A group of children and parents wait for the light on the second day of school. Parents just learned that there will be no crossing guard assigned to the intersection this year. Credit: Patrick Boylan
St. Matthias parents living in Lincoln Square North were surprised to learn that the city would not be providing a crossing guard at the intersection of Western, Lincoln and Ainslie this school year. A city traffic report from several years ago noted the intersection crosses 52,200 vehicles a day.
20th District Chicago Police, who assign crossing guards for the intersection said the crossing guard was being withdrawn because there is a shortage of crossing guards. “The guard will be there until the paperwork is processed to close the location,” an officer told The Bulldog Thursday.
“The intersection is very dangerous. My mom got hit here four years ago,” Grace Hussar told The Bulldog. Hussar was collecting two children from St. Matthias for neighbors.
“The cars never look when they turn,” she added. “I'm not going to cross here with little kids on the south side of the intersection.”
Hussar said the corner had been patrolled by Ms. Luca. “Ms. Luca has been the crossing guard here forever.” Hussar said.
On Thursday afternoon, following Bulldog inquiries, the police made a temporary assignment of a crossing guard. Vivian, who said she usually worked near Budlong School, said she received a call that morning to patrol the intersection. “I think the corner is busy,” she said.
St Matthias Principal Adam Dusault told The Bulldog the school first learned of the decision from a parent late last week. In a statement, the school said "our biggest concern is the safety of our kids."
Children crossing Western Ave from St Matthias will not be watched by a school crossing guard this year, parents were told. Credit: Patrick Boylan
Cathy Hasmonek, who photographs for The Bulldog and lives in the Lincoln Square North area told The Bulldog that about 40 or so people are crossed at the intersection on a typical morning. Neighbors listening to the conversation added more details. They pointed to the trees removed due to auto accidents, the fence at the school playlot that had to be replaced and a traffic signal they said was new because of the many accidents it played a role in.
“When people take the corner they take a right turn and that's on the walk signal,” Hasmonek said. “The school has grown and there are more children than ever using the corner.”
St. Matthias did not return calls for comment. Great Schools lists the attendance at 215 students. However several parents said the attendance was closer to 275.
“There's only one place to cross Western for the children,” Hasmonek said.
The intersection needs to be crossed on both Western and on Lincoln as most children live west of Lincoln. A student complained that drivers roll through the Ainslie and Lincoln intersection, often without looking and while on their cell phone.
St Matthias children crossing Western face heavy traffic, large vehicles and rolling stops. Credit: Patrick Boylan
Other parents said Ainslie is a shortcut to Lincoln for residents in the Winnemac Park neighborhood. Some drivers, they claim, even avoid the corner of Western and Lawrence by using side streets that feed onto Ainslie, making traffic on the street heavier than it should be.
The mother of a first grader, Ms. Paloma, said “I have a special needs child so safety is something I have an eye on.” She criticized the decision by police to end the crossing guard at the corner.
Another parent, Mr. Hilary, the father of three children in Pre-K through 3rd grade, said “with kids its safety first. Sometimes with cars they are in haste. Police presence enforces the laws and slows drivers down.”
“Around here it is unbelievably busy. There are really five streets going through that intersection,” he said. “It's a confusing intersection.”
As the parents crossed with their children the crossing guard noted that the parents presence Thursday was unusual. “They are here because they heard there's no crossing guard,” Vivian said. “Plus it is only the second day of school.”
The Bulldog contacted Ald. Ameya Pawar, the Chicago Police News Affairs and the CPD 20th District for comment for this story.
Watch as only two cars come to a complete stop as the children approach the intersection of Ainslie and Lincoln.