Skip to content

Posts from the Neighborhoods Category

4 Comments

Diverter Test on Manor Avenue: “People Have to Change Their Habits”

IMG_9780

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

Last night a group of about 130 people gathered to voice their questions, comments, and concerns, about a car traffic diverter that the Chicago Department of Transportation is testing in Ravenswood Manor. On Monday, CDOT set up two barricades on Manor Avenue at Wilson Avenue that diverts car traffic on Manor approaching Wilson onto Wilson, and prevents vehicle turns from Wilson onto Manor.

CDOT expects the diverter to reduce car traffic volume on Manor, which will “complement” the neighborhood greenway they’re building on Manor from Montrose to Lawrence to connect two riverfront multi-use trails. The neighborhood greenway is a set of traffic calming elements, including raised crosswalks at the entrances and shortened crosswalks through the use of bumpouts, to make it more comfortable to walk and bike on the street.

Mike Amsden, assistant director of transportation planning at CDOT, said that the test will end November 18, and that he’s been at the intersection three days this week to monitor car and bike traffic and talk to residents. David Smith, a consultant at CDOT, has also been out there each day. Amsden said that this is the highest number of people he’s seen attend meetings about city transportation projects he’s worked on.

The people who came to the meeting voiced a wide range of ideas about the impact of the barricades, ranging from an unexplained suggestion that the situation is making the intersection a more dangerous place, to commendations of CDOT for actually trying to resolve certain issues and that the test should run its course.

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

The test involves counting car and bike traffic volumes and driver speeds at 15 locations starting two weeks after the test begins, to allow for an adjustment period. The count locations are within Ravenswood Manor and outside the neighborhood, defined by Sacramento on the west, Lawrence on the north, Montrose on the south, and the river on the east.

Amsden said the diverter was designed to address three goals:

  • Reduce car traffic on Manor Avenue
  • Simplify the intersection of Manor, Mozart, Wilson
  • Create a comfortable corridor for people walking and biking along Manor to access the CTA station and businesses, Ronan and Horner Parks, and the future river trail south of Montrose

In response to the question, “is there another option that might be trialled to figure out the best way” Amsden said that “we came up with several options, we felt this option did the best of addressing those goals.”

In between the range of opinions were questions about what other options are if the diverter turns out to be a failure, dissatisfaction about the process, and a claim that setting up the diverter amounted to closing down public streets and was illegal. “Just to be clear,” Amsden said, “we didn’t close a street.” Read more…

No Comments

How Can Chicago Make Sure Vision Zero Benefits Communities of Color?

IMG_4703

A mural in West Humboldt Park. Chicago has several times as many homicides per year as traffic deaths, which will complicate efforts to implement Vision Zero. Photo: John Greenfield

This article also ran in the Chicago Reader weekly newspaper.

In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022. That target was inspired by the international Vision Zero movement, which began in Sweden in 1997. It’s based on the notion that road fatalities and serious injuries aren’t simply unavoidable  “accidents,” but rather outcomes that can be prevented through engineering, education, and enforcement.

In recent years the Vision Zero movement has spread to many major U.S. cities, most notably New York, where mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a hallmark of his administration. But it wasn’t until earlier this month that the Chicago announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.

“Every day someone is injured or worse as the result of a car crash on Chicago’s streets—and that is simply unacceptable,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “These crashes are preventable, and that is why we are stepping up our efforts.”

Local transportation advocates like the Active Transportation Alliance applauded the news. After all, the city of New York has reported that between 2014 and 2015 there was a reduction in all traffic fatalities by 22 percent, with a 27 percent drop in pedestrian deaths (although this summer pedestrian fatalities spiked in NYC).

hectoravalos2

“Ghost bike” memorial to Hector Avalos, who was killed by a drunk driver near Douglas Park in 2013. Photo: Lorena Cupcake.

But it seems likely the devil will be in the details when it comes to ensuring Chicago’s safety program is a net positive for all residents, particularly those in low-to-moderate-income communities of color.

In these neighborhoods, increased traffic enforcement—especially ticketing for minor infractions a la the “broken windows theory” —may not necessarily be seen as a good thing. Significantly, several high-profile, police-involved deaths of African Americans across the country began with traffic enforcement stops.

Michael Brown was detained for walking in the street, Sandra Bland was arrested after failing to signal a lane change, and Philando Castile was pulled over partly due to a broken taillight. While behind the wheel, Castile had been stopped by police 46 times in 13 years, according to an NPR records analysis.

“One of the pillars of Vision Zero is increasing opportunities for police to apply their biases to street users, aka increased enforcement of traffic laws,” LA-based transportation consultant and anthropologist Adonia Lugo said last year in a widely shared blog post titled “Unsolicited Advice for Vision Zero.” “White people may look to police as allies in making streets safer; people of color may not.”

Lugo also argued that that Vision Zero is an overly top-down approach, rather than one driven by the community, and yet another example of U.S. transportation advocates, who usually look to cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen for best practices, exhibiting “Eurocentric thinking.”

Transportation equity consultant Naomi Doerner echoed some of those concerns in a recent interview with Streetsblog USA. “If we’re going to be giving more investment to police enforcement, it has to be communities telling police how and where and what,” said the former head of the New Orleans advocacy group Bike Easy. “This particular Vision Zero analysis had not been done by the advocacy community. I think that a lot of that really does have to do with the fact that a lot of the organized bike and walk community are not comprised of people of color.”

And rolling out Vision Zero in Chicago will be complicated by the fact that our gun-violence epidemic is arguably a much more urgent issue than traffic deaths. New York had about 330 homicides and 230 traffic fatalities in 2015; Chicago, with less than a third of the population of New York, had 491 homicides last year but averaged only about 110 traffic fatalities per year between 2010 and 2014 (the latest year for which the Illinois Department of Transportation has released crash data).

There have already been more than 3,000 people shot in Chicago this year and over 500 homicides—more than New York and L.A. combined. As such, it’s likely that some residents may feel that channeling city resources into preventing traffic deaths rather than homicides is misguided.

Read more…

21 Comments

Join Me for the Very First (Legal) Ride on the North Branch Trail Extension

IMG_9799

Toni Preckwinkle and other officials cut the ribbon on the trail this afternoon at Thaddeus S. “Ted” Lechowicz Woods, 5901 N. Central Ave. Photo: John Greenfield

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

I’m happy to report that I got to take the maiden voyage on the northern half of theNorth Branch Trail extension this afternoon after officials cut the ribbon on the 1.8-mile stretch of off-street path. You can take a virtual spin on the trail with me by watching the video below. It’s probably not riveting viewing, and the recording stopped a little before I reached the end of the new stretch but it will give you an idea of what it’s like traveling on this high-quality facility.

The just-opened segment runs from Forest Glen to the southeast trailhead of the existing 18-mile North Branch Trail, which runs all the way north to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Work is underway to build an additional 1.2 miles of path that will continue the trail southeast to Gompers Park near the the LaBaugh Woods and Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove at Foster Avenue.

“The Forest Preserves offer more than 300 miles of trails in Cook County, which serve as a gateway to nature,” said county board president Toni Preckwinkle in a statement. “We are proud to mark the completion of phase one of this extension, which will serve additional Chicago residents as well as those in eight neighboring suburbs.”

The first phase of the extension includes a ten-foot-wide asphalt trail and two new bridges; one over the North Branch of the Chicago River at Central Street, and another over Metra’s Milwaukee District North line tracks. There’s also a new crosswalk for the trail at Central Street, with a button-activated stoplight, by the Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center, 6100 North Central Avenue.

Read more…

31 Comments

Manor Avenue Diverter Test Begins, Pro-Greenway Petition Launches

IMG_9745

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.

Read more…

23 Comments

Bicycling Gives Chicago the Award for Best Biking City – Do We Deserve It?

IMG_9691

The Bloomingdale Trail this morning. Photo: John Greenfield

This morning’s announcement that Bicycling magazine has ranked Chicago as the best cycling city in the U.S. in its biennial ratings, up from second place to New York in 2014, was surely a head-scratcher for many people who ride bikes in our city on a regular basis.

As of 2015, our bike mode share was a mere 1.7 percent of all trips to work, less than a quarter of Portland’s 7.2 percent mode share. While Chicago has built plenty of buffered and protected bike lanes, we don’t have a cohesive, intuitive network of low-stress bikeways, in contrast with Minneapolis, where it’s possible to bike from many neighborhoods to the central business district via off-street paths. Our conventional bike lanes are often clogged with illegally parked vehicles, torn up for utility work, or dangerously obstructed by construction projects. And then there’s the fact that four people were fatally struck by allegedly reckless drivers while biking in Chicago over a roughly two-month period this summer.

Still, I think one can make a case that, with all of the strides our city has made over the last five years to improve cycling, we do deserve an award as the large U.S. city that is doing the most things correctly to get more people on bikes and make cycling safer. Let’s look at some of the arguments for this point of view. Here’s the magazine’s top ten ranking for 2016:

  1. Chicago
  2. San Francisco
  3. Portland, OR
  4. New York
  5. Seattle
  6. Minneapolis
  7. Austin
  8. Cambridge, MA
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Boulder, CO

The Bicycling write-up of Chicago’s cycling strengths notes that the city built 100 miles of next-generation bike lanes within Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first term in office. Thankfully, they didn’t say that 100 miles of protected lanes were built, as the city has often claimed, but rather, “Emanuel made good on a promise to build 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes.” Even that’s not technically accurate, since Emanuel originally pledged to build 100 miles of physically protected lanes, and only wound up putting in 19.5 miles of PBLs, plus 83.5 miles of buffered lanes. Still, that was a major achievement.

The magazine also cites the Divvy bike-share system and the Divvy for Everyone equity program, the use of concrete curb protection for bike lanes (many new curb-protected lanes are currently planned), the upcoming 35th Street bike-ped bridge, and the in-progress construction of Big Marsh bike park as reasons for the ranking. The article doesn’t even mention the Bloomingdale Trail (aka The 606) elevated greenway, which many residents consider to be the shiniest new jewel in Chicago’s cycling crown.

Bicycling editor-in-chief Bill Strickland presented the award to Mayor Emanuel this morning during a ceremony in Humboldt Park’s Julia de Burgos Park, a Bloomingdale trailhead. During the presentation, Strickland called bicycle riders an “indicator species,” a sign that things are going right for a city in terms of the economy, traffic safety, congestion, and pollution. He also noted that bike lanes can help residents of underserved communities access jobs, and bikeways have an integrating effect, connecting people in diverse neighborhoods. “So for 2016, the city that most embodies this is Chicago,” he said.

IMG_9682 (1)

Strickland, right, presents the award to Emanuel. Active Trans’ Ron Burke is in green shirt. Photo: John Greenfield

Emanuel, who has often been accused of indifference towards the needs of underserved neighborhoods, especially in the wake of the LaQuan McDonald police shooting scandal, riffed on the theme of bike lanes as opportunity corridors. He noted that the city has contracted the bike equity group Slow Roll Chicago to promote the Divvy for Everyone program, which offers $5 first-year memberships to low-income residents.

“If we’re going to be the city we want to be… having Divvy in every part of the city, where everybody has a chance to participate, allows people to go through communities and feel like they’re a part, rather than apart, from Chicago,” Emanuel said.

Read more…

8 Comments

Some Skepticism, Lots of Support for Funding Red Line Work With Transit TIF

RPM_Transit_TIF_9lll-13_Public_Meeting_FINAL

The proposed transit TIF district would run a half mile in either direction from the Red Line between Division and Devon. Image: CTA

At a public meeting Tuesday night, Department of Planning and Development and Chicago Transit Authority officials outlined plans for a new transit TIF district along the North Side Mainline ‘L’, which carries the Red and Purple lines. The proposed TIF (tax-increment finance district) would generate funds to help pay for the Red-Purple Modernization project.

At the meeting, representatives explained how transit TIFs work compared to traditional ones. The former are a brand-new funding tool that creates a dedicated revenue stream for public transportation projects in Chicago. Earlier this summer the Illinois legislature passed a bill legalizing the funding mechanism, only within the city limits.

The proposed North Side transit TIF would extend from Division Street to Devon Street, within a half-mile east and west of the Main Line, and it would last for 35 years. The TIF district bankroll Phase I of the two-phase modernization project, which includes the Red-Purple Bypass (aka the Belmont Flyover) and the reconstruction of the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr Red Line stations. This will involve rebuilding the tracks and track structures, widening the platforms, and modernizing the station houses, including making them wheelchair accessible. Phase II would include other track improvements and station projects.

The transit TIF would be used to generate revenue to pay back a federal loan for the infrastructure. Since the improved transit service will raise local property values, which means more property tax revenue, the TIF allows some that transit-generated income to be capture and used for the loan payments.

Traditional TIFs, which also capture revenue from property tax increases for improvements within the TIF district, have been widely criticized for diverting tax revenue from the Chicago Public Schools. However, the transit TIF law requires that the proportion of tax revenue currently given to the CPS remains unchanged. After the school funding is allocated, 80 percent of the remaining revenue goes to the transit project and 20 percent to other taxing bodies.

Even after the officials discussed how the North Side transit TIF would function, there was still some confusion from attendees. More than once residents asked if property tax revenue would be diverted from schools, and whether funds from this TIF would be used for projects like the reconstruction of the Wilson Red/Purple Line station or the Clark/Division Red Line stop, which aren’t included in the RPM project.

43rd Ward Alderman Michelle Smith spoke briefly against the proposed transit TIF to loud applause from the audience. She argued that the proposal, which will be going before City Council this fall, was a rushed mechanism to pay for the project. She added ominously that this would be the first-ever TIF district in the ward.

Read more…

8 Comments

Why Hasn’t the Driver Who Killed Francisco Cruz Been Apprehended Yet?

IMG_9574

The intersection of Maypole and Pulaski where Francisco Cruz was struck, photographed last week. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

In some respects, of the four fatal bike crashes that happened in Chicago within the space of about two months this summer, the death of 58-year-old North Lawndale resident Francisco “Frank” Cruz was the most disturbing.

All four cases involved allegedly reckless conduct by the drivers of commercial vehicles. But in the other incidents—in which courier Blaine Klingenberg, Divvy rider Virginia Murray, and art student Lisa Kuivinenlost their lives—the motorists stayed on the scene. The cargo-van driver who ran over Cruz as he rode his bike in West Garfield Park August 17 sped away from the crash without stopping to render aid.

And, almost a month after the crash, the driver remains at large, despite the fact that a security camera captured footage of the van that struck Cruz, complete with identifying information about the van’s origins.

According to police, Cruz was biking south on Pulaski, just south of the Green Line station, at 10:19 PM, when a northbound driver in a white commercial van made a left turn onto Maypole, running Cruz over.Security video recovered from Family Meat Market, a corner store next to the crash site, appears to show the driver plowing into Cruz without hitting the brakes, then fleeing west on Maypole. Several bystanders can then be seen running to the fallen cyclist.

Security footage also shows that the van was marked with the phone number for Advanced Realty Services, a brokerage located at 2427 W. Madison.

Still, nearly a month after the fatal collisions, no one has been charged in conjunction with Cruz’s death, according to police, and there are no updates on the search for the driver.

Read more…

57 Comments

More Support Needed to Save Manor Avenue Traffic Diverter Test

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

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 Wilson Avenue that would eliminate cut-through traffic on Manor.

Unless more residents voice support for the diverters, the greenway project will be watered down and it won’t reach its full potential to make Manor safer and more pleasant for homeowners, people walking, and bike riders.

At last week’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, Mike Amsden was open about the fact that the greenway project, part of a larger plan to for an on-street bike route connecting a multi-use path in Horner Park with the North Shore Channel Trail, has been “controversial.” Starting next Monday, September 19, CDOT plans to test the diverters, which will prevent motorists from turning from Wilson onto Manor or crossing Wilson on Manor, using temporary infrastructure.

If the pilot is deemed successful, CDOT would install landscaped curb extensions to take the place of the temporary barriers. 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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 10.35.22 PM

The Manor greenway would connect paths in Horner and Ronan Park (the North Shore Channel Trail). Image: Google Maps

“[The Manor greenway] is an incredible project that’s going to provide a really important connection between Horner Park and Ronan Park and serve as an extension between the river trails that are out there,” Amsden said. He also acknowledged that the plan has faced stiff resistance from some residents.

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.

The purpose of the two-month test is to see what effect the diverters have on traffic levels on the surrounding street grid. CDOT has projected that some nearby streets would see a small increase in traffic, but that many drivers would simply stop using Ravenswood Manor as a pass-through between Montrose and Lawrence.

However, someone has been circulating a misleading flyer about the project in the neighborhood, which isn’t helping residents make informed decisions about the plan. “The closure will deprive all residents who live near Lawrence Avenue with one of the only thoroughfares [that] connects Lawrence to Montrose Avenue, and the majority of Albany Park to the rest of the city,” it states, disregarding that no blocks are being closed.

In addition to the fact there will still be options for traveling between the north and south segments of Manor, such as jogging west on Wilson and Francisco Avenue, there will still be plenty of other options for traveling between Lawrence and Montrose in the vicinity. Within the mile-wide stretch between Kedzie and Western Avenues there are three other continuous north-south routes connecting Lawrence and Montrose: Albany Ave. (northbound), Rockwell St. (southbound), and Campbell Ave. (southbound).

Read more…

20 Comments

CDOT Has a Full Plate of New and Upgraded Bike Lane Infrastructure

Cortland and Marshfield intersection

CDOT is working on a new design for the intersection of Cortland Street and Marshfield Avenue near the eastern entrance to the Bloomingdale Trail.

During last week’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting Chicago Department of Transportation staffers shared a number of updates on the city’s bike network.

At the event, CDOT planner Mike Amsden, who manages the department’s bikeways program, explained how funds from Blue Cross Blue Shield’s $12 million sponsorship of the Divvy bike-share system are helping to pay for bike lane maintenance.

While new Chicago bikeways are often paid for by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grants, this money can’t be used to repair existing bike lanes. Therefore funding for restriping faded lanes has to be cobbled together from various sources, which is why many bikeways shown on the city’s bike map are actually faded to near-invisibility.

A primary source for bike lane maintenance is CDOT’s Arterial Resurfacing program, paid for by state and federal funds. When a street is repaved through this program, CDOT will use the funding to restripe existing bike lanes or, if deemed appropriate, add new bikeways.

Another potential funding source for restriping is the $1.32 million in discretionary “menu” money allocated annually to each of Chicago’s 50 wards, but only a fraction of the wards have opted to spend the funding that way. From 2012 to 2015, only nine aldermen or participatory budgeting elections allocated menu money for bike lane restriping or construction, spending a grand total of less than $1 million, according to a review of menu expenditures posted on the city’s Office of Management and Budget website. That was less than 0.4 percent of the $264 million in menu funds available to all 50 aldermen during that four-year period.

Fortunately, in recent years CDOT has been using a significant amount of the Blue Cross sponsorship for bike lane maintence. From 2014 (when sponsorship started) to 2016, about $2 million of that $12 million has been earmarked for restriping, according to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey. He said that those funds pay for restriping of all markings on the affected street – including crosswalks and center-line stripes as well as the bike lanes – “to make it safer for everyone.” Read more…

37 Comments

CDOT, 48th Ward Address the Learning Curve for the Argyle Shared Street

IMG_9618

Argyle is supposed to be a two-way street but, due to improper parking, it’s only functioning as a one-way eastbound roadway. Photo: John Greenfield

The Argyle Shared Street project, designed to calm traffic, provide more space for pedestrians and sidewalk cafes, creating a safer, more pleasant, and more profitable business strip, is a great idea. But so far the layout for the streetscape initiative, which raised the street up to sidewalk level and blurred the lines between pedestrian and vehicle space, has not proved to be intuitive for drivers.

The nearly completed $3.6 million streetscape is supposed to be a two-way street, with a subtle chicane effect caused by staggered planter and parking spot locations, intended to slow drivers down to safe speeds, but it’s not functioning that way yet. They’re often parking in the wrong locations relative to the designated “sidewalk” area and the center of the road.

That means the chicane effect isn’t happening and the street feels too narrow in some locations for safe two-way traffic. As a result, motorists are treating Argyle as a one-way eastbound street, and they’re only parking their cars facing east.

argyle_guide.0

This CDOT handout explains the proper way to park on Argyle.

Their confusion is completely understandable because the streetscape design is, frankly, confusing. It turns out that the parking areas are designated by the lighter, sandstone-colored street pavers. The dark grey, grooved pavers are supposed to act as the curb line and denote the separation between the pedestrian area and the parking area.

But I’ve done multiple “Eyes on the Streetposts about the streetscape, and I only learned the color-coding system because the Chicago Department of Transportation recently released a how-to guide for the streetscape. The parking protocol is not obvious at all.

In fact, it’s counter-intuitive because the street also features cream-colored gutters. On a typical street you park just to the left of the gutter. (Of course, on protected bike lane streets it’s often a different story, since the parking lane may be located to the left of bike lane, but in those cases CDOT usually marks a big “P” in the parking lane.)

Read more…