By: Diane Benjamin
See this story from earlier today is you missed it: https://blnnews.com/2021/08/19/mia-common-sense-in-normal/
Below is the text of an email from August 2020 to the Normal Town Council, the author was purposely redacted. This email had been sent to Town Planner Mercy Davidson in November of 2019.
I have concerns over the signage in the middle of the roads instructing motorists it is the law to stop for pedestrians in crosswalk.
1 – Yes, it is a law. I know this because it is part of Rules of the Road and I follow those rules.
2 – There are no notices highlighting we need to stop for a stop sign at the next corner or that we need to stop for the railroad crossing arms. If we do not, who is responsible for not reminding us we needed to, because we are reminded to stop for pedestrians in the cross walks.
3 – I’ve personally noticed a number of the signs flattened by motorists. More expense and potential damage to a vehicle, not to mention the concern of someone losing control and picking someone off or even an accident with another vehicle after hitting one of these, or attempting to avoid hitting one.
My personal experiences:
1 – I’ve followed people that stop for someone that is several feet from even crossing the crosswalk and wait – slowing traffic.
2 – I’ve followed people that stop when no one is even around.
3 – I’ve followed confused people who don’t know what to do when the pedestrian stops, after the car stops to wait for them, then the car goes as the pedestrian steps out.
4 – I’ve met a group of girls on the trail after dark (also a violation) who decided to play chicken with me at the walk. I stopped, they pretended to step out. They pulled back, I slowly went and was screamed f-bombs, waived the middle finger, etc. as they laughed and swayed forward as if going to walk into my vehicle. I swerved so if they did fall, it was into the road on their own.
5 – I had a woman approaching the intersection on a bicycle and was maybe 10-20′ away? who started screaming at me that I didn’t stop and frantically pointing at the sign that I needed to stop. I suggested she read the signage for exactly what it said. She continued to scream and I drove on.
The signage creates distraction and frustration. It is the law that we do not run over pedestrians. It is also common sense to look both ways to see if traffic is coming before stepping into an intersection. It seems as if some walkers/cyclists have the opinion that as they have the right of way they can take on a vehicle not responsible enough to stop even if they were in the intersection.
In looking at IDOT, it suggests the signage is not even appropriate/expectations missed. I’m also not in the business of following these rules and realize any piece of the language could be argued, I have an outdated manual, have no clue what I’m talking about, etc. However, as a driver with a valid license, I’m frustrated. The last line in this seemed to make most sense and I’ve highlighted that – https://idot.illinois.gov/Assets/uploads/files/Transportation-System/Manuals-Guides-&-Handbooks/T2/P030_RoadDistrictSignGuide.pdf
“Section 1: SIGN ERECTION AND PLACEMENT When erecting signs, it is essential that the location be determined which will provide maximum visibility. Positions cannot be standardized as signs must in all cases be placed in the most advantageous positions depending upon the highway design and alignment. The following are some general rules for locating signs: • Locate signs on the right-hand side of the roadway where the driver is in a habit of looking for them. • Locate signs to optimize nighttime visibility and minimize the effects of mud spatter. • Locate signs so they do not obscure each other or are hidden from view by other roadside objects. • Locate decision making signs far enough apart to allow sufficient time to make the decision. Signs are to be installed individually on separate posts or mountings, except where one sign supplements another, or where signs must be grouped. Signs should be located so that they: • Are outside the clear zone unless placed on a breakaway or yielding support; • Optimize nighttime visibility; • Do not obscure each other; and • Are not hidden from view. Signing of Road District and Township Highways August 2013 3-2 Care should be taken not to install too many signs. Regulatory and warnings signs should be used conservatively since these signs, if used to excess, tend to lose their effectiveness.
I also have frustrations with the new bike paths. For as long as they have been out, I’ve seen 3-4 cyclists use them. I have, however, seen cyclists not follow rules of the road any number of times. I’ve witnessed cyclists taunt drivers at the hill on Vernon Avenue near Jeffrey Allens coming off the Trail and crossing the road -taunt was putting is mildly, I would have called for help. I’ve had a kid on one of the TON bikes dart out infront of me while I had a green light and he was going the wrong way on the road. I’ve also, thankfully, seen more cyclists, walkers, drivers who know how to properly maneuver without being reminded to follow the rules.
Some time ago I thought I understood jay walking and not crossing in cross walks was going to be addressed. Students crossing on Main/Center Streets especially is scary at times. I avoid that road as much as possible – cross walks are not typically used and if dusk/dark, you just cannot always see them. I was at a corner by The Lodge apartments on Willow when a number of students monopolized the intersection for several minutes crossing diagonally/making their own crazy crossing rules – just messing around in general while traffic stopped and waited for them to clear. I’m not unrealistic. I know kids are kids and there is really no way to manage all of these inappropriate behaviors. But not one vehicle attempted to prove the point that they were doing wrongs. We sat and waited for them to clear and moved on appropriately. See,s we need to get back to basic common sense and let people be responsible for themselves.
We’re going to have unfortunate accidents, as well as people who do ugly things on purpose. I have a hard time believing its the majority. I personally am a defensive driver who has made errors and caused at least once accident, and have run a stop sign I didn’t see, blown a red light to be reminded I need to stop at them, broken the speed limit (even with reminders), etc.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Stan Nord sent an email agreeing with the writer. Pam Reece sent this response, of course she never sees a problem:
Next Kathleen Lorenz chimed in with one of her famous requests to meet. She thinks she can charm anyone over coffee. Note the arrow and what it points to. How long does it take Kathleen? More than a year? Doug Fansler is the citizen in the previous story and still can’t get these signs on an agenda. The Town has told Doug to sign up for Public Comment. Under the Koos rules of open and transparent, that means at the end of a meeting. Last Monday that meant waiting 2 1/2 hours. Nobody would have cared by then and they still don’t.
From Kathleen’s email, the only reason the Town is using these signs is because they are trendy. Safety is immaterial.
I know the text in pictures of emails can be small. In case you can’t read Pam’s email:
Thank you for sharing your experience with the Mayor and Council. My experience has been almost the exact opposite. Most of my experiences have been at Northtown Road and Raab Road where I’ve stopped for trail users and had no issues; and I’ve been a crosswalk user and coordinated my crossing effectively with vehicular traffic. I appreciate knowing the challenges you have faced and will share this information with the organized bicycle groups in hopes they can promote rider education to bicyclists, along with our continued attempts to educate vehicular drivers, pedestrians and cyclists about crosswalk safety.
For clarification, the signs currently in use are found in countless communities in Illinois and across the country. They are approved by Federal Highway Administration as well as the State of Illinois for use. Certainly an ideal situation would be that such signs wouldn’t be necessary in any community. I’ve found that many communities I’ve visited (some with these signs and some without) seem to recognize crosswalk regulations must more diligently than Bloomington and Normal, resulting in a very safe and collegial relationship between those in vehicles and those using the crosswalk.
Regarding Doug Fansler’s request to speak to Council as an item on their meeting agenda, I have communicated with him on a couple occasions about this issue. He should be aware of the status of his request.
Thanks Pam for keeping me in the loop on this correspondence. Catching up on some Town correspondence now after a busy start to my work week with obligations at the day job 🙂
Redacted, Thanks for reaching out to all of us with your concerns. I’m happy to visit with you by phone or in person if that helps on this topic. I would enjoy reconnecting with you.
I’m sorry to hear you’ve had negative experiences or witnessed ones like that re: the trail crossing signs. My trail usage has increased since the spring, and I have experienced or witnessed very positive and orderly navigation through these signs. Since we installed them a few years ago, I took notice of them being in many other communities – especially college towns – in my personal travels. For the last 4 years I traveled extensively to watch my daughter’s college soccer team play – mostly in the southeast – and noticed extensive usage of this type of signage. Even a comparable city to us like West Lafayette IN, which I frequent, has many of these signs. I share that as a way to offer to you that Normal is not the exception in utilizing these signs, but I would also bet the other cities might have the ongoing dialogue like we do about their effectiveness or not. So, with all that said, please continue to share you experiences/observations. If ever the use of these signs start to consistently show more risk than benefit, I am confident that the staff will be sure to take appropriate action. Please keep the communication going!
You may already be aware, but we are working out a date for Mr. Fansler to speak on this topic.
Thanks again for your engagement in the town and our community.
Normal Town Councilmember