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Eyes on the Street: Wood St. Neighborhood Greenway Construction Starts

Wood Street neighborhood greenway construction
Like Berteau, Albion, and Ardmore streets before it, Wicker Park Avenue will have a contraflow bike lane. Photo: Brent Norsman

Crews were out installing lane markings and bike symbols for a Wood Street bike route, running through Wicker Park, on Wednesday. They installed a contraflow bike lane on Wicker Park Avenue, which runs one-way westbound. The lane will allow for eastbound bicyclists to continue along Wood via a short diagonal jog via Wolcott Avenue and Wicker Park, and then back to Wood.

The route, which starts at Milwaukee and ends at Augusta Boulevard, was discussed as a bike boulevard at a 2011 charrette hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation and remained a priority of the 1st Ward transportation advisory committee.

The new route will enhance the safety of a street that many bicyclists already use to travel between Armitage Avenue to the north, "the hipster highway" of Milwaukee through Wicker Park (map), and east-west connections along Hubbard and Augusta.

Wood is included as a neighborhood greenway route in both the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area's master plan, but neither plan identified a timeline for construction. We're still gathering information [see update below] on what additional design features will make this a neighborhood greenway. The Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 describes neighborhood greenways as streets that "improve bicyclist comfort by providing a low-stress route," with slower driver speeds, lower automobile traffic volumes, and multiple measures that give priority to bicyclists. CDOT installed the first neighborhood greenway on Berteau Avenue in Lincoln Square and Lakeview last year that included curb extensions to reduce driver speeds, and a traffic circle combined with the removal of stop signs at one intersection to speed bicycle traffic.

The greenway upgrades are occurring at the same time as a major upgrade to the intersection of Milwaukee, Wood, and Wolcott. That project realigns a diagonally skewed turn, adds crosswalk signals and ADA ramps, stripes a previously missing crosswalk across the southeast leg, creates a new green space, and removes a useless concrete traffic island.

The intersection realignment, five years in the making, had a false start last fall and finally broke ground earlier this month. Originally, the Illinois Department of Transportation – which is paying for a majority of the changes – had planned to rebuild the intersection within the original alignment, but with modern signals and zebra crosswalks. In 2010, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno and the WPB SSA each chipped in $25,000 to widen the sidewalk and add a landscaped area at the east corner of the intersection, in front of Nori restaurant at 1393 N. Milwaukee Avenue. This also realigned the intersection, creating a right-angle turn from Milwaukee to Wood that requires drivers to slow down.

The WPB SSA (whose transportation committee I'm a member of) advocated cutting inlets into the curb, which would let rainwater drain into the green space and keep water out of the city's overburdened combined sewer system. However, this feature was left out of the final design.

Jerry Mandujano from the 1st Ward office said that no traffic calming infrastructure, like traffic diverters or curb extensions, will be built this year. "After a season of riding, we will evaluate with CDOT to see what additional infrastructure might be needed or recommended," he said.

Curb extension in front of Nori at an ugly intersection
The curb was extended to make a shorter pedestrian crossing and create a right-angle turn.

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