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Eliminating Left Turns for Cars at North/Damen Would Create More Space for People

Most of the right-of-way at Milwaukee/North/Damen is used for moving private motor vehicles, so there’s relatively little space for pedestrians, and no dedicated lanes for buses or bikes. Photo: Brandon Bartoszek

One neat trick could go a long way towards solving the traffic problems at Wicker Park's complicated North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection.

Thousands of people walk, bike, and ride transit through this six-way intersection every day, but the current layout heavily prioritizes motorists. The sidewalks are too narrow, and the crosswalk layout requires people on foot to multiple crossings to get from one side on the junction to the other. Buses get stuck behind long lines of cars, and navigating the junction by bicycle is a little tricky for the many bike commuters on the Milwaukee Avenue "Hipster Highway."

Heck, it's not even safe for motorists, as evidenced by the dozens of vehicle crashes each year.

Banning left turns by drivers from Damen and North Avenues could address several of these issues. Eliminating the left-turn lanes would free up about about ten feet of roadway width that could be used for bike lanes in each direction, wider sidewalks, or a combination of the two. Getting rid of the right-turn lanes as well would provide even more room to play with.

People crossing the street with the walk signal wouldn't have to worry about being struck by inattentive or impatient drivers making turns. And through traffic wouldn't be delayed by poorly-timed left turns by drivers. Traffic cameras could be installed to automatically enforce the new no-turn rule.

Left turns, and their dedicated lanes, at North/Damen/Milwaukee represent a marginal perk for motorists, but a massive missed opportunity for improving conditions for walking, biking, and transit.

You voice your support for this and other ideas to improve the intersection tonight to decision makers tonight at the first public meeting about reconfiguring the intersection. It takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the A.N. Pritzker School auditorium, 2009 W. Schiller St. The meeting is hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area (a business improvement district), and the offices of Joe Moreno (1st Ward), Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), and Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward).

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