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Manor Avenue Diverter Test Begins, Pro-Greenway Petition Launches

1:32 AM CDT on September 21, 2016

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Looking southeast at Wilson/Manor. Barricades prevent cut-through motor vehicle traffic on Manor but allow two-way bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday the Chicago Department of Transportation launched a two-month test of traffic diverters at Wilson and Manor avenues as part of the planning process for the Manor Avenue Neighborhood Greenway in the 33rd Ward. Right now wooden barricades are being used to prohibit drivers from turning onto Manor from Wilson, or continuing directly on Manor between Montrose and Lawrence. If the trial is deemed successful, the barricades will be replaced with landscaped curb bump-outs.

The goal of the project is to eliminate cut-through traffic on Manor, creating safer conditions for walking and biking, plus a more pleasant environment for residents on the street. Other elements of the greenway project include raised crosswalks and concrete islands at Montrose and Lawrence Avenues to slow down motorists as they enter Manor, short stretches of green contraflow bike lane, and bike-and-chevron “sharrow” markings.

At community meetings for the project, some neighbors have said they didn’t like having their driving route options limited, and expressed concern that significant amounts of cut-through traffic would wind up on other nearby streets, reducing safety and quality of life along those roadways.

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT
CDOT rendering (looking northwest on Manor at Wilson) shows landscaped curb extensions that would prevent motorists from turning from Wilson onto Manor or continuing straight on Manor past Wilson. Image: CDOT
CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

Someone has been circulating an anonymous flyer against the project in the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. The next meeting of the 33rd Ward Transportation Action Committee (Streetsblog’s Steven Vance is a member) will be this Thursday, September 22. The flyer states, “If enough people voice their opposition to the plan, the temporary barricades [that] will be installed on September 19 will be removed.”

Local alderman Deb Mell, who currently supports testing the diverters, has said there's no magic number of opponents needed to make her drop the pilot. However, if the vast majority of people who show up on Thursday are against the test, she might decide it's politically necessary to call it off.

If you live in the neighborhood or hope to use the Manor greenway on a regular basis, you can show up to the TAC meeting to voice your support for continuing the traffic diverter pilot. The meeting takes place at the Horner Park field house, 2741 West Montrose, at 6:30 p.m. If you can’t make it, you can email comments to local alderman Deb Mell’s office at manorgreenway@gmail.com, and to CDOT at cdotbikes@cityofchicago.org. You can also call Mell’s office at 773-478-8040, or come to ward night on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fortunately, residents are also organizing in support of continuing the test. Jett Robinson started a Change.org petition calling for the city to go forward with the plan for a two-month test of the diverters. Robinson wrote:

In an effort to calm traffic, the plan redirects both north and southbound car traffic onto adjacent streets. This is a perfectly reasonable measure that has been studied by CDOT, along with competing proposals, and has been deemed the most effective by them. We ask that the steering committee, Alderman Mell, and CDOT retain this configuration.

“This bike lane proposal for Manor Ave. is a tremendous step -- hopefully one of many -- towards making our city streets safe and inclusive for all those who wish to use them,” commented signee Roman Sanders.

I stopped by Wilson and Manor during rush hour. There was plenty of bike traffic on both streets, and while car traffic was heavy on Wilson, the barricades didn’t see to be causing undue confusion, even though it was only the second day of the test.

A police officer was stationed on Manor south of Wilson. When the occasional driver would disobey the nearby “Do Not Enter” sign, the officer would flash his blue lights and explain that southbound car traffic on this stretch of Manor was prohibited, and the motorist would usually do a U-turn and return to Wilson. Meanwhile, Manor seemed to have less car traffic on it than usual, and biking the stretch between Lawrence and Montrose was very relaxing.

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Looking northwest at Wilson/Manor this afternoon. In the background, a ward rep talks with a resident. Photo: John Greenfield

Staff from the 33rd Ward, CDOT, and the engineering firm that is consulting on the project were hanging out at the corner, observing traffic and fielding questions from residents. Assuming the test moves forward after Thursday, they’ll be monitoring traffic patterns in the area. The transportation department has projected that some nearby streets will see a small increase in traffic, but that many drivers would simply stop using Ravenswood Manor as a pass-through between Montrose and Lawrence.

I overheard a mix of negative and positive comments from passers-by to the staffers. One woman, who said she was a landscape architect told the ward assistant that while she was a little skeptical that the diverters would work out in the long run, she supported the city trying something new. “I think it’s cool,” she said. “You guys are working to do the best test you can.”

However, another resident said she was concerned that eliminating continuous traffic would make it difficult to drive to businesses on Francisco Avenue south of Manor, next to the Francisco including Baker Miller café and Le Ballet Petit School of Ballet. While there are fewer options now for accessing these establishments from the south, it’s still possible to reach them from Lawrence.

map of the Manor Greenway
With the barricades in place, it's less convenient to drive north from Wilson/Manor to Baker Miller (next to the station) and Le Ballet Petit School of Dance (located just south of Manor on Francisco), but it's easy to reach them from Lawrence. Click to enlarge. Image: Google Maps.

“There are still a lot of choices,” said the ward rep. “People might not be thinking of them yet, but there are options.”

Hopefully there will be enough support for continuing the test that CDOT and Alderman Mell will follow through with the plan. If the experiment is judged a success, building a robust neighborhood greenway on Manor would be a great addition to the neighborhood, and to Chicago’s bike network.

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