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Lagging Left Turns Would Improve Crosswalk Safety at Complex Intersections

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

People have already started crossing Halsted on a green light, even though a late left-turning motorist is stuck in the intersection.

When left turn signals are installed, they typically turn green at the start of a street’s green phase. However, simply reversing that order and putting left turns at the end of the green phase could reduce conflicts between turning cars and people walking in the same direction. As left turn signals have been installed at more Chicago intersections, motorists often are caught completing their left turns just as through traffic – and pedestrians – get a green light. The resulting conflict isn’t safe for anyone.

It’s standard engineering practice to have a “leading left turn phase,” in which the green-arrow light for protected left turns goes first, before through traffic gets a green light. However, Chicago drivers often make left turns at the end of the green phase, after opposing traffic has cleared the intersection.

One example of an intersection where the leading left turn poses a problem for pedestrians is across Halsted Street at Grand and Milwaukee Avenues. During the weekday afternoon rush hour, and at peak times on weekends, motorists end up finishing their turns after through traffic has gotten a green — and end up driving into a crowd of pedestrians. This has happened ever since October, when the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a left-turn signal on Grand Avenue.

To eliminate this conflict, the turn signal here could be shifted to a “lagging left turn,” which puts left turns at the end of the phase, instead of at the beginning. Moving the left turn to the end of the Grand green light would allow pedestrians to cross once the light turns green, then allow any drivers waiting to make a left to finish their turns within a protected left-turn cycle.

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

The leading left turn signal cuts short the pedestrian crossing time across Grand, and split left-turning traffic. This photo shows four motorists turning, and thus blocking people from crossing the street during their green phase.

Lagging left turns are highlighted by the Chicago Pedestrian Plan as a “tool for safer streets.” The plan even mentions that, by reducing conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, the lagging left turn can even improve car traffic “operations,” and can be done inexpensively since it’s merely reprogramming existing infrastructure. However, CDOT will only install lagging lefts where they “will not negatively affect the operations of the intersection” – engineer-speak for slowing down drivers.

The Pedestrian Plan specifically recommends lagging left turns at intersections with any of the following characteristics:

  • A left turn phase with high-pedestrian volumes. At Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted? Yes
  • Three or more crashes in three years between left turn vehicles and pedestrians. This is most likely the case
  • People crossing during the left turn phase. Maybe
  • The intersection gives pedestrians a head start with a leading pedestrian interval. Not at this intersection

CDOT points to a successful lagging left at Huron Street and Fairbanks Court in Streeterville, near Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Previously, drivers were “unable to turn left” because people were walking across during the entire green phase. After installing a lagging left turn, “pedestrians crossed safely with their signal and the issues with vehicles queueing disappeared.”

Based on those qualifications, the Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted intersection seems like a sure bet for a lagging left turn. Where else in Chicago would a lagging left turn improve pedestrian and vehicle safety?

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Lincoln Avenue Goes Car-Free and Comes to Life

Kids dance to the music of "Little Miss Ann" Torrlba at a Sunday Play Spot event.

The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue during a Sunday Play Spot event.

Last week, I wrote about the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce’s Sunday Play Spot program, which is pedestrianizing a block of Lincoln Avenue between School and Roscoe streets every Sunday afternoon this month to make room for car-free recreation. Last Sunday, I stopped to check it out myself and found the event to be just as lively as the the chamber staffers said it was.

The vibe was similar to some of the more successful Open Streets ciclovía events on State Street and Milwaukee Avenue, with active games, crafts, a seating area, an art installation, children riding bikes and scooters, and live performances. However, the fact that all these happenings were packed into a single block made the Play Spot that much more vibrant. To give you a sense of how different Lincoln feels when it’s empty of cars and full of people, we’ve created the above GIF of children dancing to the music of “Little Miss Ann” Torralba.

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The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue on a typical day. Image: Google Street View

The success of the Play Spot program suggests that this segment of Lincoln might benefit from some form of partial pedestrianization. Not every retail strip works well as a 24/7 car-free street, but pedestrianizing this block on all summer evenings and/or weekends could be a hit.

There are two more Play Spot events this month. If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids, be sure to stop by the block between noon and 4 p.m. on one of the next two Sundays. Here’s the schedule of events.

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How to Improve 3-Foot Passing Laws

After a couple of vetoes by Governor Jerry Brown, California finally has a 3-foot passing law.

As of June, 24 states plus the District of Columbia have such a law, which requires drivers to give cyclists a minimum buffer of 3 feet when passing from behind. With California’s law in effect as of today, Rick Bernardi of Bob Mionske’s bike law blog says 3-foot laws are good for cycling, but could be improved.

There's room to improve 3-foot passing laws, like the one that takes effect in California today. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfbike/7000434589/in/set-72157629263668356/##SF Bike Coalition/Flickr##

There’s room to improve 3-foot passing laws, like the one that took effect in California today. Photo: SF Bike Coalition/Flickr

Bernardo points out that some laws, including California’s, provide exceptions for drivers that weaken cyclist protections. Minimum passing distances should be commensurate with motorist speed, he says, and intentional “buzzing” should be criminalized.

The law should also make collisions prima facie evidence of an illegal pass, Bernardi writes.

When drivers collide with a cyclist while passing, they will often attempt to shift the blame to the cyclist: “The cyclist came out of nowhere” is one common explanation for a crash. “The cyclist suddenly swerved into my path” is another commonly heard explanation. If the cyclist is seriously injured or killed, the driver’s explanation may be the only explanation we hear. More often than not, when a driver says that the pass was “safe” but the cyclist did something that doesn’t make any sense, it really means that the driver wasn’t paying attention, or was passing too close. But under the law, injured cyclists must prove that the driver’s pass was unsafe. 3 foot laws can be strengthened by making collisions prima facie evidence of an illegal pass. This means that when a driver is passing a cyclist and a collision results, the law would presume that the pass was too close. The driver could still rebut this presumption with evidence to show that the pass was not too close, but now the burden of proof would be where it properly belongs — on the driver who has the responsibility to pass at a safe distance.

Also on the Network today: Streets.MN says investing in transit for “millennials” and “millennials” alone is a bad idea, and the Wash Cycle takes a tour of the Capital Bikeshare warehouse.

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Today’s Headlines

  • CDOT: We’re Not Moving the Mulberry Playlot Speed Cam (DNA)
  • Pedestrian Struck, Seriously Injured at Chicago/LaSalle (NBC)
  • Cop Who Fatally Struck Man in Wheeling Was Making a Traffic Stop (Tribune)
  • Drug Bust Suspect Charged With Attempted Murder After Striking Officer With Car (DNA)
  • Antunovich Plans to Turn Rambler Building Into Garage for Hotel & Data Center (DNA)
  • Despite Fears of “Horrendous” Traffic, Lincoln Park Is Getting Less Dense (Hertz)
  • Hyde Park SSA Plans to Run Tests of Free Trolley Service This Fall (RedEye)
  • Village-Backed Eatery at Tinley Park Metra Stop Isn’t Generating Much Revenue (Tribune)
  • Lot Next to CSO May Be Turned Into Park Commemorating Route 66 (DNA)
  • Principal Appears to Pull Off Sick BMX Tricks in School Attendance Video (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Local Residents Want More Housing at Logan Square Blue Line Station

Logan Square residents discuss the CTA station and adjacent parking lot

The first meeting of the Corridor Development Initiative meeting drew 170 people. Photo: Charles Papanek

Logan Square residents came out in droves last week for the first of three meetings about redeveloping the Logan Square Blue Line station and an adjacent city-owned parking lot. About 170 people participated, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council, and 220 attendees are expected for round two tomorrow night.

With overlapping street redesign and development projects already in the works for this area, now is an opportune moment to discuss the future of the station and its surroundings. CDOT will select a consultant in the fall to redesign the Logan Square traffic circle, and the agency intends to hold a public planning process next year to make the section of Milwaukee Avenue from Belmont to Logan Boulevard better for walking, biking, and transit. Additionally, 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón has asked the Department of Planning and Development to look at what can be developed at the station plaza and parking lot, MPC reports [PDF].

Ideas from these public planning sessions, which MPC is hosting at the request of Colón, will be incorporated into a forthcoming request for proposals from DPD and the Chicago Transit Authority to develop the station and parking lot.

Last week, facilitators led groups of eight to ten residents in roundtable discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood and the station area. “This meeting isn’t like other meetings, where you can choose between red or brown brick,” said MPC project director Marisa Novara. Instead of presenting a limited menu, residents will contribute ideas together.

At the group where I sat, people liked that Logan Square is a place where you don’t need to own a car because of its walkability and that it has a good range of housing types, but they wanted more affordable housing. Our group could have also talked endlessly about the intersections around the station and the traffic circle: One person said “it takes forever to cross legally,” with the signals.

Read more…

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Talking Headways: Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Redux

podcast icon logoAfter a week at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place Conference in Pittsburgh, it was all I could talk about — and luckily, Jeff was an eager audience.

In this podcast, Jeff and I talk about the relative utility of a character like Isabella, the new character People for Bikes created to make the case for safe, low-stress bikeways. We dig into the announcement that U.S. DOT is going to take on bike and pedestrian safety as one of its top issues. And we debate the pros and cons of holding the next Pro-Walk Pro-Bike in Vancouver.

There were hundreds of workshops, panels, presentations, and tours — not to mention countless side conversations, power lunches, and informal caucuses that were probably at least as energizing as the formal sessions — so my impressions are just one tiny slice of the pie. If you attended this year, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the conference, the host city, and your experience in the comments.

Keep up with us (if you can) at our RSS feed or subscribe on Stitcher or iTunes.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bikeways on Central Park Avenue and Lake Street

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Riding in the Lake Street protected lane. Photo: John Greenfield

As part of the Mayor Emanuel’s goal of building 100 miles of buffered and protected lanes in his first term, the Chicago Department of Transportation is chugging along building new bikeways. Last week, I checked out buffered lanes on Central Park Avenue, between Jackson and Franklin boulevards, and protected lanes on Lake Street, from Central Park to Laramie Avenue.

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Buffered lane on Central Park by Garfield Park Conservatory. Photo: John Greenfield

Let’s start with the less controversial of the two bikeways, Central Park. As has happened in many other parts of town, CDOT has upgraded existing conventional lanes here by adding additional dead space on one side of each lane.

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On this section, near the Garfield Park field house, the buffer is on the left. Photo: John Greenfield

In areas where there’s no parking lane, or a parking lane that gets little use, the buffer has been striped on the left side of the bike lane, to help keep cyclists away from car traffic. In sections where there is a heavily used parking lane, the buffer is striped on the right side of the bike lane, to encourage cyclists to ride out of the door zone. Pavement quality is decent, and workers have patched some potholes with asphalt.

Read more…

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With Permit Parking, John Cranley Could Help Cincinnati Despite Himself

Chalk this one up as a worthwhile proposal offered in bad faith.

Streetsblog readers may remember Mayor John Cranley as the pol who wasted a ton of taxpayer money trying to kill the Cincinnati streetcar. But lately Cranley has come out as a would-be parking reformer, proposing a $300 annual fee for on-street parking in Over-the-Rhine, a historic neighborhood on the streetcar route.

Mayor John Cranley's proposal to charge for curbside parking could help Cincinnati neighborhoods more than he realizes. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/taestell/15094122075/in/pool-over-the-rhine##Travis Estell/Flickr##

Mayor John Cranley’s proposal to charge for curbside parking could help Cincinnati neighborhoods more than he realizes. Photo: Travis Estell/Flickr

Not surprisingly, Cranley is getting blowback from some quarters. But Randy A. Simes at UrbanCincy says the plan is right on the merits.

To better understand how this proposed permit fee stacks up, let’s consider that it averages out to approximately $25 per month. According to the most recent State of Downtown report, the average monthly parking rate in the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton is $89. This average accounts for approximately 36,400 monthly parking spaces available in 2013.

While this average monthly parking rate is skewed by much higher rates in the Central Business District, many lots and garages reserved for residential parking in Over-the-Rhine charge between $40 and $110 per month. This means that Mayor Cranley’s proposal would put the city’s on-street parking spaces nearly in-line with their private counterparts.

This is a smart move. We should stop subsidizing parking as much as possible. Therefore, such a proposal should not only be examined in greater depth for Over-the-Rhine, but all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

All well and good. The thing is, Cranley makes no bones about the fact that he considers the fee as retribution against streetcar supporters. “They should be asked to pay a much higher fee for cars they still have on the street,” Cranley said on a local radio show. “[It] is consistent with the philosophy of the folks who are pushing the streetcar, which is this will reduce the need for cars, so those who want to bring cars into Over-the-Rhine … should pay for the amenity that they so desperately wanted.”

Cranley’s motives may be suspect, but ironically, by placing a value on curbside parking he may end up helping constituents he holds in contempt.

Elsewhere on the Network: Bike PGH welcomes Pittsburgh’s new bike and pedestrian coordinator, and Rights of Way celebrates the arrival of the first bike corral in Portland, Maine.

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Today’s Headlines

  • International Study Agrees: Chicagoland Has Too Many Transit Boards (Tribune)
  • City Moves to Acquire Rail Line for New ERA Trail (DNA)
  • Man, 20, Fatally Struck by Wheeling Police Officer (WLS)
  • CTA Bus Driver Fatally Strikes 54-Year-Old Woman in Back of the Yards (Fox)
  • New Pedestrian Bridges on South Lakefront Will Correct an Inequality (Tribune)
  • Loop Alliance Brainstorms Ideas for Energizing Gloomy Wabash Corridor (Tribune)
  • NW Suburbs Want to Improve Access to Des Plaines River Trail (Active Trans)
  • Thieves Ram Through Door of Oak Street Boutique With Car, Steal Coats (Tribune)
  • Oh Thank Heaven! Cops Catch Man Who Crashed Car Into 7-Eleven, Fled (Tribune)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Logan Square Developer Would Rather Choose How Much Parking to Build

2211 N Milwaukee TOD

PMG’s proposed mixed-use building will provide half the normally required car parking because it’s near a CTA station. Image: PMG via Curbed

A site that’s currently a staging area for Your New Blue ‘L’ station renovation may soon be home to a transit-oriented mixed-use building. Property Markets Group has proposed a new apartment building for Logan Square that will provide half the normally required car parking, bringing needed housing with less congestion.

Parking minimums for this and most residential proposals in Chicago require one parking space per unit, plaguing neighborhoods with more traffic and developers with unsold space. However, a TOD ordinance enacted a year ago allows residential developers like Noah Gottlieb of PMG to build up to 50 percent fewer car parking spaces if the building is located near a train station.

Without a Pedestrian Street designation, developers would have to find an empty parcel within 600 feet of a train station. The PMG residence’s main entrance, though, is just over 700 feet away from the California Blue Line station, and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno implemented a Pedestrian Street here last year. It covers multiple empty parcels and increases the distance to 1,200 feet a development can be from a train station and still be eligible for the benefits.

PMG has proposed a six-story mid-rise building at 2211 N Milwaukee Avenue, adjacent to the Chase Bank-anchored strip mall and across from the Madison Public House restaurant, which opened in the spring. The building would have 120 units with 60 car parking spaces (and seven more for the ground-floor retail). Seventy percent of the units would be studios, junior one-bedrooms, and one-bedroom apartments.

Since the TOD ordinance requires that a bike parking space replace every normally required car parking space, PMG will be doing that, and then some. Gottlieb said they’re proposing 216 bike parking spaces because PMG does all of its parking calculations “on the projected amount of people, not units.”

Gottlieb also wants to do away with parking minimums, adding that the developer should decide how much parking to build. He explained that the motivation to build less parking at this development is because it’s “in line with the marketplace.” He continued:

There’re a lot of antiquated zoning rules in regard to parking. Especially in Logan Square, very few people drive to work in the young renter demographic, they’re using public transportation, and biking and walking. We anticipate very little demand for our parking spots. 

Parking minimums are one of those antiquated rules. They were originally intended to ensure that everyone who wants to drive finds a place to park at their destination, regardless of that place’s transit accessibility, but instead they ended up encouraging more people to drive. Developers don’t need a zoning mandate to ensure their tenants or customers have a way to access their homes and shops: They’ll do that all on their own. Parking minimums also drive up the costs of construction, which are passed on to tenants when parking is bundled with rent. Read more…