Survey Says: Lots of Lakeview Residents Like the Lincoln Hub

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The Lincoln Hub, yesterday around 7 p.m. Photo: John Greenfield

As mentioned last Friday, Streetsblog Chicago will be on vacation from July 13-17 and will resume publication of Today’s Headlines and daily articles on Monday, July 20. There may be some occasional posts next week. Have a great weekend!

Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin recently wrote a column slamming the “functional faults” of the Lincoln Hub placemaking initiative in Lakeview, which he claimed have led to a cacophony of horn blasting from aggravated motorists. I responded with a post acknowledging Kamin’s valid criticisms that the seating plazas lack shade, and they don’t offer enough obvious physical protection from cars for some people to feel comfortable using them.

However, I also pointed out that a supposedly well informed urbanist like Kamin shouldn’t be lamenting the removal of dangerous slip lanes to make more space for pedestrians, simply because it forces drivers to slow down a bit. He wasn’t pleased:

An entertaining Twitter exchange ensued. Eventually Luis Monje, a local resident who launched an online petition against “Polka Dot Park,” got involved:

Of course, not all of the signees on Monje’s petition (there were 535 as of this afternoon) live in the neighborhood – some the addresses listed aren’t even in Illinois. But Monje has a point: While his petition does suggest that a significant number of residents dislike the hub, there hasn’t been much in the media about neighbors who like the new street layout.

To get a sense of what kind support there is for the Lincoln Hub, I staked out the intersection last night between 7 and 8 p.m. and buttonholed passers-by. Granted, it wasn’t the thick of rush hour, but I saw no evidence of traffic problems and didn’t hear any of the “frustrated motorists honk[ing] their horns” Kamin wrote about.

All of the 16 people I spoke with were on foot, unless otherwise noted. I tried not to ask leading questions that would suggest I wanted a positive response, but simply asked for their opinion of the new street configuration.

The vast majority of the respondents told me they believe the curb extensions, including the removal of slip lanes, make the area safer and more pleasant for walking, and said the current layout doesn’t cause undue inconvenience for drivers. True, a couple of people did assert that the intersection is now a nightmare for motorists.

But, overall, this informal survey suggests that more neighbors may be in support of the Lincoln Hub than you might think from mainstream news reports, Kamin’s column, or Monje’s petition. Here are the responses, in chronological order, edited a bit for clarity.

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During the hour that I spend at the Lincoln Hub, traffic flowed freely. Photo: John Greenfield

 

It’s colorful. It’s probably a little bit nicer for pedestrians, because then you’ve got like a buffer zone around the curb where cars can’t come too close, because you got the big concrete flower pots and you’ve got these little [flexible posts].

— Vishesh Narayan, lawyer

 

I think it makes it a little safer for cyclists. [The slip lane removal] keeps drivers from trying to cut the corners.

— Jose Inui, works for the Wrigley Company, riding a bike

 

It’s a nice addition to the neighborhood. It gives it a little character, a place for people to hang out. To be honest, I didn’t see this intersection as particularly dangerous among all the intersections in the area, but it does give pedestrians more room.

— Kevin Martin, works at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

 

As a pedestrian, it doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s something interesting, it’s colorful. I like the these concrete forms here that you can sit on – they’re kind of interesting. I would guess that the colors and the [flexible posts] with the reflectors contribute to safety.

— Joe Evans, retired

 

Driving, it’s a little bit annoying, but it looks nice. I don’t know that it changed that much, safety-wise. I guess you have to stop sooner, right? I don’t know, I didn’t really notice it for two weeks, so I don’t think it changed that much. I guess crossing the street is a little easier because you don’t have to stop [on the pedestrian islands in front of the slip lanes] like you did before.”

— Kristine Whall, bartender

 

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Photo: John Greenfield

 

It’s fine. It never bothered me how it was before, though. I suppose it makes it a little bit more safe. It’s probably a little bit better for crossing the street with the pylons out there. It’s about the same for driving – I haven’t really noticed a difference.

— Anonymous

 

It’s awful. Driving takes forever now. The lights are super-short. I commute to the suburbs and back every day. I can’t stand driving anywhere near here, when I have to go down Lincoln or Southport. You can’t make these right-hand turns anymore [while the light is red], so now I gotta wait behind people who are making right-hand turns. Only four or five cars get through a light at a time.

— Pat Galligan, recruiter for an energy and engineering business

 

I think it’s very different. I’d like to know why they put up the little white poles. If it’s for safety, I’m all for it… I use the intersection more in a car than on foot. It still works fine for driving – I don’t think it impacts you, really.

— Mike Checuga, real estate agent

 

Since I didn’t hear anything about it, and it just happened, and I live half a block away, I was wondering what is going on. But, having lived with it for a little while, I think it does make it a little more pedestrian-friendly. There were a lot of drivers who would zoom around the corners. I’ve read an article that says it makes it more difficult for drivers. I’m not so sure that it does.

So, my initial reaction was, who is the crazy guy who’s responsible for this? [That would be Lakeview Chamber of Commerce executive director Lee Crandell.] But my reaction now is that it is helpful, both safety-wise, and it adds interest to the corner. So I’m not one who would sign a petition saying it’s a terrible idea.

— Dave Geilen [no relation to frequent SBC commenter Frank Geilen], retired manufacturing engineer

 

I think it’s great for the pedestrians. I think it works OK for drivers, once they get used to it, if they behave themselves. I like the configuration. I’ve yet to see [the seating] be fully utilized and I’d hope that in summertime it would come alive. But to me, the whole thing feels much safer, just by the fact that it gives more space to pedestrians in the intersection. I’ve been on this street for years, and it feels better to me.

— Ron Hill, works at a company that does water damage mitigation, plays piano at Mariano’s supermarkets, “parishioner at the [nearby] Church of Scientology”

 

It’s fine with me because I don’t drive. But I think if you’re a person who comes here regularly and drives your car, it might be an imposition. It works fine for people on foot. I don’t see how the shorter crossing distances make a lot of difference, not to me anyway. Rather than this, what I’d really like to see is the #11 Lincoln bus put back in.

— John Ringohfer, retired

 

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This plaza was recently modified to make it easier to pass left-turning cars. Photo: John Greenfield

 

As a pedestrian, I still don’t feel 100 percent certain that cars aren’t going to come whipping [over the flexible posts through the former] turn lanes. It’s a nice thought, but I don’t know if it’s great execution. I know that drivers aren’t happy with it. You can get stuck on Southport, if someone’s trying to make a left onto Wellington, you can get stuck there for a couple of light cycles. [A plaza adjacent to Southport was recently modified to make it easier for southbound motorists to pass left-turning cars.]

I’ve avoided driving through the intersection since this was put in. I take Ashland more than I normally would. I would normally go down Lincoln to go anywhere, and now I’m sticking to Ashland.

— Brenna Essary, writer at an ad agency

 

I think it’s a great addition. I work on this block (south on Lincoln), and our business is right around the corner. It’s great for our business and the other surrounding businesses, as well as safety for pedestrians and families. It slows people down, makes people stop along [the business strip], kind of look at the storefronts a little bit more. As other businesses grow on this block, ours does as well, so that’s a good thing. But the most important thing about it is increased safety for cyclists, people on foot, and families with strollers.

— Matt Savage, co-owner of Avery House photography and Smile Booth photo booths

 

I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. It’s kind of an eyesore in my opinion. I’m not really sure how it works for drivers. In some ways, maybe it helps them, but I could see that the turns are tighter. I can’t really say because I don’t drive.

This might be helpful for pedestrians. There’s more room for them. See that intersection over there? [Points to the corner in front of Chase Bank]. I used to get stuck on that little [pedestrian] island by the light, because the cars could turn in between that and the sidewalk, but now you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on that.

— Liz Weber, marketing coordinator

 

Generally I like it. I like the tables, I like the color, I like the little places to sit, the little mushroom things. I’m a biker, and the traffic calming makes it a little bit narrower, so cars need to learn to slow down and not squeeze us into the barriers, but overall it’s great. I don’t think it changes the pedestrian traffic at all, unless they’re distracted by the colors. I guess the shorter crossing distances do give people a little more room, if they’re slower or older or something.

— Rebecca Dill, works for a nonprofit foundation

 

It’s great for us, because we’re walking all the time over here, and it very clearly delineates walking zones, so it feels safer.

— Lauren Levy, a lawyer “and a momma,” walking with her husband and their baby in a stroller

  • what_eva

    The fix for SB Southport just got done in the last week, I haven’t been by enough to see if it’s enough to get that traffic back to the previous normal. The intersection did often get backed up before any of this was done.

    Ugh, there’s some errors in people’s comments. It was never legal to turn right on red at this intersection, even with the slip lanes.

    I’ve tried to let the spots grow on me and they just don’t. They’re hideous, especially in front of a historic old building like Alphonsus.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the shorter crossing distances aren’t exactly working for kids. Moms won’t let their kids step into the “extended” sections. This includes my wife, because she sees how beat up some of the posts have gotten already and the beatings that some of the crosswalk signs have taken and just doesn’t trust drivers. The (hopefully) future extension of the curbs will fix that.

  • Living

    An anti-car biking blogger/lobbyist took an “informal survey” of 15 people for one hour? Absolutely! Sounds like you have all the info you need. LOL
    Blair Kamin was right – Responsible Advocacy from you people is out the door.

  • Living

    By the way – I noticed that John Greenfield is friends with Lee Crandell on Facebook. Shouldn’t the title of this blog be: “Author supports his biking activist buddies’ anti-car efforts in Lakeview, here is a completely non-biased article as substantiation”

  • Yep, and I’m also FB friends with former Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, and about 900 other people, many of whom are people I barely know, but whose work I support. Lee is a good guy, and he’s done a number of great initiatives with the chamber, and in his previous job at the Active Transportation Alliance. As long as he keeps doing forward-thinking projects like the Lincoln Hub, the Lincoln Play Street, the Low Line Market, etc., I’ll keep publicizing his work.

  • Actually, I think cars are useful for a lot of things — I’m about to use one this weekend for a road trip. Anyway, if you believe I’m lying when I said I simply asked people for their opinion about the Lincoln Hub, there’s not much I can do about that. Otherwise, who’s asking the question is less important that the answers that were given. Sure, it’s a relatively small sample, but the the fact that just about everybody I spoke with during that hour was in favor of the LH is noteworthy.

  • Jeremy

    “she sees how beat up some of the posts have gotten already and the beatings that some of the crosswalk signs have taken”

    So, even when steps are taken to reduce reckless driving, people still drive recklessly. Fantastic.

  • Obviously it’s going to be a matter of continued education and gradual improvement. Most Chicagoans do not remember a driving situation where you could actually be pulled over and ticketed for a blown headlight (as used to be the case in the early 90s, before repeated massive police downsizing efforts), so why would they assume they have to pay attention to new infrastructure that didn’t exist when they took driver’s ed?

    Most drivers do very badly with signage or built road infrastructure they didn’t specifically learn about as teenagers (as witness the trouble in the neighborhoods with roundabouts — I’ve seen people regularly drive over them ON PURPOSE to flatten the signs, apparently in anger that anyone dared to muck up their street with a concrete island), and it takes time and education.

    Well, and good signage and documentation on the spot, which CDOT isn’t apparently interested in doing.

  • what_eva

    Yeah, but it’s not new with this spot. A look at the crosswalk signs anywhere or the similar flexible posts on protected bike lanes shows that.

  • what_eva

    Where has John ever claimed to be non-biased? This is an advocacy blog, duh.

  • Living

    You are absolutely right. Greenfield is preaching to his choir here. Therefore, since no opinions will be changed either way, his blog post and my comments are an exercise in futility.

  • Actually, we get a pretty diverse range of perspectives in our comments section, which helps keep things interesting.

  • JKM13

    “a supposedly well informed urbanist like Kamin”

    This type of passive aggressive attack is a poor way to persuade. If the goal of streets blog is to advocate for safer streete, taking unnecessary potshots at those with much bigger forums is not the way to do it.

    Why not just write a post explaining the benefits of removing slip lanes, rather than chide someone else’s “urbanist” credentials because they do not have the same opinion as you (on this one issue).

    Beyond that, this exercise hints at a good point, in that it’s easier to organize responses against a change, rather than for a change. But interviewing a handful of people in an hour and publishing this as a counter to the survey isn’t “notable”, its silly.

  • Jack

    The Tribune in the new media age, has devolved into a reactionary, right-wingnut, rant fest and unfortunately, many of their journalists have pandered to them, willingly or not.

    Mr. Kamin on this issue, and a few others I have noticed over the years, is not above taking positions that will delight they’re predominantly car-driving, suburban-living audience.

  • I beg to differ on both points. As I’ve written several times, I generally respect Kamin’s opinions on architecture and urban planning. However, Streetsblog’s response to his article on the Lincoln Hub definitely got his attention and and forced him to think harder his regressive position on the street reconfiguration. Did it push him further in the wrong direction? Possibly. But I believe the SBC post highlighted what was wrong with Kamin’s piece: He was advocating for the convenience of drivers over the safety and convenience of pedestrians.

    Most mainstream articles on the Lincoln Hub, including Kamin’s have given plenty of airtime to the anti-LH faction, with maybe a quote or two from people who support the street configuration. If you think it’s silly to publish quotes from a dozen or so real people who are actually using the intersection, rather than just signing an online petition from their computers in NW Indiana, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point.

  • I think two things are being said in the petition against the Hub…

    1. I drive and dislike this change.

    2. I don’t like how it looks.

    Of course, if you solely drive, you likely won’t appreciate this projects efforts.

    If you don’t like the design, accept its intentions to bring awareness to the redesign and seeking some sort of wow factor. Inevitably, your dislike of the colors or polka dots would be remedied by removing them. Therefore it’s quite possible quite a few of these “500” or more unverified signatures would fall off.

  • John

    I think it is a decent idea that wasn’t executed well. Perhaps the silver lining is that everything that was installed doesn’t seem to be permanent. Need to commit to a more permanent design.

  • duppie

    Two thoughts:
    1. What is “responsible advocacy” exactly?. Blair Kamin alleges that John Greenfield crosses the line, but without a definition of what that means it is a meaningless sound-bite.
    2. The thought that the 518 signatures have any more credibility than the informal survey that John put out is incorrect. The signatures are based on self-reporting information, with no real validation. Ayyone can pretend to live in the neighborhood.
    Even assuming all 518 signatures being from people in the alderman’s ward, I doubt that Scott Waugespack shows much interest in a petition that has a little over 1% of his residents as signers.

  • BlueFairlane

    I know my opposition to this mess owes almost entirely to the polka dots, along with the knowledge that the polka dots, the plastic bollards, and the giant concrete hockey pucks that are supposed to act like chairs cost somebody $175,000. Which should probably serve as a lesson against burying reasonable safety measures in an expensive gimmick.

  • Probably the cheapest way to do it (besides just putting up bollards and maybe painting the entire bollarded area a single color). And it’s not like it was government money; the local SSA decided this was economically worth it to them.

  • JKM13

    So without the insults, you wouldn’t have temporarily gotten his attention before he dismissed the site as irresponsible advocacy? What makes you think he wouldn’t have been more open to the feedback if presented without the churlish tone?

    Regarding the other point, I think its great you interviewed people who use the intersection – I just with it was taken a little bitfurther. Thought all the fundraising earlier in the year was to support this as a full-time position. Not that it entails staking out surveys for a week but stating “500 survey respondents don’t represent the neighborhood opinion, but here are the results from a dozen people walking by one night” isn’t likely to shift the narrative.

  • BlueFairlane

    One, It doesn’t really matter who spent the money, as that’s $175,000 the SSA isn’t spending on other things. One way or another it’s costing people in that neighborhood.

    Two, I really can’t imagine this is actually the cheapest way to do this. I have a friend looking to outright buy a piece of property larger than this intersection for about $178,000, and that price includes the construction of a 1,600-sq-ft house. I know things are more expensive in Chicago, but we’re talking about paint. Somebody’s just not getting good value on their purchases here.

    Just putting up bollards and painting the entire thing a single color would likely have been much cheaper, and it wouldn’t have generated nearly the negative response this ugly mess has. As Justin said above, it’s not unlikely that the removal of the polka dots would take a lot of names off that petition.

  • How do you feel about the $125,000 price tag for 1/2 mile of PBLs?

  • Kamin didn’t say anything about having a problem with the tone of the SBC post. Rather, he implied that my post was irresponsible because I was supposedly “turning a blind eye to the faults of projects you support,” which I think is totally off-base. I acknowledged that there’s some validity to his criticisms that there isn’t enough physical protection of the seating, and that it’s arguably a drawback that there’s no shade.

    My main problem with his piece was his suggestion that removing dangerous slip lanes has created an unreasonable hardship for drivers, which is a truly irresponsible thing to put out there. I also disliked the overall negative, dismissive tone of his piece. That served to discourage the very kind of experimentation with converting asphalt to seating he said he supports in his People Spot article.

    Yep, Streetsblog Chicago is a full-time job for me, part-time for Steven. I enjoy doing this kind of fieldwork, but it wouldn’t work for me to spend hours and hours doing it. I think interviewing 16 people in an hour, both people who love and hate the LH, serves to highlight the fact that there’s plenty of local support for this placemaking projects.

    Sure, interviewing 500 people would be a more scientific sample, but that would have taken about 30 hours, and maybe five more hours to process the info. If someone wants to contribute $600 to SBC, earmarked for this purpose, I’d be glad to pay an intern to do this.

  • Dennis McClendon

    My experience has been that Kamin gets very defensive when challenged about anything. Back when he had a blog, I would occasionally try to correct him on some minor factual matter, and the reaction was always the same: to dig in his heels and try to figure out a way that he could be considered not wrong.

  • cjlane

    “I saw no evidence of traffic problems ”

    But, John, your position on the “before” would be that there *were* a lot of traffic problems. So you aren’t really a neutral observer on that point.

    That said, I’ve been thru it (in a car) only 3 times, and I’ve had two ‘normal’ experiences, and one that was a total bad F service level (non-rush hour!!)–like 4 light cycles to get thru the intersection, and we were car number 9 or so when we arrived. Left turners on to/off of lincoln and southport are *killers* now.

  • Mcass777

    This city needs an alternative to Bollards – period. They disappear in winter when plows take them out. They are not replaced and then we are left with stubs which create a new hazard for bikers and walkers. I have rolled over the stubs on Elston. in general they are ugly and worthless and we need the permanent planter type replacement. A year from now I bet most of the bollards are gone, the paint is faded and the area looks like it was money ill-spent. Who is going to argue against a road treatment that includes permanent planters as opposed to these ugly bollards? imagine this area with more flowers and shrubs.

  • I agree with most of your criticisms about the flexible plastic posts. However, it’s good that permanent concrete bollard were not used here, because this allowed the shape of the Pockets plaza to be easily modified to facilitate drivers passing left-turning cars. But perhaps a better solution would be more planters. They’re movable, offer more protection from cars, and they look a lot nicer.

  • S man

    As someone who frequents the golden apple (almost every weekend) and who drives through that inter section daily, I can say that it does create more traffic back ups and is absolutely hideous. Obviously it’s my opinion on the looks but the traffic has gotten much worse since it’s installation.

  • Did the $175,000 include the architect fees, andy permitting fees, and time spent in CDOT’s office negotiating how this is going work?

  • Palmiro

    The idea that vehicular traffic needed to be “calmed” at this intersection is laughable. It has always been a slog getting through it and cars rarely moved at a fast clip. The issue for pedestrians has always been the cars turning left. Many drivers are so fixed on the oncoming vehicles that they only pick up the presence of pedestrians after they’ve started to make their turn. But that turn is almost always from a dead stop, so speed ain’t the issue here. Rather, it’s a matter of greater driver and pedestrian alertness, and creating habits of mind that stress alertness when crossing intersections (you don’t look into your ipad) and that show a civil respect for pedestrians–something that takes both time and punitive measures (fines for infractions).
    This is a problem city-wide (country-wide as well), and it’s not solved by greater congestion, which only leads to drivers engaging in reckless behavior to squeeze one more car past the intersection before (and sometimes even after) the light turns red (so that, paradoxically, the so-called “cure” is worse than the “disease”). Lee Crandell (“Mr. Congestion”) and comp. can only imagine solutions to issues like bicyclist and pedestrian safety that involve making the experience of in-city driving as unpleasant as the suburban commute.

  • I don’t get why people use Lincoln or Southport as arterial long-distance-driving streets around there anyway. I always come in on something big and then choose carefully what street I want to be on, minimizing lefts, because lefts are A NIGHTMARE in that entire neighborhood unless you get a dedicated light.

    Why does anyone try?

  • Palmiro

    The answer is largely twofold: 1. The drivers are actually headed to a destination that is in the immediate vicinity of that intersection; 2. Congestion is a significant problem on the arterial streets as well, so that drivers, hoping against hope, figure they’re give the secondary streets a try. Of course, once the secondary streets turn out also to be clogged, they resort to the tertiary side streets (instead of Wellington, for example, let’s try Nelson or Barry).
    And that’s just another “unanticipated” fall-out of this ill-conceived project: more dangerous side street intersections.
    And, naturally, the solution to that problem concocted by “Mr. Congestion” (Lee Crandell) will be measures to hobble traffic on the side streets, leading to more congestion and erratic driving, ad infinitum.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Is it a “more enjoyable experience” if you are on a peninsula in an intersection surrounded by backed up cars/trucks? I get that the plastic bollards are temporary, but honestly they jut too far into the intersection. Are there that many people who will feel comfortable siting on plastic circles hanging around an intersection even if you install permanent bollards?

    More planters certainly will make the area less stark, but I agree with the earlier commentator that the dots in front of St. Alphonsus is just such a visual clash that it upsets my stomach.

    Doing something here is well worth it. But please this whole project is just so wrong for so many reasons. Maybe ATA can send over a couple of interns for a couple of days and tell us just how many people are actually sitting for 5 minutes or more on the giant white circles. Interview them and find out if it is an experience they would do again.

    The Lakeview Chamber that used our SSA dollars on this project needs some new life. No wonder their membership has dropped over the years.

  • Living

    Agreed. There are a few residents who are working to make sure that both the SSA & The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are going to be injected with NEW LIFE and held accountable. With shuttered storefronts in Lakeview at an all time high and Chicago now adopting the highest sales tax in the country, the jobs at SSA and Chamber of Commerce are going to be exponentially more difficult. People with “business backgrounds” are needed – not so much “biking backgrounds” Stay tuned!

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Well former Lakeview Chamber director Heather Wade finally took off to work for the Rickerts family. This project was her last huragh. Now that she’s gone maybe the Lakeview Chamber might start listening to businesses located beyond precious Southport Avenue.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    With the advent of halogen headlights, and newer LEDs, you can go for years without head and tailights going out. It used to be any easy ticket for cops to issue. Now when it is done, its when cops need an excuse to search your car.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Planters with GIANT CARNIVOROUS PLANTS! That would not only look nice and offer protection, but effectively take care of those egregiously bad drivers who can’t resist crashing into them.

    (Sorry. It’s Friday. There are reasons I was never asked to be a transportation planner, I guess.)

  • T.G. Crewe

    Slowing traffic down and making the area more pedestrian friendly will certainly help the neighbourhood.

  • skelter weeks

    Responding to a biased, non-representative sample of opinions (online petition) with your own biased, non-representative sample (You asked pedestrians if they liked pedestrian improvements! What else were they going to say?) is indeed silly. Why didn’t you ask any drivers what they thought? You need an editor who isn’t an advocate, to at least offer a semblance of objectivity. Or else you wind up with silly exercises like this story.

  • The title of the piece is “Lots of Lakeview Residents Like the Lincoln Hub.” The purpose of the survey was not to determine exactly how many people like or dislike the project in the neighborhood. Rather, the results suggest that more people who actually use the intersection may be in support of the project than has been suggested by articles in the “unbiased” mainstream media.

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