46th Ward Residents Can Vote for a Bike Boulevard on Leland


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Looking east on the 1400 block of West Leland, just east of Clark.

When Chicago Department of Transportation and the 47th Ward announced their proposal to create a “neighborhood greenway” on Berteau between Lincoln and Clark, I wondered out loud whether Leland, five blocks north, might be a better choice. Also called “bike boulevards,” neighborhood greenways are streets with traffic calming, traffic diverters and/or contraflow bike lanes, which encourage cycling and discourage non-local car traffic. Both streets are already fairly pleasant for biking, but while Berteau dead-ends at Graceland Cemetery, Leland continues all the way to the lakefront.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought Leland would make a great neighborhood greenway. As part of the 46th Ward’s participatory budgeting process, which will let constituents vote on how $1.3 million of Alderman James Cappleman’s discretionary “menu” money is spent, residents are proposing to build a bike boulevard on Leland from Clark to Clarendon. This one-mile stretch of neighborhood greenway, estimated to cost $120,000, will be included on the ballot when the budgeting election takes place, from April 27 – May 5.


View Proposed Leland and Berteau neighborhood greenways in a larger map

Locations of the proposed Berteau (blue) and Leland (red) neighborhood greenways.

According to ward resident Arline Welty, a facilitator on the streets and cycling infrastructure committee for the budgeting process, Leland already is a popular bike route to the lake, but residents say speeding cars are a problem. The street runs through economically diverse areas where many children live, so calming traffic would make it safer for kids to play outside. Improvements could include bike lanes, shared lane markings and/or bike route signs; bumpouts at intersections to shorten crossing distances; and marked crosswalks. “Rain garden” bioswales on the bumpouts would improve drainage and beautify the area.

Clark is a boundary between the two wards, 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar has already expressed interest in extending the Leland neighborhood greenway west into his district, which would require a contraflow lane for westbound bike traffic, Welty said. That’s a good thing, because while Leland is listed as a Neighborhood Bike Route in the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan, which calls for creating ten miles of bike boulevards within the next decade, ward money may be necessary to actually get the bike boulevard built. “Many of us in the neighborhood thought that if a bikeway is in the plan that means it’s going to happen, but it turns out that’s not the case,” she said.

SherMon Plaza proposal FINAL 2-11-13
Proposed design of SherMon Plaza, another project on the 46th Ward participatory budgeting ballot.

For example, Welty said, Montrose is listed as a Crosstown Bike Route in the 2020 Plan. Before that street was repaved in the ward last year, Cappleman asked the city to consider installing bike lanes, international crosswalks and intersection bumpouts as part of the project. “That’s basic complete streets infrastructure, but unfortunately the suggestions weren’t followed,” Welty said. “Menu funds are so limited, but it looks like you often have to use them if you want innovative projects in your ward.”

One of the other ambitious projects on the 46th Ward ballot would be the creation of SherMon Plaza, converting Sheridan Road from Montrose to Broadway into a pedestrian zone, which would calm traffic and create a new neighborhood meeting place. “There is major consensus in the neighborhood that Montrose and Broadway is a dangerous intersection,” Welty said.

Meanwhile, the Berteau greenway project is moving along. The CDOT bike program has completed the design and has submitted a 95 percent draft to be vetted for engineering approval, according to Bill Higgins, an assistant to Pawar. Due to objections from residents, a proposed chicane that would have served as traffic calming has been eliminated. However, the design still includes most of the other proposed features, including a contraflow lane and a dedicated bike signal at Damen, plus possibly bioswale bumpouts and a lower posted speed limit. Higgins said construction will likely start in late May.

  • Chicane seems to be turning into a four letter word, does anyone have any ideas on how to get residents to see them a Chic-anes? Fashion shows, make them double as lemonade stands? Such a great, simple intervention which is not gaining any traction.

  • Julie

    Leland is my favorite east bound route to the lake from Lincoln Square. Would love to see it turned into an east-west bike route.

  • m.

    Chicane means quibble, finagle, or cheat. Would a name-changing contest help?

  • Fred

    I hope they build on Leland and continue all the way west to the North Shore Channel Trail. I am on a quest to find a nice route between those two paths! (Lawrence is too busy and Granville needs to be repaved)

    Also, why doesn’t anyone apply some of the SherMon plaza ideas to the Damen/Elston/Fullerton intersection? Kill the Elston leg of the triangle and make Damen/Fullerton a standard 4-way intersection.

  • Guest

    Wilson is a good alternative. It doesn’t connect directly to the NS Channel Trail but gets you as far west as you need to go and it would be easy to get north a few blocks. Rockwell works well for this.

  • Adam Herstein

    Yes, let’s put a pedestrian zone right next to a huge surface parking lot…

  • Always so critical!!!

  • Adam Herstein

    No, just brutally honest. I think pedestrian plazas are a good idea, and this intersection is pretty terrible. But putting a plaza surrounded by a surface parking lot on one side and a major intersection on the other is not a way to bring street life to this area. Would you really want to sit in a plaza surrounded by cars?

  • Ha, honest. OK. The proposal calms the intersection by effectively getting rid of one intersection. This is an awful intersection. Broadway to the north will soon have protected bike lanes. Who knows about south, because the street is too narrow even for sharrows (according to CDOT). I don’t know all the specifics as I was not on this specific committee for the project, but if you’re interested and have questions, I suggest you come by this weekend or Monday to the project expos so you can get your criticisms addressed and offer constructive suggestions about how to bring more street life to this area.

  • Adam Herstein

    But complaining on blogs is so much easier! :-P

    When and where are these expos?

  • Wilson is so narrow and often becomes a bottleneck with hostile drivers breathing down cyclists’ necks. I’d love to see some traffic calming there to make it a less desirable street for drivers.

  • The owners of the land Jewel is on might be changing hands soon. I don’t have a source, it’s just what I heard. Who knows what may become of it. The land has got to be too valuable for a bunch of street parking.

    Expo dates & locations for Ward 46 are here: http://transitized.com/2013/03/19/chicago-vote-on-participatory-budgeting-projects-in-your-ward/

  • This would also help to reduce runoff and the urban heat island effect at a location that tends to be brutally hot in summer. Removing that leg of the intersection should help reduce accidents. Creating that big curb bumpout for southbound traffic on Sheridan will be a great help in pedestrians by slowing traffic and significantly shortening the crossing distance. Bravo!

  • Adam Herstein

    Whoever owns that land should do what Target did a bit further north at Wilson Yard. Their parking is underground, and the building itself has retail facing the street in addition to the Target. The main entrance is right next to the bus stop on the sidewalk, and the newly renovated Wilson Red Line station will feature direct access to Target. Overall, a very good pedestrian experience.

    The sea of parking in front of the Jewel, on the other hand, effectively tells people walking that they are not welcome. Even the Jewel further south on Broadway in Lake View is better. Only a few parking spots out front, and a garage on the second floor of the building.

  • Anonymous

    Berwyn is your best bet to connect westbound between the Lakefront trail and the Northshore Channel trail. Quiet streets with stop signs or traffic lights at nearly every intersection. AShland is the exception, but Ashland does have a median where Berwyn crosses it.

  • The sharrows are worn out along Wilson east of Clark. Not that sharrows are really even that helpful, but they don’t maintain the street markings that well. The whole street needs some TLC!
    I think parts of Wilson are too narrow even for bike lanes. Too bad. It does get quieter west of Clark, but still a pretty fast route for cars.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree. Instead of a pedestrian zone, they should turn the proposed plaza space and part of the parking lot into a new piece of land with a new building or something. That parking lot is way too big for the traffic the store gets.

  • Joseph Musco

    That Jewel parking lot is ginormous. I can’t believe they don’t try to develop that property into a higher value use. I live on the block and think the same thing all the time when I walk so you thanks for your honest comment.

  • John

    I think a more compressive study is needed on the Sheridan/Broadway/Montrose intersections. As shown in the drawing, it looks completely infeasible from a traffic perspective.

  • How so?

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