A Pedestrian "Problem" at the Modern Wing

by crandell | 06/16/2009

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If only the street under the Nichols Bridge were always this welcoming to pedestrians.

Blair Kamin has given some much needed attention in the Tribune to the street design issues outside the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute: Art Institute's Modern Wing: Getting there can be risky. He points out the increase in jaywalking on Monroe as visitors from Millennium Park try to find the shortest route to the Modern Wing, and he suggests a mid-block crosswalk to remedy the problem. What's troubling is the City's response:

"Perhaps, as Steele says, the city can treat the problem crossing as effectively as it handled the successful, but sometimes troublesome, 2004 opening of Millennium Park.

"With hordes of pedestrians threatening to stall traffic on Michigan Avenue, the city installed posts known as bollards along the sidewalks of key intersections. That shut down certain crosswalks and eliminated dangerous meetings of cars and pedestrians."

This "problem" was so predictable from even before the Modern Wing opened. And the bollards on Michigan Ave. and at Queen's Landing blocking crosswalks have hardly been successful, as I've pointed out here before. I still see people crossing at these locations all the time.

Streets need to be designed around where people will naturally and intuitively go -- they will not be successful if they try to force people to go out of their way. Jaywalking is not the problem here -- poor street design and an archaic Dept. of Transportation is the problem. Pedestrians are also not a "problem." In fact, they're the best thing that can happen to a city, and they should be supported, not obstructed.

The City should narrow the street at this junction to slow the cars down and add a raised crosswalk to send a signal that it's the cars that are crossing the pedestrian space, not the other way around.