The the Chicago Police Department didn’t appreciate protestors efforts to make cars actually stop at an often-run red light last week. The Chicago Police Department’s solution? Just let the light run green for five minutes. Apparently, they decided it was better to maroon pedestrians on the side of a busy 10 lane road than hold drivers accountable to existing traffic laws. And the worst part is, the city seems to have signed on with the decision.
This story starts with the traffic death of Gerardo Marciales, who was hit by a red light runner as he attempted to cross Chicago’s massive 10-lane road, DuSable Lake Shore Drive at Balbo Drive, to access a biking trail in February of this year. Pedestrians are given only 45 seconds to cross this 125-foot stretch of concrete that features some of the heaviest traffic in the city.
In response to Marciales death, the city put up flexible plastic posts in the median to prevent drivers in the left-hand turn lane from going straight, but that does nothing about the red light running which is endemic to this crossing, according to Streetsblog Chicago:
Leading the charge to highlight the Balbo/DLSD red light-running problem has been Mike Perrino, who works as a Segway tour guide by day and tweets under the handle Segway Batman (but is more often seen riding a hoverboard electric unicycle). He has organized volunteers to keep counts of how common it is for drivers to disobey the traffic signal. For example, during a recent five-hour period, he observed 1,827 drivers running the red while pedestrians and bike riders had a walk signal. That is, breaking the law almost seems to be the rule rather than the exception. This extremely unsafe situation is illustrated in the video below.
Activist Mike Perrino held his event last Friday, and the police response to protestors forcing drivers to actually stop at a legal red light was less than satisfactory.
See, in CPD officers’ eyes, it was the protestors and the pedestrians they protected who were holding up traffic by stranding red light runners in the cross section. The scofflaws stopped by protestors after blowing through a legal red light blocked traffic of eastbound drivers turning left onto the northbound side of Lake Shore. Police responded, not by cracking down on drivers putting pedestrians at risk and breaking traffic laws, but by manually controlling the light, keeping it green for drivers for five minutes. One protestor caught the cops admitting to this claim:
“If they hadn’t run the red light and stopped behind the stop line, the turning drivers would be able to proceed uninterrupted,” the volunteer notes in the video. “But because people ran the red light and stopped in the middle of the intersection, in the middle of the crosswalk, they were the ones causing traffic [jams].”
“Pedestrians are not traffic – cars are traffic?” the volunteer asks the officer sarcastically. The cop nods.
On Saturday afternoon, Perrino tweeted that the city was still manually controlling the traffic signal, creating long delays for pedestrians and bike riders.
The message from the city of Chicago and police is clear: If you’re outside of a car, you’re on your own.