Burke: Don’t Bend Over Backwards to Facilitate Driving at the Lincoln Hub

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Aerial photo of the Lincoln Hub by traffic reporter Sarah Jindra. Compare this with the original plan for the hub below and you’ll see that the plazas at the lower-right side of the photo have been modified to make driving easier.

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 for local alderman Scott Waguespack told me the ward has received many complaints from drivers who claim the street redesign is causing traffic jams.

The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the project, has already worked with the Chicago Department of Transportation to narrow some of the plazas to make it easier for motorists to pass left-turning vehicles. Yesterday, after chamber director Lee Crandell gave a presentation on the Lincoln Hub at a Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council meeting, I asked him if any more changes are planned. In response, Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke made a good argument for why we shouldn’t go overboard with modifying the hub to appease drivers. Here’s a transcript of the discussion.

John Greenfield: I talked to Alderman Waguespack’s chief of staff recently and he said they’ve been getting overwhelmingly negative feedback about the project from residents. It seems like there might be some pressure to further modify the Lincoln Hub to accommodate drivers. Is anything in the works with that?

Lee Crandell: I don’t have anything in the works to share right now. We’ll continue working with CDOT and Alderman Waguespack’s office to review the project and determine if we do have any changes we need to make. We’ve made some tweaks already. If we need to make any additional tweaks, that’s something that we’re very much open to. We want to ensure that it’s a successful project that works for everybody. [Crandell went on to discuss the fact that this is a temporary street redesign, but the chamber hopes it will eventually become a permanent streetscape.]

the lincoln crossing
The original plan. Compare this to the above photo and you’ll see the two plazas at the top of this rendering have been modified.

Ron Burke: These six-corner intersections are so tricky. We’re big fans of this project. The public space around this intersection is so overwhelmingly prioritized around cars. My hope, Lee, is that, as you tweak it, we keep in mind that some of the concessions can be made by motorists as well. It’s not just about, “This is the way it’s always been, therefore pedestrians and cyclists should make the concession.” I don’t think we should look at it that way. It’s public space, and it’s everybody’s public right-of-way.

One day, I would love to see some of these six-way intersections where we close off one of the streets, we make it into parks, and it becomes a four-way intersection that’s much more navigable for people who aren’t in cars, who are a lot of the people in places like this. There are different treatments that we could be looking at to make these six-way intersections less dangerous. We know that this is where we have some of the highest crash rates in the city.

Allan Mellis (a Lakeview Resident): They’re doing Damen, Elston, and Fullerton right now.

Ron Burke: And that’s an example. It’s expensive, but it’s important for these to happen. So anyway, there’s a lot of things we should be looking at. But [the Lincoln Hub] is awesome. It’s temporary, try this, try that, see what works, what doesn’t. Love the color scheme.

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