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Eyes on the Street: Tactical Urbanism Blooms on Broadway

Looking east from Halsted at Broadway. Who can we thank for these cute planters that prevent illegal right turns? Photo: Justin Haugens

Last month when the city put up signs banning right turns from northbound Halsted onto southbound Broadway at Grace, eliminating a slip lane, the intersection became little safer. Thanks to what appears to be a guerrilla intervention by an unknown party, the site also became a little prettier.

Streetsblog reader Justin Haugens recently spotted some attractive planter boxes places next to the crosswalk. I have witnessed drivers disobeying the “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn” signs the Chicago Department of Transportation installed, so the planters serve to discourage such lawbreaking, as well as beautify the corner.

CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey did not immediately know who was responsible for placing the flowering plants.

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition asking CDOT to reverse the turn ban, arguing that it disrupts traffic in the area. When I called chamber director Maureen Martino to ask about the planters, she laughed out loud and said she had know idea where they came from. She said she would look check in with CDOT about the matter.

Martino said the chamber is still fighting to reinstate right turns from Halsted onto Broadway. “The whole area was a hot mess during last week’s Cubs games,” she said. “Normally that right turn serves as a relief valve for traffic when Halsted gets jammed up.” Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that this location three blocks northeast of the stadium is ever not a hot mess during ballgames.

Sadly, by 4:15 p.m. today the flower boxes had been removed from the street. Photo: John Greenfield

On the other hand, CDOT traffic counts conducted last fall, prior to the turn ban, found that, even during rush hours, no more than 14 drivers made the turn per hour. That was less than five percent of all northbound motorists.

CDOT decided to try banning the right turn as a test, in advance of a street repaving project on Broadway between Belmont and Irving Park, slated for late 2016 or early 2017. If the test is deemed a success, the slip lane will be replaced by a curb extension during the road project. They plan to meet with 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman, the chamber, and other local stakeholders in April or May to present their findings.

In other Lakeview East news, Martino said the chamber is currently working with merchants and 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney to iron out some technicalities in the city’s new Curbside Café ordinance. The legislation allows business to serve food and drinks in private parklets installed in the parking lane.

If all goes well, the chamber hopes to install two Curbside Cafes and two public People Spots on the 2800 and 2900 blocks of North Clark by the second week of May.

Update: By 4:15 p.m. today the flower boxes had been removed from the street and were sitting on the sidewalk.

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