Marshall Boulevard Redesign Has Drastically Reduced Speeding

Marshall Boulevard bike lane
Before, 59% of drivers exceeded 30 mph while only 27% speed now.

Last night about 30 people showed up to discuss car parking issues on Marshall Boulevard in Little Village, at a meeting hosted by 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas at the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy. The redesign of Marshall Boulevard last fall added a protected bike lane on one side of the street and a buffered lane on the other, significantly reducing the incidence of speeding. Confusion about the new parking rules post-implementation soured some residents on the project, however, and CDOT was in a defensive posture last night, promising to add 74 parking spaces to the area.

CDOT has measured a dramatic reduction in speeding since the redesign took effect. Before the project, 59 percent of motorists were speeding and 12.5 percent were exceeding 40 mph. After the project, 27 percent of motorists exceeded the 30 mph limit and only 1 percent were going faster than 40 mph. “The posted speed limit is 30 mph and we certainly don’t want people to drive faster than that,” said CDOT’s Luann Hamilton.

Marshall Boulevard bike lane
A road diet has reduced speeding around the curve from Marshall to 24th Boulevard.

Traffic crashes and injuries also appear to be down thanks to the redesign. In the two years before the redesign, there were four traffic crashes causing injury, including a pedestrian, and 1.45 crashes happened on this stretch of Marshall Boulevard each month. After the redesign, in the first seven months of this year, there were no traffic injuries in the project area, and the monthly crash rate was down to 1.1.

Hamilton apologized for the “poor implementation and aggressive ticketing,” and said agency staff are going to try and address the issues. The plan is to add 19 parking spaces back to Marshall, which CDOT’s David Smith said is possible because “our design standards have changed” after several bike lane projects. The side streets would get 55 more parking spaces by clarifying signage and removing residential parking permit so that residents of Marshall can use those spaces. Additionally, Smith said they could add parking spaces under the Metra viaduct, which is normally illegal.

After the proposal, Cardenas expressed interest in Divvy and said he wants to build a culture of cycling in the ward, but then he invited the audience to gripe about parking. “How painful is this?” he said, referring to the reduced amount of car parking. Before Cardenas offered the mic to the first member of the public to speak, he said, “Your quality of life is more important to me than protected bike lanes.” At no point did he mention the dramatic reduction in speeding on Marshall Boulevard as a result of the redesign, or indicate that calmer traffic and fewer traffic injuries improves quality of life.

Most of the speakers were dissatisfied with the redesign, some because of the parking loss and others because they don’t like peeking around parked cars when they cross the street. But those same parked cars would have blocked people’s sight lines before the redesign. For people on foot, the street is now significantly narrower, making it safer to cross.

Blocking the Marshall Boulevard bike lane
A van blocking the bike lane on Marshall. Photo: Dan Korn.

As local resident Dan Korn pointed out, parking issues were a problem before the redesign, with people parking illegally by the Apollo’s 2000 theater, waiting to pick up kids from Saucedo Academy, and at a church during funeral services. Korn told the audience that his quality of life has been improved because traffic has calmed. “The numbers don’t lie,” he said. He added that because he and his wife don’t own a car, but ride bikes and take CTA almost exclusively, they’re making it better for the neighbors.

As the meeting wrapped up, Cardenas struck a conciliatory note. “Let’s put the bike thing aside,” he said. “I think we need more parking.” The school’s principal invited the community to use the their 150-space lot between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, and Cardenas said that he and CDOT would look into opening 40 car parking spaces on 23rd Place behind the school, which bans parking between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on school days. By the end of the meeting, CDOT had identified 74 new parking spaces, the alderman 40, and the principal 150, finding 264 new and reclaimed car parking spaces.

It seems this wish to have more parking can be granted without affecting the bike lane design. However, it won’t make the parking-related complaints disappear. Parking needs are never fully solved by adding more spaces, because enlarging the parking supply leads more people to own cars and thus a demand for even more parking.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like the City threw local bikers and an unsophisticated ATA under the proverbial bus to distract the neighbors from poor CDOT implementation.

  • Erik Swedlund

    That’s a remarkable improvement in safety and reduction in speeding.

  • The bike lane isn’t affected, but there will surely remain the parking (legal and illegal) issues present today.

    To address the illegal parking in the bike lane to drop off/pick up kids at Saucedo, the alderman asked CDOT to look into constructing a drop off driveway in the grassy parkway south of the school.

  • Adam Herstein

    Allowing people to park cars under a rail viaduct sounds like a bad idea.

    How many parking spaces were actually lost in the redesign? Usually protected bike lanes in Chicago just shift the parking lane over without reducing the parking supply by much.

    But yeah, there’s never a solution to the parking problem other than getting everyone to ditch their cars for bike and/or public transport. People will always complain about parking. Let’s not let people griping about not being able to store their private property on public land get in the way of safety for everyone.

  • The funeral home issue really needs to be addressed. I have attended funerals both at locations where they have a designated block-long loading zone for queueing the cortege and in denser neighborhoods, and it is COMPLETELY possible to deal with a 50-car cortege without parking up bike lanes and generally impacting the neighborhood for blocks and for hours — it just takes funeral-home staff experienced with doing it and ready to direct traffic dynamically from their lot (or wherever) into the line.

    If they have no parking lot at all that’s a serious issue; if they’re going to run corteges they need a lot for people to leave their cars in during the service itself. Or a series of chartered busses to get people to and from the graveyard … in either case, it’s an issue of making the funeral home stand up and deal with its own messes instead of assuming ‘of course’ they can fill up the bike lane.

    Cars lined up for corteges CAN be ticketed.

  • There was no parking lane to begin with, but parking was allowed on all blocks outside of rush hour. I don’t know if there was a calculated number of parking spaces to begin with and I didn’t ask CDOT.

  • I was corrected: it’s a church, not a funeral home.

    I don’t get corteges. A chartered bus is a faster, cheaper, and safer way for everyone to get to the cemetery.

  • Corteges, like open-casket (or closed-casket) funerals, and what kind of food is available at a wake, is a seriously culture-bound custom. If you are in a family that Does It, perish forbid you should ever suggest NOT doing it, because all the older relatives will dogpile upon you for being improper and showing disrespect.

    When I was young enough to get away with asking questions like that, the answer I was given about corteges was that firstly, it was a sign of respect to escort the deceased on their final journey, kind of like the jazz-band procession in New Orleans funerals. Secondarily, it let the people who weren’t close enough family to be invited to the after-burial meal at the banquet hall (because that half of my family is of the ‘there is a catered meal afterwards for close family’ cultural subset), leave straight from the cemetery instead of having to go retrieve their cars.

    The latter is an issue that’s bigger the farther from the funeral home the cemetery is. I have been at one burial where the cemetery was nearly four miles away from the funeral chapel — because that’s the chapel where “the whole family” gets waked, but that particular relative bought a plot near their own house, which wasn’t in the old neighborhood.

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