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Pedestrian safety study ordered by Evanston lawmakers

Evanston lawmakers are contemplating ways to make public roads safer for pedestrians. Among the considerations are speed cameras to monitor busy road-crossing areas, especially around parks and schools.

Pedestrian accidents have not increased in Evanston. In fact, the opposite is true. Last year, 52 pedestrian accidents were recorded. City public works officials said that was a drop of three from than the previous year and 15 fewer accidents than in 2009. So why is the city interested in implementing new safety measures? The answer is prevention.

The data collected by the city provided information about the most deadly Evanston roads for pedestrians, including intersections on Chicago Avenue and Green Bay Road at Central Street. Davis Street and Ridge Avenue underwent an upgrade after seven pedestrians were hit at the intersection last year.

Two age groups are the most vulnerable in pedestrian accidents -- senior citizens and children. The city has already marked more than 30 senior, school or park crossings with sidewalk reflectors and pedestrian crossing signs. Officials want to do more.

Traffic speed displays, curb extensions and reduced speed limits are measures under discussion by Evanston city council. Speed cameras were suggested, in the wake of a new Chicago ordinance to install cameras around schools and parks.

Speed cameras are not without controversy. Critics say cities install them as profit-makers rather than safety tools. Other opponents say the cameras cannot assess individual traffic situations the way police officers can.

Evanston authorities are concerned about accidents at city intersections with no pedestrian walk signs. Officials formed a committee to study the areas of the city where pedestrian safety could be improved.

The committee will combine members from the police and public works' departments, a consultant and Northwestern University. Council members hope to have a plan in place by August to implement changes before the next school year.

Pedestrian accidents are often caused by negligent drivers. Speeding and distracted driving are common reasons pedestrians are injured or killed. The incidents are preventable. Drivers may be criminally and personally charged for the accidents they cause.

Hopefully the city's efforts to provide safer walkways for pedestrians will be successful the statistics for accidents involving walkers will continue to decline.

Source: evanston.patch.com, "Evanston Considers New Speed Cameras Among New Pedestrian Safety Measures," Jennifer Fisher, June 19, 2012

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