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Police, Alderman Hope to Curb Devon Avenue Pedestrian Accidents

By Benjamin Woodard | January 13, 2014 9:49am
 Pedestrians cross the street at Devon and Campbell avenues, where three people were injured by a hit-and-run driver in December.
Pedestrians cross the street at Devon and Campbell avenues, where three people were injured by a hit-and-run driver in December.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

WEST ROGERS PARK — Police patrolling busy Devon Avenue, which is known for its deadly combination of abundant pedestrians and speedy drivers, plan to crack down on distracted motorists who don't stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.

The effort was announced last week at a community meeting after a couple and their son were struck and badly injured by a hit-and-run driver as they crossed Devon Avenue last month.

"There's been some pretty bad accidents on Devon," said Rogers Park Police Cmdr. Thomas Waldera, adding that his officers would be "keeping an eye out" for drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or drivers who are distracted by their cellphones.

Police Officer Mike Stachula said to curb the "big uptick" in pedestrian accidents, officers also would be ticketing drivers who double park or speed.

Business owners on Devon have long been fighting for more protection for their customers.

In 2012, Tsering Dorjee was struck and killed on Devon by a hit-and-run motorist, leaving his homemaker wife behind with three children.

Last year, an 81-year-old woman was struck and killed.

In August, Norman David Esho, 83, was also struck and killed while crossing Devon.

Then, on Dec. 23, a 71-year-old woman, a 68-year-old man and their 28-year-old son were all struck by a hit-and-run driver. All three survived.

"Everyone was in a panic," said shopkeeper Mahwish Jamil, 31, who witnessed the aftermath of the accident from inside the clothing store where she works at Campbell and Devon avenues.

Jamil said the street had been getting more dangerous.

"The cars don't want to stop, the pedestrians don't want to stop," she said.

Due to the frequency of accidents, the city designated the majority of Devon Avenue's business district as the most dangerous stretch of road on the North Side, according to the Transportation Department's 2011 pedestrian crash analysis report.

Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) said she had worked to install mid-crosswalk "Stop For Pedestrian" signs to inform drivers of state law requiring that they stop.

She said the $15 million Devon Avenue streetscape project, slated to begin in the fall, would be a big part of making the street safer.

At crosswalks, she said, the curbs would be extended to shorten the distance pedestrians would need to be in the roadway.

"That's definitely going to be safer for the pedestrians," she said.

But business owners, like Rami Hashlamoun, 50, say they're tired of waiting.

"Now Devon is becoming like a highway, and we have children in the neighborhood," said Hashlamoun, who owns an H&R Block franchise on the street. "No one will even stop for you."

Hashlamoun criticized the city for recently removing a stop sign near his business, at Albany Avenue, that had slowed traffic. (Silverstein said the stop sign had been installed without a city ordinance and was removed by the Chicago Department of Transportation. There are no plans to reinstall the sign.)

Waldera said the upcoming enforcement crackdown would help to educate people of the laws meant to protect pedestrians and drivers alike.