In Chicago, crossing the street an act of faith

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass hits Wabash Avenue to find out where pedestrians and traffic don't mix in front of Trump Tower.

The other day, I used sustainable transport to move myself along Wabash Avenue near the Trump Tower.

Yes, I walked. Amazingly, this walking business requires no new technology, no special clothes, no helmet, not even a Divvy bike, the wheeled, powder-blue token of Rahm Emanuel's re-election bid.

When you walk in Chicago, all you need are feet and faith.

You move the feet, one after the other, down the sidewalk, until you have to cross the street. That's when you need faith.

Especially at two of the most suspicious, perhaps even dangerous parcels of real estate in Chicago:

The notorious Wabash crosswalks.

They're both just north of the river, and both are inherently evil. One is near the Dunkin' Donuts, with bits of faded paint on the pavement, barely signaling a crosswalk. That one is the Mother of All Evil Crosswalks.

You take your life in your own hands, and roll the dice and hope cabdrivers can read the bright yellow sign in the middle of the street telling them to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

I told a perfect stranger, a Pennsylvania woman here for a medical records convention, to go out into the street and test my theory that cars would stop.

"No," she said.

I sighed. What's wrong with you? There's a sign, I said, see? It tells them they must stop. So go out there and let me see if they stop. Don't worry, I'm a trained journalist.

"No," she said.

The other walkway, closer to the Wabash Avenue Bridge, is even more clearly marked. There's a stop light and a walk light, but crossing there can sometimes seem like a dance with death. Maybe the jaywalkers are to blame, or maybe the drivers just aren't paying attention.

The bellmen at the nearby Langham Hotel often watch the impending doom.

"They speed through here all the time," said a bellman, who noted they see accidents and near-accidents every day.

"We see them four or five times a day. They don't always slow down. It's only a matter of time until someone gets killed."

Another bellman piped up.

"I saw a guy who got flipped on the hood of a cab," he said, rather excited. "He was just up on the cab, rolling, then he kept walking."

If you grew up watching those animal survival documentaries, usually involving water holes in the desert and lions waiting to feed on thirsty herbivores, you might want to observe the Wabash crosswalks.

Pedestrians are the wildebeests. And the cabs are predators. After much dramatic tension, it ends badly for the gentle herbivores.

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