Skip to content

Posts from the "Neighborhoods" Category

34 Comments

Speed Camera Cut Dangerous Speeding Next to Senn Park By 73%

Senn Park & High School speed camera

Cameras have tamed what had been an epidemic of 40+ mph speeding next to the “Young Lincoln” park, along Ridge at Clark and Thorndale in Edgewater.

Fast times on Ridge Avenue, in front of Senn High School, are now over: The speed camera that CDOT installed in front of Senn Park has sharply cut the number of speeders cruising at a dangerous 40+ mph. Right after the camera was first installed, roughly seven out of 1,000 drivers received an official mailed warning for driving more than 10 mph above the speed limit. After the camera had been on for 44 days, it finally began issuing citations but sent tickets to fewer than two out of every 1,000 drivers.

While researching street conditions on Ridge Avenue for an upcoming article Streetsblog crunched the numbers from the first days of Senn Park’s speed camera, to see whether it was working. The change was startling: During the 30-day initial warning period, 6,725 vehicles received warnings for driving more than 10 mph over the speed limit – but in the first 30 days of live citations, only 1,811 vehicles were ticketed. That’s a 73 percent drop in the number of dangerously speeding drivers. That rate remained the same well into the camera’s second month of issuing citations.

Ridge Avenue is subject to the citywide speed limit of 30 mph, and the speed camera only monitors traffic during park hours, which are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Although Illinois law allows citations for drivers going 6 or more mph over the speed limit, CDOT currently only issues warnings or citations when its cameras see a car exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Since Ridge at this location is within a school zone, with a speed limit of 20 mph when children are present between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., the camera could also enforce that lower limit.

Streetsblog followed up with our own speed survey of our own, training our radar gun just south of the camera at Wayne Avenue – and found that although the camera may have tamed truly dangerously high speeds, drivers are still going too fast on this block. Wayne is right where drivers see “SAFETY ZONE” painted across each lane, but before where the speed camera monitors northwest-bound cars.

During one weekday rush hour, 35 out of 195 drivers in the curbside lane over 15 minutes – 18 percent – were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit. None of these drivers were going fast enough to trigger the camera, and thus a ticket, but all of them were still putting pedestrians at risk. Had any of them happened to crash into a pedestrian at those speeds, the pedestrian would probably have died: a majority of people hit by cars at 30 mph live, while 80 percent of those hit at 40 mph die.

Correction: The number of drivers observed speeding was misreported. 18 percent of drivers were clocked speeding, not 68 percent. I regret the error.

No Comments

16 Placemaking Events Going on All Around the City This Weekend

1522343869

Does this scene look like a good time to you? There are tons of events like it going on this weekend. Photo: MPC

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Look no further. Below you’ll find a handy chart of all the fantastic community-building events going on from today through Sunday as part of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Old Place, New Tricks placemaking competition. The contest inspired residents to energize under-used public spaces like vacant lots, plazas and corners with activities and installations.

More than a dozen organizations and individuals rose to the challenge, and there are 16 exciting events going on in communities ranging from Blue Island to Austin to Rogers Park. Happenings include a clothing swap, a sidewalk chalk drawing session, a pavilion for creating self-portraits, and even a watermelon seed spitting competition. Sustainable transportation fans won’t want to miss the Bronzeville Spoketacular, featuring bike repairs and sales from the new Bronzeville Bike Box mini-shop, a bike tour of locations where you can forage wild fruits and herbs and, best of all, a free ice cream social.

The public can vote online to choose their favorite placemaking event from the weekend. The three most successful placemakers will win $1,000 prizes, to be used for more ambitious projects in the future.

Event / Activities Address Date Start End
Playlot maintenance, massage pavilion 6800 S Green St Friday 9 a.m. 12 p.m.
Grow Spaces Picnic 4542 N Ravenswood Ave Friday 11 a.m. 6 p.m.
Basketball, table games, facepainting 4800 W Adams St Friday 3 p.m. 6 p.m.
La Sandia, Loteria! 7070 N Clark St Friday 3 p.m. 6 p.m.
Taste of Division 1200 N Long Ave Friday 3 p.m. 7 p.m.
I Grow Chicago 6402 S Honore St Friday 4 p.m. 6:30 p.m.
Pop-up juice bar, live music, info on local food options 1947 W 63rd St Rescheduled for Sept. 5 TBD TBD
Movie in the Park 4600 N Lawndale Ave Friday 6 p.m. 10 p.m.
Activation Day at the Berm 11900 Vincennes Ave, Blue Island Saturday 9 a.m. 12 p.m.
Austin Peace Lot 624 N Lorel Ave Saturday 10 a.m.
Building a children’s sandbox 8600 S Colfax Ave Saturday 10 a.m.
Building a temporary sculpture and picnic tables 6953 S Dorchester Ave Saturday 10 a.m. 5 p.m.
Groupon activates an abandoned space 800 N Larrabee St Saturday 11 a.m.
Games, t-shirt decorating, clothing swap 1800 S Sangamon St Saturday 12 p.m. 5 p.m.
Chalk the Walk 1100 N Sedgwick St Saturday 3:30 p.m. 6:30 p.m.
Selfie Sunday 2635 N Milwaukee Ave Sunday 10 a.m. 4 p.m.
Bronzeville Spoketacular 320 E 51st St Sunday 2 p.m. 6 p.m.
21 Comments

P-Street Designation for 33rd Ward Business Strips Moves Forward at City Hall

Albany Park, Chicago

Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Photo by Aaron via Flickr

A few months ago, a proposed suburban-style Walgreens, across the street from the Kimball Brown Line station in Albany Park, inspired a campaign to ban car-centric development in the neighborhood’s vibrant retail districts. Now, an ordinance to officially classify stretches of Montrose, Lawrence, and Kedzie in the neighborhood as Pedestrians Streets, or P-Streets, is moving forward in City Council.

After residents objected to Walgreens’ plan to build the drugstore with a parking lot occupying the southwest corner of the Lawrence/Kimball intersection, 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell asked the company to go back to the drawing board to create a more walkable design. Walgreens still hasn’t provided an alternative plan. Meanwhile, the alderman asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to look at the possibility of creating P-street designations along several business corridors in the ward.

The designation is intended to prevent development that encourages driving and discourages walking, biking, and transit use. It forbids the creation of new driveways, and requires that the whole building façade be adjacent to the sidewalk. The main entrance must be located on the P-Street, and at least 60 percent of the façade between four and ten feet above the sidewalk must be windows.

On P-Streets, any off-street parking must be located behind the building and accessed from the alley. Meanwhile, developers who build on P-Streets near transit stops can get an “administrative adjustment,” exempting them from providing any commercial parking spaces. In effect, the designation ensures that future developments will be pedestrian-friendly, and blocks the creation of drive-throughs, strip malls, car dealerships, gas stations, car washes and other businesses that cater to drivers.

At a June 25 City Council meeting, Mell introduced an ordinance to create P-Streets on Montrose from California to Kimball, Lawrence from Sacramento to Central Park, and Kedzie from Montrose to Lawrence. The legislation will likely go before the city’s zoning committee in early September. If the committee approves it, the ordinance will go before the full City Council for a vote.

Read more…

1 Comment

Bronzeville Bikes Promotes New Shop With “Spoketacular” Bike Party

10405398_278404835675277_2089559296843838929_n

Opening day at the Bronzeville Bike Box. Photo: Bronzeville Bikes

Bronzeville Bikes hopes to shift neighborhood enthusiasm for cycling to a higher gear, and drum up business for the recently opened Bronzeville Bike Box cycle shop, with the neighborhood’s first-ever “Spoketacular” celebration.

The group, which promotes biking with repair sessions, rides, and more, is holding the event on Sunday, August 17, from 2 – 6 p.m. at 51st and Calumet. Located just east of a Green Line stop, this intersection is home to the nonprofit bike store, as well as the Bronzeville Community Garden, which hosts youth cycling programs, so it’s Ground Zero for the area’s burgeoning bike culture.

The Spoketacular, also sponsored by the South East Chicago Commission, features a number of activities designed to get more people on bikes in the neighborhood also known as “The Black Metropolis.” “Bicycling is a tremendous asset, but it’s underused on the South and West sides,” said Bronzeville Bikes cofounder Bernard Loyd. “We’re promoting cycling for fun, transportation, and health, and this is a community that can use all three of those things very much.”

Loyd plans to get a section of Calumet closed off to motorized traffic during the bike block party, so that kids can enjoy car-free cycling. Since it will involve repurposing underused public space to enliven the community, the Spoketacular will be a candidate in the Metropolitan Planning Council’s “Old Place New Tricks” placemaking contest.

During the event, Bike Box mechanics will be offering affordable bike repairs to help residents get their old rides running again, as well as selling low-cost refurbished cycles, and they’ll be accepting donations of used bikes. The city’s Bicycling Ambassadors program will be there, providing tips for safe and fun cycling. Best of all, there will be a free ice cream social for Spoketacular participants. “They can eat the ice cream and then ride it off on a bike,” Loyd said.

On the first, third, and fourth Sundays of the month, Bronzeville Bikes hosts free bike tours, showcasing the neighborhood’s art, gardens, architecture and history. The Spoketacular also coincides with a 3 p.m. ride exploring urban foraging. Tour guide Latrice Williams, is spearheading sustainability efforts for Bronzeville Cookin’, a food-themed complex Loyd is developing at the intersection, which will feature restaurants, a rooftop garden, and a produce store. She’ll be showing riders where to find berries, greens, herbs and fruits, all growing wild on the South Side.

Read more…

20 Comments

State Shouldn’t Pay for Employee Parking at an Office 2 Minutes From the ‘L’

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 4.56.46 PM

The office building, right, and the garage across the street. Image: Google Streetview

Yesterday DNAinfo reported that a block club is pushing to expand permit parking in Uptown and Andersonville, in response to complaints that workers at a nearby office building are taking up too many parking spaces on side streets. The Illinois Department of Human Services recently took over three floors of a ten-story building at 5050 North Broadway, owned by Imperial Realty, to house about 400 workers. The building is otherwise largely empty.

Representatives for the DHS workers, local alderman Ameya Pawar, and Imperial all argued that the perceived parking woes should be addressed by providing free spaces for employees in a six-story garage across the street from the office, also owned by the real estate company. The lone voice of reason in the article came from a state official, who pointed out that public transportation is a viable alternative for getting to the building, located only a two-minute walk from the Red Line’s Argyle stop.

The Winona Foster Carmen Winnemac Block Club has been seeking support for converting about 1,100 curbside spaces on nearby side streets to permit parking. The process requires support from 65 percent of residents within the Block Club’s boundaries. Block club president Randy Heite said the move is necessary because there’s a dearth of parking for residents during the day, partly due to DHS workers using on-street spots.

Fran Tobin, an organizer from the Alliance for Community Services, which includes a union representing state employees, claimed that the parking shortage is to blame for workers arriving late to the DHS offices. “They are driving around and around, looking for parking,” he said.

Since there are roughly 400 employees and about 200 clients visiting each day, he argued that several hundred spaces are needed. Tobin said state officials should “take responsibility for the damage they’ve made,” by addressing the perceived parking nightmare. He said that renting spaces for employees at the garage, which has room for more than 600 cars, “would certainly be the most logical thing to do.”

Read more…

15 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Recent Bike Upgrades in the Loop and on the South Side

IMG_1682

Wide buffered bike lane on California over the Ike. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago Department of Transportation crews are continuing their work this summer, building new bikeways and upgrading existing ones. Yesterday, I took a spin around the Loop and the South Side to check out the latest improvements on Randolph, Harrison, California, 33rd, and King.

I started out on Upper Randolph, where CDOT recently upgraded the existing conventional lane between Michigan and the Millennium Park bike station to a buffered lane, and added a short stretch of buffered lane to shepherd riders onto Lower Randolph. When I checked this out earlier this month, tour buses were still using the stretch of the bike lane near Michigan, where the lane is curbside, as a standing zone.

IMG_1647

Flexible posts have been added to upper Randolph. Photo: John Greenfield

However, flexible plastic posts have since been added, which seem to be doing a good job of keeping buses out of the lane. Drivers don’t seem to be having any problems navigating the slightly complex road layout. Further up the hill, the bike lane shifts to the left of a parking lane, so the buses only partially block the bikeway.

IMG_1650

Further up the hill, the Randolph lane shifts to the left. Photo: John Greenfield

Next, I checked in on the new protected lanes on Harrison from Wabash to Desplaines. Since the last time I looked at it, CDOT has added flexible posts. With generally good pavement quality, plenty of green paint, and now posts, Harrison now joins Dearborn, Milwaukee and Elston as being one of Chicago’s nicest PBLs.

IMG_1655

New entrance canopy at the Harrison Red Line stop. Photo: John Greenfield

As I cruised the Harrison lanes, I checked out two new main entrance canopies for the Harrison Red Line station, part of a $10 million station overhaul. These classy glass structures feature large video screens that display ads and train arrival times.

IMG_1660

Vehicle parked in the Harrison PBL near State. Photo: John Greenfield

The main fly in the ointment with the Harrison PBLs is that drivers are parking in them, since the lanes are generally curbside with no parking lane to their left. Although new “No Parking” signs have been added since my last visit, I saw a number of vehicles in the lanes, including a U.S. Postal Service truck near the main post office. Perhaps adding posts to the entrances of the lanes at intersections would solve this problem.

Read more…

22 Comments

Logan Square Transit-Oriented Development: Less Parking, More Walkability

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet, as the crow flies, of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

A pioneering developer of car-free apartments is looking to continue building car-lite residences. Curbed Chicago reports that Rob Buono, who was behind constructing 1611 W Division in Wicker Park, is proposing two mid-rise residential towers in Logan Square along Milwaukee Avenue near the California Blue Line station. The two towers, one 14 stories and the other 10 stories, would have 231 units and 7,100 square feet of retail but only 72 car parking spaces.

The relatively low amount of car parking is possible because Buono can take advantage of the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance, which cuts parking minimums in half for residential developments near train stations.

Chicago’s zoning code would normally require at least 239 car parking spaces for this development — eight for the retail space, and one for each household. That mandate would have harmed this thriving part of Logan Square by adding more automobile traffic, getting in the way of people, buses and bicycles.

Last year, when Adam Hebert was struggling against parking requirements so he could open a restaurant and bar, he told Streetsblog, “In the Logan Square community, everybody bikes everywhere. It doesn’t make sense to put in parking where people bike. I’d rather put in bike racks.”

The TOD ordinance allows Buono to completely get out of the mandate to build eight parking spaces for retail, but the requirement for 231 residential parking spaces can only be cut down to 116. To get down to the 72 surface parking spaces Buono is proposing, he will probably have to change the property’s zoning.

Read more…

20 Comments

Advocates: Vast Majority of Palmer Square Residents Want Raised Crosswalks

IMG_1630

Rudy Keller and his daughter Sequoia use a crosswalk on the north side of Palmer Square. Photo: John Greenfield

Palmer Square neighbors who want to see the city install raised raised crosswalks by the park appear to greatly outnumber opponents, judging from numbers provided by both sides.

Earlier this month, Streetsblog Chicago detailed how neighbors have been campaigning to convert the two marked, mid-block crosswalks on the north side of the park to raised crosswalks. Contrary to what was reported in an earlier DNAinfo article, the speed tables would be a relatively inexpensive $20,000 each, and the Chicago Department of Transportation supports the proposal. According to local alderman Scott Waguespack’s chief of staff Paul Sajovec, Waguespack also has no problem with the proposal – except that a few residents have repeatedly contacted him to oppose the idea.

Andrea Keller, whose young family lives near one of the mid-block crosswalks, recently launched an online petition calling for the raised crosswalks as a strategy to improve access to the park and calm traffic on the three-lane roadway. Using a speed gun during for three 15-minute observations during a recent evening rush, Streetsblog writer Steven Vance and contributor Justin Haugens found that 75 percent of motorists were speeding. So far 60 people have signed the online petition.

Keller’s husband Rudy wrote me to thank Streetsblog for drawing attention to the issue, and for clearing up misconceptions about the proposal. However, he argued that we actually underrepresented the support for the safety improvements. Andrea and other organizers also collected over 100 signatures on a written petition they circulated in the summer of 2013, he said.

“The ratio of people signing the petition, versus people rejecting it, was overwhelmingly in favor of implementing the raised crosswalks,” Rudy wrote. He claimed that a small, vocal minority of people on the block “have been very aggressive in their opposition, and have been able to use their influence with Alderman Waguespack to stop (for now, at least) this worthwhile proposal.”

Rudy Keller added that, at a February 2014 meeting of the Homeowners Association of Palmer Square, only two attendees opposed the speed tables. Earlier this month, roughly 30 people at a meeting of Logan Square Preservation voted unanimously to endorse the raised crosswalk proposal, according to president Andrew Schneider.

One of the leaders of the opposition is Corinne Bradley, who told me she dropped off paper surveys at every household on the north side of the park, and that most of the responses she received were against the speed tables. She declined to say exactly how many people voiced opposition to the raised crosswalks via the surveys and how many voiced support, but confirmed that there were less than 20 opponents. Rudy Keller and his neighbor Steve Hier, who has also been advocating for the speed tables, both told me independently that the total number of opponents is six or fewer.

Bradley, who lives near the northeast corner of the park, wrote a letter to Waguespack arguing that raised crosswalks would delay first responders, form an obstacle to bicyclists, and create constant noise as motor vehicles pass over them. Sajovec told me he suspected that some of the neighbors don’t understand the difference between speed humps and speed tables. While the former are commonplace on Chicago side streets and are several inches tall, speed tables are only two or three inches high, with a very shallow trapezoidal cross-section that has a minimal impact on emergency vehicles, cyclists, and noise levels.

Read more…

21 Comments

New Grocery’s City-Mandated Car Parking, Not Buses, Will Congest Broadway

broadway mariano's and xsport reduced

The proposed development, viewed from the north. Image: Antunovich Associates

Some East Lakeview neighbors are unhappy with a proposed retail complex along Broadway, just north of Wellington, that would house a large Mariano’s supermarket on its lower floors and an Xsport Fitness on its upper floors. The five-story building will have retail space with a large driveway and loading area on the ground floor, the supermarket mostly on the second floor, two levels of parking, and the fitness center on the top floor.

Many of the neighbors’ criticisms center on the building’s bulk, and the number of parking spaces — both of which largely result from the city’s zoning ordinance, which requires plentiful parking even in car-light neighborhoods like East Lakeview. Over half of the building’s area will be devoted to storing and moving cars and trucks, but the 279 car parking spaces proposed are just five percent more than zoning requires for a commercial development of this size.

A traffic analysis [PDF], performed by local firm KLOA, predicts that many people would drive to the development (which seems natural if they know that they can easily park there), and that slightly longer delays at intersections would result. KLOA does note in its analysis that trips to the development will be lower than average, because people will combine trips – going to work out, and then going grocery shopping afterwards – and because many local residents will arrive on bike, foot, or by transit. Today, this stretch of Broadway sees fairly light car traffic: Even at rush hour yesterday, it was easy to cross the street mid-block.

Project architect Joe Antunovich says that the solution for increased traffic is not to reduce parking — but rather to stripe more space for cars on the street (squeezing out room that bikes currently use to maneuver), and to add a new stoplight just 210 feet away from an existing one at Wellington. Antunovich further said that the 36-Broadway bus route causes traffic congestion when people are trying to board. He placed more blame on the bus, which carries dozens of passengers, than the single-occupancy vehicles driving down Broadway — many of whom block traffic on Broadway by making left turns from the center lane.

Alderman Tom Tunney is going along with the proposal. Although he says that the city, as a whole, is moving away from auto-centric development, he says that bike lanes elsewhere are counter-balanced by adding car traffic in this part of Lakeview, a place where half of households don’t own a car.

Read more…

32 Comments

CDOT Proposes Chicago’s First Curb-Separated Bike Lane On Clybourn

clybourn-protected-bike-lane

A Streetmix graphic showing the protected bike lane that would run from Halsted to Division, or in a secondary proposal, a shorter segment from Halsted to Larrabee. Image: CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation presented a proposal last night to build curb-separated bike lanes on each side of Clybourn, from Halsted to Division Streets, and to reconfigure the oversized intersection where Clybourn meets Division, Sedgwick, and Orleans in front of Seward Park.

CDOT bikeways engineer and project manager Nate Roseberry explained that Clybourn is part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ongoing protected bike lanes feasibility study, which will test many elements of the design. Its goals, he said, are to reduce crashes, increase options for how people get around, and evaluate new design features. Those features include two infrastructure features new to Chicago: a curb separating the bike lanes from the auto travel lanes, which at three feet wide will also provide an opportunity for rain gardens; and a bus stop island, where bicyclists will go up and behind the bus stop.

Roseberry said that the proposal “was by no means complete,” and that he wanted to listen to feedback from a group of keen and curious neighbors. Many people who bike through the area also gave their input.

27th Ward Alderman Burnett kicked off the meeting by saying the “state is allowing the city to propose” the first protected bike lane on a state route. In 2011, IDOT banned protected bike lanes on state routes, preventing CDOT from extending the Jackson protected bike lane where the street comes under state jurisdiction, east of Ogden Avenue.

Burnett said the proposal is intended to “stop the danger of bikes and cars from running into each other.” He recalled that the death of 26-year-old Bobby Cann, who was bicycling on Clybourn at Larrabee, “enhanced the conversation” about safety on the street. Read more…