Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday
3:01 PM CDT on July 26, 2016
The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project's goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago's side streets.
Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.
The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.
The petition says, "We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow." That's pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.
The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it's still not an "8-to-80" facility for biking, and it's not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.
The petition also says, "This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks." CDOT's analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues.
What the petition doesn't account for is that some of the streets that might have more cars have apartment buildings with more residences on streets that can better handle a higher volume of cars than the neighborhood's side streets. Traffic counts on surrounding streets show an average of thousands of fewer cars per day on these streets than at any count in the past 15 years.
CDOT's proposal is jeopardy because the "Not in My Back Yard" opposition to the plan from Ravenswood Manor will likely be better organized than support for the plan. In a post on the blog Market Urbanism today, Krishan Madan outlined why NIMBYs are often more organized that "YIMBYS" in situations like this. This is because those who would benefit most from maintaining the status quo are concentrated in the areas immediately adjacent to the project, while the potential beneficiaries of such a project include many people who don't live in the area.
Another bike safety issue in the ward is an earlier CDOT proposal for bike lanes on Belmont Avenue. In 2014 CDOT staff discussed plans for a buffered bike lane on Belmont from Kedzie Avenue in Avondale to Halsted Street in Lakeview, but there has been little movement on the project since then. Tragically, the need to improve safety for cyclists in the ward was highlighted earlier this month when the driver of a flatbed truck fatally struck cyclist Virginia Murray at the corner of Belmont and Sacramento Avenue in the ward.
"Bike lanes on Belmont are very important to me [and] we need a safe east-west route," Mell stated in an email in the wake of the crash. "My preference is buffered bike lanes, [and] CTA is evaluating the impact of the lanes on bus traffic. I was told [the #77 Belmont bus] is a highly used route. I will continue to push and work with CDOT and CTA to get this project done."
Express your support
The Transportation Action Committee meeting is on Thursday, July 28, at the Horner Park field house, second floor meeting room, at 6:30 p.m. If you can't make it to the meeting, email your comments to Mell's office via email@example.com, and to CDOT via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Mell's office, 773-478-8040, or come to ward night on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Steven is a member of the TAC.
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