Elaine Johnson: Streets are for Vehicles, Not Joggers
Commissioner suggests ticketing those who run and walk in the roadway.
Downers Grove has invested millions of tax dollars on sidewalks over the years, and thousands more are earmarked for sidewalk construction in 2012.
Yet, every day finds dozens of our health-conscious neighbors running or walking not on those sidewalks, but in the street.
Commissioner Geoff Neustadt has publicly voiced his concerns about residents taking to the streets for their exercise. When the subject of the village’s sidewalk program came up during budget discussions, he asked whether it’s possible to ticket residents who walk and run in the street.
The response: Indeed it is under the Illinois Vehicle Code, which prohibits pedestrians from walking along or on a roadway where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practical.
“I’m out in the early hours of the morning and I often see folks running, pushing strollers and walking in the street,” Neustadt said. “We have sidewalks that we spend a lot to maintain and they’re not using them.”
I think Neustadt has a point. I’m not a runner, but I walk a lot—on the sidewalks. In cases where there aren’t any and I have to take to the street, I feel like I need eyes in the back of my head to avoid the potential distracted driver who may be texting, talking or speeding.
Add in the darkness under which many residents are forced to take their exercise this time of the year, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Just last week, a Manteno High School coach and father of four was hit by a car and killed while jogging.
And in 1999, an 18-year-old Burr Ridge woman was struck and killed by a two cars as she and three friends walked along 41st Street, a Downers Grove side street without sidewalks.
Even if drivers see a runner in enough time to react, they may create another hazard by swerving into oncoming traffic, Neustadt said.
On his five-block commute to work, Neustadt typically sees at least three or four groups running or walking in the street, sometimes two or three abreast. He even sees them on main arteries like Prairie Avenue.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “I understand if there is no other place to walk, but without that there isn’t a good reason for me to see you in the street.”
And it isn't just adults. I live near North High School and often see members of the cross country team running in the street. As a driver and mother, I find this worrisome.
Neustadt has heard from many residents who say they fear running on the sidewalks because it’s easy to trip and fall on the sometimes uneven surface. His response is that common sense should prevail. Some sidewalks aren’t perfect but if someone sees a segment that’s damaged they should call Village Hall.
“We’ll check it out and see if it meets the requirements for repair,” Neustadt said. “Those are the services we provide.”
With leaves clogging the streets, it would seem they pose their own hazards. Of course, it won't be long until the snow flies, and with it sidewalks that will never see a shovel—giving runners yet another reason to take to the streets.
If getting slapped with a ticket will convince them to stay out of Downers Grove streets, that will be a small price to pay to avoid another tragedy.