Now that it’s getting warm out, 11-year-old Ethan Thiakos-Bloede will likely spend a lot of time playing tag at the park district, across the street from his home, near the intersection of Harrison and Thomas Streets. But when Ethan goes to play at The Park, both he and his mother, Dana Bloede, prefer that he cross the street at the Beloit Avenue-Harrison Street intersection, rather than the Thomas Street crosswalk close to their house.
They live adjacent to a stop sign on the south side of Harrison Street at Thomas – one that Bloede swears few drivers follow, probably because of visibility. There is parking on that side of Harrison Street between Thomas Street and Desplaines Avenue, and oftentimes eastbound vehicles do not immediately spot the stop sign, Bloede explained. Many of the cars go into the intersection before they halt. To illustrate her point, Bloede pointed out her living room window, which looks out onto Harrison Street, at a car in front of her house that had just rolled through the stop sign.
“I don’t think people do it on purpose,” Bloede said, noting that the vehicles parked on the south side of the street act as a blind spot until the moving cars are right in front of the sign and have to come to a sudden stop.
She said many of the parked vehicles belong to attendees of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which are held at the Suburban Fellowship Center, 7438 Harrison St.
“I would propose that there [be] no parking on [Harrison Street],” Bloede said, noting that Thomas Street or Beloit Avenue could be used as an alternative.
“I even see cops blowing it,” she said, of the stop sign. “The only people who stop are school buses.”
The issue is of particular importance to Bloede because her son spends a considerable amount of time across the street at The Park, and she worries for his safety, and that of the many other kids who play there.
“Kids are going back and forth all day long and nobody stops at that sign,” Bloede said in an earlier phone conversation.
Chris Richards, secretary of the Park District of Forest Park, told the Review she has never heard anyone complain about the sign. Mayor Anthony Calderone said he didn’t think the intersection posed any unique danger.
“Have there been any accidents? How do we constitute it as a hazard?” said Calderone. “I don’t believe that intersection [is any more] hazardous than any other intersection.”
Bloede couldn’t disagree more.
“We live here; I know people are blowing that stop sign all the time,” she said. On summer break from Chicago State University where she studies sociology, she is often home and said she constantly sees cars coming to a half-stop at the intersection.
“It really bothers me,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Ethan and a friend crossed at Harrison and Thomas en route to the Park. Two cars approached on Harrison Street, headed in both directions. As Ethan was nearly across Harrison Street, the westbound car, which only came to a rolling stop, almost struck him, Bloede said. He dodged the car and raced to the other side. The incident illustrates her frustration and concern for her son’s safety, as well as Ethan’s own peace of mind.
“I was a little bit freaked out,” he said, recalling the incident.
Right after it occurred, a flustered and angry Dana picked up the phone and contacted the police, whose aid she has sought numerous times.
“If people can’t see the stop sign and someone gets hit, is that when you’re going to do something about it?” asked Bloede, describing her conversation with a Forest Park police officer.
Bloede said she offered the police a number of suggestions to make the intersection safer, including banning street parking, extending the no parking line so the stop sign remains visible to approaching traffic, placing lights on the sign to make it easier to see, and even doing away with the stop sign because it gives kids “the illusion” that it’s safe to cross.
“[The officer] said it was a lot of work that he would have to go through,” Bloede recalled.
“The Traffic and Safety Commission would be happy to have that lady come to the meeting and provide testimony so we know what the issue is,” Gillian said. “We would then review the issue and the different remedies that are available in order to make a recommendation to the council to do something or do nothing.”
Gillian also said, “If the [Police Department] saw something that was a major issue, [Chief Jim Ryan] could make a recommendation to me to get something in front of the council.”
Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas noted that officers were assigned to monitor the intersection in response to Bloede’s calls, but she said that was only a temporary fix since cars were only cautious when a patrolling officer was in sight.
“Any recommendation made by this department will be forwarded to the Traffic and Safety Commission,” Aftanas said.
Neither Cody nor Ryan could be reached for comment, but last week a solar-powered digital sign advising motorists to obey stop signs was placed outside of Bloede’s home. The sign reads “Stop Means Stop At All Stop Signs,” but is on the north side of the street, opposite the stop sign in question.
“We hear complaints like this more often than we care to and that’s because of the ignorant behavior of motorists,” Calderone said.
When asked where he crosses the street, Ethan said, “Over there,” pointing toward Beloit Avenue.