Green Light Go
By Scott Smith in News on Sep 13, 2005 6:20PM
If you're standing in the middle of the intersection at LaSalle and Randolph trying to direct traffic, you need to command respect. If you're not a police officer yourself, you'd like to at least resemble one, and not a teenager parking cars at the United Center.
Chicago's traffic control aides used to look like real cops. But the city recently decided to go with a chartreuse theme for all its traffic management services. Now they wear neon green vests and caps while they feebly try to keep cab drivers from running down pedestrians. They still have some authority though; they can write tickets, and they still blow a mean whistle. But the erstwhile human stoplights have had enough. Some of the city's 303 traffic controllers stormed City Council Monday to complain, albeit in a neat and orderly fashion. "We are receiving added disrespect and ridicule from the public since the first day we put the uniforms on," one aide told the Sun-Times. "We are not respected and, therefore, we are not safe."
Chicagoist has to agree. While we avoid driving in the Loop like the plague, the aides have been patrolling other busy parts of the city. The Washington Street bridge over the Kennedy Expressway has been closed lately, so the Mean Lime Green have been waving their plastic light-sabers at us on the Greektown stretch of Halsted. At first we didn't know if we had to obey them or not. The uniforms certainly had something to do with it, but if they had been a little more aggressive about their jobs we might have taken more notice too. For instance, the closed bridge is clearly marked, yet three yahoos still try to turn there at every light then have to back up and block other cars entering the Dominick's, causing a colossal mess. Meanwhile the traffic aides just watch all this happen. So dorky uniforms hurt, yes, but a little skill with the flashlight and a forceful holler could make a world of difference.