City launches new safety campaign, signage program to promote traffic safety

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant Summer Editor

Evanston launched a back-to-school crosswalk safety campaign and bicycle signage program earlier this month to improve pedestrian awareness and communication among roadway users.

The two programs are new additions to the city’s numerous efforts to encourage traffic safety, said Katie Knapp, Evanston’s transportation and mobility coordinator.

Knapp said in its first year, the #WalkEvanston Back-to-School Crosswalk Safety Campaign will build on past safe walking efforts by Evanston and its local partners, such as the creation of additional crosswalks and the hiring of more crossing guards.

Tom Twigg, who manages traffic operations for the city, said the new safety campaign aims to educate the public about Evanston’s various pedestrian walk signals and how to activate them.

“We do have some confusion,” Twigg said. “Sometimes people don’t understand that they have to actually push a button to activate the walk to come up for them at some crosswalks. And so they stand there and stand there and stand there. And then we get a call.”

Aside from promoting pedestrian awareness, the city has also installed protected bicycle lanes and handed out bicycle lights, especially as the number of cyclists in Evanston increases.

According to Evanston’s 2014 Bike Plan Update, there was a 46 percent increase in the number of commuters traveling by bicycle from 2000 to 2010.

Knapp said the increase in overall cyclists — due to commute, recreation and possibly the new Divvy bikes — led the city to partner with Northwestern University’s Design for America chapter on the Bicycle Signage Pilot Program to create standardized roadway signs for cyclists.

“A car has tail lights so when you start to brake, other roadway users know how to react,” Knapp said. “Most bikes do not have such tail lights … so having and being able to show the hand signal for stopping is a way then to promote positive communication.”

Knapp said the road signs are designed to be large and visible to motor vehicle drivers. The signs also show the cyclist giving hand directions from behind, as a motor vehicle driver may see a cyclist on the road doing, she said.

“If you grew up in a community where you do not have many bicyclists out on the road, you may see a bicyclist here in Evanston using a hand signal and not know what it means,” Knapp said. “In general, as a town with a university that is drawing a new population every four years, there is that important role of reeducation and reminding of different local norms.”

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