Skip to content

Posts tagged "Milwaukee Avenue"

No Comments

Council Approves Milwaukee Ave. Bike Counter, Slated for Spring Installation

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

At yesterday’s City Council meeting, aldermen passed an ordinance, supported by First Ward alderman Joe Moreno, to allow the developer LG Partners to install a bike counter in front of its new building at the northeast corner of Division, Ashland, and Milwaukee. Here’s the announcement from the mayor’s office:

IMG_20160927_102457

The panels for the bike counter at the the Eco Counter workshop in Montreal. Photo courtesy of LG Partners

An ordinance that passed today will allow the developer of an upcoming transit-oriented development at 1237 North Milwaukee to install an Eco-Totem bike counter on the adjacent sidewalk. The counter will be installed at no cost to the City and will feature a digital display to inform the public about the number people using the city’s most heavily-used bike route. Under the proposed ordinance CDOT will receive a livestream of the data from the counter, which will inform future decisions about bicycle infrastructure in the area. Additionally, the public display of the data can show businesses along the corridor the number of potential customers bicycling by their establishments.

Milwaukee, aka “The Hipster Highway” is well known for its heavy bike traffic, and the corridor has also seen an epidemic of dooring crashes in recent years. Better quantifying the number of cyclists could help build support for reconfiguring the street in Wicker Park to make it safer.

LG Partners received three different proposals for the image panels of the counter, a vertical, rectangular device called an Eco-TOTEM, manufactured by the Montreal-based company Eco Counter, and they asked Streetsblog to host the poll to pick the winner. The design titled “Enjoy the Ride” by Jay Byrnes from design company Fourth is King won with 326 votes out of the 531 total votes cast.

The bike counter project, which includes building a curb bump-out to hold the device, will cost $40,000, of which LG Development is paying the lion’s share. They previously asked the public to chip in the remaining $10,000 via a crowdfunding site, which raised about $3,500. There was some backlash to the funding campaign, according to LG’s Barry Howard. “We got painted on social media as greedy developers, so lesson learned,” he said.

But Howard says he’s excited about being able to add a useful amenity to the neighborhood, which will advertise its bike-friendliness. Eco Counter has already created the panels for the counter with Byrnes’ design. “It came out awesome,” Howard said. While most municipal bike counter designs are merely utilitarian, he said “ours is this wild, pop culture, pop art piece.”

Read more…

17 Comments

More Bike Lane Blockage on Milwaukee, This Time at Grand Avenue

IMG_20160831_092701

Looking northwest on Milwaukee at Grand. The green bike lane in now blocked by Jersey barriers. Photo: Dries Kimpe.

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

After art student Lisa Kuivinen, 20, was fatally struck on August 16 by a flatbed truck driver while biking downtown in a Milwaukee Avenue bike lane, many people noted that the bike lane was blocked by construction zone nearby at 830 North Milwaukee. While the lane closure doesn’t seem to have been a factor in the crash, the case has drawn attention to the problem of the many current Milwaukee Avenue work zones creating a hazard for cyclists.

When I rode on Milwaukee from Logan Boulevard to Kinzie Avenue last week I counted 18 construction sites, at least seven of them for transit-oriented development projects. I observed that the sidewalk on the west side of Milwaukee north of Grand Avenue was blocked off by plastic Jersey walls for a TOD project at the northwest corner of the six-way intersection. However, the green bike lane was unaffected by the work.

IMG_9339

Looking southeast on Milwaukee at Grand last week, when the construction zone only blocked the sidewalk, not the bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Reader Dries Kimpe cc-ed us on an email he sent to local alderman Walter Burnett noting that the barrier has been moved east so that the southeast-bound bike lane is now part of the construction zone. “[The] developer has fully closed off the bike lane without providing any signs providing an advanced warning to bicycles and without providing any safe alternatives,” Kimpe wrote, adding that the only reason the bike lane seemed to be walled off was to provide a parking space for construction vehicles.

“This is very close to the spot where only recently a 20-year-old bicyclist was killed in a traffic [crash],” Kimpe added. “Given how busy the Milwaukee bike lane is, and considering the dangerous situation at a complicated intersection, I would hate to see another incident in the news.” He noted that cyclists are now squeezed into a tight space between the plastic wall and motorized traffic, which makes it more likely that “right hook” crashes might occur.

IMG_20160831_092800

The bike lane blockage has created a hazard for cyclists. Photo: Dries Kimpe

“My hope is that your office can reach out to the developer to make them aware of this fact, and to provide a safe passage or alternative for cyclist,” Kimpe wrote. 

After Kuivinen’s death, Burnett told Streetsblog that the Chicago Department of Transportation was going to provide an update on the 830 North Milwaukee bike lane blockage. After a few requests, we still haven’t been able to get more info on this from CDOT.

Read more…

6 Comments

Unsafe Construction Zones and Trashed Bike Lanes Are Endangering Cyclists

IMG_9217

Cyclist detour around a transit-oriented development construction site on Milwaukee north of Division. 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.]

This has been a summer of discontent for Chicago cyclists.

Most seriously, there were four bike fatalities in the city in the space of about two months, all involving commercial vehicles. Courier Blaine Klingenberg was struck and killed by a tour bus driver on June 15 in the Gold Coast and Divvy rider Virginia Murray was fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver on July 1 in Avondale.

Art student Lisa Kuivinen was also struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck in West Town on the morning of August 16. The next evening West Garfield Park resident Francisco “Frank” Cruz was fatally struck in the neighborhood by a cargo van driver who fled the scene and was still at large as of late last week.

Kuivinen’s case drew attention to a problem that may not have been a factor in any of these fatalities, but has the potential to cause additional cycling deaths. That is, construction zones that block sidewalks and bike lanes, terrible pavement conditions caused by utility line work, and illegally parked vehicles blocking bikeways.

On the morning of the crash Kuivinen, 20, had been biking southeast in a green-painted stretch of the Milwaukee Avenue bike lanes in West Town, police said. Near 874 N. Milwaukee, truck driver Antonio Navarro, 37, veered into the bike lane while making a right turn onto southbound Racine Avenue, striking and dragging Kuivinen.

It appears that Navarro was on his way to a transit-oriented developmentconstruction site at 830 N. Milwaukee. The site can be accessed from an alley off of Racine.

Early news reports noted that southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by a fenced-off construction zone for the TOD project, which forces cyclists to merge into the travel lane. However, it appears this wasn’t a factor in the collision, because the blockage is a few hundred feet past the crash site.

Read more…

5 Comments

Unfortunately, Parking Issues Dictate How Robust 45th Ward Bikeways Will Be

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.05.01 PM

North of Irving Park, much higher retail density and metered spaces make stripping parking for bike lanes a heavier lift. Note the lack of parked cars at the time this photo was taken. Photo: Google Street View

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Milwaukee Avenue is Chicago’s busiest biking street, with as many as 5,000 bike trips a day during the high season, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, with most of that cycling taking place between Logan Square and the Loop. But the Blue Line corridor is becoming an increasingly popular place to live, and we’re seeing transit-oriented development proposals in neighborhoods like Avondale, Portage Park, Old Irving Park, and Jefferson Park. As more car-free and car-lite residents settle further northwest along Milwaukee, bike traffic is going to increase on stretches of the road that are farther from the Loop.

So it’s great that the 45th Ward Alderman John Arena recently announced the ward is teaming up with CDOT to install bikeways along Milwaukee between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue – a two-mile stretch. On the shorter section between Addison and Irving Park Road, Arena and CDOT aren’t letting narrow right-of-way stop them from improving safety. Ninety-two little-used parking spaces will be stripped from the east side of Milwaukee on this stretch to make room for buffered bike lanes, which help provide extra breathing room for people biking.

Unfortunately, however, there will be no major improvements to the longer segment of Milwaukee between Irving and Lawrence. The city won’t be moving any parking from this segment, so there will only be room for “sharrows,” the bike-and-chevron road markings that have been shown to have relatively little effect on improving bike safety.

45th Ward residents voted for the bike lanes project as the top priority in the ward’s May 2015 participatory budgeting election, so the facilities will be bankrolled with $100,000 from the district’s $1.3 million discretionary budget for that year. Work on the bikeways should start later this year, DNAinfo reported.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.01.18 PM

Most of the housing on Milwaukee between Addison and Irving has off-street parking, so there’s relatively little demand for street parking. Photo: Google Street View

Since Milwaukee between Addison and Irving doesn’t have enough right-of-way for parking on both sides, travel lanes and buffered bike lanes, CDOT recently did eight parking studies on this stretch to see how many spaces were actually being used. The department found that, since this segment has little retail, and much of the housing has off-street parking, curbside spaces were seeing little use. In addition, the absence of metered parking makes it relatively easy to strip parking.

The project also with involve the removal or relocation of several stops for the #56 Milwaukee bus between Addison and Irving, DNA reported. The city says this will shorten travel times and enhance safety.

The higher density of retail between Irving and Lawrence combine with less off-street parking for residences, and the resulting higher parking demand, made removing dozens of parking spaces on that stretch a non-starter, Arena said.

Notably, this stretch is just south of a four-lane stretch of Milwaukee north of Lawrence where CDOT previously proposed converting two of the lanes to protected bike lanes, which would have required the removal of a few parking spots for sight lines. After a major backlash from residents, the road diet idea was scrapped and the department installed buffered lanes instead – a much more modest safety improvement.

Another issue with removing parking between Irving and Lawrence is the city’s despised parking meter deal. The presence of metered spaces on this stretch would make parking removal much more complex because the city would either have to replace these spots with new metered spaces elsewhere in the area, or compensate the parking concessionaire for lost revenue.

Read more…

26 Comments

Lisa Kuivinen, 20, Struck and Killed While Biking on Milwaukee Avenue

11879018_10204943762061919_1551123253103502994_o

Lisa Kuivinen. Photo: Facebook

We have been notified that Lisa Kuivinen identified as non-binary and preferred gender-neutral pronouns. The post has been edited accordingly.

Lisa Kuivinen, a 20-year-old art student, was fatally struck by the driver of an 18-wheel flatbed truck this morning while cycling on Milwaukee Avenue in West Town.

At about 8:15 a.m. Lisa was riding on the 800 block North Milwaukee, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs. A report from DNAinfo indicates that the cyclist was heading southeast towards downtown. The collision occurred just southeast of Milwaukee’s Kennedy Expressway overpass.

Near the construction site for a transit-oriented development, Lisa was struck by a flatbed truck driver. Lisa was taken to Northwestern Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at the hospital, Amezaga said.

The driver, identified by police as 37-year-old Antonio Navarro from northwest-suburban Algonquin, stayed on the scene, according to Amezaga. Navarro has been ticketed for driving in a bike lane and failure to take due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to Police News Affairs. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for September 15 at 9 a.m.

DNAinfo reports that the truck is registered with Illinois Brick Co. and a person from the company declined to comment.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified Lisa as a resident of 3700 block of Wren Lane, Rolling Meadows. Lisa’s Facebook profile indicates that the cyclist was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an interest in animation.

The crash took place on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue with protected bike lanes, including stretches where the bike lane is painted green and short segments protected by concrete curbs. However it appears the section of bike lane Lisa was riding on was not protected by curbs, parking, or flexible posts.

Moreover, the southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by fencing for the TOD construction site, forcing cyclists to merge into the travel lane. DNA reports that Lisa was approaching the fence when the driver struck the cyclist.

Read more…

14 Comments

Milwaukee Bike Lane Overhaul Includes Some Concrete Protection

IMG_2574

Concrete curbs will protect a section of the southbound bike lane on Milwaukee. Photo: John Greenfield

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Note: Keating Law Offices, P.C. has generously agreed to sponsor two Streetsblog Chicago posts about bicycle safety topics per month. The firm’s support will help make Streetsblog Chicago a sustainable project.

Chicago’s busiest cycling street is receiving some safety improvements, including a segment of bike lanes with concrete protection. Milwaukee Avenue, nicknamed “The Hipster Highway” due to its high bike traffic, is currently getting upgrades between Elston Avenue and Division Street in River West and Noble Square.

In 2013, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a combination of buffered and protected bike lanes on Milwaukee between Kinzie Street and Elston. The current project includes a similar mix of bikeway styles, plus a short stretch of curb-protected bike lane, as well as a parking-protected lane with concrete “parking caps.”

IMG_2534

Milwaukee from Division and Augusta has been upgraded to a double-buffered bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

Contractors working for the Chicago Department of Transportation started construction last week and had completed a significant portion of the new bikeways by last Monday evening. From Division to Augusta Boulevard, existing conventional bike lanes have been upgraded to lanes with a striped buffer on each side. This help keep moving cars further away from bikes, and encourage cyclists to ride a few feet away from parked automobiles, so that they don’t get “doored.”

Previously, the bike lanes disappeared about 150 feet south of Division, but the buffered lanes go all the way to the intersection’s south crosswalk — a nice improvement. The new northbound section is located next to the curb, and drivers are currently parking in it, but adding “No Parking” signs should help solve that problem.

Read more…

16 Comments

Mega Mall Developer Adds Housing, Reduces Number of Car Parking Spots

Mega Mall - Logan's Crossing, north elevation

Motorists driving into and out of the parking garage would disturb people walking up and down the street. Rendering: Terraco/Antunovich Associates

The company that’s redeveloping the Discount Mega Mall site in Logan Square has released a reworked proposal that adds much needed housing and dials back the number of car parking spaces, which makes the project a better fit for the walkable, transit accessible neighborhood. Terraco Real Estate and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack are hosting a public meeting on the development, dubbed Logan’s Crossing, at the Mega Mall on Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Terraco originally proposed a low-rise building for retail use, including a medium-sized grocery store and a two-story fitness center, zero residences, and 426 parking spaces at the site, which is located one long block southeast of the Logan Square Blue Line stop. The latest proposal adds several stories to the development to make room for 268 residences, and has 387 parking spaces – 39 fewer than before.

In general, the city’s zoning rules require a 1:1 ratio of car parking spaces to housing units for new buildings, but the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance reduces this to a 1:2 ratio for developments within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop. However, Logan’s Crossing will be about 1,000 feet from the ‘L’ station, so it’s not eligible for the parking requirement reduction. This means there will need to be one parking space per unit, regardless of whether the occupants own a car.

Terraco’s first proposal provided more car parking than required, and the addition of 268 residences and the reduction in parking spots means the ratio of people to cars on the site would be much improved. However, 387 car spots may still be excessive for this location, in a walkable, bikeable area with the lowest car ownership along the Blue Line, the sixth-busiest Blue Line station, and good bus access.

The TOD ordinance has generally been working out well – it has spurred the development of nearly 20 multi-family buildings near CTA stations. However, the short distance threshold is problematic, since 600 feet is less than one standard city block. Most people are willing to walk several blocks to access rapid transit, and a couple of blocks to get to a bus stop.

The ordinance hasn’t been updated to reflect that reality. It doesn’t even offer a smaller reduction in the number of required spaces for developments located more than 600 feet from rapid transit. An exception to the 600-foot rule, however, is made for developments on Pedestrian Streets – these projects can be up to 1,200 feet from stations and still be eligible for the 1:2 ratio.

Read more…

47 Comments

Actually, Logan Square’s Neither Traffic-Choked Nor Overcrowded

Caption. Image: Wheeler Kearns Architects

Rendering of a proposed development near the California ‘L’ stop. Image: Wheeler Kearns Architects

Late last month, over 100 people crowded into a public presentation to hear about a proposed development of 254 housing units, plus 72 car parking spaces and retail, on what’s now a vacant lot around the corner from the California Blue Line ‘L’ station in Logan Square. The number of parking spaces proposed is 182 fewer than the city’s zoning would typically require, but recent changes to city laws make it possible for exceptions to be granted on sites near transit, and an adopted plan for this area encourages taller buildings with less parking.

Many attendees echoed the auto-centric concerns commonly heard at such meetings. Some said that the car parking proposed will prove completely insufficient, or that 300 or more new residents would result in unfathomable congestion. A flyer distributed door to door in the neighborhood sternly warned that in “High Rise City,” “They will make it impossible to drive on California or Milwaukee.”

Here’s the rub, though: Traffic volumes on major streets near the development have dropped substantially, and so has the local population. If there are fewer people and fewer cars, how could it be that some perceive traffic congestion to be worse than ever?

Between 2006 and 2010 (the most recent year available), the Illinois Department of Transportation reports that the number of drivers on Milwaukee Avenue and California Avenue declined by 17.8 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively. Traffic volumes on both streets fell by thousands of cars per day: approximately 2,600 fewer cars on Milwaukee and 4,600 fewer cars on California.

Population loss in the area has also been dramatic, since household sizes are rapidly declining. The population in the area around this proposed development declined by over 3,000 people, or 16 percent, from 2000 to 2010. The number of housing units increased by 316, but that was more than offset by an average household size that dropped from 2.7 to 2.2. It’s unlikely that the population trends have changed much since 2010: Census estimates project that the development’s Census tract added fewer than 100 people from 2008 to 2012.

Read more…

19 Comments

Lagging Left Turns Would Improve Crosswalk Safety at Complex Intersections

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

People have already started crossing Halsted on a green light, even though a late left-turning motorist is stuck in the intersection.

When left turn signals are installed, they typically turn green at the start of a street’s green phase. However, simply reversing that order and putting left turns at the end of the green phase could reduce conflicts between turning cars and people walking in the same direction. As left turn signals have been installed at more Chicago intersections, motorists often are caught completing their left turns just as through traffic – and pedestrians – get a green light. The resulting conflict isn’t safe for anyone.

It’s standard engineering practice to have a “leading left turn phase,” in which the green-arrow light for protected left turns goes first, before through traffic gets a green light. However, Chicago drivers often make left turns at the end of the green phase, after opposing traffic has cleared the intersection.

One example of an intersection where the leading left turn poses a problem for pedestrians is across Halsted Street at Grand and Milwaukee Avenues. During the weekday afternoon rush hour, and at peak times on weekends, motorists end up finishing their turns after through traffic has gotten a green — and end up driving into a crowd of pedestrians. This has happened ever since October, when the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a left-turn signal on Grand Avenue.

To eliminate this conflict, the turn signal here could be shifted to a “lagging left turn,” which puts left turns at the end of the phase, instead of at the beginning. Moving the left turn to the end of the Grand green light would allow pedestrians to cross once the light turns green, then allow any drivers waiting to make a left to finish their turns within a protected left-turn cycle.

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

The leading left turn signal cuts short the pedestrian crossing time across Grand, and split left-turning traffic. This photo shows four motorists turning, and thus blocking people from crossing the street during their green phase.

Lagging left turns are highlighted by the Chicago Pedestrian Plan as a “tool for safer streets.” The plan even mentions that, by reducing conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, the lagging left turn can even improve car traffic “operations,” and can be done inexpensively since it’s merely reprogramming existing infrastructure. However, CDOT will only install lagging lefts where they “will not negatively affect the operations of the intersection” – engineer-speak for slowing down drivers.

The Pedestrian Plan specifically recommends lagging left turns at intersections with any of the following characteristics:

  • A left turn phase with high-pedestrian volumes. At Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted? Yes
  • Three or more crashes in three years between left turn vehicles and pedestrians. This is most likely the case
  • People crossing during the left turn phase. Maybe
  • The intersection gives pedestrians a head start with a leading pedestrian interval. Not at this intersection

CDOT points to a successful lagging left at Huron Street and Fairbanks Court in Streeterville, near Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Previously, drivers were “unable to turn left” because people were walking across during the entire green phase. After installing a lagging left turn, “pedestrians crossed safely with their signal and the issues with vehicles queueing disappeared.”

Based on those qualifications, the Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted intersection seems like a sure bet for a lagging left turn. Where else in Chicago would a lagging left turn improve pedestrian and vehicle safety?

No Comments

Eyes on the Street: CDOT Will Fix Milwaukee/Division Sidewalk, Crosswalks

That sidewalk pavement is embarrassing

This sidewalk on Milwaukee at Ashland will be improved next year.

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Walk To Transit project will bring “quick fixes” to ten Chicago Transit Authority rail stations next year, including several long-needed improvements to the sidewalks and crosswalks around the Division Blue Line station. Currently, people walking to and from the transit line, or to the numerous shops and residences around the Polish Triangle, face some dismal walking conditions. CDOT will make these improvements as part of Walk To Transit’s first phase:

  • CDOT will “improve [a] sidewalk in poor condition” along Milwaukee, at the northeast corner with Ashland. Over 250 people board or disembark the 56-Milwaukee bus each day onto that broken-up and uneven sidewalk, and many more walk past on their way to shops along this stretch.
  • The project will paint new, zebra-style crosswalks to replace the faded lines at Milwaukee Avenue and Division Street, making it easier for motorists to see where pedestrians are expected to cross.
  • A pedestrian island will be built on Division at Greenview Avenue’s east leg, one block east of Milwaukee, so people can cross the street one travel direction at a time. Division is seven lanes wide at that location, including two parking lanes, four travel lanes, and a painted median.
  • Missing curb ramps and a crosswalk will be constructed on the west leg of Greenview Avenue at Division Street.

Read more…