UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — When Robert Magiet heard on social media recently that a driver almost hit someone at Chicago and Campbell avenues, he knew he had to do something.
“I’m just like, you know what, enough’s enough. Let me go out and see if I can help,” he said.
Last week, Magiet ordered a red stop sign online. On Monday morning, he headed to the Ukrainian Village intersection, which sits about a block south of Chopin Elementary School, 2450 W. Rice St.
“I bought [the sign] on Amazon because I just couldn’t source one local. And I wanted to get out there,” he said.
Every morning and afternoon since, Magiet has helped kids, families and whoever else is around cross the street as a volunteer crossing guard.
Magiet, who lives about a half-mile north of the intersection, said he was inspired to act by how dangerous traffic is on his own block, where drivers often roll through crosswalks or don’t bother stopping at all.
“In the mornings, when we have to load our kids into the car to go to school, we have to like stand out there, and turn our backs to our kids, to make sure that cars see that we’re loading our kids into the car. It’s that dangerous,” he said.
The same goes at Campbell and Chicago. Drivers, bicyclists and even pedestrians are often just not paying attention, Magiet said.
“But the drivers are the ones that are driving cars that are 2 tons, 3 tons. They literally just pull into the crosswalk, so they don’t even stop at the white line. They pull into crosswalks when it could already be too late,” he said.
Magiet said the response from the neighborhood has has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve had some parents bring me baked goods. I’ve had some teachers from Chopin come out and tell me, ‘Thank you, we really appreciate what you’re doing.’ So, it’s been nice,” he said.
Sandra Nunes, who works as a nanny in the neighborhood, said Thursday it was “about time” someone tried to get the traffic under control at Campbell and Chicago.
“Even though the stop sign is there, these people don’t care. They run the light. I have to be careful,” she said.
Magiet said the reaction from drivers hasn’t been quite as welcoming.
“Chicago [Avenue] is one lane each way plus a bus lane. And I’ve had cars create a third lane to try to go around the other two lanes,” he said. “I get honked at. I’ve been called an effing loser a couple times. It’s crazy.”
Magiet, who has four kids and owns the restaurant TaKorea Cocina, 1022 N. Western Ave., is hoping to ultimately find a semi-permanent volunteer to take over for him.
He’s launched a GoFundMe to raise money to pay someone to work as a crossing guard at the intersection for the rest of the school year.
“Maybe get someone local in the community that needs a job. You know, it wouldn’t be much, an hour in the morning or in the afternoon. Somebody could make like, maybe it’s a couple hundreds bucks a week,” Magiet said.
In a statement issued after this story was originally published, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said there was a crossing guard at the intersection who left early in the school year. A new person has been hired to fill that position and “will be on site as soon as they are properly onboarded,” the spokesman said.
In the meantime, Magiet will be out at Campbell and Chicago every weekday, making sure neighbors get to school or wherever they’re going safely.
“Nobody stops at stop signs anymore,” Magiet said. “If I was in need of having to walk my children to school, I would hope that I’d have a safe route to get there. And that intersection is not safe. I mean, it’s legitimately dangerous. I’ve almost been hit a couple times.”
This isn’t the first time Magiet has stepped up to help his neighborhood. During the pandemic, he delivered thousands of free meals to neighbors and regularly bought dozens of tamales from struggling street vendors, taking the food to homeless encampments.
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