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Organizers of Friday Vigil: We Won’t Wait Until 2026 to Prevent Bike Deaths

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Anastasia Kondrasheva.

In the wake of the bike/truck collision that took the life of Anastasia Kondrasheva on Monday, as well as several other recent bike fatality cases, this Friday activists are holding a candlelight vigil and ghost bike installation at the crash site. The organizers say they’re through waiting for the city of Chicago to make progress on its four-year-old goal of eliminating all traffic deaths. Instead, they’re demanding that major steps be taken immediately to prevent such tragedies, especially those caused by commercial drivers.

Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health coach, was biking to work Monday morning when a flatbed truck driver made a right turn into her path at Addison Street and Damen Avenue, fatally striking her. The driver was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to police.

Last Thursday evening Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, was killed in a crash with a concrete truck in Evanston. Since June, four other people have been fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers while biking in Chicago: Blaine Klingenberg, Virgina Murray, Lisa Kuivinen, and Francisco Cruz. Like Kondrasheva, Murray and Kuivinen were also killed by right-tuning flatbed truck drivers.

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Kristen Green prepares memorials for Kondrasheva and Chuyuan Qiu. Photo: Chicago Ghost Bikes

Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox, passed away last Sunday from injuries sustained in a June bike/train crash, bringing Chicago’s total 2016 bike death toll to six.

Friday’s vigil and ghost bike installation will take place at Addison and Damen from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Some 180 people have RSVPed on Facebook to say that they will attend. It’s also likely that participants from Chicago Critical Mass will ride from Daley Plaza to the ceremony.

“We are gathering the cycling community and Chicago community to honor the memory of Anastasia Kondrasheva and to demand safe streets now,” reads a statement from the vigil organizers. “In light of the six bicyclists and 18 pedestrians who have been killed in Chicago in 2016 many of which involving large commercial vehicles in densely populated neighborhood streets, we no longer accept the empty promises of Chicago’s [‘zero in ten‘] plan.”

In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022, a target inspired by the international Vision Zero movement. Earlier this month the city announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release later this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.

Following Kondrasheva’s death, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told the Tribune that her case shows why Vision Zero is badly needed. “This is another tragedy that underscores the urgency of our mission,” he said.

Rebecca Resman, a former Active Transportation employee who organizes the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass family ride and runs the Chicago Family Biking page on Facebook, came up with the idea for the vigil. “When I heard about the death at Addison and Damen, I was in shock, angry, scared, and tired of hearing news that another cyclist had been killed,” she told me.

Resman lives a couple of blocks from the crash site, and her first reflex was to head to the intersection. “I felt I needed to get down there and make sure that people understand that there are fragile human lives passing through this intersection every day. She brought along her two young children in a cargo bike, along with signs that read “Please put the phone down” and “Don’t hit me.”

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The New Wilson ‘L’ Platform Will Be Massive – The Widest in the System

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A recent aerial view of the Wilson station. The old platform is on the left. The much wider new island platform is on the right. Photo: CTA

This morning the CTA celebrated the completion of more than 50 percent of the Wilson station reconstruction project, shortly after all customer boarding was moved to the recently completed west island platform. Now that both sides of the new platform are completed and the transit agency is working on demolishing the old one, you can get a sense of just how big the station will be when both island platforms are in place. The entire track and platform combo will be the widest in the system, dwarfing even the double-island-platform at the Belmont Red/Purple/Brown station.

This week the transit agency is beginning the third phase of the $203 million reconstruction project, which includes rebuilding the station house to make it wheelchair accessible and reconstructing all track structures next to the station. After Phase Three is completed in late 2017, the train stop will become a new transfer point between the Red and Purple lines.

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Looking north from the new platform this morning. Old platform is visible on the right. Photo: John Greenfield

At today’s press conference, 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman argued that the station project is already providing a shot in the arm to the local economy. He noted that about 50 percent of nearby residents don’t own cars, but they often leave the neighborhood to shop. However, Cappleman said the new station has encouraged 18 new businesses to open in the ward, noting that there will soon be four independently owned coffee shops on Wilson near the station.

CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. said the Wilson station rehab is the latest in several upcoming planned Red Line improvements, including the Red-Purple Modernization project and the south Red Line extension. He put in a word for the city’s proposal for a new Transit TIF (tax-increment financing) district along the north Red Line to help fund RPM improvements.

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Woman Killed in Yesterday’s Crash Identified as Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23

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Anastasia Kondrasheva. Photo: Facebook

The young woman who was fatally struck by a right-turning flatbed truck driver yesterday while biking in Roscoe Village has been identified as Anastasia Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health outreach worker at an Edgewater health facility.

At around 7:50 a.m. Kondrasheva was biking north on Damen Avenue to her job at Harken Health, 5244 North Broadway, according to authorities and coworkers. When Kondrasheva reached Addison Street, a 38-year-old man driving a flatbed truck made a right turn in her path, striking her.

The cyclist went under the wheels of the vehicle and was killed instantly. An autopsy was scheduled for today, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The driver, whose vehicle bore a sign for Westmont Interior Supply House, a west-suburban construction supply company, was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to Police News Affairs.

Kondrasheva’s boyfriend Adrian Juarez told DNAinfo he became worried after a Harken Health employee called him and said Kondrasheva never arrived at work. Then he saw news reports about the crash.

“I saw the picture and it was her bike,” Juarez told DNA. “This was the route she always took.” He added that he was with Kodrasheva’s family. “We can’t believe it…it’s just shocking.”

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Today’s Crash, Nick Fox’s Passing Bring 2016 Chicago Bike Death Toll to Six

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This morning at 9:30, police had blocked off Addison at Damen following the fatal bike/truck crash. Photo: John Greenfield

Tragically, last week’s epidemic of bike fatalities and serious injury crashes in the Chicago region, has continued into this week. This morning a young woman was fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver in Roscoe Village. She was the sixth person to be struck and killed by a commercial vehicle driver while biking in Chicago and Evanston since June, and the third to be run over by a right-turning flatbed truck driver.

And early Sunday morning, well-liked Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox passed away from injuries sustained from a bike/train crash in June. That means that six people have died from bike crashes in 2016.

According to police, at around 7:50 a.m. today the female cyclist, believed to be in her 30s, was biking north on Damen Avenue south of Addison Street. According to the city’s bike map, this stretch of Damen has “shared-lane markings” – bike-and-chevrons symbols designed to remind motorists to watch out for cyclists.

Police said that the driver of the northbound flatbed truck, carrying construction supplies, made a right turn, heading eastbound onto Addison, and ran over the woman. Witnesses said the woman was killed instantly.

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The flatbed track from this morning’s crash. Photo: John Greenfield

According to an ABC news report, witness Carole Cifone said the truck driver immediately jumped out of the vehicle and tried to aid the woman. “The driver was so distraught, they took him away in an ambulance,” Cifone said. “He was just bent out of shape by what had happened [and the fact] that he was responsible.”

Officer Nicole Trainor from Police News Affairs said an investigation of the crash is ongoing and the driver has not yet been cited. According to the Cook County medical investigator’s office, the victim’s name and age had not been released as of early this afternoon.

As of 9:30 this morning, police had closed off two blocks of Addison east of Damen, and the victim’s body still lay in the street covered with sheets. The bike was not visible, but photos from other news reports show a badly damaged road bike.

“Any vehicle needs to constantly be aware of cyclists on the road,” a bike rider named Meg told ABC. “This is a [road with shared-lane markings]. There’s no excuse.”

DNAinfo reported that about ten people were waiting for the #152 Addison bus at the intersection when the crash occurred, and they stayed on the scene to provide testimony to investigators.

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This Was an Awful Week for Bike Crashes in the Chicago Region

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The aftermath of today’s injury crash at Roosevelt and Wood in the Illinois Medical District. Photo: Drew DeMott

This has been a terrible week for bike fatalities and injuries in the metropolitan area, with at least two deaths and two serious injury crashes in the city and suburbs. Here’s a look at the four cases.

Wlodzimierz Woroniecki, 60, Struck and Killed While Biking in Franklin Park

Just before 2 p.m. Monday, Woroniecki was biking westbound on Franklin Avenue near Wolf Road in west suburban Franklin Park, the Sun-Times reported. A westbound male motorcyclist struck Woroniecki from behind and both men were thrown to the ground.

Woroniecki, of the 2800 block of North Melvina Avenue in Chicago, was transported to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m. Monday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The 51-year-old motorcyclist, suffered minor injuries and was treated at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park.

It appears that no charges have been filed against the motorcyclist. Franklin Park police chief Michael Wirtz blamed the victim for the crash, telling the Sun-Times that the cyclist veered into traffic. Of course, Woroniecki is not alive to tell his side of the story.

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The 14-year-old girl was apparently coming off this sidewalk in front of Plainfield High School when she was struck. Image: Google Maps

14-Year-Old Girl Seriously Injured by SUV Driver While Biking in Plainfield

On Thursday afternoon, a Plainfield North High School student was struck while riding her bike from the school.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the girl was heading in the south crosswalk of the intersection of 119th Street and 248th Avenue, at the northwest corner of the school property, according to the Plainfield police. It appears that a 28-year-old woman driving a Honda CR-V with a two-year-old passenger was driving north on 248th when she struck the girl, police said.

“The bicyclist was conscious and breathing, but showed signs of significant injuries,” police said in a news release. The girl was airlifted to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. Her condition was unknown as of 5 p.m. Thursday, but a spokesman for the school told the Herald-News the girl was “awake and responsive.”

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

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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

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…

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Judge in Bobby Cann Case Rules Search Warrant for DUI Blood Draw Was Valid

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A man rides by the memorial to Bobby Cann in a curb-protected bike lane on Clybourn. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s been more than three years since an allegedly drunk, speeding driver took the life of Groupon employee Bobby Cann. The criminal case against driver Ryne San Hamel has been progressing slowly as the defense tries every possible strategy to have charges dropped and evidence ruled inadmissible, but there was a positive developments at yesterday’s court hearing.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street when San Hamel, 28, struck and killed him. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, as well as misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

In July 2015, Judge William Hooks dismissed the reckless homicide charge at the behest of the defense team, but last April the Cook County state’s attorney’s office announced that they won an appeal to have the charge reinstated. Recently the defense, led by celebrity lawyer Sam Adam Jr., has tried to have the blood work that was done to test San Hamel’s blood alcohol content level ruled inadmissible.

Yesterday Judge Hooks affirmed that the search warrant used to have San Hamel’s blood drawn was admissible, meaning the blood work can stay in the case for now, according to Catherine Bullard, who was dating Cann at the time of his death and attended the hearing. Hooks will determine whether the blood work itself is admissible after the next motion is processed.

“We thought that yesterday the lawyers for each side would present oral arguments about whether the search warrant for the blood tests was constitutional, and we anticipated that Judge Hooks would rule on the matter at a following hearing,” she said. “The judge surprised us all by ruling yesterday.”

Adam immediately filed a motion to suppress the blood work itself due to alleged chain of custody violations at Northwestern Hospital, which Bullard says is a predictable next step for the defense. The next court date will be October 21, when the prosecution will file its written reply to this motion. Hooks won’t be present. “We expect the next significant hearing, at which oral arguments will be given on the matter and it’ll be good to have people present, to be sometime in January,” Bullard said.

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

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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).

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“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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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