Beyond Retail

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More on Life Without a Car

Really, MetroWest isn't that bad.

Earlier today, I went to Vernon Hills, Illinois; which is the big retail area around here. Basically, my plan for the day was to pick up some bottled water. Public transportation stops at the local mall (Westfield Hawthorn) and at SuperTarget, which is across the street.

The bus schedule sucks, so I was dropped off at the mall at about 4:30pm; after convincing the driver to stop at the regularly scheduled stop of Target, he agreed to pick me up there at the regularly scheduled time of 6:15pm.

I got off at the mall with the intent, of course, of burning as much time as possible so that I wouldn't have to spend two hours at Target. Normally, that would be at least possible, but keep in mind, everything purchased at Target would need to come back with me on the bus. And the state of Illinois has a really funny law: at crosswalks, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. This may puzzle you as it continues to puzzle me. What the hell, many Boston area natives out here have been asking themselves. "If I can't cross until there is no traffic, then what even is the point of having a crosswalk?"

At the mall, I looped around the Macy's anchor and crossed a sea of parking. As the mall physically (but not asthetically) dates to 1973, the spaces are all lined diagonally, meaning that everyone parks extremely poorly. At the end of the sea, I needed to cross with about the same width and traffic volume (and purpose) as the road behind Toys 'R' Us, TJ Maxx, Macy's Furniture Gallery, etc. Except, unlike at Shoppers World, this road had no crosswalk.

Finally getting across that and hiking up a hill, I arrived at a Dominick's supermarket. Realizing that...

1) I really wanted to kill some time
2) Someday it might be a good idea would be a good idea to get a Dominick's card

Well, now was the time. I went into the store, which must be one of the dumpiest Dominick's in the chain... the company's stores in nearby Northbrook and Lake Bluff are much clean, modern, and at least acceptable... this place has 10' ceilings! On my way to the customer service desk, I passed a huge display for Aquafina water... my favorite brand, and hell, it was 2/9! How could I pass up such a deal... oh yeah, I would have needed to carry two 24-packs of water across a road scarier than Route 9. So instead, I promptly signed up for the "Dominick's Fresh Values Card", and got out of there.

(actually, the most interesting discovery at Dominick's was a guy standing in front of the store playing the trumpet. He was wearing the Dominick's jacket, and didn't appear to be seeking tips. Does Dominick's provide entertainment for shoppers, or was he just practicing in between stocking the produce section?)

My next crossing was at a four-way intersection (luckily, with crosswalks) which for no reason had a stop light. I needed to make two crossings, although this intersection was so dead that I could have walked diagonally across the middle of it.

That was easily the easiest stretch. Now, I was upon the road worse than Route 9... Route 60. Framingham has a ton of lights, so the max. speed that anyone is going on 9 is 50-55mph. This road has almost no lights, so cars easily go 65-70mph, until they reach that rare stoplight. Once I reached it, I pressed the button and finally got the walk sign to head across. But I was no more than 1/3 of the way across before the white walking person became a red person. This has to be the most poorly timed crosswalk I have ever seen.

Nearly roadkill, I arrived on the other side unbruised. But that wasn't my final cross. By this point, I thought that maybe my previous exploration in Vernon Hills was just really odd in not encountering crosswalks. Now, I was about to cross a small parkway. Certainly, the somewhat substantial intersection I was approaching, which had the Target entrance to my right, would have a crosswalk? Nope. I crossed the road pretty easily; luckily my time playing Frogger many years ago paid off. Then I crossed a much more pleasant sea of parking and was finally at Target.

What's interesting is that the entire infrastructure of Vernon Hills is relatively recent. While Route 9 dates to the Worcester Turnpike of 1810, the entire area I walked around today was not even part of the Village of Vernon Hills until 1973, and most of the development has taken place in the last 10 years. While the newer roadways did boast, wow, sidewalks, the lack of crosswalks just makes absolutely no sense. Did they just forget? Or did someone decide not to spend the little money required to paint two lines and and install a button. In fact, with all of the construction, couldn't the bill for painting the lines and installing the button have been billed to a new retail development anyway?

My point: In "Framinghatick", pedestrian advocates seem to almost want leather couches as benches and 10-foot barriers between the traffic and the sidewalk so that you can feel like you are at Garden in the Woods. In Vernon Hills, I can't even cross the freakin' street. Sometimes, you just have to be satisfied with acceptable conditions.


  • Justin.. sorry to hear that my native Chicago area is giving you some fits.. I've never been to that mall and I can't recall ever being in Lake Forest. I'd imagine that you could convince someone to drive you down to Northbrook Court if you pay for gas or lunch, etc..

    Anyway, I believe the new restaurants at the Collection are causing a buzz in the area.. I've heard very good things about the Bistro at Nordstrom and Finale.. plus the Cheesecake Factory is very close to coming online--they are installing some landscaping in the outlot near it.

    Parking is still an issue.. From someone I know who works at the Container Store they have problems with people parking in that lot and walking over to the mall.. Also, since they built a pedestrian-controlled crosswalk across Speen, some people park at the Long's Jewelery lot and walk to Neiman Marcus, etc..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 AM  

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