46th Ward Residents Can Vote for a Bike Boulevard on Leland
Looking east on the 1400 block of West Leland, just east of Clark.
When Chicago Department of Transportation and the 47th Ward announced their proposal to create a “neighborhood greenway” on Berteau between Lincoln and Clark, I wondered out loud whether Leland, five blocks north, might be a better choice. Also called “bike boulevards,” neighborhood greenways are streets with traffic calming, traffic diverters and/or contraflow bike lanes, which encourage cycling and discourage non-local car traffic. Both streets are already fairly pleasant for biking, but while Berteau dead-ends at Graceland Cemetery, Leland continues all the way to the lakefront.
It turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought Leland would make a great neighborhood greenway. As part of the 46th Ward’s participatory budgeting process, which will let constituents vote on how $1.3 million of Alderman James Cappleman’s discretionary “menu” money is spent, residents are proposing to build a bike boulevard on Leland from Clark to Clarendon. This one-mile stretch of neighborhood greenway, estimated to cost $120,000, will be included on the ballot when the budgeting election takes place, from April 27 – May 5.
View Proposed Leland and Berteau neighborhood greenways in a larger map
Locations of the proposed Berteau (blue) and Leland (red) neighborhood greenways.
According to ward resident Arline Welty, a facilitator on the streets and cycling infrastructure committee for the budgeting process, Leland already is a popular bike route to the lake, but residents say speeding cars are a problem. The street runs through economically diverse areas where many children live, so calming traffic would make it safer for kids to play outside. Improvements could include bike lanes, shared lane markings and/or bike route signs; bumpouts at intersections to shorten crossing distances; and marked crosswalks. “Rain garden” bioswales on the bumpouts would improve drainage and beautify the area.
Clark is a boundary between the two wards, 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar has already expressed interest in extending the Leland neighborhood greenway west into his district, which would require a contraflow lane for westbound bike traffic, Welty said. That’s a good thing, because while Leland is listed as a Neighborhood Bike Route in the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan, which calls for creating ten miles of bike boulevards within the next decade, ward money may be necessary to actually get the bike boulevard built. “Many of us in the neighborhood thought that if a bikeway is in the plan that means it’s going to happen, but it turns out that’s not the case,” she said.
For example, Welty said, Montrose is listed as a Crosstown Bike Route in the 2020 Plan. Before that street was repaved in the ward last year, Cappleman asked the city to consider installing bike lanes, international crosswalks and intersection bumpouts as part of the project. “That’s basic complete streets infrastructure, but unfortunately the suggestions weren’t followed,” Welty said. “Menu funds are so limited, but it looks like you often have to use them if you want innovative projects in your ward.”
One of the other ambitious projects on the 46th Ward ballot would be the creation of SherMon Plaza, converting Sheridan Road from Montrose to Broadway into a pedestrian zone, which would calm traffic and create a new neighborhood meeting place. “There is major consensus in the neighborhood that Montrose and Broadway is a dangerous intersection,” Welty said.
Meanwhile, the Berteau greenway project is moving along. The CDOT bike program has completed the design and has submitted a 95 percent draft to be vetted for engineering approval, according to Bill Higgins, an assistant to Pawar. Due to objections from residents, a proposed chicane that would have served as traffic calming has been eliminated. However, the design still includes most of the other proposed features, including a contraflow lane and a dedicated bike signal at Damen, plus possibly bioswale bumpouts and a lower posted speed limit. Higgins said construction will likely start in late May.