Are Safer Intersections Coming to Chicago?

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein wants to make intersections safer for Chicago pedestrians and motorists

Pedestrians could see some major changes at intersections in downtown Chicago, making it safer and easier to cross city streets.

That's what newly appointed Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein is hoping for at least.

Klein is the former Washington, D.C. transportation chief who expanded the trolley system in the capital and launched the city's bike-sharing program. He's now looking to do the same thing for Chicago.

Among Klein's ideas are intersections that give pedestrians a three- to five-second head start before the light turns green.

“We’d like to put in leading pedestrian intervals at over 100 intersections, particularly the most dangerous. As soon as the light turns green, cars hit the gas. This way, the light stays red and the pedestrian countdown will start three-to-five seconds before the light for traffic turns green.”

Klein's plan also includes reducing the number of right- and left-turns on red that he says "put pedestrians at risk."

Probably the biggest change to the streets would be "pedestrian scramble" intersections. In these new intersections, the lights in all directions would stay red for 14 seconds after every other cycle so pedestrians can cross all six ways, including diagonally.

“It’s something we would be interested in piloting at the busiest intersections,” Klein said.

Klein would also like to narrow some streets to slow down traffic. He plans to crack down on speeding, especially by taxicabs.

Chicagoans seem to be for the changes.

"Actually a good idea, as long as it doesn't back up traffic," Nick Gardner, a UPS driver, told Sharon Wright of NBC 5 News.

Dangerous intersections played a role in the death Justyna Palka, just last month. Palka, 26, was crossing North Columbus Drive near NBC Tower, and was struck by a tour bus making a right turn.

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