Eyes on the Street: The Lincoln Hub Continues to Take Shape

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The view from St. Alphonsus Church. Photo: John Greenfield

Twister anyone? As you can see, workers recently filled in most of the dots decorating the Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection as part of the “Lincoln Hub” traffic calming  and placemaking project. This makes it even more obvious that the painted curb extensions are intended as space for pedestrians to walk and hang out. They also installed a few additional round seating units.

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Looking south on Lincoln. Photo: John Greenfield

The street redesign is part of a larger $175K streetscape project that Special Service Area #27 and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are doing on Lincoln from Diversey to Belmont. Due to an unusually rainy May, the hub is already a few days past its projected May 22 completion date. However, weather permitting, the remainder of the dots on the north and northwest sides of the six-way will be painted tomorrow, according to SSA manager Lee Crandell. The rest of the planters, seating units, and cafe tables should be in by the weekend, wrapping up the project.

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Kids walk home from a nearby school. Photo: John Greenfield

Some local residents have complained that the neckdowns cause delays because drivers can no longer pass left-turning vehicles on the right. Of course, part of the point of the project is to slow down cars to safe speeds. Moreover, passing on the right may actually be illegal at this location — I’ve put in an inquiry with the Chicago Department of Transportation to find out.

Meanwhile, people on foot seem to appreciate the shorter crossing distances and additional public space provided by the street remix. “It’s better than before,” said Dave Millet, who was walking his young daughter home from school with his wife Pam when I stopped by today. “It helps guide traffic a little more safely. I’d rather see space taken away from cars and given to people to do other things.”

See more photos of the intersection taken today.

Updated May 27, 2015

Per Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey, it is, in fact legal to pass a left-turning vehicle on the right on a two-lane street, if there is sufficient space to do so safely. Here’s the relevant portion of the Chicago City Code:

9-36-020  Overtaking vehicle on the right.

   (a)   The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

      (1)   When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn and there is sufficient safe clearance distance between the turning vehicle and the right edge of the roadway;

      (2)   Upon any roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in each direction; or

      (3)   Upon any roadway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement, where the unobstructed pavement is of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles.

   (b)   The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

(Added Coun. J. 7-12-90, p. 18634)

  • what_eva

    Why would passing a left turning vehicle on the right be illegal? That’s done at almost every intersection in the city.

    There’s a big difference between slowing down cars and causing backups that completely impeding cars, causing them to divert off a collector to side streets.

    That said, the problem seems to be worst from SB Southport to SEB Lincoln. Wellington and Lincoln don’t seem to have problems, and NB Southport doesn’t really seem that bad. My guess would be this is because many people make that left turn onto Lincoln, where the reverse is a right turn (NWB Lincoln to NB Southport). End point, it might make sense to give a little of the space back so there’s just enough room to pass slowly on Southport.

    That was often the case before, there are frequently cars parked close to the intersection (Pockets delivery guys, etc), so it’s not like someone going straight used to be able to go flying by a bunch of left turning vehicles for a block and fly into the intersection, they had to get close. The difference is that you used to be able to get by 2-3 left turning cars and go straight. Now it’s more like 1.

    Don’t get me wrong, this intersection needed help, those channelized turns were stupid and rarely used, but I think a few minor tweaks can make it better for car traffic without drastically hurting the pedestrian gains.

    The circles still suck, they look awful in front of Alphonsus.

  • Passing a left-turning vehicle on the right on a two-lane street with no turn lane may be technically illegal although, if that’s the case, I assume the law is rarely enforced.

  • DrMedicine

    I still just don’t think these will weather and wear well at all.

  • tooter turtle

    I have never seen any other practice in Chicago, even by the CPD. I was taught, decades ago, before living in Chicago, that passing in intersections is illegal. When I moved here, I was really surprised to find that it was the normal practice. Whatever the legal technicalities, if you don’t do it, expect massive road rage from the drivers behind you!

  • The paint is guaranteed for three years, and people won’t be driving over it.

  • akay1

    That’s a shame since they’re pretty heinous.

  • Alicia

    Indeed. Why couldn’t they just use concrete? Or bricks, if they wanted to spend extra money on aesthetics.

  • DrMedicine

    I’m thinking more of snowplows and dirt

  • Plows won’t be plowing them (they’re ‘sidewalks’) unless the SSAs pay for bobcats.

  • Douglas Smith

    It’s just a visual train wreck.

  • The city will be doing a full streetscape in a few years, at which point the curb extensions may be made permanent with concrete. In the meantime, this is a quick and inexpensive way to try out curb extensions.

  • Scott Sanderson

    I love the shorter crossing distances and saner car speeds, but it still feels exposed to sit on the dots since there is only a thin piece of plastic between you and a distracted driver.

  • The seats are strategically placed “upstream” from the heavy planters , so that’s what’s providing the real protection from cars, not the plastic bollards. They will also be adding additional planters after the painting is done.

  • Yeah, snow clearance can be an issue with innovative pedestrian and bike infrastructure. From protected bike lanes to pedestrian islands, when you reclaim space from cars, the downside is that you no longer have motor vehicles traveling over the space melting the snow, so it’s important for the city to be vigilant about clearing the space. Unfortunately, the city of Chicago is not especially good at this: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/01/13/eyes-on-the-street-broadways-keeper/

    Of course, there is the “sneckdown” phenomenon, where the remaining snow at an intersection shows you where cars aren’t traveling, space which could be easily reclaimed for pedestrians via a neckdown.

    Hopefully, the neighboring businesses will take some ownership of the new public space at the hub and will be vigilant about keeping the pedestrian routes clear during the winter.

  • OK, it is, in fact legal to pass on the right on a two-lane road with no turn lane, if there is sufficient space to do so safely. See the above update.

  • Lee Crandell

    To clarify, this intersection does still provide enough space for drivers to pass left-turning vehicles on the right — you just need to go more slowly when doing so, which is one of the intents of the project. A couple of the corners have actually been adjusted since the bollards were first installed to provide a little more space to pass by turning vehicles.

  • Clarence

    Well I sure wish I coulda made a Streetfilm on this! NICE!

  • Clarence

    John, the ones on Broadway in NYC that have a kind of polka dot design still look pretty good after 3 or 4 years. Amazing how well they keep up when people don’t drive on them!

  • Jared Slaven

    I need to get down there. Used to drive this intersection twice a day but current agenda doesn’t require. However, based on both operating a vehicle and being a pedestrian this intersection really did need a safeover makeover. It was brutal for pedestrians.

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Chicago’s first painted curb extensions are starting to take shape. Workers recently spray-painted the outlines of green and blue polka dots at the Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection as part of the “Lincoln Hub” traffic calming and placemaking projects. The street remix is part of a larger $175K streetscape project that Special Service Area #27 and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are doing on Lincoln […]