Lakeview East Chamber Wants CDOT to Reinstate a Dangerous Slip Lane

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Before right turns onto Broadway were banned, pedestrians crossing the slip lane were endangered by quick-turning drivers. Photo: John Greenfield

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition calling for the removal of new signs installed by a slip lane at the southeast corner of the five-way Grace/Halsted/Broadway intersection. The “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn to Broadway” signs essentially nullify the slip lane, which previously allowed northbound drivers on Halsted to make quick southeast turns onto Broadway. Right turns from Halsted around the far side of the pedestrian island onto Broadway are also banned.

The petition argues that the new signs create confusion for motorists and force them take a convoluted route via side streets to get from Halsted over to Broadway:

One will have to turn east on Sheridan, down Pine Grove over to Grace and eventually back to Broadway. This will drive more traffic through residential streets to get back on Broadway. Turning east on Sheridan will drive more traffic near Gill Park [at the southwest corner of Broadway and Sheridan] and the new development [a residential tower slated for the northeast corner of this intersection], causing an unsafe area for children crossing from the park.

The petition adds that the turn ban is a problem for people attending services at Anshe Emet Synagogue, located at the southeast corner of Grace/Halsted/Broadway, as well as parents dropping off their kids at the associated day school, and anyone else who frequents or live in the area. The Chamber also claims that the change creates a “hardship for small business” and will cause more congestion during baseball season at nearby Wrigley Field.

The petition, which has garnered about 300 signatures so far, is addressed to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which installed the signs, and local alderman James Cappleman, who approved them. Due to the Casimir Pulaski Day holiday, the chamber, CDOT, and Cappleman’s office didn’t respond to messages, but here are some initial thoughts on the issue.

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Image: Google Maps

First of all, it’s not necessary for northbound drivers on Halsted to do the Sheridan/Pine Grove/Grace jug handle in order to access the temple or businesses on Broadway southeast of the slip lane. They can simply turn east on Waveland (located a block south of Grace, it’s two-way between Halsted and Broadway) and then head northwest or southeast on Broadway.

Secondly, slip lanes, aka “channelized right turn lanes” or “pork chop islands,” are dangerous for pedestrians because they allow drivers to whip around corners, and they increase crossing distances. For this reason, CDOT’s Pedestrian Plan called for the eventual elimination of all slip lanes within the city (although the more recently published CDOT Complete Streets Guide merely states that the use of slip lanes is “not encouraged.”) Therefore, the chamber of commerce’s “think of the children” argument for letting drivers use the Halsted/Broadway slip lane is pretty ironic.

The slip lane shouldn’t just be eliminated with signs, which some drivers will surely disobey; it should be physically removed. This could be done on a trial basis using street painting and flexible posts, as was done with several slip lanes at the Wellington/Lincoln/Halsted intersection as part of the successful, if controversial, Lincoln Hub placemaking project. Or it could be done permanently with concrete.

On the other hand, it’s understandable that Lakeview East chamber and others object to banning all right turns from Halsted onto Broadway. Even the Waveland detour that I described above is not particularly intuitive.

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Paint and posts were used at the Lincoln Hub to eliminate slip lanes while softening the turning radius around the former pedestrian island.  Photo: John Greenfield

Presumably, CDOT determined that it would be unsafe to allow drivers to make right turns around the Halsted/Broadway pedestrian island because the turning radius would be too sharp. A solution might be to soften the angle by creating a bump-out around the island using paint and posts, as was done at the Lincoln Hub.

Lots of drivers hated that street reconfiguration at first as well, but it’s been in place for the better part of a year and it doesn’t seem to be creating major hardships for motorists. It has, however, eliminated slip lanes dangers and shortened crossing distances for pedestrians.

Whatever CDOT eventually decides to do about allowing right turns from Halsted onto Broadway, here’s hoping that they don’t reinstate the hazardous slip lane.

  • JacobEPeters

    If I lived near here I would set up a picnic table in the slip lane & host a traffic safety informational table during the weekend.

  • The treatment does seem poor. The slip lane should actually be closed as opposed to just having a sign, which is ripe for abuse. Also, signage of the better detour route is probably required to (a right turn for x street for example). There are easy solutions to these problems that don’t involve compromising safety.

  • Do you want to do that next weekend with me?

  • JacobEPeters

    I think I am free on Sunday & on Saturday before 2 maybe. I will double check & get back to you. Anyone from nearby wanna join? Related, anybody have a picnic table?

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    Sign me up! A walkability-themed tea party? ;)

  • JacobEPeters

    Make Our Sidewalks Great again?

  • Vic

    I work in the area quite often. So if I turn on waveland to go northwest and pull a u turn on Broadway to find a parking spot is that legal? No it isn’t or I might as well just cut thru the bus stop turnaround. Is that legal? No. But the city has given motorist no choice. Nobody has mentioned it but they did the same scrap on Damen and lincoln. No tight turn on lincoln from damen. So at the street south I made a right. Went over to lincoln and made a left. Couldn’t find parking on east side so I made a u turn in middle of the block into a west side parking place and got nailed by a cop for a moving violation. The nice officer was more than happy to say they have officers waiting and looking for that type of behavior to happen. Sounds like an admission for a cash grab more than safety.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    There’s parking on both sides of the 3700 block of Broadway, so why would approaching from Waveland rather than Halsted influence a driver’s decision to make an illegal U turn?

  • Imjames76

    I live in the area, and don’t approve of any changes to the street that make it more difficult to drive, but I’m not sure why drivers would be driving north on Halsted and then have to turn and head south on Broadway. It would make much more sense to turn on waveland
    Cappelman is really digging his own grave, with this and change of Clarendon street. Time for him to go.

  • ardecila

    The synagogue argument is a huge red herring. The parking lot entrance is just as accessible from northbound Broadway (via Waveland) as it is from southbound Broadway. More accessible, in fact, since you’re not turning across traffic into the driveway if you’re going northbound. The parking lot exit is on Grace so that’s not even relevant.

  • Vic

    Real simple. If there is no parking spots on the east side but on the west side. How are you going to get from one side to the other?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Banning the right turn from Halsted is irrelevant: You’d have the same situation if you were coming from Halsted and all the parking spaces were on the east side of Broadway. Basically, drivers can choose to make an illegal U turn if they want, but they can’t blame their decision to break the law on the new signs.

  • neroden

    Go around the block. If there’s no spots on the east side and you want to park on the west side, you go north on Broadway, east on Sheridan, south on Pine Grove, west on Grace, and then turn left onto Broadway.

    People in Philadelphia learned how to drive around the block a long time ago. You can learn how too.

  • Mike Raffety

    Why on earth would they prohibit turning here? It’s a perfectly safe turn, you can see all around you. This is just silly.

  • Because when drivers feel it’s “such a safe turn,” they tend to zoom through it at full speed, barely slowing from 30+mph — and it is very common for drivers to not properly notice pedestrians. When you’re velocitized, your eyes are looking for CARS. It’s a known aspect of cognitive bias while driving that people can completely fail to register if you’re driving ‘on autopilot,’ sure that you’re safe and the area is clear and thinking about something else. It is utterly chilling how often even for people who know themselves to be safe drivers, if you get them into a simulator and set up a situation, they can completely fail to see people that are clearly visible in the driver’s field of vision to a passenger or outside observer.

    There have been a LOT of car-versus-pedestrians close calls at this corner, and it’s extremely chilling on walkability.

    There is also a history of vehicular near-misses or collisions because the person coming north on Halsted just whips right through without checking whether anyone was turning left off SOUTH-bound Halsted.

    High speed while feeling safe should never happen at a corner turn, that’s why CDOT wants to eliminate slip lanes entirely. Every corner should involve slowing to nearly a stop, looking all around, and then making your turn. “Checking before you get there” at high speed is never adequate, because your brain takes shortcuts.

  • Then go around a block to change sides, or use someone’s parking lot.

    U-Turns are NEVER LEGAL in Chicago except when there is a sign specifically stating that they are. It’s not difficult. Don’t do them. Ever. They are not an option for you.

  • what_eva

    You’re incorrect on this. U-turns are prohibited within 100 feet of an intersection and in the loop (specifically inside Wacker, Michigan, Congress). “short” blocks are 1/16 mile/330 feet. “long” blocks are 1/8 mile/660 feet. Even on a short block, it is legal to make a mid block U-turn. It’s under 9-16-040 in city ordinances.

  • what_eva

    Why is the U turn illegal?

  • what_eva

    A sign can be slapped up quickly, removing the slip lane will take a lot more work, though John’s idea of using paint/posts as a temporary solution is a good one.

  • Paint and flex posts are cheap too. That was my intended meaning. The point is, if you just put up a sign, where there is an obvious intended right turn, there is a conflict and it is confusing at best to drivers.

  • Well, people get ticketed for them all the time (if a cop is present when they do it).

    They are nearly always unsafe — the only time I’ve seen a U-Turn performed in Chicago that didn’t lead to a near-miss the whole street was empty, the U-turning car was the only one in sight that wasn’t parked.

  • what_eva

    Agreed

  • It’s strongly unpredictable behavior, and causes collision chances with both the car behind you and the oncoming traffic. Plus a lot of people don’t execute them well and it turns into a 3-point turn, reversing into traffic.

  • what_eva

    Yes, but where are they doing those U-turns? Are they doing the “go around the intersection as though it was a mini-roundabout”? That’s not legal in Chicago. Or are they doing it when there isn’t clearance?

  • what_eva

    All good points, but that doesn’t strictly make any midblock u-turn illegal. John seems to be making the same point you were, that there is no legal U-turn, which is not correct.

  • I’m surprised that you found municipal code declaring them legal. When I learned to drive it was repeated to me over and over that they’re illegal except when signed, and that this varies from the suburbs where it is usually legal everywhere except when unsigned (or so my Driver’s Ed teacher said).

    The police seem to treat it as globally illegal and will ticket as a moving violation anytime it is seen. In practice, they are forbidden and will lead to a ticket, even though apparently they are technically legal on paper.

  • If you’re on a street like Lawrence at Cicero — two moderately sized travel lanes, two parking lanes — there really isn’t space to make a U-turn even into an empty parking space with perfect aim, because of turning radius.

    On streets like Broadway near the Wilson stop, which have two traffic lanes (and a center turn lane in some cases), people get into the left lane before turning and even so mostly don’t have space to get into the rightmost of the two opposite travel lanes — meanwhile, everyone in BOTH opposite lanes has to not hit them.

    There is almost never space to execute a safe, smooth U-Turn on any but the very widest arterial streets: and they usually have too much traffic to do one safely.

  • VERY STUPID DESIGN! Sorry for the shouting. Move the crosswalk south so it skips the porkchop. Put in a Bulbout into the parking lane on the west side of Broadway and force cars into a wider turn. Put a STOP SIGN facing west or even northwest so turners have a real reason to slow down.

    There is no reason for the crosswalk to be as far north as it is. It is not for crossing Halsted but for crossing Broadway. It can be just south of the slip lane. There is a lighted crosswalk for Halsted at the corner of Grace. The only people who should be using the crosswalk would be coming from the south.

    Then expand the prok chop into a park via dots if need be.

  • The crosswalk is where it is because they want the car stop-bar to be closer to the ‘intersection’ proper, and that has to be behind the crosswalk.

  • Jeff Gio

    I’d make my way out if I’m reminded

  • I have a card table that folds up but I don’t have a way to get it there at the moment.

  • Both days have rain on the forecast. Let’s touch base in a couple days to see if one will be clearer than the other.

  • There is a quarter to a third of a block between a perpendicular crosswalk well to the south and where a stop bar could be placed. Put in a stop sign at the new crosswalk and then the stop bar five car lengths to the north.

    I’m not buying that argument.

    By the way there was no stop bar at all in the current google sat photo. This slip lane can be kept and the triangle turned into a park etc etc. This can be a win-win all around. There is lots of room here for several good designs.

  • Jeff Gio

    I have a vehicle (gasp) and would be willing to drive it very slowly to you and help move items. Someone call dnainfo

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Not so. There are places it’s legal to make a U turn in Chicago, but this is not one of them.

  • what_eva

    Why not? It was stated to be mid-block. If there was traffic, that would make it illegal. We don’t know why Vic was cited. But, again, midblock u-turns are legal so long as you are 100 ft from an intersection and not in the loop.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    OK, I stand corrected. Technically it may be legal to make a U turn here if you’re in the middle of the block (not sure if the alley / CTA bus turnaround north of Waveland counts as an intersection according to the city code):
    http://chicagocode.org/9-16-040/

    In practice, it’s a busy, narrow street, so pulling a U turn here during business hours would be a bit of a Richard Maneuver.

  • what_eva

    Agreed, I’ve attended events and services at Anshe Emet and have approached from the South on Halsted. It’s much easier to get into the lot by using Waveland and coming NB on Broadway.

  • what_eva

    While I agree that plenty of drivers will be “Richards” about it, it’s really not hard to time that in plenty of places in the city. One can often get out of traffic at a hydrant or a loading zone to let traffic behind pass, then wait for a gap caused by lights to do the u turn without impacting others. It all depends on the street. eg, I’d never consider it on really busy streets like Clark through LV/LP or Andersonville, but that section of Broadway is often not that bad.

  • what_eva

    Sunday you could test if it actually gets used by people going to Anshe Emet, there should be religious school in the morning, dropoff probably in the 9-9:30 range, pickup around noon. See if parents really do try to use that slipway.

  • You don’t approve of any changes that “make it mor difficult to drive.”

    In other words, any changes. Because most changes, if not all, are viewed by drivers as making it more difficult to drive when it improves biking or walking.

  • Email me if you want to participate.

  • Email me if you want to participate, Vitaliy.

  • I have always understood U-turns to be legal if more than 100 feet from intersection. I do them often and have never gotten a ticket (knock on wood). A lot depends upon the kind of street, yes. Actually I would consider it a traffic calming maneuver. It has the possibility of slowing other drivers.

  • barracho

    why wouldn’t people walking southbound use it? i have

  • barracho

    there are other laws than that

  • what_eva
  • OOPs my bad. Of course you want to get to the east side of Halsted. I assumed you could have gotten to the west side of Halsted at the Grace crosswalk. I assumed everybody using the crosswalk had come from the corner of Grace and Broadway, so why not have crossed there? Because you want the east side of Halsted.

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