Crossing Talcott And The “Risk Free” Life


The front-page headline in today’s Park Ridge Journal (“Pleas For Safer Crosswalk,” May 25) and an article in the on-line edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Pedestrian signal device debated for Maine South crossing,” May 25) illustrate a relatively recent American social phenomenon: the pursuit of a risk-free life.

Maine South High School has been at the corner of Talcott and Dee Roads since 1964.  Since that time, high school students have been walking to its campus from various directions, including across Talcott.  We would hazard a guess that millions of crossings of Talcott in the vicinity of Maine South have occurred since then, both in connection with school attendance and otherwise, yet we aren’t aware of any data concerning the number of fatalities, injuries, or even incidents involving crossing pedestrians in that area that suggest a greater danger posed by that stretch of pavement than elsewhere in Park Ridge.

Never let it be said, however, that facts and data should stand in the way of emotional appeals and political grandstanding, both of which were in evidence at Monday night’s Park Ridge City Council COW (committee-of-the-whole) meeting as that stretch of Talcott was depicted as a cross between some form of urban killing field and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  And singled out for special attention was the Talcott crossing just west of Hamlin.

A couple of students said they don’t feel safe walking in the Hamlin crosswalk.  A few parents related personal observations and anecdotes.  And Alds. Sal Raspanti (4th) and Tom Bernick (6th) flexed their political muscles and let it be known that they were going to make sure that something would be done, with the inside-track on that something looking like a yellow flashing signal light.

But as noted in the City’s Agenda Cover Memorandum, the results of City traffic studies for that stretch of road “do not meet the criteria for installation of a traffic control device”; and the installation of devices such as flashing lights where the accepted criteria are not met “exposes the City and City staff to increased liability.”

That didn’t deter Bernick, however, who called the situation “ridiculous” and concluded, albeit without citation to any statute or other legal authority, that the City’s liability would be far worse if somebody gets run over due to the lack of a signal there.  In that regard, Bernick reminded us of former Ald. Jim Allegretti, who seemed to invoke “City liability” whenever he couldn’t come up with any better argument for something he wanted.

But we digress.

For the past several years High School District 207 provided a part-time guard at that crossing during peak start/finish school traffic times, at a cost of $4,500 per year.  But this year D-207 cut the crossing guard due to budget constraints, dumping the “problem” into the City’s lap because the D-207 Board decided that it didn’t want to spend its $4,500 on this particular “safety” feature for its students. 

And at least two aldermen – Bernick and Raspanti – appear only too happy to field D-207’s punt.

But the bottom line here is pretty much an issue of plain common sense.  By the time a kid is of high school age, he/she should already have learned how to “look both ways” and cross a street safely, even a four-lane street like Talcott.  That’s the express basis of City Council Policy Statement No. 2, which states that “students in junior and senior high school are judged to be mature enough to travel to and from school without the assistance of adult school guards.”

And if a particular student isn’t “mature enough,” then the simple solution is for him/her to cross Talcott at one of its several traffic light-controlled intersections: at Courtland, Cumberland, Greenwood or Dee.  Sure, that might be a little inconvenient or out-of-the-way, but it’s a small sacrifice to make if safety truly is that important.

What seems to be at work here, however, is a new type of “special interest”: people looking for a kind of risk-free lifestyle for themselves and their loved ones, especially if the pursuit of that goal can be achieved without significant inconvenience to them and is funded out of the public purse rather than from their own pockets.  Unfortunately, more than a few politicians at every level of government seem ready, willing and able to pander to this new special interest, once again with public funds rather than their own.

At the height of his dudgeon, Bernick postured: “Who’s rolling the dice about which kid gets run over?”   

All the same people – including yourself, alderman – who are content to “roll the dice” every day on kids crossing all our other high-traffic roadways that don’t have a flashing yellow light or a crossing guard at their most convenient crossing points. 

If the solution to this problem is a crossing guard, then it should be up to D-207 (or the Maine South PTO) to fund it. 

But it appears to us that the better solution is letting kids, parents and politicians know, in no uncertain terms, that scarce public funds are no longer going to be used to compensate for a basic lack of common sense and caution.  Or for someone’s mere convenience.

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12 comments so far

A-frickin’-men. What the hell is this Bernick guy all about?!?

Kids… leave a little early and cross at the light!!

Methinks Bernick and Raspanti have kids who need to cross Talcott to get to Maine South. And remember the most important mantra: it’s “for the kids.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ah, yes, so long as it’s “for the kids” no other reason is needed.

Methinks YOU are the one who is invoking the specter of “City liability” to get what YOU want here. Your argument that we never had this level of safety care before reminds me of the folks who think seat belt laws aren’t needed because “nuttin’ happened to us.” Well, it did to a bunch of other folks. If the fact that these Ralcott-crossing residents are over age 13 makes them impervious to speeding, distracted drivers, then why have any traffic lights anywhere? Moms can just quit their jobs and hold everyone’s hand under age 13 and anyone over 13 is probably a drain on natural resources anyway, so let them take their chances. Think of the money we’d save.If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball, right? Newsflash: Parents are making the decision to pay for their own solution now: It’s called driving out of their way to schlep their kid to the schoolyard door at today’s gas prices. Question is: Do we want a walkable ocmmunity or are we content to have everyone behind the wheel because it isn’t safe to walk anywhere here in ‘burbia?

EDITOR’S NOTE: “[I]t isn’t safe to walk anywhere here in ‘burbia’?” Do you really want to stick with that one?

The City will say it can’t afford the $4,500 per annum (out of a $50,000,000.00+ budget) but Dist. 207 consistently finds monies for essentials such as neighborhood-strafing kleig lights for night sports, so I’m sure they can find a lousy five grand for the crossing guard. Between the City and Dist. 207, they should be able to find the gelt — IF the safety of residents really matters.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If that stretch of Talcott is so unsafe, then your beef appears to be with IDOT. Get hold of Sen. Dan Kotowski and Rep. Rosemary Mulligan and demand a change to the “criteria for installation of traffic control devices” so that Deadman’s Curve qualifies for the flashing yellow light, or a traffic light, or a “Stop” sign (plus the extra “Stop Means Stop” reminder), or 24/7 state-paid crossing guards.

“But it appears to us that the better solution is letting kids, parents and politicians know, in no uncertain terms, that scarce public funds are no longer going to be used to compensate for a basic lack of common sense and caution”.

Great idea!!! Let’s start with speed limits. Think about what all those signs cost not to mention the police officers to attempt to enforce these limits. What a terrible waste of scarce public funds!! You state…”By the time a kid is of high school age, he/she should already have learned how to “look both ways” and cross a street safely…..”. The same idea applies with speed limits. An adult with a liscense should know the appropriate speed to drive for the road they are on, traffic and weather conditions (god willing sober and without a cell phone stuck to their ear). It just common sense and we should no longer spend public money to “compensate” for some who may not have common sense or use caution!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “appropriate speed” does not necessarily have anything in common with the legal speed , which is one reason the overwhelming majority of speeding tickets do not involve accidents or any type. But if you want to go with one uniform speed limit everywhere – 20 mph, 30 mph, 40 mph, 70 mph? – then we wouldn’t need all those expensive signs, although you still might need the cops to enforce whatever that uniform limit is.

Or maybe the cops could just hang out on Talcott between Greenwood and Dee for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon and ticket every kid who crosses anywhere between the crosswalks at those two lights? Kind of like ticketing people who cross the RR tracks when the bell is ringing.

Cross at a light!!! What the hell are you missing?

$4,500 dollars is too much to spend on a crossing light where students are designated to cross, but $21,000 dollars is not too much to spend on the Spokesman so the Mayor can get free publicity and we can read free advertising for businesses and read about new laws nobody will remember unless they have to even though all the information is on the web and in the newspapers. Thank you for making your laughable financial priorities very clear.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re welcome.

Solution: close the cross walk and make the kids cross at a light. Problem solved. Don’t like it? Have Mommy or Daddy drive poor Johnny/Suzy to school. Done. There is no reason to spend any money on this.

8:45 PM,

I agree!

Something’s wrong when the Advocate reports that a 16 year-old girl who lives right across Talcott from Maine South gets rides to school because she says crossing Talcott without a crossing guard is too dangerous.

She should march a block or so further West and cross at the Dee light, but why do that when mommy or daddy will drive the poor frightened dear?


Why don’t mommmy and daddy just drive her to the light? She can make it the rest of the way safely on her own.

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