driving campaign in 2009 through drivers education programs on the laws related to pedestrian safety.
- Safe Routes for Seniors is a program that provides pedestrian safety training through workshops and presentations to the older population in Chicago.
- 5-4-3-2-1 Go! is a health campaign sponsored by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. Through a partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Department of Public Health, walking messages were included in the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! campaign as a way to increase physical activity.
- The Active Transportation Alliance of Chicago organizes an Open Streets event several times throughout the year. Based on the Colombian ciclovia, the Open Streets events close eight miles of streets to motorists and allow pedestrians and cyclists to have a space for recreation, activities, and socializing.
- The pedestrian signal system in Chicago provides a safer walking environment for all pedestrians. Nearly all of Chicago’s signalized intersections have pedestrian signals and many have been retrofitted with countdown signals. Chicago also has installed Leading Pedestrian Interval signals to make crossing safer. In areas with high percentages of senior populations, Chicago has reconfigured crossing times to be slower to represent the population.
- Chicago’s law enforcement officials have dedicated time to enforce laws related to pedestrian safety. In 2015 and 2016, the police department conducted enforcement operations at 125 locations across the city. Through a number of enforcement strategies such as crosswalk stings, progressive ticketing, red light cameras, and speed feedback signs, the Chicago Police Department is working towards educating the public on pedestrian safety laws. In conjunction with the Department of Transportation’s Bicycle Ambassadors team, the Police Department has participated in enforcement events educating cyclists about pedestrian safety laws and how to adhere to them while cycling.
- Chicago Public Schools (CPS) runs the Safe Passages program, which employs community watchers to patrol a five-block radius around high schools during the times when crime and gang violence is most likely to occur. The presence of community watchers deters crime and also provides a mechanism for faster reporting when events do occur. This serves to improve the pedestrian environment and encourages more students to feel comfortable and safe walking.