CDOT Data Shows Greenways Reduced Crashes; Dickens NIMBY Website Launched

Biking on the path through Oz Park that would be part of the Dickens Greenway. Photo: CDOT
Biking on the path through Oz Park that would be part of the Dickens Greenway. Photo: CDOT

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.

A resident testifies against the greenway at the May 30 meeting. Photo: John Greenfield

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.

Sign the Active Transportation Alliance’s petition in support of the Dickens greenway.

The Dickens Greenway proposal. Image: CDOT
The Dickens Greenway proposal. Image: CDOT

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.

Contraflow bike lane on the Glenwood Avenue greenway in Uptown and Edgewater. Photo: John Greenfield
Contraflow bike lane on the Glenwood Avenue greenway in Uptown and Edgewater. Photo: John Greenfield

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

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.

The website.
The website.

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.

Response left on the Friends of Dickens website by Sam Brunson.
Response left on the Friends of Dickens website by Sam Brunson.

The Dickens NIMBY campaign is awfully similar to the recent opposition to a 100-percent affordable transit-oriented development proposal in Logan Square (which Streetsblog helped get approved) by a group called Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development, made up of local lawyers, real estate agents, architects, and other professionals.

Mailing from Friends of Dickens. Photo: Sam Brunson
Mailing from Friends of Dickens. Photo: Sam Brunson

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.

Sign the Active Transportation Alliance’s petition in support of the Dickens greenway.

  • Jeremy

    Alderman Smith publicized the May meeting in an email.

  • Jeremy

    The 8/22 hearing at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center is at 2045 N Lincoln Park West (not Lincoln).

  • Alex

    The irony is, having a calmer traffic flows, and a bikeway on your street will likely increase property values.

  • Curtis James

    Yeah, I’m sure that the people opposing the greenway on Dickens are really worried about the lack of cycling amenities on the South and West side. Just like Japan is really worried about the welfare of whales and is helping them by killing them.

  • Michael Babcock

    I was just injured by being doored while biking a block from this on Halsted- but yeah, sure, the bicycles are what is unsafe in the neighborhood. What a load of crap

  • Lever

    This is the same point being made by South And West Side bikers who say they are being shortchanged on bike funding.

  • FlamingoFresh

    I’ll be there this Thursday to support the greenway.

  • FlamingoFresh

    Glad to see the alderman passed along my advice for CDOT to come prepared with data to dispute all the NIMBYs’ false claims.

  • Tooscrapps

    If the residents read The Chainlink, they would have been notified of the meeting. After all, know thy enemy.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Nice work! FWIW, Streetsblog also asked CDOT why they didn’t have before-and-after crash data at the previous meeting.

  • FlamingoFresh

    They came unprepared and paid for it. No matter how great a project seems, you have to experience irrational backlash and be prepared to fight it with data.

    The book “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution,” by former Commissioner of NYCDOT Janet Sadik-Khan, has a chapter in which she talks about a proposed road diet project that experienced total NIMBY backlash at it’s public meetings but were pretty much shut-down due to the fact that they came prepared with data to dispute all the false claims by NIMBYs.

  • dina

    Came for the NIMBYism, stayed for the stats. If bike traffic in Berteau increased 40%, then the null expectation for the number of expected crashes (assuming no change in safety) should probably be closer to 34*140% = 47.6 expected crashes, in which case the reduction is close to 39%, not 15%. But you need proper confidence or credible intervals, and to estimate the total flow of traffic (including any change in driving). I’m not sure the original 15% reported difference would’ve been statistically meaningful

    But anyway, it totally weirds me out that people don’t see these bike lanes as totally wonderful things for children!

  • Mike Moran

    Won’t local real estate values go up with bike lanes? 606?