My spectre still gets rid of beg buttons in Chicago

October 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I may no longer live in Chicago, but I can still try to get rid of some of its antiquated and pointless push-to-cross buttons (or “beg buttons”). Last fall I noticed a busy pedestrian crossing in my old neighborhood required people crossing to push the button to cross Ashland on Leland – even though a green light for car traffic moving in the same direction ran on a set timer. The only purpose the button served was to activate the pedestrian walk signal and countdown timer. Before, people would cross anyway without the signal or timer, potentially dangerous as the crossing is 65′ (20m) wide across four lanes. After a few months of having CDOT look into it, Alderman Pawar’s (47) office notified me that the signal would always illuminate without having to press the button.

Ashland Ave and Leland Ave. View Larger Map

This past spring I noticed another pedestrian crossing at the busier Montrose/Wolcott intersection in Pawar’s ward also had a beg button. Similar to the earlier case, the entire intersection was on a timer with a pavement sensor on Wolcott (one-way, south) and push-to-walk buttons for people crossing Montrose on Wolcott.

Montrose Ave at Wolcott. View Larger Map

The intersection is one block from the busy Montrose Brown line station, a bus route, and several businesses. It is also on a designated Pedestrian Street (P-street), which is “intended to promote transit, economic vitality and pedestrian safety and comfort.” On promoting and ensuring safety and comfort, beg buttons fail.

Happily, I received an email today from Pawar’s office letting me know that CDOT will change the signal so that the button will no longer need to be pressed to get the signal to cross Montrose. Alderman Pawar has been a fairly reliable alderman when it comes to active transportation issues, making many streets better for people walking, biking, and riding transit, and I’m glad to see that his office respects this down to some of the most minute details (such as my vendetta against beg buttons).

This is only the second instance of an outdated beg button I bothered to pursue, but I’m sure there are many more throughout the city. If there’s enough interest and enough people find them an annoyance, it might be a good idea to go out for a walk and jot down where other such buttons exist so a full list can be submitted to aldermen and they can be investigated together, instead of in an ad-hoc fashion (which takes months).