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Eyes on the Street: Cut Off Green St. To Cut Milwaukee Ave. Bike Conflicts

4:35 PM CDT on June 9, 2014

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car
A driver, waiting to make a left turn from Green Street, blocks the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane. Meanwhile, two bicyclists dodge the car on either side.

Chicago has long blocked cut-through car traffic on lightly traveled residential streets with hundreds of cul-de-sacs sprinkled throughout the city. The same traffic diversion tactics could also improve safety for bicyclists at dangerous intersections by simplifying movements and removing potential conflict points.

One example is Green Street, where it intersects Milwaukee Avenue's buffered bike lane. A traffic diverter at this intersection would increase the safety and convenience of bicycling down both Milwaukee and Green, which could be an alternative to Halsted Street towards the West Loop and to the UIC campus.

The intersection of Green and Milwaukee sees many dangerous vehicle turning maneuvers. Southbound drivers on Milwaukee either make fast, wide right turns across the southbound bike lane, while drivers from Green either block the bike lane when waiting to turn left, or zoom left right in front of southbound cyclists. Six bicyclists were injured in automobile crashes here between 2005 and 2012.

This last block of Green serves as nothing more than a free parking lot right now, since it runs between a vacant parcel on one side and an abandoned building on the other. Preventing car access at this one opening to Green would eliminate the dangerous turns entirely -- but still allow filtered permeability, safely allowing bicyclists and pedestrians passage onto or across Green.

Bicycling on Forsyth Street in New York City
New York City uses many planters to divert car traffic, and keep cars out of bike and pedestrian spaces.

Chicago has built very few cul-de-sacs or traffic diverters that include cut-outs for bicycling. One exception is in the South Loop, where Plymouth Court has had a cul-de-sac with a cut-out since 2010. Similar diverters were cut from the Berteau greenway project due to cost, and since then, one has been proposed for the nearby Leland greenway. But instead of the costly process of laying new curbs and rearranging drainage, CDOT has another, cheaper option to greatly enhance the comfort and convenience to walk and bike at key locations.

Instead, CDOT could use planter bowls to create quick and beautiful traffic diverters. New York City has rolled out thousands of them to restrict car traffic, particularly after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg hired Jan Gehl’s urban design firm to help them make better places out of Times Square and Union Square. The plantings can range from low-maintenance shrubs to flowers, and the planters can be moved away if the traffic diversion doesn't work.

Which locations do you think might work for similar treatments in your neighborhood?

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