Eyes on the Street: Wood St. Neighborhood Greenway Construction Starts

Wood Street neighborhood greenway construction
Like Berteau, Albion, and Ardmore streets before it, Wicker Park Avenue will have a contraflow bike lane. Photo: Brent Norsman

Crews were out installing lane markings and bike symbols for a Wood Street bike route, running through Wicker Park, on Wednesday. They installed a contraflow bike lane on Wicker Park Avenue, which runs one-way westbound. The lane will allow for eastbound bicyclists to continue along Wood via a short diagonal jog via Wolcott Avenue and Wicker Park, and then back to Wood.

The route, which starts at Milwaukee and ends at Augusta Boulevard, was discussed as a bike boulevard at a 2011 charrette hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation and remained a priority of the 1st Ward transportation advisory committee.

The new route will enhance the safety of a street that many bicyclists already use to travel between Armitage Avenue to the north, “the hipster highway” of Milwaukee through Wicker Park (map), and east-west connections along Hubbard and Augusta.

Wood is included as a neighborhood greenway route in both the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area’s master plan, but neither plan identified a timeline for construction. We’re still gathering information [see update below] on what additional design features will make this a neighborhood greenway. The Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 describes neighborhood greenways as streets that “improve bicyclist comfort by providing a low-stress route,” with slower driver speeds, lower automobile traffic volumes, and multiple measures that give priority to bicyclists. CDOT installed the first neighborhood greenway on Berteau Avenue in Lincoln Square and Lakeview last year that included curb extensions to reduce driver speeds, and a traffic circle combined with the removal of stop signs at one intersection to speed bicycle traffic.

The greenway upgrades are occurring at the same time as a major upgrade to the intersection of Milwaukee, Wood, and Wolcott. That project realigns a diagonally skewed turn, adds crosswalk signals and ADA ramps, stripes a previously missing crosswalk across the southeast leg, creates a new green space, and removes a useless concrete traffic island.

The intersection realignment, five years in the making, had a false start last fall and finally broke ground earlier this month. Originally, the Illinois Department of Transportation – which is paying for a majority of the changes – had planned to rebuild the intersection within the original alignment, but with modern signals and zebra crosswalks. In 2010, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno and the WPB SSA each chipped in $25,000 to widen the sidewalk and add a landscaped area at the east corner of the intersection, in front of Nori restaurant at 1393 N. Milwaukee Avenue. This also realigned the intersection, creating a right-angle turn from Milwaukee to Wood that requires drivers to slow down.

The WPB SSA (whose transportation committee I’m a member of) advocated cutting inlets into the curb, which would let rainwater drain into the green space and keep water out of the city’s overburdened combined sewer system. However, this feature was left out of the final design.

Jerry Mandujano from the 1st Ward office said that no traffic calming infrastructure, like traffic diverters or curb extensions, will be built this year. “After a season of riding, we will evaluate with CDOT to see what additional infrastructure might be needed or recommended,” he said.

Curb extension in front of Nori at an ugly intersection
The curb was extended to make a shorter pedestrian crossing and create a right-angle turn.
  • Lisa Curcio

    I ride that stretch of Wood from Pierce to Augusta in the morning and back in the afternoon. The intersection reconfiguration will greatly contribute to a safer intersection for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. It is needed and well worth the time and money.

    On the other hand, the “greenway” is a waste of resources. The streets there are not heavily traveled except by locals. It is all residential. There is plenty of room for everyone. Putting in the contraflow lane for a single block on N. Wicker Park Avenue adds nothing since it is already simple to continue on Wolcott to Ellen, make a left turn on Ellen, and ride a short distance to reconnect with Wood.

    Even if this stretch is part of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and the SSA master plan, surely whatever funds were expended could have been better spent on some more urgently needed part of the plan.

  • Adam Herstein

    Like the contraflow lane on Berteau, this one on Wicker Park Ave is completely useless because it’s entirely within the door zone.

  • What the Wicker Park Ave. contraflow lane adds is the legality for bicyclists to ride against the designated flow of traffic.

  • I believe most contraflow lanes are useless. Instead bicycle symbols and arrows can be added in the middle pointing in both directions.

    Per state law, a bicyclist must ride as far to the ride as practicable except for when their safety at risk. I will be riding where I feel comfortable and that’s the middle of the road.

  • Adam Herstein

    Agreed. Curbside contraflow lanes like this one in Portland are great. But I’m not riding squeezed in between parked cars and oncoming car traffic.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Perhaps I was not clear. It is not needed. Just continue a very short distance on Wolcott to Ellen and ride legally on Ellen to Wood.

  • Got it. That’s what I did. I’ll try out WP Ave and see what happens.

  • JacobEPeters

    I feel door zones are irrelevant when you are approaching parked cars head on. I always felt safest in contraflow lanes in Montreal because drivers never accidentally opened their door while I was approaching, since they saw me.

  • JacobEPeters

    except hardly anyone does that, instead they get to Wolcott and continue down the street to Division, where there is no signalized intersection. Riding reverse direction on Wicker Park encourages the decision to be made earlier in the trip to set people on a safer southbound trajectory towards intersections with traffic lights.

  • JacobEPeters

    can’t wait to use this stretch of street now actually identified as a bike prioritized route. Awareness is a big step towards creating the culture that makes cycling safe for everyone 8 to 80.

  • Lisa Curcio

    If people do not know they can turn on Ellen to get to Wood, how are they going to know they can turn on Wicker Park to get to Wood? The people I see riding there are neighborhood folks who presumably know their way around. If they are continuing on Wolcott, they probably have a reason.

  • JacobEPeters

    This is why I believe a sign at the intersection specifically signalling that bikes can turn left down Wicker Park is important, and the contraflow lane in orange is a very clear visible signal that it is allowed. I normally see neighborhood people just turning south on Wicker Park already. I usually see that when I am heading north on Wicker Park at night, detouring along Ellen was suggested as one of two alternatives for making the connection when the 1st Ward Transportation Advisory Committee sent their support for the project. CDOT had both the Ellen and WP options, so I am sure they studied the merits of both alternatives.

  • Anne A

    That’s been my experience when using the contraflow lane on Thorndale over the years.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Like the Herstein comments on every other Streetsblog article, this one is completely useless because it’s entirely absolutist and negative.

  • I got word back from Moreno’s office. There will not be any infrastructure but just striping for now. They said they want to wait and see before installing anything.

    I don’t know if there will be signs but I’m sure someone who lives near here will send some photos of the markings CDOT is using to indicate people should turn onto Wicker Park Ave.

  • Passenger doors don’t open nearly as often as driver doors (maybe 20% of cars even carry passengers), and it’s much easier to see a cyclist when looking forward.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Wait and see what? I will let you know if there are any signs posted.

  • kastigar

    Another street that would benefit from the contraflow indicators would be Carmen Avenue, between Kedzie (3200 W) and Albany (3100 W). (I think this is in the 33rd Ward.)

    This links the North Channel Path on the east with the bike paths through Eugene Field Park and Gompers Park on the west. The present signs now send you down to Argyle, over to Kedzie, then west again on Carmen. Rather than go out of your way most cyclists are already going the wrong-way down Carmen when traveling west.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Today there was a lot of green paint being laid down. Bike boxes at Division and at Augusta–being ignored by drivers. There is now a green box on southbound Wolcott with arrows pointing left to the contra-flow lane on N. Wicker Park. No eye level signs. In fact, the only sign at the intersection is a “one way” sign pointing westbound. (Sorry, no photos)

    I will not ride the contra-flow lane. Taking N. Wicker Park home today–westbound–it is narrow and it is close to the cars. I maintain that it is unneccessary and dangerous. I will keep to Ellen eastbound in the morning

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