The corner of Jackson and State
The corner of Jackson and State Credit: Andrea Bauer

Before Gabe Klein resigned his position as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation last November to reenter the private sector, he spent two and a half years overseeing a handful of projects that have nudged this city away from automobile centrism and toward a more progressive, inclusive transportation plan. The cycling enthusiast and former Washington, D.C., transportation chief helped bring to Chicago the bike-share program Divvy (which led to some claims that his past consulting work for the company behind Chicago’s program, Alta Bicycle Share, corrupted the bidding process), about 50 miles of protected bike lanes, on-street bike parking “corrals,” pedestrian plazas and “people spots,” and the first phase of Bloomingdale Trail construction. Also under Klein’s watch, the city installed its first “pedestrian scramble” at Jackson and State in May of last year. Signals at the intersection stop all traffic to allow peds to do what’s called the Barnes Dance (named after traffic engineer Henry Barnes): cross in all directions, including diagonally. More than just a statement to drivers that they alone don’t own the roads, the unfettered march of foot traffic at intersections like these, CDOT believes, can reduce conflicts between walkers and turning automobiles, which contribute to about 3,000 annual vehicle crashes involving pedestrians. After this step in the right direction, it seems only a matter of time before pedestrian scrambles are installed at some of the city’s dicier five- or six-way crossings.