Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT
This street view rendering shows how bumpouts and signs would add “filtered permeability” on Manor Avenue, by allowing only bicyclists and pedestrians to continue north and south past Wilson Avenue. Image: CDOT

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues.

What the petition doesn’t account for is that some of the streets that might have more cars have apartment buildings with more residences on streets that can better handle a higher volume of cars than the neighborhood’s side streets. Traffic counts on surrounding streets show an average of thousands of fewer cars per day on these streets than at any count in the past 15 years.

CDOT’s proposal is jeopardy because the “Not in My Back Yard” opposition to the plan from Ravenswood Manor will likely be better organized than support for the plan. In a post on the blog Market Urbanism today, Krishan Madan outlined why NIMBYs are often more organized that “YIMBYS” in situations like this. This is because those who would benefit most from maintaining the status quo are concentrated in the areas immediately adjacent to the project, while the potential beneficiaries of such a project include many people who don’t live in the area.

Another bike safety issue in the ward is an earlier CDOT proposal for bike lanes on Belmont Avenue. In 2014 CDOT staff discussed plans for a buffered bike lane on Belmont from Kedzie Avenue in Avondale to Halsted Street in Lakeview, but there has been little movement on the project since then. Tragically, the need to improve safety for cyclists in the ward was highlighted earlier this month when the driver of a flatbed truck fatally struck cyclist Virginia Murray at the corner of Belmont and Sacramento Avenue in the ward. 

“Bike lanes on Belmont are very important to me [and] we need a safe east-west route,” Mell stated in an email in the wake of the crash. “My preference is buffered bike lanes, [and] CTA is evaluating the impact of the lanes on bus traffic. I was told [the #77 Belmont bus] is a highly used route. I will continue to push and work with CDOT and CTA to get this project done.”

Express your support

The Transportation Action Committee meeting is on Thursday, July 28, at the Horner Park field house, second floor meeting room, at 6:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to the meeting, email your comments to Mell’s office via manorgreenway@gmail.com, and to CDOT via cdotbikes@cityofchicago.org. You can also call Mell’s office, 773-478-8040, or come to ward night on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Steven is a member of the TAC. 

  • I’m sorry that I’m out of town that day—this is my neighborhood, and I have been asking for years for some kind of traffic calming. Manor is currently a cut-through that creates nasty traffic congestion multiple times a day. A five-way intersection, several stop signs, an at grade CTA train crossing and a street that is too narrow to allow for bidirectional traffic flow create a situation of stop-and-go traffic whereby lots of drivers resort to kangaroo-style driving. There is also a a children’s playground and park, I can’t imagine any parent feeling OK with being surrounded by speeding cars.

    For people who must drive North/South good alternatives exist east and west of Manor (Western and Kedzie). It does seem that the plan needs to address inadvertently displacing the problem elsewhere in the neighborhood, which is what concerns the neighbors. One thing that would certainly help is creating “woonerf” solutions throughout this area, and make it as unattractive as possible for speed by creating humps and reducing speed limits to 10 or 15 MPH.

    As a cyclist I do not use Berteau, which I consider ill-conceived and poorly executed. It lacks clear markings and visibility, there is no physical protection for cyclists going contra-direction, and the rarity of this type of bike path makes that most motorists are simply not used to it, thus making this path dangerous. The Manor solution seems better thought out.

  • Jennifer Thornton

    I’m also a neighbor in favor of traffic calming and reducing cut-throughs on Manor Avenue. I’m neutral on the diverter idea, but I do support bike lanes, bump-outs, and other calming elements, and I believe parking should not be allowed on Manor Avenue.

  • Chicago lifer

    I agree with your assessment of the situation as it exists: Manor/Wilson/Mozart is a terrible intersection, and Manor north of Wilson is too narrow to allow parking on both sides (or at all, for that matter.)

    However, I disagree with your assertion that Kedzie and Western are viable alternatives that people will actually use. Simply put, they won’t. Traffic on those streets is bad even during non-rush hour times, and during rush hour, it’s a mess. No, drivers will find other alternatives in the neighborhoods – West of the river: Richmond to Sacramento going north and Francisco going south, and east of the river, Maplewood to Rockwell going north, and Rockwell going south. Removing a traffic pattern from this neighborhood will only serve to cause more traffic on other side streets in the community.

    The simple solution to this is to ban parking on both sides of that stretch of Manor, use buildouts and other traffic calming devices and put in bike lanes. Problem solved without dumping more traffic woes on neighboring side streets.

  • It’s possible that’s what CDOT does in the end.

    This part, “No, drivers will find other alternatives in the neighborhoods”, can be influenced by one of many ways CDOT could redesign the street so that Manor isn’t one of those alternatives, and nor is any of the other side streets.

    The solution isn’t to allow vehicle traffic everywhere to relieve it elsewhere, but to improve the ability and convenience of using non-congesting transportation modes everywhere.

  • Can you come to the meeting, or email your comments to to Mell’s office via manorgreenway@gmail.com, and to CDOT via cdotbikes@cityofchicago.org.

  • Jennifer Thornton

    Yes, I’ve contacted Mell’s office and I’ve attended several meetings on the issue. Will stop by tonight.

  • Mike

    I heard that CTA is responsible for killing the Belmont bike lanes.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Yes to traffic calming and parking removal on Manor, skeptical on diversion but will try and keep an open mind until some data comes in – beyond skeptical that Kedzie and Western are viable alternatives, the fact they are not is why everyone is taking Manor in the first place.

    I am far more interested in the Belmont bike lane proposal. That is long overdue and completely justifiable on multiple counts: expressway and river crossing problems, schools and parks, removing the chaos-inducing stripeless “rush hour” parking controls, etc. We need a major east-west artery that is friendly and enticing enough to actualy inspire people to bike.

  • Chicago lifer

    You’re missing my point. If Manor is redesigned as proposed, drivers WILL find other alternatives IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD on other side streets just east and west of Manor in the manner which I described. People will NOT use Kedzie and Western as north-south alternates for cutting through Ravenswood Manor/Gardens – those streets can be a mess as it is, and during rush hour, it’s absolute gridlock.

    And this proposal is not a ‘non-congesting transportation mode’ as you describe. It’s a traffic altering pattern that removes an oft-used north/south route from the grid and simply pushes traffic to other side streets in the neighborhood. Period. Because people are simply not going to use Kedzie and Western as alternates.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Sadly, I think this is correct, and I base this on a lifetime of seeing drivers use alleys and break traffic laws to try and escape congested streets.

    Where I’ve lived for the past 15 years, a startling number of drivers drive the wrong way on a one-way street to get to my alley. It’s a short distance, but wtf. I’ve biked after a few of them shouting obscenities I didn’t even realize I knew, and to date I have never seen a single one look even remotely repentant.

    Speaking as a Chicago native, we have way too many special snowflakes who think that traffic laws don’t apply to them and respect nothing but force.

    So an enforcement strategy would go a long way… and I mean CPS/real cops not “pedestrian safety flags” and the like. I watched a good 20 cars ignore one of those bright yellow pedestrian crossing signs/bollards/striped crosswalk as I waited to cross the street walking my 10 year old to day camp this morning. You know who stopped? The one cyclist!

  • Do you know that parking removal isn’t being proposed?

  • Belmont should be no different for them than other streets with “busy” bus routes and buffered bike lanes, like Clark Street.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Yep, but it’s not like street parking is infrastructure that’s set in stone (much less made of it). I never say never.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Belmont is far busier, isn’t it? I thought I had heard this was also an IDOT issue, but I also hear IDOT used as a strawman for all kinds of projects.

  • Saying that a bus is what prevents a bike lane is also a strawman. As if there weren’t ways for bike lanes to be built on the same streets as buses.

    Practically every street with a bike lane on it in Chicago has a bus route!

  • Carter O’Brien

    I would say the bus excuse raises the strawman to a bona fide colossal and flaming Wicker Man strawman!

  • planetshwoop

    Is there a strong planning reason to prefer bike lanes on busy streets? I don’t know if that helps commerce or is “where people want to go” but it seems like it deliberately causes bike/car conflicts.

  • what_eva

    If this county GID map is correct, Belmont is in the clear from IDOT gremlins:
    http://cookviewer1.cookcountyil.gov/hwyjurisdiction/

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The Chicago Department of Transportation’s proposal for a neighborhood greenway on Manor Avenue is endorsed by 33rd Ward alder Deb Mell and the ward’s Transportation Action Committee (I am a member of the TAC). But the initiative is facing fierce opposition from some Ravenswood Manor neighbors who object to plans for traffic diverters at Manor and […]