To the many Skokie residents concerned about traffic safety near our schools, I wanted to point out that there have been some recent developments which are going to be discussed at public meetings this week (Aug 6 and Aug 8), which I do not believe have been well advertised – especially considering the general citizen reaction to the death of Carter Vo. As such, I would encourage you all to attend both the Village of Skokie Board of Trustees meeting tonight (Aug 6) and/or the School Safety Task Force Meeting on Aug 8.
First of all – some background: There is a School Traffic Safety Task Force composed of elected Village of Skokie officials, Village of Skokie staff, District 73.5 staff, and other District 73.5 representatives. A meeting was held on July 19 to listen to recommendations made by Gewalt-Hamilton Associates (GHA). The meeting minutes are posted on the Village of Skokie web site in the Skokie News section (right side of the front page in the area with a greenish background) or here:
Based on GHA’s recommendations, the committee is recommending that a new stop-light be placed at the intersection of Main Street and Central Park Avenue. In addition, pedestrian traffic will be diverted to this intersection and some other traffic patterns will be modified.
What was discussed at the July 19 meeting was that this information would be presented to the Village of Skokie board of Trustees at their Aug 6 meeting (since the cost of a new stop-light is not insignificant). The meeting minutes from the July 19 task force meeting indicate that residents will have the opportunity to comment on their proposals at this Aug 6 meeting – however, it does not appear on the agenda. So, if you are concerned about this issue, I would recommend that you either email the Village TODAY (email@example.com) with your concerns or attend the regular Board of Trustees Meeting this evening.
You MAY have one other opportunity to provide input – at the next task force meeting on August 8 (presumably in the evening at Village Hall, however, that has not been publically announced). I say “may” because at the last task force meeting, most of the recommendations were already approved by the committee before non-committee attendees were allowed the opportunity to speak. For instance, one of the committee members asked why GHA had not studied Radar Signs/Driver Feedback signs (like Evanston has near two of its schools). The GHA representative said that he was not well-versed in the advantages/disadvantages of Radar Signs and then started talking about he believed they would not be effective. Much of what the GHA representative said disagreed with what I had found and had intended to present at the meeting (Radar Signs are indeed very effective and are highly recommended by both citizens and traffic enforcement). However, I was not given an opportunity to present my results other than to hand around a presentation that I had put together. So, if I had not put together some kind of documentation, there would have been no opportunity to dispute the un-documented/un-substantiated statements from the “traffic expert” from GHA regarding radar signs.
I am not saying that the overall recommendations of GHA are not the best solutions for improving traffic safety near Middleton School. All I am trying to say is that there have been very few opportunities for community input, and that the “traffic experts” from GHA have not considered all of the options. In addition to not studying radar signs, GHA did not mention speed cameras in their report - despite this being mentioned by task force committee members at the July 19 meeting and by several residents at the Skokie Voice public safety forum on June 20. There may be other good ideas that residents have which could also improve traffic safety near our schools – but which have not been considered.
Disclosure: If you haven’t already noticed, I do not advocate relying solely on Gewalt-Hamilton Associates as “traffic experts” and simply following their recommendations. During the Road Diet, many of the results from their models were not replicated during the test, and they made statements which were not justified by and in many cases conflicted with their own data. So far, there have been at least two specific traffic calming mechanisms that have been proposed by a minimum of two different residents at task force committee meetings – yet they have not been studied by Gewalt-Hamilton Associates. My research into traffic signals indicates, that it may help in providing a safer opportunity for pedestrians to cross, but it will not reduce traffic speeds and may actually increase traffic speeds - see for instance New York City Dept. of Transportation at:
While a traffic light at the intersection of Central Park Avenue and Main Street as has been recommended by the task force committee may indeed be the best solution for improving pedestrian safety, I would encourage you to evaluate it yourselves instead of only relying on GHA as a “traffic expert”.
So, if you are concerned about traffic safety in our community and in particular around our schools, I recommend that you voice your opinion either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Village Board of Trustees meeting tonight, Aug 6, and/or attend the task force meeting on Aug 8. Otherwise, you may not have another opportunity before the Village of Skokie implements some potentially significant and costly changes to traffic not only near Middleton, but around all of our schools.