Eyes on the Street: Cut Off Green St. To Cut Milwaukee Ave. Bike Conflicts

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car
A driver, waiting to make a left turn from Green Street, blocks the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane. Meanwhile, two bicyclists dodge the car on either side.

Chicago has long blocked cut-through car traffic on lightly traveled residential streets with hundreds of cul-de-sacs sprinkled throughout the city. The same traffic diversion tactics could also improve safety for bicyclists at dangerous intersections by simplifying movements and removing potential conflict points.

One example is Green Street, where it intersects Milwaukee Avenue’s buffered bike lane. A traffic diverter at this intersection would increase the safety and convenience of bicycling down both Milwaukee and Green, which could be an alternative to Halsted Street towards the West Loop and to the UIC campus.

The intersection of Green and Milwaukee sees many dangerous vehicle turning maneuvers. Southbound drivers on Milwaukee either make fast, wide right turns across the southbound bike lane, while drivers from Green either block the bike lane when waiting to turn left, or zoom left right in front of southbound cyclists. Six bicyclists were injured in automobile crashes here between 2005 and 2012.

This last block of Green serves as nothing more than a free parking lot right now, since it runs between a vacant parcel on one side and an abandoned building on the other. Preventing car access at this one opening to Green would eliminate the dangerous turns entirely — but still allow filtered permeability, safely allowing bicyclists and pedestrians passage onto or across Green.

Bicycling on Forsyth Street in New York City
New York City uses many planters to divert car traffic, and keep cars out of bike and pedestrian spaces.

Chicago has built very few cul-de-sacs or traffic diverters that include cut-outs for bicycling. One exception is in the South Loop, where Plymouth Court has had a cul-de-sac with a cut-out since 2010. Similar diverters were cut from the Berteau greenway project due to cost, and since then, one has been proposed for the nearby Leland greenway. But instead of the costly process of laying new curbs and rearranging drainage, CDOT has another, cheaper option to greatly enhance the comfort and convenience to walk and bike at key locations.

Instead, CDOT could use planter bowls to create quick and beautiful traffic diverters. New York City has rolled out thousands of them to restrict car traffic, particularly after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg hired Jan Gehl’s urban design firm to help them make better places out of Times Square and Union Square. The plantings can range from low-maintenance shrubs to flowers, and the planters can be moved away if the traffic diversion doesn’t work.

Which locations do you think might work for similar treatments in your neighborhood?

  • Ravenswood Av adjacent to the UP-N tracks should have more diverters at the major streets. It would have to be creative, because there’s a bit of truck traffic along the street, but there’s also a ton of cut-through traffic avoiding Damen or Ashland, two nearby parallel streets. Most of the time the street serves like a parking lot, and a lot could be done to make it a great north-south greenway – there is already traffic lights at major intersections (a problem if you decide to take parallel residential streets is that you have to cross streets like Irving Park, waiting for a gap in traffic).

    Here’s Ravenswood right now, and here’s an example on a large Vancouver street (Cambie) where there is filtered-permeability diverters for the residential cross-street. Motor vehicles can only go left or right, but everyone else can go straight through.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Nice idea, but there still are business on Ravenwood, and the train viaducts are low. Ashland north of Irving has weight restrictions on trucks and is one of the few places I’ve actually seen police enforcement of the restrictions.

  • I know that, and I never said to close the street to cars. You just wouldn’t be able to use it as a thru street. That’s the whole point.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Explain how you restrict it as a thru street and still allow for traffic. Its not heavily travelled to begin with.

  • Pete

    In this case the car has the right of way and the bike is no doubt running the light. Attention bikists, you do not AWAYS have the right of way!

  • HJ

    There is no traffic light at Milwaukee and Green. Research before you troll.

  • mike

    Sweden uses a fairly effective method for calming traffic on side streets. The side street (Skånegatan) has a low curb where the street intersects a main drag in Stockholm. These are intended to be driven over. As indicated by the direction of the parked cars on Skånegatan, it is a one way which seems to terminate where the google car is. Thing is, you need to come to more of a complete stop to hop the curb here than speed humps in Chicago. In addition, it takes the extended sidewalk concept to the extreme and definitely prioritizes walking over driving. Having personally walked and ridden a bike past this intersection, I can personally attest to the pleasure it was no having to think about someone rolling past the white line to see cross traffic. Although the angle of Milwaukee and Green probably is a major reason for cars inching through the bike lane, A lesson from the city with the most amount of walking trips may be beneficial here.

  • mike

    uh oh, I dont know where my picture went :0

  • High_n_Dry

    Ha! That was too easy, must be a trap.

  • Jess

    That section of green will likely be eliminated as a mid rise building is in the works for the abandon lots on each side of that stretch of the street.