Monday, September 1, 2008

Roosters lead rally for pedestrians' rights

by John Greenfield

[This piece also runs in this week's Time Out Chicago,]

Last Wednesday, Chicagoland Bicycle Federation’s Randy Neufeld became a walking punch line, donning a chicken suit to help Portage Park residents cross the road.

Partnering with the federation’s Drive With Care campaign, since June police issued 179 warnings to Northwest Side drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians. Next week they’ll write tickets.

But earlier this year residents were outraged after a driver struck a crossing guard at this intersection. Members of community organizations wanted to remind motorists about walkers’ rights, says campaign coordinator Falon Mihalic.

At the demo, a dozen folks aged four to 73, carrying signs reading “Stop For Pedestrians,” flanked the fowl as he marched across the street several times during rush-hour traffic. Drivers braked, then beeped, smiled and waved as the parade passed. “It’s like a pedestrian Critical Mass,” said a spectator.

Afterwards Miriam Correa, with son Steven in his kung fu uniform, said, “We live in the neighborhood. It’s important that we can cross the street safely.” Chester Kiercul, who owns the adjacent Capitol Club agreed. “A couple of my customers have been hit walking to the bar.”

At a similar protest with poultry going on across the neighborhood at Central and Belle Plaine, Jim Boratyn from IDOT, which funds Drive With Care, looked on. Asked why the state is bankrolling dudes in rooster suits, Boratyn said, “If we can save one life it’ll be worth every penny.”

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