The intersection of Western and Belle Plaine Avenues in North Center on July 25, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

NORTH CENTER — The 47th Ward has seen the devastating damage that reckless driving can cause, including the deaths of toddlers in the area. Recently, one member of the community made a push to increase safety for pedestrians.

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) announced on Facebook that a new button-activated flashing pedestrian beacon was installed at the intersection of Western and Belle Plaine avenues. The signage will call for drivers to yield for pedestrians as they are crossing the street.

The updated sign came thanks to community member Tom Greenan, who reached out to the alderman’s office after witnessing a family stuck in the middle of the busy street while attempting to cross.

The intersection of Western and Belle Plaine avenues in North Center on July 25, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The Western and Belle Plaine intersection is one of the busier intersections in the 47th Ward, as it is close to the North Center Senior Campus apartments, right near a bus stop and on a school-crossing route for John C. Coonley Elementary School.

The new beacon will be added to the methods that were already in the works in order to try to prevent reckless driving. This includes curb extensions added where Montrose Avenue intersects with Campbell, Maplewood and Artesian avenues, as well as a raised crosswalk near James B. McPherson Elementary School.

“The sorts of things that we are doing at other intersections, which is building curb extensions, building refuge islands and physically forcing drivers to slow… When those are not an option on streets this size, the data does suggest that flashing beacons do lead to higher rates of drivers stopping at crosswalks,” Mark said. “That’s why we chose it.”

Mark also specifies the importance of community involvement, as residents like Greenan are vital for reporting changes within the community.

“Community involvement is really important in getting pedestrian safety projects identified and prioritized by aldermen,” he said. “Unfortunately, it has picked up due to a number of tragedies that have been well-publicized in the city and our ward. It’s absolutely important for folks to speak up.”

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