The little things certainly count for something, especially when you pride yourself on small town charm.
Beginning next month, police in Forest Park will begin paying greater attention to the sometimes frightening dance in which motorists and pedestrians along Madison engage one another. The plan is to put undercover officers at crosswalks, take note of who fails to yield and then ticket the offenders. Seems like a very simple, straightforward plan, as it should be. The rules of the road are quite clear: when people are waiting to cross in a marked crossing, drivers must let them.
For a police department that battles drug dealers, thieves and sometimes violent offenders with an undermanned staff, this might seem like a misallocation of resources. It is not. In the larger picture we can all recognize that littering, loud stereos or the occasional jaywalker must take a back seat to more serious crimes. However, the quality of life within a community can largely be influenced by such things as courtesy, accountability and respect.
Stopping for pedestrians is much more likely to elicit an appreciative wave than an obscene gesture. It’s also safer. Since 2004, at least a dozen people have been struck while crossing Madison. One of them was killed.
Forest Park has taken a number of steps to make this busy roadway more pedestrian-friendly, and part of the challenge is in how drivers may see the street. In Oak Park and Maywood, the road is wider and serves as a corridor rather than a destination. It helps that there are visual cues here that tell drivers to slow down, and enforcement is a logical next step.
When someone is killed, and when so many are hit, it should be apparent that we aren’t doing some of the little things as well as we might. The police chief and his department deserve our collective thanks for literally stepping into harm’s way and, especially, for hearing the community. That’s where Forest Park’s small town charm comes from.