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Nevermind the NIMBYs, Here’s What Dickens Greenway Advocates Have to Say

9:07 PM CDT on August 21, 2019

A cyclist rides past Saint James Lutheran School on Dickens Avenue in Lincoln Park. Photo: John Greenfield

"To me way, hay
We must have our way
The Lincoln Park NIMBYs are we
From Clybourn to Stockton
We must kill this project
'Cause bicyclists are scary!"

-- To the tune of Steve Goodman's "Lincoln Park Pirates"
H/T Max Grinnell, @theurbanologist

Show your support for the Dickens Avenue Greenway by attending the next community meeting this Thursday, August 22, 6-8 PM at Lincoln Park High, 2001 N. Orchard Ave. Wear green to show you're in favor of the bikeway. You can also fill out the Active Transportation Alliance's petition in favor of the project.

By now Streetsblog readers know all about the saga of the Not In My Back Yard efforts to put the kybosh on the Chicago Department of Transportation's proposal for a family-friendly neighborhood greenway bike route on Dickens Avenue in Lincoln Park. The project, which would include a contraflow bike lane to allow eastbound cycling on the one-way westbound street, would feature a lower speed limit, sidewalk extensions, speed humps, and raised crosswalks to make walking safer and easier. But some local residents freaked out about the proposed changes at a May 29 community meeting, making the nonsensical argument that, by increasing bike traffic, the greenway would endanger pedestrians.

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

Since then, CDOT has released data that shows that while the number of cyclists did increase on older greenways on Berteau and Wood streets, the total number of crashes decreased significantly, by 15 and 38 percent, respectively.

But last week Streetsblog learned about an anonymous, slickly orchestrated scheme to raise opposition to the sensible Dickens Greenway plan. The opponents launched the faceless the Friends of Dickens website, featuring a litany of classic NIMBY talking points, from "Think of the children!" to "This was a backroom deal!" They also sent out nameless, expensive, full-color glossy 8.5 X 11" political-style mailers to residents within the project area, which strongly indicates that whoever is behind this cowardly campaign has previous experience with this kind of political activity.

The slick, political-style mailing from the Dickens NIMBYs. Photo: Sam Brunson
The slick, fear-mongering political-style mailing from the Dickens NIMBYs. Photo: Sam Brunson

Predictably, some residents took advantage of the online form on the Friends of Dickens site, where neighbors are urged to “to voice your opposition to the bike path,” to discuss why they think the greenway is a good idea. We previously published one from Loyola professor Sam Brunson, who lives just south of Dickens.

"My son goes to [Oscar Mayer School, located two blocks north of Dickens on Clifton Avenue] and, frankly, if you were actually concerned about kids' safety, you'd be up in arms about cars speeding along Dickens, and running the stop sign on Clifton," Brunson wrote. "I've seen any number of kids nearly hit, and almost been hit myself, by cars. The evidence is compelling that adding bike lanes (and bikes) to the traffic mix slows cars and makes the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and even drivers."

Former neighborhood resident Jeff Wegerson left this comment.

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 7.10.53 PM

Neighbors also emailed me this week to voice support for the greenway, including attorney Dan Cummings, 69. He's lived a half block from Dickens for 30 years, and one or two blocks away in the decade before that. "Families with children ride eastbound [against traffic] on Dickens all the time because Armitage has too much traffic," he noted. "People ride bicycles through Oz Park all the time. The new bike lanes would just acknowledge something that is already happening.  The Greenway is not going to be a 'bicycle highway.' It is going to be a safer alternative for children on bikes."

Cummings said he's sympathetic to the concerns of of parents of children who attend Saint James Lutheran School at Dickens and Fremont Street. "But the Greenway would be on the opposite side of the street from where cars drop off or pick up children. True, there is foot traffic during the day as children move from the school to the church. [But] bicycles will be much less dangerous than the cars that use [Dickens and Fremont] all day."

While the Friends of Dickens site agues that the greenway would be redundant because Armitage Avenue, one block south, has bike lanes, Cummings noted that "Armitage is a commercial street with trucks making deliveries -- sometimes blocking the bike lanes -- cars parking and buses. Dickens has none of that."

Armitage Avenue at the Brown Line tracks, where a driver injured my former editor. Image: Google Maps
Armitage Avenue at the Brown Line tracks. Image: Google Maps

Logistics professional Bryan Young, who lives just south of Oz Park, cc-ed me on an email to the Oz Park Advisory Council, which is opposing the plan, claiming that having a the greenway run through the green space would be a danger to other park users. (The concrete path on the south side of the park that would be used for the greenway has been designated as a recommended bike route on the CDOT bike map, so it's not like the greenway designation would be a big change.)

"There seems to exist this weird idea that this neighborhood greenway is some sort of cycling superhighway where cavalier fixie gangs on rocket cycles will be blasting down Dickens at incredible speeds jeopardizing the wellbeing of everyone in the vicinity," said in his email to the advisory council. "What I took from conversations with several CDOT people at the previous community meeting... is that this is designed for slow-speed safe transportation."

Young concluded, "I urge the council to reconsider your opinion, realize that by embracing an idea that makes it easier and safer for all, but especially young and old, to walk, jog, bike, skate, or even scooter together, we enhance our neighborhood and prove that you don't have to drive everywhere."

Rebecca Resman and her children Max, 4, and Sloane, 6.
Rebecca Resman and her children Max, 4, and Sloane, 6.

Meanwhile, parents from the Facebook discussion group Chicago Family Biking, which has more than 2,000 members, is mustering their troops to support the greenway plan with a Dickens Greenway Call to Action Facebook event, urging people to show up for tomorrow's public meeting, with about two dozen RSVPs so far.

Signs for tomorrow's meeting. Photo: Chicago Family Biking
Signs for tomorrow's meeting. Photo: Chicago Family Biking

"When a child turns 12, they cannot legally ride on Chicago’s sidewalks," noted CFB cofounder Rebecca Resman. "We have a responsibility to create a comprehensive bicycle network so that our youngest, most vulnerable riders can access the Lincoln Park Zoo, various parks, beaches and other destinations that Chicago families love. Neighborhood greenways are a core strategy of the city’s bike plan, and its troubling to see a small group of well-connected people ignore the facts, jeopardize our children’s safety and undermine the city’s plan to develop a bicycle network that genuinely serves all Chicagoans."

Show your support for the Dickens Greenway by attending at tomorrow's community meeting, 6-8 PM at Lincoln Park High, 2001 N. Orchard Ave. Wear green to show you're in favor of the bikeway.

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