Manor Avenue Diverter Test Begins, Pro-Greenway Petition Launches

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Looking southeast at Wilson/Manor. Barricades prevent cut-through motor vehicle traffic on Manor but allow two-way bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday the Chicago Department of Transportation launched a two-month test of traffic diverters at Wilson and Manor avenues as part of the planning process for the Manor Avenue Neighborhood Greenway in the 33rd Ward. Right now wooden barricades are being used to prohibit drivers from turning onto Manor from Wilson, or continuing directly on Manor between Montrose and Lawrence. If the trial is deemed successful, the barricades will be replaced with landscaped curb bump-outs.

The goal of the project is to eliminate cut-through traffic on Manor, creating safer conditions for walking and biking, plus a more pleasant environment for residents on the street. Other elements of the greenway project include raised crosswalks and concrete islands at Montrose and Lawrence Avenues to slow down motorists as they enter Manor, short stretches of green contraflow bike lane, and bike-and-chevron “sharrow” markings.

At community meetings for the project, some neighbors have said they didn’t like having their driving route options limited, and expressed concern that significant amounts of cut-through traffic would wind up on other nearby streets, reducing safety and quality of life along those roadways.

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT
CDOT rendering (looking northwest on Manor at Wilson) shows landscaped curb extensions that would prevent motorists from turning from Wilson onto Manor or continuing straight on Manor past Wilson. Image: CDOT

Someone has been circulating an anonymous flyer against the project in the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. The next meeting of the 33rd Ward Transportation Action Committee (Streetsblog’s Steven Vance is a member) will be this Thursday, September 22. The flyer states, “If enough people voice their opposition to the plan, the temporary barricades [that] will be installed on September 19 will be removed.”

Local alderman Deb Mell, who currently supports testing the diverters, has said there’s no magic number of opponents needed to make her drop the pilot. However, if the vast majority of people who show up on Thursday are against the test, she might decide it’s politically necessary to call it off.

If you live in the neighborhood or hope to use the Manor greenway on a regular basis, you can show up to the TAC meeting to voice your support for continuing the traffic diverter pilot. The meeting takes place at the Horner Park field house, 2741 West Montrose, at 6:30 p.m. If you can’t make it, you can email comments to local alderman Deb Mell’s office at manorgreenway@gmail.com, and to CDOT at cdotbikes@cityofchicago.org. You can also call Mell’s office at 773-478-8040, or come to ward night on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fortunately, residents are also organizing in support of continuing the test. Jett Robinson started a Change.org petition calling for the city to go forward with the plan for a two-month test of the diverters. Robinson wrote:

In an effort to calm traffic, the plan redirects both north and southbound car traffic onto adjacent streets. This is a perfectly reasonable measure that has been studied by CDOT, along with competing proposals, and has been deemed the most effective by them. We ask that the steering committee, Alderman Mell, and CDOT retain this configuration.

“This bike lane proposal for Manor Ave. is a tremendous step — hopefully one of many — towards making our city streets safe and inclusive for all those who wish to use them,” commented signee Roman Sanders.

I stopped by Wilson and Manor during rush hour. There was plenty of bike traffic on both streets, and while car traffic was heavy on Wilson, the barricades didn’t see to be causing undue confusion, even though it was only the second day of the test.

A police officer was stationed on Manor south of Wilson. When the occasional driver would disobey the nearby “Do Not Enter” sign, the officer would flash his blue lights and explain that southbound car traffic on this stretch of Manor was prohibited, and the motorist would usually do a U-turn and return to Wilson. Meanwhile, Manor seemed to have less car traffic on it than usual, and biking the stretch between Lawrence and Montrose was very relaxing.

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Looking northwest at Wilson/Manor this afternoon. In the background, a ward rep talks with a resident. Photo: John Greenfield

Staff from the 33rd Ward, CDOT, and the engineering firm that is consulting on the project were hanging out at the corner, observing traffic and fielding questions from residents. Assuming the test moves forward after Thursday, they’ll be monitoring traffic patterns in the area. The transportation department has projected that some nearby streets will see a small increase in traffic, but that many drivers would simply stop using Ravenswood Manor as a pass-through between Montrose and Lawrence.

I overheard a mix of negative and positive comments from passers-by to the staffers. One woman, who said she was a landscape architect told the ward assistant that while she was a little skeptical that the diverters would work out in the long run, she supported the city trying something new. “I think it’s cool,” she said. “You guys are working to do the best test you can.”

However, another resident said she was concerned that eliminating continuous traffic would make it difficult to drive to businesses on Francisco Avenue south of Manor, next to the Francisco including Baker Miller café and Le Ballet Petit School of Ballet. While there are fewer options now for accessing these establishments from the south, it’s still possible to reach them from Lawrence.

map of the Manor Greenway
With the barricades in place, it’s less convenient to drive north from Wilson/Manor to Baker Miller (next to the station) and Le Ballet Petit School of Dance (located just south of Manor on Francisco), but it’s easy to reach them from Lawrence. Click to enlarge. Image: Google Maps.

“There are still a lot of choices,” said the ward rep. “People might not be thinking of them yet, but there are options.”

Hopefully there will be enough support for continuing the test that CDOT and Alderman Mell will follow through with the plan. If the experiment is judged a success, building a robust neighborhood greenway on Manor would be a great addition to the neighborhood, and to Chicago’s bike network.

  • Anne A

    Gaining enough support to keep this project could set an important precedent for other areas of the city where people would like similar infrastructure.

  • planetshwoop

    Sorry I didn’t have time to stop and chat when I saw you there yesterday John… I had to breeze through.

    I can 100% confirm that traffic is much lighter on Manor; it is a lot safer to cross and get through than previously when traveling by bicycle.

    I’d love to have additional focus from the area on safer E-W routes. Wilson is now extra dangerous bc it is a traffic sewer; Montrose and Lawrence are also bad bc the bike lanes are eliminated due to narrower streets near the bridges.

  • Josh K

    Wilson, Rockwell, and other surrounding streets were a mess this morning.

  • Josh K

    Look how awful the backup is even in that picture above.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Seems like typical rush hour traffic on Wilson to me. It’s a shame that, with or without the Manor traffic diverters, Wilson is full of cars during commuting hours when it should be a mellow neighborhood street and a relaxing bike route.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I rode to Ravenswood from Avondale Saturday afternoon, and had a much more pleasant time on Montrose (east from California) than on Wilson (west from Western).

    There may be no worse intersection for cyclists than Wilson and Western at that point, the street contracts to the point it’s barely wide enough for one lane of traffic as well as cyclists.

  • Carter O’Brien

    We need bike/ped bridges that cross the River, not simply run along them.

  • Carter O’Brien
  • cjett

    Right on! This is exactly why I think its crucial that cyclists all over the city support this.

  • Josh K

    Yeah, who cares about the neighborhood, families, and community if we can exploit them for our own political goals.

  • Stuart

    Although I may agree with your sentiment, the snark isn’t productive.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Folks, let’s keep the conversation polite. Thanks.

  • Josh K

    Fair enough.

  • Josh K

    I hope that courtesy will extend to the affected residents of the neighborhoods too. Hopefully no more name calling. No more hand wavy dismissing of resident concerns and first person user experiences.

  • Josh K

    On a logistical note, I was surprised I didn’t see any traffic counters on Wilson when I went through it a little while ago. Is there a list of everywhere they are capturing counts?

  • Stuart

    The city removed them all this week.

  • Josh K

    Oh. Do you know why? I thought the point of this experiment was to gather data. How will they be determining success if they are not measuring?

  • I’ll ask them tomorrow at the meeting.

  • I don’t think there’s a list. I think making them known would introduce a bias to the collection in case people wanted to “game” certain counters.

  • I know, but I use it all of the time because I dislike biking on Montrose past Welles Park where it’s skinny but for longer than Wilson.

  • I believe that the Lawrence Ave. bike lanes are in need of some major restriping.

  • Before Monday there was no first person user experience of what the diverters would do but most of the people who came to the last two TAC meetings offered one anyway.

    To everyone: A meeting that the alder hosts is one way for people to voice their opinions, but should only be taken at face value. Those are the opinions of the people who came to voice them, and aren’t representative of a particular ward.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Ha. That is indeed the tradeoff!

  • planetshwoop

    From my experience, the Wilson traffic has shifted. It used to back up at Manor and Wilson BC no one knew whose turn it was or there would be a lot of cars stuck at the train tracks.

    The Wilson picture shows that the backup has moved west from before.

    Also, it’s the third day. Time will show if drivers adjust to the patterns and let’s what it looks like in mid-Oct.

  • Josh K

    But there was first person user experience of the existing traffic issues on other streets that will now also be impacted by the diverters. The rest of us in the community were not brought into the planning of this experiment. The plan seems to have been developed with a very narrow scope that ignored how the action fits into the larger system and for that matter whether solving for this one issue should even be priority #1. The planning of this experiment also did not properly account for the safety of Waters and Queen of Angels students or the safety of commuters around the Rockwell Brown line stop. The experiment is happening to a community instead of with it.

  • In Europe they have street bollards that open for those with a transponder or a chipped card or an account. So residents or delivery vans or police and fire can get through.

  • Stuart

    And at this point, I don’t see how the changes have made anything better for anyone. As a daily bicycle commuter through that intersection, I feel less safe than I ever have. Every car on Manor is making a turn (except for those that go past the barricades) and many aren’t signalling and drive unpredictably. The Greenway is a fantastic idea and much needed. The diverter, not so much.

  • Guy Ross

    Just like each and every time a DOT decided to take a main-street or oak avenue and take it from a two lane to a six lane road which has happened over millions of miles throughout the country.

    I get that people get very apprehensive about any change to a neighborhood as it is the most important part of our lives and we wish to have a feeling of control over what happens there. However, no one ever wants change in a neighborhood. They all want it to happen somewhere else.

  • A better diverter design would fix that issue, not filtering does too.

  • Guy Ross

    Those are super expensive and finicky are generally only used for the most high value A1 pedestrian commercial areas. The proposed treatment to this area is generally how it is done in Europe.

    It will be fascinating to see how the neighborhood reacts.

  • Anne A

    At the meeting, they said they would be gathering data during 3 separate periods after most folks have gotten through the initial learning curve.

  • Megan Wade

    I am a Ravenswood Manor resident and I want the greenway to happen. I don’t agree with the perception that our neighborhood just doesn’t want change. There are many here who are excited about the greenway but do not support the diverter because we believe that there has to be a better way so that all stakeholders needs are met. By the way, MANY ravenswood manor people are bikers. We are certainly all pedestrians. And yes, we are drivers, too. This isn’t about being apprehensive about change. We are apprehensive that this is not the right plan.

  • Guy Ross

    Hi, thanks for the reply. I apologize for the over generalization. What is it specifically that you disagree and what do you propose as an improvement?

    I feel most people who say that they support the objectives rarely agree to any methodology which would allow it to exist. Case in point: attendees of community board/stakeholder meetings who honestly state they are for creation of bicycle infrastructure but lobby aggressively to not allow a single stretch of curb parking to be removed.

    So please, make your case.

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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 […]