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 Chicago set ambitious goals to make streets safer for all users and increase non-auto mode share. 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 traffic safety, active transportation, 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 Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, and a multidisciplinary Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Chicago is also home to an independent advocacy group, the Active Transportation Alliance, whose mission includes improving walkability in the region.
- 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 people walking in project planning and design, as well as maintenance and operations.
- 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 and Bicycling Ambassadors educate over 100,000 people annually about safe travel and the benefits of walking and biking, including tens of thousands of children. In addition to teaching safe walking and biking in elementary schools, the Ambassadors educate teens during in-school drivers education classes about laws related to pedestrian safety and promote safe mobility among seniors.
- 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.
- Chicago Public Schools (CPS) runs the Safe Passages program, which employs community watchers to monitor student travel routes at over 120 schools in neighborhoods where personal safety concerns are a barrier to walking. The Safe Passage program was recently expanded to include promoting safe access to over 20 parks during the summer in partnership with the Chicago Park District.
- 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 secured dedicated grants to enforce laws related to pedestrian safety. In 2015 and 2016, the police department conducted pedestrian safety enforcement operations at 125 locations across the city. Through a number of enforcement strategies such as crosswalk stings, the Chicago Police Department works to educate 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 drivers and cyclists about stopping for pedestrians, distracted driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors.