Eyes on the Street: Seeing Spots at the Lincoln Hub

Looking southeast from the north side of the intersection. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago’s first painted curb extensions are starting to take shape. Workers recently spray-painted the outlines of green and blue polka dots at the Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection as part of the “Lincoln Hub” traffic calming and placemaking projects. The street remix is part of a larger $175K streetscape project that Special Service Area #27 and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are doing on Lincoln from Diversey to Belmont.

the lincoln crossing
St. Alphonsus Church is on the left side of this rendering.

Flexible plastic bollards that extend the intersection’s six corners, planters, round seating units, and café tables and chairs have been in place for a few weeks now. These treatments have already improved pedestrian safety by shortening crossing distances by 34 percent, eliminating several slip lanes, and discouraging speeding. Residents have also been enjoying the additional seating on nice days.

However, now that the outlines of the dots are in place, it’s more obvious that the asphalt outlined by the posts is intended as space for walking and sitting, and it’s easier for motorists to understand the new configuration. The painting project had been delayed by recent rainy weather, according to SSA program director Lee Crandell. Pending warmer, sunny weather, crews will fill in the dots, creating an Oriental carpet-inspired design that will unify the intersection. After the paint is dry, additional seating will be added, completing the project.

DNAinfo reported that, at a recent South Lakeview Neighbors meeting, there were complaints that the new layout requires drivers to queue up behind left-turning motorists, since there is no longer space to pass on the right. I’ve hung out at the intersection a few times during rush hours and haven’t seen any major issues. “One of the goals of this project is to slow down cars to improve safety for pedestrians,” Crandell told me. “We think there are some significant improvements here for pedestrians.”

The view from St. Alphonsus Church. Photo: John Greenfield

Crandell has talked to the Chicago Department of Transportation about the possibility of tweaking the design, including relocating bollards and adjusting signal timing for Southport to allow more drivers to move through the intersection. “But I’ve emphasized to the community that we need to see how this works when it’s completed,” he said. “After we let it settle in for a few weeks, we can make decisions based on what impact it’s having.”

  • Derweze

    I don’t understand the attraction of sitting at a table in the road.

  • The question is: Is it still the road? It will become even more obvious that this is somewhere to hang out, rather than drive, once the rest of the paint, planters, and seating are in.

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    I just did a bike/ped count here for Lee for my internship, and there were hundreds of cyclists & 1,000 pedestrians here in just 2 hours. Many stopped, curious about the configuration. Once all the elements are in place, this will be a nice gathering spot for the locals & visitors.

  • JacobEPeters

    It’s about as in the road as most outdoor seating at sidewalk cafes in the city, and even the most car traffic adjacent are extremely popular. A raised curb would be best, but some planters, painting & bollards are a great set of improvements when a permanent set of curb extensions might have been a non starter.

  • Yep and, assuming this works out, CDOT might make this permanent when they do a full streetscape in a few years. In the meantime, this was a cheap and quick way for the SSA and the chamber to try out this strategy.

  • Dan

    Love the bump outs, still hate the spots. Can’t we paint it a solid color or pattern? I’m sorry but the fact that there are several carpet stores nearby doesn’t make this look like an oriental rug.

    I’m not alone.


  • They do make it visible, at least. I’ll take functional-but-kinda-ugly over the speedway it was before, and hope it’s a first-approximation that’ll be fixed later.

    (Fully disclosure: I’m kind of a Pollyanna)

  • Best to withhold judgment until the painting is complete.

  • what_eva

    This area wasn’t a speedway before. It was a very busy intersection that wasn’t ped friendly. It’s much more ped friendly now, but the traffic on Southport backs up really bad.

  • what_eva

    Why? I can already see from the outlines that it’s going to look horrific in front of Alphonsus. The SSA should have skipped that corner. It looks bad enough on the other corners. They’re going for whimsical or some such, and whimsical in front of an old grand building is stupid.

  • I’d suggest that you at least wait until the dots are filled in to trash the design, and perhaps wait a few weeks more to see if it grows on you. Remember what Richard J. Daley said when he unveiled the Chicago Picasso, which a lot of residents hated at first: “What is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.”

  • jimsey

    “there were complaints that the new layout requires drivers to queue up behind left-turning motorists, since there is no longer space to pass on the right”.

    Good, as a cyclist, I’m mostly convinced that’s what’s eventually going to get me as so often this is an impromptu swerve by the driver with no signal.

  • Soldier Field is lovely now, isn’t it?

  • djmiller

    A bit further a long now…

  • Very nice, thanks. Looks like the colored-in dots are really making a difference for visually unifying the street and the sidewalk space within the bollards. As long as no one trips on the curb, that’s a good thing.

  • what_eva

    As of this afternoon when I went by, the corner in front of the funeral home has the dots filled in. Still ugly. And please, don’t equate these stupid pastel dots picked by some dude on an SSA with the work of an actual artist.

    I also don’t know when you’re going by in rush hour and not seeing traffic. SB Southport was backed up past Barry at 6pm tonight (joys of Divvy, passing it all up in the bike lane ;) )

  • what_eva

    I have to imagine that at the very least CDOT will get rid of the idiotic channelized turns at this intersection (they’re barely used). That alone would make the intersection much more ped friendly.

  • ardecila

    Would be easier to defend this if it wasn’t polka dots. I vastly prefer NYC’s version at Madison Square, which uses a velvety beige paint and a double white line edge with flexible bollards. They did recently do an art installation on the pavement – a giant walking man – but it’s a pretty subtle effect.

    For the traffic concerns, the easiest solution is to ban left turns here. That should really happen at many six-way and skewed intersections around the city (California/Milwaukee comes to mind). It would aggravate residents and businesses in the surrounding blocks (which is why Crandall won’t propose it) but it would allow vehicles to pass smoothly through the intersection.

  • Wanderer

    This is a similar project just off Sunset Boulevard in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles


Eyes on the Street: The Lincoln Hub Continues to Take Shape

Twister anyone? As you can see, workers recently filled in most of the dots decorating the Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection as part of the “Lincoln Hub” traffic calming  and placemaking project. This makes it even more obvious that the painted curb extensions are intended as space for pedestrians to walk and hang out. They also installed a […]

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The Lincoln Hub placemaking project, which created curb extensions and seating plazas at Lakeview’s Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection with posts, planters, and colorful paint dots, has been highly controversial. Pedestrians have said they like how the initiative makes walking safer and more pleasant, and every time I’ve visited, traffic was flowing smoothly. However, the chief of staff […]