Update 8/21/19: The Thursday, August 21, 6-8 PM community meeting has been moved to Lincoln Park High, 2001 N. Orchard St.
Update 8/19/19: Chicago Family Biking, a Facebook discussion group with thousands of members, is organizing resistance to the Dickens NIMBY campaign. RSVP to show up for this Thursday's hearing on the project on CFB's "Call to Action" event page.
The Dickens Avenue neighborhood greenway project in Lincoln Park would be a win for residents in many different ways. It would make a very nice low-traffic westbound bike route from the Lincoln Park Zoo to Clybourn Avenue even more useful by adding a "contraflow" bike lane to allow eastbound bike traffic as well. That would create a low-stress alternative to busy Armitage Avenue for people biking between the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, and the Lakefront Trail. The project would also include lowering the speed limit to 20 mph and installing speed humps, sidewalk bump-outs, and raised crosswalks to calm motor vehicle traffic and make crossing the street on foot safer and easier, which would make Dickens a nicer street to live on. View an outline of the project here.
Unfortunately, many Dickens residents don't see it that way yet. At a May 30 community meeting on the proposal, several neighbors stated that they were worried that the greenway would make their street less safe, due to bicyclists posing a threat to pedestrians. One man actually argued that people move to Dickens to get away from bike traffic, drawing a round of applause from other attendees. The next hearing on the greenway takes place next Thursday, August 22, 6-8 p.m. at Lincoln Park High, 2001 N. Orchard St.
As I recently acknowledged in an article, while people's fears of being struck by bike riders aren't always realistic, they do deserve some empathy. I discussed the Dickens opposition with Joe Ferrari, a DePaul psychology professor who studies social interactions. He suggested that the city could reassure the neighbors by providing before-and-after collision data from the existing neighborhood greenways.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is ready to do just that. Spokesman Mike Claffey provided Streetsblog with crash data from longtime greenways on Berteau Avenue in Ravenswood and Uptown, and Wood Street in West Town, that show that safety has improved. (Claffey said CDOT doesn't have enough crash data data on newer greenways like Glenwood Avenue in Uptown and Edgewater, and Roscoe Avenue / School Street in Lakeview, to draw any meaningful conclusions.)
Berteau (Damen Avenue to Clark Street)
Installed in 2013 Bike traffic increased 40 percent Before (2009-2012): 34 total crashes After (2014-2017): 29 total crashes 15 percent reduction in crashes
Wood (Division Street to Milwaukee Avenue) Installed in 2014 Bike traffic increased 6 percent Before (2011-2013): 93 total crashes After (2015-2017): 58 total crashes 38 percent reduction in crashes
Dickens CDOT also looked at the past five years of available crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation (2012-2016) on Dickens: 66 total crashes Four involving a person biking 10 involving a person walking 12 out of the 14 bike and pedestrian crashes resulted in a reported injury All of the most severe injury crashes involved a person walking or biking
So these numbers indicate that while neighborhood greenways increase cycling, they reduce total crashes, something that would be beneficial on Dickens.
Unfortunately this afternoon I learned that Dickens greenway opponents have launched a new fear-mongering "Friends of Dickens" webpage. "Stop a dangerous plan before it's too late," it states. "The city proposes to install bicycle lanes on Dickens Avenue between Clybourn and Lincoln Park, cutting through Oz Park. The plan affects all property owners on Dickens and adjacent streets and many others who visit Oz Park, whose children attend St. James School, and others who care about the character of their community."
First of all, the project would be using an existing path through Oz Park that cyclists are already riding on (as you can see in the photo at the top of this post.) And that claim that the project will damage "the character of [the] community?" Oh, brother.
The rest of the page is basically NIMBY Bingo with such classic Not In My Back Yard arguments as:
Think of the children! "Adding significant bicycle traffic threatens the safety [of] children who live along the planned route."
It was a backroom deal! "Closed process: The Chicago Department of Transportation did not notify Dickens property owners about a May 29th 'public' meeting." Local alderman Michele Smith emailed constituents about the hearing, which was packed with attendees, including all those who griped about bicyclists (as well as several greenway proponents.)
Spending money in our affluent neighborhood is unfair to poor people! "Allocating bicycle infrastructure funds to build a... bike path on Dickens is unfair when the South and West sides of the city have a shortage of such amenities." (Although it's certainly true that neighborhood greenways should be built in underserved communities as well as wealthy ones.)
The anonymous (of course) website includes an online form to fill out "to voice your opposition to the bike path."
Here's a nice response that local resident and Loyola University law professor Sam Brunson left on Friends of Dickens' online form and tweeted out.
The Dickens NIMBYS have also spent a significant amount of cash to print out color mailers and send them to neighbors. Why don't affluent Chicagoans like the Logan Square and Dickens Avenue homeowners find more productive things to do with their time and money than fighting good sustainable transportation projects?
Consider attending the hearing next Thursday, August 22, 6-8 p.m. at Lincoln Park High, 2001 N. Orchard St., to voice your support for the greenway.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes about transportation and other topics for additional local publications. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.