Parents worry about crosswalk safety near Oak Park’s Longfellow School
Oak Park, 12/07/12--Longfellow School students cross Jackson at Cuyler after school is out. There is now a sign in the street to remind motorists to stop for pedestrians when they are in the crosswalk. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:20AM
OAK PARK — After school ended Dec. 6, Dana Trice and her son, Rashaad, noticed the “stop for pedestrians” sign posted in one of the crosswalks at South Cuyler Avenue and Jackson Boulevard made a difference for them as they crossed the street.
But a few minutes later outside Longfellow Elementary School, another parent had to loudly remind an approaching car it was required to stop as she and her children crossed, despite the sign.
“There’s some times they don’t really stop,” 10-year-old Rashaad Trice said of passing cars.
After parents voiced concerns about the safety of the intersection earlier this fall, the pedestrian sign was installed in one of the striped crossings in mid-November.
Now, school and village officials are seeking further input for an update to the school’s safety plan. A meeting soliciting opinions was scheduled for Wednesday night at the school.
Though Longfellow Principal Angela Dolezal said crosswalks at South Ridgeland Avenue and Highland Avenue are those endorsed as part of the Safe Routes to School program, she understands some prefer to use the Cuyler and Jackson crossings.
Parents said it’s the quickest and most natural route for those living or parking along South Cuyler to get to the school, or for those moving between the school’s playground and Longfellow Park.
“So it’s not just a school issue. It’s a community issue,” said Jennifer Flynn, whose two children walk to school from their home on South Cuyler.
With car, bike and bus traffic, South Cuyler and Jackson can be a hectic intersection for pedestrians, said Paul Bouboutsis and Maria Kunigk, parents of Longfellow students.
And when stoplights are green at both South Ridgeland and Highland, drivers tend to fly through the South Cuyler crosswalks, they said.
The pedestrian sign has helped immensely, Flynn said, as has police presence to enforce parking restrictions along Jackson.
One little sign “has changed the whole tenor of the way they’re managing traffic,” said Bouboutsis, who created the “Longfellow School Stop Sign Coalition” Facebook group to inspire change at the intersection.
Village Engineer Jim Budrick said officials understand South Cuyler and Jackson is another crossing point people use out of convenience, and the sign was installed to make things safer for pedestrians.
But since the intersection isn’t fully protected, they still encourage children to use Highland or South Ridgeland.
“It’s pretty much not that inconvenient to walk another 300 feet,” Budrick said. There are no plans to install stop signs at South Cuyler and Jackson.
Flynn and others also would like to see buses drop off and pick up students in a different location. Currently, buses stop amid the crosswalks, which parents said adds to the mess.
“Buses block students from being able to make their way to school safely, and they block vehicular traffic from seeing students,” Bouboutsis said.
The bus concerns are likely be addressed with the updates to the safety plan. Budrick said they’ve talked about moving the bus zone closer to Highland and creating new openings in the fence along Jackson leading to the school, which could clear up the crosswalks.
They’re also looking at the scope of the entire building and soliciting opinions on additional safety improvements that can be made, Dolezal said.
Budrick said concerns brought up at Wednesday’s meeting could be used to develop recommendations for changes. Those recommendations, he said, could then be brought before the appropriate village commission.