Mt. Prospect focuses on crosswalk safety after bicyclist's death

Mount Prospect and IDOT officials and state Rep. David Harris assured residents who packed Mount Prospect village hall Monday they would work to address concerns about the new pedestrian crossing at Central Road and Weller Lane.

Those concerns were raised after Joni Beaudry was killed June 9 after being hit by an SUV as she was crossing Central Road on her bicycle after activating a "Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon," a device with amber lights alerting drivers to stop for cyclists and pedestrians.

The beacon was among several recently installed improvements designed to make the crossing, which serves Melas Park, safer.

At the special community meeting, residents presented a petition urging action either to build a pedestrian bridge over Central Road or stop traffic with a stoplight or a device known as a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk system, or HAWK beacon.

The HAWK beacon is a series of lamps, normally dark, that flash yellow and then red when someone is crossing.

Resident Jill Maher said she appreciates that the current safety lights were installed with good intentions.

But Maher, who described herself as a marathon finisher who has run and biked thousands of miles, said: "I have to be honest. This is by far the worst pedestrian crossing that I have ever experienced."

She recounted one experience with the crossing, when she and her 8-year-old son pressed the button and watched 15 out of 20 cars continue to drive through the crossing.

"The car that was closest to us had stopped, and cars that were backed up behind it went around that stopped car. I thought they were actually going to stop for us at that pedestrian crossing, but instead they continued through the light."

Sean Dorsey, Mount Prospect's director of public works, said the village has already implemented short-term solutions, such as extra signage and pavement markings. It also plans to install more signs and supplement the existing beacon on the side of the road with additional flashing beacons, either in the center island median or overhead, he said.

Dorsey said the village is trying to overcome IDOT's concerns about the HAWK system, including that vehicles would stop at a darkened signal, disrupting traffic.

Dorsey said IDOT has initiated a speed study of Central Road, with an eye to potentially reducing the speed on the thoroughfare.

In addition, he said IDOT is working on a traffic signal warrant study. Federal rules, he said, are very strict on where traffic signals can be installed.

Beaudry's husband, Eric Jakubowski, was among those who spoke in the crammed village hall, criticizing the design and the preparation leading up to the improvements.

He also directed barbs at IDOT, saying: "I doubt that IDOT understands the law. Their logic is inconsistent with the law. It is very clear pedestrians have the right of way. How do you put up a yellow sign or a yellow blinking light when it is very clear who has the right of way? We all know who is going to lose the battle of chicken when a pedestrian walks in front of a car."

Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek and trustees were sympathetic.

"We're definitely on the same side and on the same page," Juracek said.

Harris, who called a meeting in August that was attended by village and IDOT officials, acknowledged a problem.

"I go past that crosswalk at least twice a day," said Harris, whose office is on Central Road. "The problem is the line of sight in those lanes. You cannot see somebody that is in that crosswalk depending on what lane you are in and how many cars are in the lane that is next to you."

  Eric Jakubowski, whose wife, Joni Beaudry, was struck and killed June 9 while crossing Central Road near Melas Park, speaks at a special community meeting in the Mount Prospect village hall Tuesday. Steve Zalusky/
  People sit in the Mount Prospect village hall at a special community meeting Tuesday to discuss the crosswalk at Central Road and Weller Lane, where a bicyclist was struck and killed June 9. Steve Zalusky/
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